Regular Article

The European Physical Journal Special Topics

, Volume 214, Issue 1, pp 273-293

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Challenges in network science: Applications to infrastructures, climate, social systems and economics

  • S. HavlinAffiliated withMinerva Center and Department of Physics, Bar-Ilan University Email author 
  • , D. Y. KenettAffiliated withSchool of Physics and Astronomy, Tel-Aviv University Email author 
  • , E. Ben-JacobAffiliated withSchool of Physics and Astronomy, Tel-Aviv University Email author 
  • , A. BundeAffiliated withInstitut für Theoretische Physik III, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen Email author 
  • , R. CohenAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Bar-Ilan University Email author 
  • , H. HermannAffiliated withComputational Physics for Engineering Materials, IfB, ETH Zurich Email author 
  • , J. W. KantelhardtAffiliated withInstitut für Physik, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg Email author 
  • , J. KertészAffiliated withInstitute of Physics, Budapest University of Technology and Economics Email author 
  • , S. KirkpatrickAffiliated withSchool of Computer Science and Engineering, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Email author 
    • , J. KurthsAffiliated withInstitute of Physics, Humboldt University BerlinPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Email author 
    • , J. PortugaliAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, Tel-Aviv University
    • , S. SolomonAffiliated withRacah Institute of Physics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Email author 


Network theory has become one of the most visible theoretical frameworks that can be applied to the description, analysis, understanding, design and repair of multi-level complex systems. Complex networks occur everywhere, in man-made and human social systems, in organic and inorganic matter, from nano to macro scales, and in natural and anthropogenic structures. New applications are developed at an ever-increasing rate and the promise for future growth is high, since increasingly we interact with one another within these vital and complex environments. Despite all the great successes of this field, crucial aspects of multi-level complex systems have been largely ignored. Important challenges of network science are to take into account many of these missing realistic features such as strong coupling between networks (networks are not isolated), the dynamics of networks (networks are not static), interrelationships between structure, dynamics and function of networks, interdependencies in given networks (and other classes of links, including different signs of interactions), and spatial properties (including geographical aspects) of networks. This aim of this paper is to introduce and discuss the challenges that future network science needs to address, and how different disciplines will be accordingly affected.

Graphical abstract