Complexity Explorer Santa Fe Institute


Who can take part in a Complexity Challenge? Anyone that has gone through the Application process and has been approved can enroll in any Complexity Challenge as long as there are slots available.

How long does each Challenge run?  Approximately 6 weeks. From the time a Challenge becomes active, participants have one month to create their submissions and upload them.  Participants then have 2 weeks to review their peers’ submissions.  

Who is the instructor?  John Miller, Santa Fe Institute External Faculty and Science Steering Committee Chair, and a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. 

When is the next Challenge? As soon as a partner with a question comes forward - we will update this section and the general Challenge page to reflect timing of upcoming Challenges to allow you to plan.  



How much does it cost?  Currently it is free to participate in a Complexity Challenge, as long as you have passed the Application process successfully.  

How is Complexity Explorer funded?  Complexity Explorer has been funded by the Santa Fe Institue (SFI) through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and by donations from users. Our grant funding runs out at the end of December, 2017.  In order to help support future online complexity courses and resources, we are requesting donations from students.  Donate today!



Who is the intended audience?  The Complexity Challenge is meant for complexity scholars that have been learning about different concepts and tools used in studying complex systems that want a chance to showcase their skills.  For more details on the criteria for participating, visit the Application page.

What are the prerequisites?  You should have have an understanding of different concepts and tools used to study complex systems.  A quantitative approach complemented by programming skills will be a definite plus.  For more details, visit the Application page.



How does the Challenge work?  To get started with a Challenge, first you have to have been accepted into the Complexity Challenges.  Go to the Application page for more information.  Once you have been given access, you will be able to enroll in any upcoming Challenge, as long as the Challenge is not full.  Challenges may limit the number of participants that can submit solutions. 

Once you have enrolled, you will be able to view information on the instructor team and the partner institution.  You will not be able to see the Challenge details until the start date.  Once the start date passes, the specific Challenge question and guidelines will be unveiled, along with an explanation video.  You will be able to start working, and also consulting with the Challenge Mentors through the forum and email.  

You can submit your solution any time within the active Challenge window (1 month), but make sure you submit before the deadline.  There will be no extensions - it’s up to you to make sure you’ve accounted for time zones and other life events.  

Once you’ve submitted your solution, you will have two weeks to review at least 3 of your peers’ work.  It is very important that you do this carefully and respectfully - their grades, and yours, depends on it!

How exactly does the submission and evaluation system work?  Your Challenge solution will be first reviewed by your peers, and you will also be expected to review assignments your peers submit.  

In order to successfully complete the peer review element of the Challenge, you need to do two things:

  1. Submit your assignment before the submission deadline.
  2. Review three or more other participants’ assignments after the submission deadline and before the evaluation deadline.

To submit an assignment, upload your documents.  Make sure your name is not on your assignment.

To evaluate other students' solutions, go to the Challenge section and you will be prompted to download a file with one submission. Follow the rubric, put comments in the comment box (this is required), and submit.  You will then be given a second assignment to review, and then a third.  Check the submission number of the ZIP file you download and make sure it matches with what is displayed on the screen. Do one assignment review completely to avoid accidentally evaluating the wrong assignment! Make sure you have done all the reviews before the deadline in order to receive your full score.

You should receive a reminder email about the submission and evaluation deadlines 24 hours before they are due.  It is your responsibility to make sure you complete the work by the deadline - the deadline will be listed on the peer review section, in emails, on the forum, and the instructor may bring it up during office hours.  

How are peer review segments graded? When you submit an assignment for peer review, you will receive an average grade based on the evaluations your peers will give you, which will count as 75% of your grade.  The remaining 25% of the grade is given to you when you complete three evaluations for your peers.  

I completed three evaluations, why do I keep seeing more submissions to review? We require three evaluations from you, however, we will keep offering you optional submissions to review to help us ensure that every submission is reviewed at least three times.  You can review as many submissions as you like, or you can stop after three and continue on with the rest of the course.



