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Nigel Gilbert

Nigel Gilbert
Nigel Gilbert at the 1st World Congress on Social Simulation, Kyoto, Japan, August 2006
Born Geoffrey Nigel Gilbert
(1950-03-21) 21 March 1950 (age 70)
Residence Guildford (Surrey), United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields Computational sociology, Complexity theory, Sociology of science
Institutions University of Surrey
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Doctoral advisor Template:If empty
Known for Agent-based models for the social sciences, Social simulation
Notable awards ScD(Cantab), FBCS, FRSA, AcSS, FREng

Nigel Gilbert FAcSS (born 21 March 1950) is a British sociologist and a pioneer in the use of agent-based models in the social sciences.[1][2] He is the founder and director of the Centre for Research in Social Simulation (University of Surrey), author of several books on computational social sciences, social simulation and social research and editor of the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (JASSS), the leading journal in the field.


A Cambridge engineering graduate (Emmanuel College), he turned to the sociology of scientific knowledge for his PhD under the direction of Michael Mulkay. He was a lecturer at the University of York (1974–76) and then joined the University of Surrey where he became a professor in the Department of Sociology in 1991.[3] At the University of Surrey he founded the Social and Computer Sciences research group in 1984 with a grant from the Alvey Programme. The group focused on applying social science to the design of intelligent knowledge-based systems. Later he established the Centre for Research in Social Simulation (1997), and the Digital World Research Centre (1998),[4] he served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (1998–2005)[5] and he is the current Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies.[6]


Sociology of scientific knowledge

Gilbert and Mulkay (1984) is a key contribution on the use of discourse analysis methods in the sociology of scientific knowledge.[7][8] By applying discourse analysis to extensive qualitative data on a scientific dispute in the field of chemistry, Gilbert and Mulkay account for the social processes that underpin knowledge production, especially when consensus has not yet been established within the scientific community.

Secondary analysis of large government datasets

With Sara Arber, he was a pioneer in the use for academic analysis of computer files of survey data collected by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, a data source that has now become commonplace in sociology.[9]

Access to social security information

The regulations determining what claimants of UK welfare benefits are entitled to (e.g. income support, tax credits, Disability Living Allowance) are complicated and often very difficult for claimants to apprehend unaided. With the growing availability of personal computers in the 1980s, he realised that an interactive program, designed for claimants themselves to use, could be helpful to disadvantaged potential claimants .[10] He developed a prototype, which was taken up by both the then Department of Health and Social Security and Citizens Advice Bureaux, and which was the forerunner of the systems nowadays routinely used in advice centres. This work also contributed to understanding the interface requirements for publicly accessible computer systems, using graphical interfaces and, later, speech dialogue interfaces .[11]

Social simulation

Nigel Gilbert is one of the founders of modern computational sociology, a discipline that merges social science research with simulation techniques with the goal of modelling complex policy issues and fundamental aspects of human societies. His first work in this area was a project on modelling the emergence of organised society in prehistoric France, with Jim Doran. While this was only moderately successful, it led him to organise in 1992 the first of an influential series of workshops on 'Simulating Societies’ [12] .[13] Later he established:

  • the SIMSOC mailing list. By January 1998, it had 367 members; as of December 2009 the list has 889 subscribers.
  • the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (JASSS) was launched in 1998 to provide a publication outlet for simulation-based research. Professor Gilbert was then, and still is, the editor.[14] JASSS is an online no-fee Open Access journal.[15]

In 1997, CRESS received funding from the FAIR programme of the European Commission for a project called IMAGES: Improving agri-environmental policies–a simulation approach to the role of the cognitive properties of farmers and institutions (1997–2000).[16] This was the first of several EU funded projects using social simulation, such as SEIN, FIRMA, SIMWEB, EMIL, NEMO, NEWTIES and PATRES.[17]

In 1999, Nigel Gilbert and Klaus G. Troitzsch published Simulation for the social scientist, the first "how to" text book on social simulation. In 2006, he was an invited speaker at the First World Congress on Social Simulation in Kyoto[18] and in 2009, he chaired the sixth annual conference of the European Social Simulation Association at the University of Surrey.[19]

Other research and advisory activity

In 1993, Gilbert founded the journal Sociological Research Online for which he currently serves as Chairman of the Management Board.[20] He is also editor of the Social Research Update, a quarterly publication of the University of Surrey.[21] He and Stuart Peters created a journal management system, epress, originally to make running Sociological Research Online and JASSS easier, but now available commercially and used by about 40 journals.

Beside his research activity, he has served on a number of government and national committees: as the Deputy Chairman of the Manufacturing, Production and Business Processes Foresight Panel (1994–99), Deputy Chairman of the Economic and Social Research Council's Research Priorities Board (1997–2000) and on the Advisory Group of the Foresight Intelligent Infrastructures Project,[22] as well as on many research council boards, both in the UK and abroad. As Chairman of the Royal Academy of Engineering's Group on Privacy and Surveillance, he published Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance: Challenges of Technological Change (2007).[23][24] He was a member of the Sociology sub-panel for the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and previously served on the 2001 panel.

