VERSION OF 1 February 2002
New: abstracts and draft program now available!

Evolvability in Biological & Software Systems

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

EPSRC Evolvability in Biological & Software Systems:

Software Evolution and Evolutionary Computation

7-8 February 2002 (Thursday-Friday), University of Hertfordshire, U.K.

Invited Speakers [Confirmed]:

Manny Lehman (Imperial College London)

Peter Bentley (University College London)

Paul Marrow (British Telecom)

Christopher Landauer (The Aerospace Corporation, USA)

Julian F. Miller (University of Birmingham)

Robert Laddaga (MIT AI Laboratory, USA)



This workshop aims to explore that connections between software evolution and evolutionary computation. Both share obvious common features in Darwin's characterisation of evolution as "descent with modification", but less obvious analogies and parallels also occur. These include notions such as modularity, sensitivity to changing requirements, issues of context and control of and types of variability that have for the most part been studied independently by workers in software engineering, evolutionary computation, and evolutionary biology.

This EPSRC symposium follows upon the growing awareness from academia, industry, and research communities of the importance of evolvability, tentatively defined as, the capacity to vary robustly and adaptively over time or generations 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 software engineering as well as evolutionary computation concerns.

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.

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 an 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 decompostion, information hiding, modularity, requirements change).

We solicit abstracts for poster or oral presentation (appox. 20-25 minute talk) reporting working in this exciting area. Talks should address an interdisciplinary audience, but may nevertheless at 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, and might relate to such aspects as (This is not an exhaustive list!):


Chrystopher L. Nehaniv (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.

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)
Computer Science Department
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.)


31 December 2001: Symposium Abstract Submissions Due
15 January 2002: Notification to Authors
7-8 February 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. Some selected papers based on accepted and invited talks will invited for submission for an edited volume on the symposium topic, mostly likely to be published by Springer Verlag in the Lecture Notes in Computer Science Series, which should include work from other evolvability symposia in the same or companion volumes.

The Symposium will comprise as keynote talks, contributed talks, posters, and a panel discussions with participants from different research areas. A symposium dinner will be held on 7 February 2002.


Evolvability in Biological & Software Systems

Chrystopher Nehaniv, 12 November 2001.
Last Update 1 February 2002
Symposium URL:

EPSRC Evolvability Network