Systemic Risk and Network Dynamics

The Systemic Risk and Network Dynamics project will examine how different types of systems, ranging from financial to ecological and beyond, are at risk of cascades of failures. As well as assessing this risk, this cross-cutting project will develop tools to help prevent such events.

©2011 iStockphoto LP

©2011 iStockphoto LP


Systemic risk describes the likelihood of an entire system breaking down—a situation caused by cascades of failures in the networks that make up the system. Knowledge of such risk can be invaluable. The global economic crisis brought to light the importance of understanding how disturbances spread through financial systems, for example. Epidemics of infectious diseases and the spread of forest fires also illustrate the underlying principals, and importance, of systemic risk.

Crucially, although all systems have unique characteristics, they also share common features. This project will draw together these commonalities to create a general framework for analyzing systemic risk. Once this framework is in place it can be used to assess and reduce risks in a diverse array of applications.

IIASA research

This cross-cutting project aims to develop methods to measure and reduce systemic risk and to provide tools to assess the potential for system collapse, even under uncertainty. This is vital because situations in which specifics about a network’s dynamics are unknown are common in the real world. The researchers will also investigate techniques for guiding the system back to normal after a cascade of failures.

The project will assess risk in ecological systems (under the IIASA Evolution and Ecology program), financial systems (under the Advanced Systems Analysis program), and the global insurance system (under the Risk, Policy and Vulnerability program).

Specifically, three case studies will be examined in depth:

  • Food webs. As biodiversity declines, we need to understand how species loss will affect ecosystem functioning. Using real-world food-web data, the researchers will analyze under what conditions species loss can set off a cascade of subsequent extinctions.
  • Financial crises. As financial systems become increasingly complex and interconnected there is a recognized need for early warnings of systemic failures, even under conditions of high uncertainty.
  • Global insurance and climate-change risks. As climate change progresses and climate-related disasters become more common, there is a need ensure robust insurance for cascading failures to allow households, towns and countries to recover from such events.


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Invited Talks

Dimitris Christopoulos visited IIASA

Dimitris Christopoulo from MODUL University, Vienna, Austria and Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK visited IIASA in the framework of the Systemic Risk and Network Dynamics project and gave a talk on "Robustness and Resilience in Governance Networks" on 12 December, 2017. More

Pia-Johanna Schweizer visited IIASA

Pia-Johanna Schweizer from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam, Germany visited IIASA in the framework of the Systemic Risk and Network Dynamics project and gave a talk on "Governance of systemic risks: Challenges for decision and policy making" on 25 April, 2017. More

Vittorio Loreto visited IIASA

Vittorio Loreto (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) visited IIASA and gave a talk in the framework of the Systemic Risk and Network Dynamics project on "Gaming, innovation and learning: new tools to face societal challenges" on 26 February, 2016. More

Miguel Centeno visited IIASA

Miguel Centeno (Princeton University, USA) visited IIASA on 23 June, 2016 and gave a talk on "Global Systemic Risk". More

Babak Heydari visited IIASA

Babak Heydari (Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, USA) visited IIASA in the framework of the Systemic Risk and Network Dynamics project on 17 June, 2016 and gave a talk on "A structural perspective on governance of complex socio-technical systems". More

Stefan Pickl and Martin Zsifkovits visited IIASA

Prof. Dr. Stefan Pickl and Dr. Martin Zsifkovits visited IIASA in the framework of the Systemic Risk and Network Dynamics project on 18 January 2016 and gave a talk on Simulation and Optimization of Critical Infrastructures and PUMA - Public Management Analytics. More


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Last edited: 14 December 2015


Elena Rovenskaya

Program Director and Principal Research Scholar Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Darina Zlatanova

Program and Project Officer Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Program and Project Officer Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer

Distinguished Emeritus Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program


2014 - 2017

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313