February 5 – 10 , 2006, Dagstuhl Seminar 06061

Theory of Evolutionary Algorithms


Dirk V. Arnold (Dalhousie University, CA)
Thomas Jansen (TU Dortmund, DE)
Jonathan Rowe (University of Birmingham, GB)
Michael D. Vose (University of Tennessee, US)

For support, please contact

Dagstuhl Service Team


Dagstuhl Seminar Proceedings DROPS
List of Participants
Dagstuhl's Impact: Documents available


The 2006 Dagstuhl Seminar "Theory of Evolutionary Algorithms'' carried forward a series of Dagstuhl seminars that started in 2000 and has become an established event in the community. In the week from from 05.02.2006 to 10.02.2006, 56 researchers from 12 countries discussed their recent work and recent trends in evolutionary computation.

Evolutionary algorithms (EAs) are randomized search heuristics. Introduced in the 60s and havinf come to great popularity in the 80s, they have been applied successfully in many different areas. Borrowing ideas from natural evolution, these algorithms operate on a population (multiset) of candidate solutions to a task. Promising candidates are selected from the population based on their fitness (objective function value) to become parents. Offspring are generated as variants of parents by means of stochastic crossover and mutation operators. The population for the next generation is chosen from parents and offspring, and the process then repeats until some stopping criterion is met.  A wealth of different EAs have been developed which vary and embellish this basic theme, including the use of stochastic operators adapted to the search space and task, sophisticated methods for adapting parameters during a run, co-evolutionary paradigms, and explicit estimation of distributions.

Evolutionary algorithm theory is three decades old, but only recently has theory migrated to provably correct foundations. In addition, the vast majority of practitioners are collectively generating EA variants at a rate which far outpaces the speed with which the comparatively few theoreticians can analyze them. Making the situation worse, what most practitioners say they want - an inexpensive answer for how best to optimize - is in general impossible to achieve. All of this has contributed to a chasm between proven theoretical results and evolutionary algorithms as applied in practice.

Evolutionary algorithm theory is comprised of diverse approaches from various perspectives having differing objectives.  Facet-wise analyses concentrating on one-step behavior of EAs (schema theory being the best known approach of this kind), analyses based on Markov chains, infinite population models, heuristic analysis borrowing ideas from statistical mechanics, run time analysis in the spirit of the analysis of randomized algorithms, and other approaches, have been developed separately and almost independently.

Dagstuhl Seminar Series


  • Artificial Intelligence / Robotics Data Structures / Algorithms / Complexity Optimization / Scheduling Interdisciplinary (e.g. Bioinformatics)


  • Evolutionary algorithms
  • Theoretical analysis
  • Optimization time
  • Co-evolution


In the series Dagstuhl Reports each Dagstuhl Seminar and Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop is documented. The seminar organizers, in cooperation with the collector, prepare a report that includes contributions from the participants' talks together with a summary of the seminar.


Download overview leaflet (PDF).

Dagstuhl's Impact

Please inform us when a publication was published as a result from your seminar. These publications are listed in the category Dagstuhl's Impact and are presented on a special shelf on the ground floor of the library.


Furthermore, a comprehensive peer-reviewed collection of research papers can be published in the series Dagstuhl Follow-Ups.