Iain Couzin among the world’s most influential scientists

Iain Couzin, Director of MPI-AB, has been included in the 2021 list of the “Global Highly Cited Researchers” for the fourth time in a row.

November 16, 2021

Prof. Iain Couzin has been listed as one of the world’s leading researchers across multiple fields of science. Among other things, Couzin is known for the use of virtual environments, computer vision and computational modelling to study the collective behaviour of animal groups. As in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 the speaker of the Cluster of Excellence Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour (CASCB), director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (MPI-AB), and professor in the Department of Biology of the University of Konstanz is included to the annually published list Global Highly Cited Researchers, organized by Clarivate Analytics. 6602 researchers worldwide, 331 of them from Germany, can count themselves among the most highly cited researchers in 2021. The Highly Cited Researchers’ have published multiple works that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science™ citation index.

"For the fourth year in a row, Iain Couzin has been listed as one of the most highly cited researchers in his field worldwide. This underscores the biologist's extraordinary influence in the field of collective animal behaviour", says Professor Katharina Holzinger, rector of the University of Konstanz. "Couzin's work is characterized by his scientific expertise and his trailblazing use of new technologies. Another decisive basis for his work is that he approaches research questions from an interdisciplinary perspective. This is how Couzin has played a key role in developing the research priority 'Collective Behaviour' as an international top-level research facility for investigating swarming behaviour at the University of Konstanz."

Honour is to the credit of the entire team

 “I am absolutely delighted that our work is recognized for its influence within biology, and also across disciplines” says Couzin. “I have been extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunity to work with so many brilliant young researchers in my group over the years, and this is very much a recognition of their creativity and energy.“

The honour also reflects a growing interest in the field of collective behaviour in general, as Couzin underlines: "Collective behaviour spans vast scales of biological and physical organisation. There is increasing realisation that there are underlying principles of self-organisation that give rise to structure, order and complexity in both physical and natural systems. This is reflected in the interest in our work across the scientific spectrum as these principles naturally transcend disciplines.”

Couzin’s research is based on interdisciplinary collaboration

Couzin is named in the “cross-field” category, which recognises individuals who publish highly impactful papers across several fields. Interdisciplinarity is very important in the field of collective behaviour research, as Couzin points out: “I strive to create an inclusive, open and diverse research environment.” Members of his team come from a wide range of academic backgrounds including ecology, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, engineering, physics, mathematics and architecture. Couzin emphasises: “Diverse perspectives are critical to achieve collective intelligence and it has proven a wonderful way to learn new things every day. This approach is at the heart of everything we do at the University of Konstanz and exemplified by our multi-disciplinary Cluster of Excellence and globally-unique building, the “Centre for Visual Computing of Collectives” (VCC) where researchers from across these disciplines, and more, work together and think together. This is a dream come true and I could not be more excited about the future here!”

Iain Couzin’s team builds up cutting-edge technology

Couzin’s international and interdisciplinary team from the University and the MPI-AB are developing some of the most advanced technologies in behavioural science. These include novel animal tracking systems, deep learning and computer vision, as well as cutting-edge virtual reality and imaging facilities, such as the aforementioned 32-million-euro Centre for Visual Computing of Collectives (VCC), which was opened in 2021 at the University of Konstanz.

Iain Couzin is the recipient of several internationally recognized research awards, including the 2019 Lagrange Prize – an important international recognition in the field of complex systems –, the 2013 Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and the 2012 National Geographic Emerging Explorer Award. He has multiple publications in high-profile journals such as Nature, Science and PNAS, which include “Emergent Sensing of Complex Environments by Mobile Animal Groups” from 2013 and “Inferring the structure and dynamics of interactions in schooling fish” from 2011. 

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