Modelling and knowledge transfer in complexity science

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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I analyse the construction and transfer of models in complexity science. Thereby, I introduce a distinction between (i) vertical model construction, which is based on knowledge about a specific target system, (ii) horizontal model construction, which is based on the alteration of an existing model and therefore does not require any references to a specific target system; and (iii) the transfer of models, which consists of the assignment of an existing model to a new target system. I argue that, in complexity science, all three of those modelling activities take place. Furthermore, I show that these activities can be divided into two general categories: (i) the creation of a repository of models without specific target systems, which have been created by large-scale horizontal construction; and (ii) the transfer of these models to particular target systems in the natural sciences, which can also be followed by an extension of the transferred model through vertical construction of adaptions and additions to its dynamics. I then argue that this interplay of different modelling activities in complexity science provides a mechanism for the transfer of knowledge between different scientific fields. It is also crucial to the interdisciplinary nature of complexity science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-129
Number of pages10
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Early online date29 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Complexity science
  • Modelling
  • Horizontal modelling
  • Model transfer
  • Knowledge transfer


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