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C3 symposia

Bringing together complex systems experts from around the world
Every two years, we host a symposium which brings together leading international scholars to discuss the latest in complex systems research.

About the symposia

The Complexity, Criticality and Computation (C3) symposia bring to light emerging research and ideas about complex systems. In particular, we explore the relationship between three key concepts:

1. Complexity

A system can be thought of as complex if its dynamics cannot be easily predicted, or explained, as a linear summation of the individual dynamics of its components.

2. Criticality

There is a growing awareness that complexity is strongly related to criticality, which is the behaviour of dynamical spatiotemporal systems at an order/disorder phase transition where scale invariance prevails.

3. Computation

Complex systems can also be viewed as distributed information-processing systems. Global systems behaviour (eg cell behaviour resultant from gene regulatory networks) emerges as the result of the local interaction of individuals - can these interactions be seen as a generic computational process? 

The symposia take place every two years. Last held in 2019, and no event in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the next symposium will take place in January 2023.

2023 symposium

Our biannual Symposium on “Complexity, Criticality and Computation” (C3-2023) will take place during 15-21 January 2023 at the University of Queensland’s research station on Heron Island, a coral island on the Great Barrier Reef.

We will cover three foundational questions:

  • Is biology beyond physics: are there universal principles across both physical and biological phenomena?
  • How do consciousness and language emerge, and can we describe these phenomena rigorously?
  • Are there fundamental physical constraints guiding the rise and fall of civilisations?

The program will span five days (Monday – Friday), and each day will be devoted to a specific topic, including critical phenomena, brain and mind, socio-biology, crisis modelling, and complexity economics.

This invitation-only event will provide opportunities for discussions and networking, especially between senior and early-career researchers.

The Centre for Complex Systems invited 16 early-career researchers and higher-degree-by-research students via its “Emerging Aspirations 2022” award scheme, with 8 more ECRs invited directly using project funding.  

A detailed program will be announced at a later stage. The C3-2023 invited speakers include distinguished researchers from Canada (University of British Columbia), Germany (University of Bremen), UK (University of Bristol, University College – London), USA (Arizona State University, George Mason University, Los Alamos National Lab, Institute for Systems Biology, Santa Fe Institute) and Australia (RMIT, La Trobe University, University of Sydney, University of Western Australia).

Professor Mikhail Prokopenko (co-chair)

Professor Ian Wilkinson (co-chair)

The C3-2023 symposium is co-sponsored by the Centre for Complex Systems, and the postgraduate program in Complex Systems.  

Past symposia


At this symposium, we focus on two broad themes: Sociophysics and Biocomplexity, across a diverse range of topics studied in Complex Systems:

  • collective behaviour (opinion dynamics, swarm intelligence, active matter)
  • nonlinear dynamics and critical phenomena
  • anthropocene transitions (urban science, systemic risks, supply chains, economics)
  • information theory and thermodynamics
  • artificial intelligence and pattern discovery
  • computational neuroscience and complex networks

For a full list of topics, see the Program.

Program committee

Partners and sponsors

The C3 symposium is co-sponsored by the Centre for Complex Systems, and the postgraduate program in Complex Systems.  

Entropy is a media partner of the symposium, sponsoring the best presentation award at the event, which will be determined by the C3-2019 Program Committee. Read the special issue of Entropy which follows the symposium.


Keynote speakers:

Regular speakers: 

  • Dr Arunima Malik, The University of Sydney, Australia
  • A/Prof Eduardo Altmann, The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Dr Debora Correa, The University of Western Australia, Australia
  • A/Prof Markus Brede, University of Southampton, UK
  • Dr Michael Harre, The University of Sydney,
  • A/Prof Richard Morris, UNSW, Australia
  • Dr Emanuele Crosato, UNSW, Australia
  • Prof Maia Angelova Turkedjieva, Deakin University, Australia

The Centre for Complex Systems "Emerging Aspirations" award speakers:

  • Dr Svetlana Postnova, The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Dr Mac Shine, The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Dr Richard Spinney, The University of Sydney, Australia


At this symposium, we considered a diverse range of systems, applications, theoretical and practical approaches to computational modelling of modern complex systems. These included:

  • information theory
  • agent-based simulation
  • network theory
  • nonlinear dynamics
  • swarm intelligence
  • evolutionary methods
  • computational neuroscience
  • econophysics.

For a full list of topics, download a copy of the program (pdf, 98.4KB).

Program committee

Sponsors and partners

The C3 symposium was co-sponsored by the Centre for Complex Systems, the CRISIS project, and the postgraduate program in Complex Systems.

Entropy was a media partner of the symposium. Read the special issue of Entropy which followed the symposium.

Invited speakers
Regular speakers
Closing address - 'The complexity of the Universe'
  • Professor Paul Davies, Arizona State University, Regents' Professor and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Co-Director ASU Cosmology Initiative, Principal Investigator Center for the Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology.

Professor Mikhail Prokopenko

Director, Centre for Complex Systems
  • School of Computer Science Building J12