picture of James

James A. R. Marshall
Professor of Theoretical and Computational Biology
Complex Systems Modelling Group
Department of Computer Science
University of Sheffield
Pam Liversidge Building

I am based in the Department of Computer Science, where I am a member of the Complex Systems Modelling Group. Within this I head the Behavioural and Evolutionary Theory Lab; In normal times I am physically located in Sheffield Robotics. From July 1st 2022 I am working on special leave, and working full time as Chief Scientific Officer in Opteran Technologies.

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Research Interests

Biologically-Inspired Algorithms, Cognitive Behaviour, Decision Theory, Theoretical Neuroscience, Evolutionary Theory, Mathematical Biology, Social Evolution, Social Insect Behaviour


My book Social Evolution and Inclusive Fitness Theory: An Introduction was published by Princeton University Press in 2015. Follow @SocEvolBook on Twitter for updates, or visit Princeton University Press for more details, including how to order copies.


Research Projects

Previous Research Projects:

Academic Service

  • Associate Editor - PLoS Computational Biology - November 2020 - June 2022
  • Associate Editor - Current Zoology - January 2018 - April 2019
  • Editorial Board - Swarm Intelligence - January 2017 - present
  • Associate Editor - Frontiers in Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology - November 2013 - January 2017
  • Academic Editor - PLoS ONE - September 2009 - September 2020
  • UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Panel College Member - July 2019 - present
  • EPSRC Peer Review College Member - April 2010 - present
  • Proposal Reviewer - BBSRC, EPSRC, ERC, ESRC, FWO, HFSP, ISF, NERC, NSF, NWO, Royal Society, McDonnell Foundation, ...
  • Paper Reviewer- (invitations from over 20 journals including) American Naturalist, Behavioral Ecology, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Current Biology, Ecology Letters, eLife, Journal of Animal Ecology, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Nature Communications, PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS one, Physica A, Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, Science, Science Robotics, Scientific Reports, Theoretical Population Biology, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, ...


Please see the News page of the BET Lab homepage for news including media coverage of my work and projects.

