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Personal profile

Research interests

What do I work on?

I typically introduce myself as a "specialist generalist" -- or more formally, as a computational and complexity scientist. I apply broad computational methods (numerical simulation, data-science/engineering, machine learning, agent-based-modelling) to research domains across social-, biological-, and physical- sciences. Increasingly, my projects sit at the intersection between research domains: empirical social science and applied machine learning; social policy analysis and computational linguistics; statistical anomaly detection and human rights on the internet.

In Economics, I am convinced of the complexity economics paradigm introduced by SFI's W Brian Arthur, and inspired by the early work of Kristen Lindgren, have developed models of open-ended technology development, and with Jonathan Netwon, contributed to the renaissance of evolutionary game theory by studying the speed, implications and emergence of shared intentions on networks. I am also increasingly working on applied machine learning, especially in the realm of natural language processing (NLP), where I lead several projects which aim to use a combination of tools from NLP and applied empirical science to uncover insights from large corpora of public comment and writing on disadvantage in the Australian Parliament and media. This work has led our team to develop core computational linguistics developments in narrative extraction, the application of large language models (LLMs) in applied workflows, and algorithmic methods to fuel the visualisation of unfolding, inter-connected narratives over time. From this work we have developed an exciting new app called "Astro" that places the power of LLMs in the hands of knowledge workers to help them navigate the 'vast tiny' problem, reconceptualising knowledge exploration as a mapping exercise in latent semantic space. I'm also committed to raising the literacy of the academic and wider community in the use of AIs and LLMs. To use these new technologies for good, we must all help each other to understand their design and intended use.

When thinking about technological development it is hard to ignore the rise of the internet as the transformative general purpose technology of our age.  Together with colleagues at Monash, Paul Raschky and Klaus Ackermann, I developed cloud-engineering methods and technologies that have led to what is now known globally as the Monash IP Observatory. Our platform runs 24/7 from five continents and provides continuous measurement of over 400 million internet devices, making over 3 billion measurements a day. I have developed statistical anomaly detection methods that has led to partnership, data sharing and analysis outreach with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the US Federal Communications Commission, the Washington Post, Reuters, Reuters digital team, WIRED, ABC news, and other humanitarian organisations working in very difficult contexts. Today I serve as the Director of the Observatory, wearing multiple hats that see me taking care of production cloud-engineering, methods research and development, data analysis, visualisation, partnership coordinator, and media engagements. Paul, Klaus and I also commercialised the technology behind the Observatory, and collectively run KASPR datahaus in our spare time.

I am also a founding member of SoDa Labs, and support Paul in his role as Director. SoDa is an empirical research lab in the Monash Business School and houses many of my projects, and the Monash IP Observatory. Through SoDa I also lead teams which build user-facing apps (like Forumbrain AI), putting the power of modern machine learning and AI methods into the hands of a wide user base. My teaching follows this trajectory, and I have introduced a new unit, Harnessing Big Data for Business and Society into the curriculum to ensure that students are exposed to the technologies and safe data practices needed for tomorrow's world, increasingly built on the twin planks of big data and AI.


I returned to Melbourne, where I grew up, to join the Department of Economics, Monash University, in 2008 after spending a decade at UNSW for undergraduate (B.Sc (Hons)/B.A.) and postgraduate (PhD) studies across Arts, Science and Economics and briefly as a member of the Department of Economics to teach the large, first-year class, Quantitative Methods A. During my time in Sydney I benefitted greatly from residential trips to the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) NM (USA), which fanned into flame my life-long twin interests in complex pattern formation from elegantly simple, iterative processes accross natural, physical, biological and social sciences, and the art of computational science. Little known at that time in Australia, I learned that the emerging field of Complex Systems Science, and its expression in economics, complexity economics, was the more formal name for the lens through which I already saw the world. My highly diverse research activity since this time speaks to the wide application of complexity thinking in our world.  I'm indebted to a number of SFI faculty for their various contributions to my understanding, knowledge and motivation, notably J Doyne Farmer, John H Miller, Scott E Page, and W Brian Arthur. I have had the opportunity to reflect at length on the SFI experience here and would encourage any young Australian scientist to consider how SFI might be part of their training.

Aside from research, I am also passionate about my students, and have been fortunate to have my teaching and learning approach recognised multiple times at the univeristy, and national level, including being a recipient of one of the 2017 Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) Awards for Excellence - the highest recognition available to a tertiary educator in Australia. Within the Department of Economics, I developed, and then served as the innaurural chair of, the Learning and Teaching Committee, stepping down after a decade of service in 2021.

Outside of university, I have been an active follower of Jesus since 2002 when I was taught and caught the gospel through the student ministry at UNSW, and am now, with my family a member of City on a Hill East, an Anglican church in Melbourne, where I also serve as the chair of the Local Council. In the SFI tradition, I'm also very into endurance sport in wild places, and compete regularly in endurance and ultra-endurance events in the Australian bush and beyond.

Supervision interests

Simon welcomes research supervision interest in any of his research areas. Students should normally expect to work on algorithmic, computational, or data science works within the complexity paradigm. Simon is open to applications across the science domains, though some aspect of the work should ordinarily have an economics flavour.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Research area keywords

  • Numerical Simulation
  • Evolutionary game theory
  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Machine Learning
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Networks
  • Economics of Innovation

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or