The events of the past two years in the Arab world have made it clear that questions related to political change, cultural dynamics, and societal transformations are not only of first-order importance for social science, but also central for a scientific approach to policy making and planning. While advances in traditional game theory, political economy, development economics and political science have enabled us to provide a posteriori analysis, understanding and predicting these events require a new set of theory, modeling, field experiments and algorithmic tools that are amenable to analysis of sociopolitical change. This will require analytical techniques and explicit modeling of conflicts of interest and possible cooperation between distinct parties. Since many of the central questions of political, cultural and societal change involve interactions among individuals and groups with different identities, this will also require advances in study of networks and collective phenomena. As a result, social science alone is far from satisfactory for addressing these issues.
What is needed is a multidisciplinary, analytical framework for analysis, prediction, and ultimately control of socio-political phenomena. To address this important void, we have brought together a world-class team of experts with a history of fruitful collaboration, who has been at the forefront of an interdisciplinary research agenda on this topic with expertise that spans mathematical systems theory, economics, political science, algorithmic and computational game theory, operations research, control theory, and network science. Our team members have been pioneers in development of a rigorous discipline of mathematical and computational social science that combines modeling, theory, empirical analysis, behavioral lab experiments, large datasets, and field experiments and surveys in diverse locations ranging from Afghanistan and India to the greater Middle East.
Proposal thrusts and tasks