Lorentz Center - Game Theory and Evolutionary Biology: Exploring Novel Links from 18 Apr 2016 through 22 Apr 2016
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    Game Theory and Evolutionary Biology: Exploring Novel Links
    from 18 Apr 2016 through 22 Apr 2016


Game Theory and Evolutionary Biology: Exploring Novel Links


18 – 22 April 2016 @ Oort


The aim was to bring together experts in (evolutionary) game theory  and (evolutionary) biology in order to discuss and learn about connections between the two fields, unresolved  problems, novel techniques that could resolve such problems, and in general crucial challenges for future research at the intersection of these two elds. After the introduction  of main topics a lot of time was dedicated to brainstorming and working in groups to reach these goals. 


We expect that new research lines among the participants of the workshop will be set up. There is a new research on Warburg effect, for example, which started at the workshop, and multiple workshop attendants, who were originally working in different fields,  are working on other topics at the intersection of game theory and biology, thanks to the workshop.


Some of the topics that are worked on by the workshop participants after the workshop are approached from a completely new (and often very innovative) angle, thus, if successful, these efforts are expected to lead to scientific breakthroughs.  There were quite some excellent “out of  box” ideas found during the workshop.


There were a few ‘Aha’ moments. For example, in the working group of cancer, which I participated, we got to understand that cancer is an evolutionary disease and as such should be definitely modeled using the evolutionary techniques, plus it has more in common to modeling other biological systems than we thought. That is why, surprisingly, also often rather theoretical expertise of some participants led to the better understanding/predicting the disease.


We started with series of tutorials introducing the mathematical and biological topics, after that we asked participants to write down questions that interested them and others could sign themselves under these questions - that is how the brainstorming groups were formed. There was then considerable time given to group discussions on days 3, 4, 5, and at the end the groups presented their outcomes to the others. In the morning on days 3 and 4 we also introduced the so-called shake-up talks which looked on the topics introduced in the tutorials from different perspectives. The workshop was ended by a talk on evolutionary biology and games.

I believe this format was successful. Interesting was that we got only 3 big groups initially: one dealing with cancer (A), second one dealing role of information/learning in biological modeling (B), and the third one dealing with what the fitness is (C). The cancer group was the biggest one and after first few meetings this group broke into 3 subgroups. Within these subgroups, people started to work on rather diverse topics (but all within the general topic of cancer), there were even some modeling results still shown within the workshop! Groups B and C were more theoretical, they were evaluating/comparing different existing theories/approaches and pointing out what still needs to be done or what should be corrected within their research domains. I think it was very good that we asked the groups to report on their results, because that gave them target and that made people really work together actively (I myself started important collaborations at the workshop). Most participants were really excited about the topic they were working on, thus you could see that progression went fast. 

There were few participants who did not really actively participate in the discussions and working in the groups. Some of them were there only to learn and/or did not want to/were afraid to express their opinion (this concerned some of the PhD candidates), there was one participant who was “hopping” between different groups, not contributing to any of them at the end. While this was a bit of pity, luckily most of the participants did participate actively in the workshop and we really learned a lot from each other.


The shake-up talks were very good addition to the main talks, as they gave a different point of view to rather standard topics.


I heard quite some participants saying that this was the best workshop they have attended so far and I thank this very much thanks to the Lorentz center. Everything was arranged very professionally, we got all the space we needed for our work, people seemed relaxed and happy and that is the best state of mind to do significant research. Tara and other people working at the Lorentz center were very helpful, Tara was even giving me some very useful tips during the workshop. The meeting with the Lorentz Center before we finalized the program was an eye-opener, it made us to improve the program very much. It is clear that the Lorentz Center has much experience with organizing scientific workshops, which helped us a lot to improve the organization of our workshop. The boat trip that we had as our social event was great, so was the wine and cheese party. There is no single negative point I could state.


Kateřina Staňková (Maastricht, Netherlands)

Johan Jacob Metz (Leiden, Netherlands)

Tom de Jong (Leiden, Netherlands)

Nicole Mideo (Toronto, USA)

Frank Thuijsman (Maastricht, Netherlands)