Shaping the Future of PLOS Complex Systems: Interview with Editor-in-Chief Hocine Cherifi

Following the launch of PLOS Complex Systems earlier this year, we sat down with Editor-in-Chief Hocine Cherifi to learn more about his vision for the journal and developments in the field he’s keeping an eye on.


What is your vision for PLOS Complex Systems?

My vision for this journal is to create the richest community possible around emerging tools and techniques that will shape the future of our world. Complexity as a discipline exists with different meanings around the world and different overarching philosophies. With PLOS Complex Systems I hope that we can facilitate these important conversations on what makes something ‘complex’ as opposed to ‘complicated’ across traditional disciplines and the network community.

The journal has a broad, transdisciplinary scope, why is this important?

Complexity is a field that transcends traditional boundaries–it is not uncommon to see a researcher study economic, social, or natural complex systems at once. As such, the journal must be able to accommodate the broad range of interests many researchers in this space have. When we bring that all together, we can learn from each other. We want PLOS Complex Systems to be a space where researchers can connect and share approaches that they might not have discovered otherwise.

It is also a field that is growing rapidly, and this means more and more scientists are starting to use complex systems analysis tools. The journal must be accessible to people who consider themselves a biologist or sociologist, and encourage the diversity of perspectives and expertise that they bring to the community.

In this, I would like to highlight our commitment to constructive peer review. Building the journal’s editorial board was an intensive and intentional process, and I am very grateful for the time they have lent us so far, and will continue to invest in the journal. Their expertise is invaluable, and I am thrilled we can count on them to set the standard for the quality of research and discourse seen in PLOS Complex Systems.

What developments are occurring in your field of expertise that excite you currently?

The thing that excites me most is the growth of dedicated coursework and degree programs for complex systems and networks. This is recognition of the importance of complexity science by academia as a whole and I am excited to see how students in these programs think, as well as the problems they want to address. My hope is that these programs will embrace the need for collaboration and subject expertise as well as inspire curious students.

How will Open Science play a key role in the journal achieving its vision and advancing the field?

Open Science is inclusive, transparent, and flexible, making it the optimal way to communicate complex networks research from across a range of disciplines to all its possible audiences. Open Science also increases visibility and reusability, not just of the research article, but the underlying methods and data of the research itself, which creates an opportunity for a wider community to further test and build from these components

This is particularly vital to ensuring that the datasets and methodologies that researchers create and leverage are properly vetted. With the prevalence of machine learning models, we must be conscientious of the data we use and the risk of perpetuating inequalities that may be hidden in these tools. 


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