The Bartlett School of Planning


OMEGA Seminar: Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus

07 December 2022, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm

Windfarm and solar panels

A Summary of CECAN’s Research Findings of Relevance to Mega Infrastructure Policy & Planning

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Hanadi Samhan


14 Upper Woburn Place

CECAN redefines what it means to conduct an evaluation of policies which attempt to change complex nexus systems. Despite organisational boundaries, real-world systems are inter-connected in multiple ways creating inter-dependencies outside the control of single organisations. The focus of CECAN is the nexus of the environment, energy, water, and food systems. This nexus highlights the perfect storm (Beddington, 2009) and recognises the opportunities for socio-technical systems to better connect ultimate means with ultimate ends.  The environment is our greatest mega infrastructure. It provides natural capital and ecosystem services across multiple geographical scales, from local to international, and temporal scales, from seconds to millennia.


Public policy has the responsibility to support the flourishing of society and the environment and to protect both. Several policy instruments are in play at any one time and political manifestos drive changes to meet society’s changing needs. Policy evaluation attempts to determine the success of policy interventions which can lead to policy adaptation and removal. But the VUCA (vulnerable, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) state of our national and international contexts (war, Covid-19, Brexit, and recession to name a few) and the complexity of socio-technical-ecological systems makes evaluation very difficult. CECAN makes contributions to the fields of policy, evaluation, complexity, and nexus studies. It has already published national guidelines on complexity evaluation and CECAN continues to provide thought leadership and the means to create the skills and capacity for complex policy evaluation, via a series of outputs, engagements, doctoral studies, and case studies.

All are welcome and participation is free. The event will be streamed online via Zoom :https://ucl.zoom.us/j/97075620661

Further details about the OMEGA Seminar Programme can be found on the OMEGA Centre’s website.

About the Speaker

Prof Liz Varga

Professor of Complex Systems at Environmental, and Geomatics Engineering department at UCL

Prof. Liz Varga is an infrastructure and cities scientist and Professor of Complex Systems in the Civil, Environmental, and Geomatics Engineering department at UCL. She leads the Infrastructure Systems Institute (ISI) and spearheads thinking in complexity science, particularly interdependencies and uncertainties in infrastructure, advising a range of governmental and non-governmental organisations. Her research is on resilience; sustainable innovation; circularity; decarbonisation; digitalisation; and self-healing systems. She investigates socio-technical systems, bringing together behaviours with technologies such as sensors, artificial intelligence, and digital twins, to achieve multiple system outcomes (like safety, resilience, efficiency, and sustainability)

She is a commissioner with the National Preparedness Commission and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building Engineers (FCABE), the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) and the Australian Risk Policy Institute (FARPI). She is the technical lead at the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction global initiative on principles for resilient infrastructure. Funded research includes UKCRIC (EP/R017727/1) infrastructure and cities research; CECAN ES/N012550/1 policy evaluation for the nexus (energy, water, environment); DAFNI (EP/R012202/1) data and analytics for national infrastructure; ENCORE (EP/N010019/1) engineering resilience network; and STDE (System Transition to Digital Energy) (EP/R002339/1).

CECAN, the Centre for Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus, is a £3m research centre hosted by the University of Surrey. It is transforming the practice of policy evaluation in Nexus areas, to make it fit for a complex world. CECAN is pioneering, testing and promoting innovative policy evaluation approaches and methods across Nexus domains such as food, energy, water and the environment, through a series of ‘real-life’ case study projects with DEFRA, BEIS, FSA EA and other government departments and agencies. The team comprises social scientists, policymakers, policy analysts and experts whom all share a common goal to improve policy evaluations for the better. CECAN has been delivering a programme of evaluation methods through workshops, training courses and specialist seminars delivered by international experts, to encourage knowledge sharing and capacity building amongst those working in UK policy making.