Critical Transitions Workshop III

March 22-24 at Princeton University


Supported by Princeton’s Institute for International and Regional Studies, School of Public and International Affairs, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Center for Behavioral Science and Public Policy, High Meadows Environmental Institute, as well as Stockholm Resilience Centre, and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

On March 22-24, 2023 (Wednesday – Friday), we will hold an in-person Workshop on Critical Transitions that will take place during 3 days at Princeton. The goal of the workshop is to encourage participants to form working groups around specific research questions and make initial progress toward producing collaborative outputs, such as publications and grant applications.

The in-person workshop is the third meeting of a series of workshops on Critical Transitions launched by ERSI in 2022. The first two ERSI Critical Transitions workshops took place virtually on June 7 and September 8, 2022 and were attended by around 20 ERSI members respectively. These workshops focused on critical transitions, phase transitions, and early warning indicators in physical, natural, social, and socio-ecological systems. The goal of these workshops was to identify preliminary concrete research questions and collaboration ideas. Workshop sessions consisted of short talks followed by in-depth discussions and an exploration of collaboration opportunities around a variety of topics.

The broad motivation for this workshop series and the work that will come out of it is provided by the dramatic and abrupt shifts across diverse real-world systems we have witnessed in recent times. Examples include the financial crisis of 2007-2008, crop booms, polarization, social unrest, ecological systems collapse, and desertification. These so-called critical transitions are often hard to predict and can have wide-ranging and irreversible effects, and are therefore at the heart of Princeton’s Grand Challenges. They also present a challenge for governance institutions designed to cope with incremental variation resulting in gradual, predictable and reversible changes. It is crucial to anticipate such transitions to prevent or mitigate their impacts and/or to better manage the changes they bring about.

Despite increasing interest on critical transitions and early warning signals across disciplines from mathematics, physics and ecology to the social sciences, the theory of critical transition is still somewhat fragmented. Different disciplines use their own terminologies for the same phenomena or conflate different concepts. Moreover, considerable work remains to be done to adapt existing theories to applications in the social sciences and to validate theoretical approaches with data.

This workshop series aims to bring together scholars from different fields, from physics to sociology, to work on critical transitions in social, ecological, and socio-ecological systems.




Schedule (in progress)

Organizing Committee

Simon Levin (Princeton University)
Miguel Centeno (Princeton University)
Nico Wunderling (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)
Juan Rocha (SRC)
Denis Patterson (Princeton University)
Woi Sok Oh (Princeton University)
Victoria Junquera (Princeton University)