How is the course graded? Your grade will be based on the peer evaluations you receive for your work, as well as mentor and instructor evaluations.  



How well do I need to do to receive a certificate, and will the certificate list my grade? You need to have submitted your solution, and reviewed your peers’ work, with an average score of 70% or greater, to receive a certificate of successful completion. The certificate will not list your total score; it will simply say that you have successfully completed this course. 

Can I get university credit for this Challenge? No, not at this time. It is possible that in the future we may be able to partner with colleges and universities so as to offer our courses for credit, but there is currently no mechanism for this.

Will I get any kind of certificate? Everyone who successfully finishes the course will receive a certificate of completion from the Santa Fe Institute.

How can I add my certificates to LinkedIn or share them on social media? Certificates are available as a pdf download and also as a unique, public URL you can link to.  When you click on your certificates you will be taken to that public page.  Copy the URL and share it anywhere you like.   

If you want to post your certificates to LinkedIn, follow these instructions.  Navigate to your certificate. If the course session is closed, go to your account by clicking your name at the top right of the Complexity Explorer page.  Go to My Enrollments and then click on the Show N Enrollments in Past Courses text in grey.   From there you can click on your past certificates.  Copy the URL of the certificate, and then click on the Add Certificate to LinkedIn button.  Fill in the form by putting in the name of the course, the Santa Fe Institute, leave licence blank, add the month and year you completed the course, and then add the public URL.  



In what ways am I allowed to use these resources?  All the materials on this site are available for your use for any non-commercial purpose. All materials (videos, code, write-ups, etc.) are covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License ( ). This states that you may copy, distribute, and transmit the work under the condition that you give attribution to, and your use is for non-commercial purposes.



Do I have to enroll to submit a Challenge solution? Yes, you need to enroll in order to access the details of the Challenge and to submit a solution. 

How do I enroll?  Enrollment opens as soon as a Challenge is added the the Upcoming section on the Challenge home page.  You can enroll by navigating through to see more detail on the Challenge, then clicking on “Enroll in this Challenge”.

Can I enroll anytime? You can only enroll before the Challenge becomes active.  This date will be listed on the Challenge detail page.  You can also only enroll as long as their are spaces remaining.  Complexity Challenges currently have a cap of students.



How much time should I work on my Challenge solution? The Challenge window is one month, and you can work as much or as little as you like within that window, prior to submission. In general, we recommend at least 10 hours of solid work on crafting and putting together your solution.  



What are the rules on collaboration with other people? You are free, and encouraged, to discuss anything with anyone.  The website hosts an online forum for students to ask and answer general and technical questions. However, we ask that the Challenge solution you submit be entirely on your own, without collaboration with others or help from the Web. Of course, we are relying on the honor system for our students to abide by these rules.

Is there a forum for discussion of Challenge issues and questions?  Yes. The website hosts a forum in which Challenge participants can post questions, answers, and otherwise discuss the Challenge. Questions posted to this forum will be answered by the instructor, mentors, and/or other students.



What do I need in order to complete a Challenge? You need an internet connection and a device with a browser that allows you to access the Complexity Explorer site, play videos and run the forum. You will also need access to a computer or device that allows you to write a document and export it as a pdf, as well as run any software you may need to come up with your solution.   You will need access to a device that will allow you to record and upload a 3 minute video explaining your solution.  The video could be screen capture or filming yourself - whatever will work best for you.  

How do I get the videos to play at a faster rate (e.g., 2x)? Our videos are streamed through YouTube. You can opt in on YouTube for their html5 player, which allows you to speed up or slow down videos. To opt in, go to

Can I download the videos directly, rather than watching them via YouTube? Yes, just click on the "Download" button that appears above the video screen on the page for each video.



I forgot my password or something is wrong with the site, what should I do?  Please send an email to



What if I have more questions?  Please address other questions to