Tag Archives: dynamic systems

Interdisciplinary Workshop on Robustness

Goal of the workshop is to rise relevant questions as well as to encourage interdisciplinary discussions surrounding the topic of Robustness.

2014, October 14 (09.30) – 16 (17.30)

Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma
Via Álvaro del Portillo, 21
00128 Roma


October 14th
09:30 – 10.30  Plenary Session – Gerald H. Pollack
11.00 – 13:30  Session 1: The methodological and conceptual foundations of robustness
S. Caianiello – Prolegomena to a history of the notion of robustness
G. Caniglia – Robustness, Integration and What We Can Do When We Cannot Observe Something
S. Mitchell – Challenges of Robustness for Causal Explanation
P. Huneman – Robustness as an explanandum and explanans in evolutionary biology and ecology
14:30 – 17:30  Session 2: Talking about robustness
G. Vitiello – Dynamical rearrangement of Symmetry, minimum stimulus and robustness
L. Di Paola, A. Giuliani – Ecological Process Design and Robustness: the Case of Biofuels
S. Filippi – Robustness and Emergent Dynamics in Noisy Biological Systems
F. Keller – Robustness and Embodiment of Higher Cognitive Functions
M. Trombetta – Tissue Engineering and Cell Driving

October 15th
09:30 – 11:00  Session 2: Talking about robustness
A. Marcos – Difference
A. Moreno – Robustness and Autonomy
14:00 – 17:45  Working Groups

October 16th
09:30 – 12:30  Results presentation
13:45 – 17:00  Roundtable
17:00 – 17.30  Conclusions

Philosophical and Scientific Steering Committee
Marta Bertolaso – Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, FAST e Facoltà di Ingegneria
Sandra D. Mitchell – University of Pittsburgh
Jane Maienschein – Arizona State University
Simonetta Filippi – Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, Facoltà di Ingegneria
Flavio Keller – Università Campus  Bio-Medico di Roma, Facoltà di Medicina

Marta Bertolaso – Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, FAST e Facoltà di Ingegneria

Local Organizing Committee
Luca Valera – Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, FAST
Anna Maria Dieli – Università Tor Vergata, Roma; IHPST, Paris

Organizzato da:
Campus Bio-Medico di Roma
Con il contributo di Fondazione Cattolica Assicurazioni

Referente organizzativo:
Silvia Caianiello

Ufficio stampa:
Luca Valera
Campus Bio-Medico


More pictures on Flickr.

Stephen Jay Gould, Pere Alberch and evo-devo

Gould copertinaCaianiello S, ed. Da Gould a evo-devo. Percorsi storici e teorici. Roma: CNR Edizioni.

ISBN 978-88-8080-125-2

You can read the whole book online – OPEN ACCESS! It is the publisher’s policy one year after publication.


Serrelli E (2014). Stephen Jay Gould, Pere Alberch e il modello-orologio dell’eterocronia: incontro e divergenza alle origini di evo-devo. Caianiello S, ed. Da Gould a evo-devo. Percorsi storici e teorici. Roma: CNR Edizioni, pp. 97-128. ISBN 978-88-8080-125-2  [http://hdl.handle.net/10281/60530]

gould clock model of heterochronyStephen Jay Gould’s book Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), recently translated into Italian, is unanimously considered as one of the founding texts of evo-devo. Pere Alberch, another pioneer of the field, was early stimulated by reading Gould’s book. In particular, he got into the “clock model”, an image devised by Gould to organize thinking and terminology about heterochrony (i.e., evolutionary change of the timing of developmental processes). Alberch engaged Gould in a formalization of the clock model, which they published in 1979. After that work, however, the two authors diverged. Alberch noticed inconsistencies in the view of development they had adopted, and moved on towards a more dynamic view. Gould didn’t follow this route, and remained largely insensitive to Alberch’s work. Reflection on this debate allows for a clarification of the assumptions of different approaches to ontogenic development. Particular attention is given to the dynamical systems approach, grasped by Alberch in the mid 1980s, and regarded as very coherent and promising in today’s evolutionary developmental biology.

More links in the Publications page.

Venice Workshop on Explaining Development

9-10 September 2014
Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti
Palazzo Loredan – Venezia
A workshop organized by Alessandro Minelli (University of Padova and Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti) and Thomas Pradeu (Paris-Sorbonne University and Institut universitaire de France)

What is development, and how should it be explained? Conceptual issues play an important role in today’s developmental biology (e.g., concerning plasticity and robustness, the periodization of development, etc.) An important, related question is to determine whether developmental biology offers theories. In a volume published by OUP in 2014 and edited by Minelli and Pradeu (Towards a theory of development), prominent biologists and philosophers have examined this question. This exploration of the theoretical aspects of developmental biology has now naturally led us to a broader and perhaps even more fundamental question, that of the explanation(s) of development.

Attendance to the workshop will be open
and free to all interested people.

Active participation to the discussion will be welcome.
Please inform the organizers of your intention to attend by sending a message to alessandro.minelli@unipd.it
not later than August 31, 2014.


9 September 2014

ALESSANDRO MINELLI & THOMAS PRADEU – Welcome and introductory remarks

Explaining what? – Putting development in context

GIUSEPPE FUSCO – Development in the context of the life cycle

JAMES R. GRIESEMER – Periodization of development

Coffee break

Explaining what? – Unconventional developmental systems

ALESSANDRO MINELLI – The development of the fruit, the seed, the moss and other chimaeric systems

ALEXANDER V. ERESKOVSKY – Problems and insights from sponge developmental biology

What is the respective role of descriptions, explanations and predictions in developmental biology?

THOMAS PRADEU – Description, explanation, and prediction in developmental biology

LUCIE LAPLANE – Contrasting notions of theory and their relevance for developmental biology

Coffee break


Plenary discussion I – The problem agenda(s)

10 September 2014

On the causality of development
WALLACE ARTHUR – Topology of causal links in development

JOHANNES JAEGER – The role of dynamical systems theory in a mechanistic theory of development

Coffee break

GERD B. MÜLLER – Do theories of evolution affect theories of development?

What does it exactly mean to give an explanation of development?

ALAN C. LOVE – The concept of potentiality in developmental reasoning

MICHEL VERVOORT – The importance to compare convergent developmental processes in trying to establish some principles of development

Coffee break

Plenary discussion II – Connections and broader issues

What next? General discussion on research, meetings and editorial plans



The landscape metaphor in development

“It seems that thtowards-theory-developmente landscape metaphor will continue to stay with us, at least for a while”.

We start defining a landscape as a function of multiple variables and show how this can be interpreted as a dynamical system. From the perspective of dynamical systems modelling, we move to analyze Waddington’s ‘epigenetic landscape’ and landscape representations in current developmental biology literature. Then we delve into the problem of models and metaphorical representations in science, which stands out as a crux for assessing the use of landscapes in development, and analyze the somehow parallel stories of Wright’s and Waddington’s landscapes. We conclude with some ideas on developmental landscapes in the context of visualization in science, with a focus on theoretical work in developmental biology.

Look for it in the Publications page (with additional links):

Fusco G, Carrer R, Serrelli E (2014). The landscape metaphor in development. In Minelli A, Pradeu T, eds., Towards a theory of development, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 114-128. ISBN 978-0-19-967142-7 [http://hdl.handle.net/10281/48518]