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.


Day 1: Wednesday, March 22nd, 8:30AM – 4:30PM EDT
8:30AM – 9AM
A02, McDonnell Hall
Breakfast buffet
A02, McDonnell Hall
Opening remarks and introductions
9:30AM – 10:30AM
A02, McDonnell Hall
Session on Foundational Concepts of Critical Transitions

Invited talks (20 minutes each)
– Carl Boettiger (UC Berkeley)
– Alan Hastings (UC Davis)
– Mercedes Pascual (U Chicago)
10:30AM – 10:45AM
Coffee break
10:45AM – 11:30AM
A02, McDonnell Hall
Q&A & discussion session on Foundational Concepts
11:30AM – 1PM
Brush Gallery, McDonnell Hall
1PM – 2PM
A01, McDonnell Hall
Session on Foundational Concepts of Critical Transitions

Invited talks (30 minutes each)
– Miguel Centeno (Princeton)
– Garry Peterson (SRC)
2PM – 2:45PM
A01, McDonnell Hall
Q&A & discussion on Socio-ecological Systems
2:45PM – 3PMCoffee break
3PM – 4:30PM
A01, McDonnell Hall
Rapid Talks
Contributed talks (5-7 minutes) & discussion time
End of day 1 sessions
Atrium, Guyot Hall
Day 2: Thursday, March 23rd, 8:30AM – 5PM EDT
8:30AM – 9AM
399, JRR
Breakfast buffet
9AM – 10AM
399, JRR
Session on New Methods

Invited talks (20 minutes each)
– Naomi Leonard (Princeton)
Jonathan Donges (PIK)
– Jin Wang (Stony Brook)
10:00AM – 10:15AM
Coffee Break
10:15AM – 11:15AM
399, JRR
Q&A & discussion session on New Methods
11:15AM – 12PM
399, JRR
Group formation & topic discussion session
12PM – 12:20PMGroup photo
12:20PM – 1:30PM
399, JRR
1:30PM – 3PM
102 / 301 / 397, JRR
Project ideas discussion session(s)
3PM – 3:20PMCoffee break
3:20PM – 4PM
Project pitches preparation time
4PM – 5PM
A17, JRR
Project pitches
Short presentations, feedback and discussion on project ideas
End of Day 2 sessions
Day 3: Friday, March 24th, 8:30AM – 12PM EDT
8:30AM – 9AM
B60, Simpson
Breakfast buffet
9AM – 10:20AM
B60, Simpson
Synthesis session

Summarize results of the workshop, consolidate collaborations, and discuss future funding opportunities
10:20AM – 10:40AM
Coffee break
10:40AM – 12PM
B60, Simpson
Free collaboration time
End of Day 3 sessions

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)