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The concept of self-organisation has developed in many directions and affected diverse fields, ranging from mathematics and physics to biology and social sciences: path formation in ant foraging and formation of flows in pedestrian movement; reaction-diffusion automata and self-organising Kohonen maps; patterns of crystal growth and Benard convection cells in a viscous fluid, etc. Typically, self-organisation is defined as the transition of a system into an organised form in the absence of external pressures. Self-organisation within a system brings about several attractive practical properties, in particular, robustness, adaptability and scalability. In the face of perturbations caused by adverse external factors or internal component failures, a robust self-organising system continues to function. Moreover, an adaptive system may re-configure when required, degrading in performance “gracefully” rather than catastrophically. In certain circumstances, a system may need to be extended with new components and/or new connections among existing modules — without self-organisation such scaling must be pre-optimised in advance, overloading the traditional design process.

Achieving the balance between design and self-organisation is the main overarching challenge of Guided Self-Organisation (GSO). In the most general form, GSO combines task-independent objectives (universal utility functions) with task-specific constraints. One may consider different ways to guide the process (dynamics) of self-organisation, achieving a specific increase in structure or function within a system. This guidance may be provided by limiting the scope or extent of the self-organising structures/functions, specifying the rate of the internal dynamics, or simply selecting a subset of all possible trajectories that the dynamics may take. Many properties of self-organisation can be characterised formally (e.g., information-theoretically). The Second International Workshop on Guided Self-Organisation (GSO-2009) held in Leipzig, Germany in August 2009 put a particular emphasis on the GSO principles based on information flows through the perception-action loops of embodied systems.

We invite contributions to the GSO-2009 Special Issue of Theory in Biosciences. This journal focuses on new concepts in theoretical biology, including analytical and modeling approaches, and has an impact factor of 1.171 (2008). All submissions will be rigorously reviewed.

We aim to include both research papers and reviews. A research paper is expected to describe a new contribution to the GSO field, previously unpublished or providing a new insight. A review article is expected to provide a perspective of an area, possibly arranging known results in a new framework, useful for GSO researchers. It is important that both research and review/perspective articles clearly relate to both guidance ("G") and self-organisation ("SO") aspects — in order to make a coherent issue. In particular, papers discussing information-theoretic approaches are welcome.

The deadline for the submission of your manuscript is May 31, 2010. Submissions should be sent directly to one of the Editors of the special issue:

  • Dr. Nihat Ay      nay AT mis DOT mpg DOT de
  • Dr. Mikhail Prokopenko
  • Prof. Ralf Der     ralfder AT mis DOT mpg DOT de

Theory in Biosciences' formatting instructions are described within the LaTeX package. In addition, we would like to limit a research article by 10 pages, and a review article — by 15 pages.


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