SFI President David Krakauer addresses participants at the fourth JSMF-SFI Postdoctoral Conference at Monolith Beta on the Cowan campus in September. (Image: Laura Egley Taylor)

Research jams, intercontinental collaborations, and lightning talks — the Postdocs in Complexity Conference is back!

Now in its fifth incarnation, the twice-yearly conference brings SFI’s postdocs together with James S. McDonnell Foundation (JSMF) post- doctoral fellows based at institutions across the world. The upcoming meeting will take place March 12–15.

“All the conferences have focused on building a network of early career complex systems scientists and developing collaborative relation- ships,” says Hilary Skolnik, Program Manager of the Postdoctoral Fellows Program. “Now, many of those conversations have borne fruit. We actually have three working groups at SFI this winter that emerged from past conference Research Jams.”

One such brainchild is the Sociality Under Scarcity working group led by SFI Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellows Albert Kao and Joshua Garland.

“Both the JSMF and SFI have been really responsive to the feedback that the postdocs have given after each conference, and one consistent request has been for more space and time for more constructive interactions and collaboration,” says Kao. “I think that these workshops are the first time that JSMF and SFI postdocs have had the chance to collaborate on real, meaningful research projects together, and I’m really excited about that.”

In March, JSMF Fellows Allison Barner and Lauren Shoemaker will explore integrating species competition and network theory, while SFI Omidyar Fellow Vicky Chuqiao Yang will lead a group investigating the costs and benefits of categorization.

The JSMF–SFI partnership unites thinkers even within the same field. Barner and Shoemaker, for example, both nominally work in the field of community ecology, but come at it from different angles. Says Barner, “We met during the joint JSMF-SFI Postdoc in Complexity Workshops, and over repeated conversations came to the conclusion that there may be some simple steps to unify these different perspectives.”

“There is something highly complementary about the complexity postdocs that are dispersed throughout the country — or the world — and those that are housed in a particular place at Santa Fe,” says Kao. As the global JSMF–SFI community descends on Santa Fe this spring, sparks may already be flying for collaborations in years to come.

Read more about the JSMF-SFI Posdocs in Complexity Conference V.