Invited Talks at International Meetings and Schools

  • Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Collective Behaviour. May 24th 2022. Collective Animal Behaviour Through Time Meeting, The Royal Society, London.
  • When (and How) Crowds can be Less Than Wise. September 2nd 2021. Santa Fe Institute Collective Intelligence Workshop (Online)
  • Natural Intelligence for Autonomy. July 7th 2020. NATO Autonomy Workshop (Online)
  • An Evolutionary Theory of Collective Decision-Making. May 18th 2020. Collective Animal Behaviour Through Time Meeting, The Royal Society, London (Postponed due to COVID-19)
  • Optimal Decisions on and of Graphs. March 26th 2020. Third International TRANSIT Workshop on Cross-disciplinary Research, York Cross-Disciplinary Centre for Systems Analysis, University of York (Cancelled due to COVID-19)
  • From Individual to Collective (Sub)Optimality: Confidence, Quorums and Information Cascades in Collective Decision-Making. March 22nd 2019. Centre for Integrative Biology, Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse.
  • Go to the Bee and Be Wise: Biomimetic Robot Control. November 21st 2018. Journées du GDR Robotique, CNRS, Paris.
  • Tools for State of the Art Collective Robotics. October 25th 2018. Swarm Robotics: Pushing the State of the Art. Rome.
  • Optimal Confidence-Weighted Collective Decisions. August 8th 2018. Dynamical Models of Individual and Collective Decision-Making, SIAM Conference on the Life Sciences 2018, Minneapolis.
  • When Condorcet is Wrong (Almost Always) and What to do About it. July 25th 2018. Mathematics at the Interface of Collective Behavior and Emergent Phenomena in Biology, European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology 2018, Lisbon.
  • Beyond Condorcet: Confidence and Quorums. May 10th 2018. Conference on Collective Behaviour. International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste
  • Attempting to Model an Entire 'Cognitive' Mini-brain. October 9th 2017. International Graduate School for Neuroscience, Ruhr University Bochum
  • Multiscale Modelling of Honeybee Swarms and Other Biological Systems. November 3rd-9th 2016. 2nd course on Multiscale Integration in Biological Systems, Institut Curie, Paris
  • Go to the Bee and be Wise: Swarm Engineering Inspired by House-hunting Honeybees (keynote). November 6th-9th 2016. Distributed Autonomous and Robotic Systems 2016, Natural History Museum, London
  • Cognitive Bias and the Evolution of Self-Deception. December 10th-11th 2015. Rationality and its Rivals Workshop, University of Macau
  • Go to the Bee and be Wise: Principled Analysis and Design of Bio-inspired Collective Decision-making Algorithms (keynote). September 11th 2015. 9th Workshop on Theory of Randomised Search Heuristics, University of Sheffield.
  • From Honeybee Collective Behaviour to Psychophysics and Neuroscience. September 9th 2015. Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University.
  • From Honeybee Collective Behaviour to Psychophysics and Neuroscience. September 4th 2015. Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester.
  • Cognitive Bias and the Evolution of Self-Deception. March 9th 2015. Bounded Rationality Seminar Series, University of Edinburgh.
  • From House-Hunting Honeybees to Neural Models and Psychophysics. November 18th 2014. Second Workshop on Biological Distributed Algorithms (28th International Symposium on Distributed Computing), Austin TX.
  • Green Brain: Computational Modelling of the Honeybee Brain. October 11th 2014. Social Insects as Models for Biological Complexity symposium, 2014 Entomological Society of America Meeting, Portland OR.
  • Green Brain: Computational Modelling of the Honeybee Brain. July 21st 2014. Workshop on Honeybee Neuroscience, McQuarie University, Sydney.
  • Honeybees and Value-Sensitive Decision-Making. May 28th 2014. Fourth International Symposium on Biology of Decision-Making, École Normale Supérieure / Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Épinière, Paris.
  • Green Brain: Computational Modelling of the Honeybee Brain. May 20th 2014. Workshop on Invertebrate Cognition, Queen Mary University London.
  • From House-Hunting Honeybees to Weber's Law and Speed-Accuracy Trade-Offs. April 3rd 2014. Groningen Lecture in Theoretical Biology, University of Groningen.
  • A Mechanism for Value-Sensitive Decision-Making. May 3rd 2013. Decision Making in Nature Workshop, Imperial College London.
  • Cross-Inhibition Improves Activity Selection. December 19th 2012. Modelling Animal Decisions Meeting, Wells.
  • Genetic Relatedness is Essential for the Evolution of Altruism. September 21st 2012. 16th Meeting on Evolutionary Biology, Marseille.
  • Optimality Theory and Voting Processes. June 28th 2012. Interdisciplinary Workshop on Collective Decisions, Paris School of Economics.
  • Optimal Collective Decision-Making in Honeybees: Novel Insights for Psychology and Neuroscience? September 14th 2011. Department of Psychology, Princeton University.
  • Ultimate Causes and the Evolution of Altruism. August 11th 2011. Theory of Cooperation Workshop. Adelboden (University of Bern).
  • Optimal Voting in Groups with Convergent Interests. March 21st 2011. Modelling Complex Adaptive Systems as if they were Voting Processes. AAAI Spring Symposium. Stanford University.
  • Optimality Theory in Collective Behaviour. March 17th 2011. Insect Self-Organization and Swarming Meeting. Mathematical Biosciences Institute, Ohio State University.
  • Ernst Strungmann Forum on Cognitive Search. February 20th-25th 2011. Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies.
  • Colony-Level Cognition: Optimal Decisions, Brains, and Social Insect Colonies. July 29th 2009. 'Swarm Cognition' workshop at CogSci 2009, Amsterdam.
  • Optimal Decision-Making in Brains and Social Insect Colonies. June 20th 2008. Systems Biology of Decision-Making Meeting. Mathematical Biosciences Institute, Ohio State University.
  • Optimal Decision-Making in Brains and Social Insect Colonies. May 20th 2008. Principles of Biological Computation Meeting. Santa Fe Institute.
  • Whys and Wherefores of Computer Modelling in Behavioural Biology. July 10th 2004. Modeling Biology meeting. Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Vienna.


  • My Hamilton number is 2 (Marshall, J.A.R. -> Houston, A.I. -> Hamilton, W.D.)
  • My Erdős number is no more than 4 (Marshall, J.A.R. -> Rowe, J.E. -> Dietzfelbinger, M. -> Alon, N. -> Erdős, P.)
  • I received two copies of 'Being or Nothingness' by 'Joe K' (see 'The Psychopath Test' by Jon Ronson)
  • I had an early career as a computer game and AI developer, working at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, and doing this in my spare time

James Marshall, last modified May 31st 2022
Designed by Lianne Meah