In 2012, Nigel Gilbert has been selected as a member of the new Social Science Expert Panel for Defra and DECC. The panel's purpose is to bring high quality, multi-disciplinary social science advice to both departments.

Awards and scientific recognitions

In 1999, he was appointed Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in recognition of his work as "a pioneer of the application of computer modelling to social science", becoming the first practising social scientist to become a Fellow.[25] He was awarded a Doctor of Science degree by the University of Cambridge. He is also a Fellow of the British Computer Society and of the Royal Society of Arts and an Academician of the Academy of the Social Sciences (for which he served as a Council Member). From 2004 to 2006, he was President of the European Social Simulation Association (ESSA).[26]

Selected works on social simulation

  • Gilbert, Nigel; Doran, Jim, eds. (1994). Simulating societies: The computer simulation of social phenomena. London: UCL Press. ISBN 1-85728-082-2. 
  • Gilbert, Nigel; Conte, Rosaria (1995). Artificial Societies: The Computer Simulation of Social Life. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 1-85728-305-8. 
  • Gilbert, Nigel; Troitzsch, Klaus G. (2005) [1999]. Simulation for the social scientist. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-21600-5. 
  • Gilbert, Nigel (2007). Agent-based models. London: Sage Publications. ISBN 1-4129-4964-5. 

Other works

  • Gilbert, Nigel; Mulkay, Michael (1984). Opening Pandora's Box: A sociological analysis of scientists' discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-27430-3. 
  • Gilbert, Nigel, ed. (2008) [1992]. Researching Social Life. London: Sage Publications. ISBN 0-7619-7245-5. 
  • Gilbert, Nigel, ed. (2006). From postgraduate to social scientist: A guide to key skills. London: Sage Publications. ISBN 0-7619-4460-5. 
  • Fielding, Jane L.; Gilbert, Nigel (2006). Understanding social statistics. Sage Publications. ISBN 1-4129-1054-4. 

See also


  1. ^ Castellani, Brian (2009). "Map of Complexity Science". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  2. ^ Castellani, Brian; Hafferty, Frederic William. Sociology and Complexity Science: A New Field of Inquiry. pp. viii. ISBN 3-540-88461-0. 
  3. ^ Debrett's. "Authorized Biography of Prof Nigel Gilbert, FREng". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Establishment of the Digital World Research Centre" (Press release). University of Surrey news release. 23 September 1997. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  5. ^ CRESS Research Group. "CRESS director". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  6. ^ University of Surrey. "Institute of Advanced Studies". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  7. ^ Tibbetts, Paul; Johnson, Patricia (November 1985). "The Discourse and Praxis Models in Recent Reconstructions of Scientific Knowledge Generation". Social Studies of Science 15 (4): 739–749. doi:10.1177/030631285015004007. 
  8. ^ Wooffitt, Robin (2005). Conversation Analysis and Discourse Analysis: A Comparative and Critical Introduction. London: SAGE. ISBN 0-7619-7426-1. 
  9. ^ Gilbert, G. Nigel,; Arber, Sara; Dale, Angela Dale (1983). "The General Household Survey as a source for secondary analysis". Sociology 17 (2): 255–259. doi:10.1177/0038038583017002006. 
  10. ^ Dawson, Patrick; Buckland, Sarah; Gilbert,, Nigel (1990). "Expert systems and the public provision of welfare benefit advice". Policy and Politics 18 (1): 43–54. doi:10.1332/030557390782454602. 
  11. ^ Luff, Paul; Gilbert, Nigel; Frohlich, David (1990). Computers and conversation. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-459560-X. 
  12. ^ Gilbert, Nigel; Doran, Jim (1994). Simulating Societies: the computer simulation of social phenomena. London: UCL Press. ISBN 1-85728-082-2. 
  13. ^ Gilbert, Nigel; Conte, Rosaria (1995). Artificial Societies: the computer simulation of social life. London: UCL Press. ISBN 1-85728-305-8. 
  14. ^ Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation. "Editorial Board". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  15. ^ Journal Info. "Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation info". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  16. ^ "European Project IMAGES". 31 December 2000. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  17. ^ University of Surrey. "Prof Nigel Gilbert's page". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  18. ^ First World Congress on Social Simulation (21–25 August 2006). "List of speakers". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  19. ^ "European Social Simulation Association Conference 2009". 14–18 September 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  20. ^ "Sociological Research Online". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  21. ^ University of Surrey. "Social Research Update". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  22. ^ Foresight (January 2006). "Intelligent Infrastructures Project". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  23. ^ Royal Academy of Engineering, Group on Privacy and Surveillance (March 2007). Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance: Challenges of Technological Change (PDF). The Royal Academy of Engineering. p. 64. ISBN 1-903496-32-2. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  24. ^ BBC News (26 March 2007). "Hi-tech 'threat' to private life" (Press release). Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  25. ^ "University of Surrey professors receive Fellowship from Royal Society of Engineering" (Press release). University of Surrey news release. August 1999. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  26. ^ "European Social Simulation Association portal". Retrieved 2 December 2009. 

External links