VERSION OF 17 September

Evolvability in Biological & Software Systems

Call for Papers & Participation:
EPSRC Network on Evolvability in Biological & Software Systems

Evolvability and Individuality

sponsored by University of Hertfordshire Adaptive Systems Research Group and EPSRC

NEW! Final Program [also available in pdf or ascii: program2.pdf | program2.txt]

18-20 September 2002 (Wednesday-Friday), St. Albans, Hertfordshire, U.K.

Invited Speakers [confirmed]:



This EPSRC symposium follows upon the growing awareness from academia, industry, and research communities of the importance of evolvability, tentatively defined as, the capacity of populations to exhibit adaptive heritable variation. Biological populations vary robustly and adaptively over time or generations, and we seek to understand how this is possible in digital and natural systems. The symposium aims to encourage a dialogue between various workers in areas that might benefit from a possible common framework addressing individuality and evolvability.

Darwinian evolution characterized by heritable variation and selection is not by itself sufficient to account for the capacity to vary and inherent phenotypic expressions of fitness. Rigidity of genotype-phenotype mappings, as often used in evolutionary computation, constrains the dynamics of evolution to a small space of possible biological or artificial systems. Open-ended evolution is not possible under such constraints. Evolution, by itself, cannot fully explain the advant of genetic systems, the flexible genotype-phenotype mappings, heritable fitness. This presents a challenge both to biologists seeking to understand the capacity of life to evolve and to computer scientists who seek to harness biological-like robustness and openness in the evolution of artificial systems.

To what extent does evolvability require a population of discrete individuals on which to act? How can higher levels of individuality (e.g., multicellular organism) arise?

Evolvability has been variously defined as the "genome's ability to produce adaptive variants when acted on by the genetic system" (Wagner & Altenberg, 1996), as the "capacity to generate heritable phenotypic variation" (Kirschner & Gerhart, 1998); and as characterized by `evolutionary watersheds' opening the "floodgates to future evolution", such as segmentation and body plans (Dawkins, 1987). On the other hand, unconstrained or inappropriately constrained variability and change can lead to lack of stability, "cancer", nonheritability of fitness, lack of evolutionary power, and so on. Since at least the work of Parnas and Dijkstra in software engineering, related issues have been identified in the design of software systems (e.g. structural decomposition, information hiding, modularity, requirements change). Related issues in software evolution and systems theory have also been identified, e.g., by von Neumann, Ashby, and Simon on stability and modularity.

We solicit abstracts for poster or oral presentation (appox. 25-30 minute talk) reporting working in this exciting area. Talks should address an interdisciplinary audience, but may nevertheless deal with issues at the cutting edge of research.

Send submissions in plain text (ASCII) format only to The submission should show author name(s), full addresses, submission title, and an abstract of not more than 500 words. Submissions should include a statement of the preferred mode of presentation: poster / oral.

TOPICS FOCUS ON EVOLVABILITY & INDIVIDUALITY, and might relate to such aspects as (This is not an exhaustive list!):


Chrystopher L. Nehaniv (University of Hertfordshire, UK)
René te Boekhorst (University of Hertfordshire, UK)



Participation is open to all students, researchers, or industry representatives with interests in evolvability in biological and software systems. Please register by sending an e-mail giving your name and affiliation.

There is no registration fee.

Participation is limited to about 60 participants. Non-presenters are welcome to participate if places remain, so please register your interest as early as possible.

Authors may submit abstracts (max. 500 words) for oral presentation or posters. Attendance and participation by non-authors, students, researchers from industry and academia is also welcome (but may be restricted subject to space limitations).


Email submissions are preferred but, alternatively, hardcopy submissions may be sent to:

Prof. Chrystopher Nehaniv (Evolvability Symposium)
Adaptive Systems Research Group
University of Hertfordshire
Hatfield, Herts AL10 9AB
United Kingdom

Members of the EPSRC Network on Evolvability in Biological and Software Systems can be reimbursed for reasonable domestic travel, subsistence and accomodation costs if presenting an invited or accepted talk (or poster). (Please contact Chrystopher Nehaniv as soon as possible to arrange this.)


15 July 2001: Symposium Abstract Submissions Due
2 August 2002: Notification to Authors
18-20 September 2002: Symposium


Abstracts of accepted and invited papers will be published as a technical report of the University of Hertfordshire, available in hardcopy and on-line. Invited and some selected papers based on accepted and invited talks will invited for submission for edited volumes on the symposium topic, to be published by a well-known scientific publisher.

The Symposium will comprise keynote talks, contributed talks, posters, and a panel discussion with participants from different research areas. An informal symposium dinner will be held on 19 September 2002.


The attractive historic cathedral town of St. Albans in Hertfordshire is located just north of London. St. Albans, a former Roman settlement, has numerous good restaurants, cultural activities, hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments, and is easily accessible by rail and air travel to any London area airport (London Luton is the closest airport).

On 18 September the workshop will meet in St. Albans Town Hall (above Tourist Information) in the Town Centre (Chequer St/St Peters St)
On 19-20 September the workshop will meet at the Civic Centre in the District Council Offices, St Peters St.) Click here for is a map.

There is a direct train from Gatwick Airport to St Albans (sometimes as often as every 15 minutes, 64 minutes train journey time).
There is a direct train from Luton Airport Parkway to St Albans (sometimes as often as every 15 minutes, 11 minutes train journey time).
For details of times, and other train connections click the first link below:

Useful links:


Evolvability in Biological & Software Systems

Chrystopher Nehaniv, 7 June 2002.
Last Update 13 September 2002
Symposium URL:

EPSRC Evolvability Network