The European Physical Journal Special Topics

, Volume 214, Issue 1, pp 245–271 | Cite as

Challenges in complex systems science

  • M. San MiguelEmail author
  • J. H. Johnson
  • J. Kertesz
  • K. Kaski
  • A. Díaz-Guilera
  • R. S. MacKay
  • V. Loreto
  • P. Érdi
  • D. Helbing
Open Access
Regular Article


FuturICT foundations are social science, complex systems science, and ICT. The main concerns and challenges in the science of complex systems in the context of FuturICT are laid out in this paper with special emphasis on the Complex Systems route to Social Sciences. This include complex systems having: many heterogeneous interacting parts; multiple scales; complicated transition laws; unexpected or unpredicted emergence; sensitive dependence on initial conditions; path-dependent dynamics; networked hierarchical connectivities; interaction of autonomous agents; self-organisation; non-equilibrium dynamics; combinatorial explosion; adaptivity to changing environments; co-evolving subsystems; ill-defined boundaries; and multilevel dynamics. In this context, science is seen as the process of abstracting the dynamics of systems from data. This presents many challenges including: data gathering by large-scale experiment, participatory sensing and social computation, managing huge distributed dynamic and heterogeneous databases; moving from data to dynamical models, going beyond correlations to cause-effect relationships, understanding the relationship between simple and comprehensive models with appropriate choices of variables, ensemble modeling and data assimilation, modeling systems of systems of systems with many levels between micro and macro; and formulating new approaches to prediction, forecasting, and risk, especially in systems that can reflect on and change their behaviour in response to predictions, and systems whose apparently predictable behaviour is disrupted by apparently unpredictable rare or extreme events. These challenges are part of the FuturICT agenda.

Graphical abstract


Extreme Event European Physical Journal Special Topic Complex World Stock Market Crash Mobile Phone Data 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2012

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. San Miguel
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. H. Johnson
    • 2
  • J. Kertesz
    • 3
  • K. Kaski
    • 4
  • A. Díaz-Guilera
    • 5
  • R. S. MacKay
    • 6
  • V. Loreto
    • 7
    • 8
  • P. Érdi
    • 9
    • 10
  • D. Helbing
    • 11
  1. 1.IFISC (CSIC-UIB)Palma de MallorcaSpain
  2. 2.Faculty of Mathematics, Computing & TechnologyThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK
  3. 3.Institute of PhysicsBudapest Univ. of Technology & EconomicsBudapestHungary
  4. 4.Dept. of Biomedical Engineering & Computational ScienceAaltoFinland
  5. 5.Dept. Fisica FonamentalUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  6. 6.Mathematics Institute & Centre for Complexity ScienceUniversity of WarwickWarwickUK
  7. 7.Physics Dept.Sapienza Universty of RomeRomeItaly
  8. 8.ISI FoundationTurinItaly
  9. 9.Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics, Wigner Research Centre for PhysicsHungarian Academy of SciencesBudapestHungary
  10. 10.Center for Complex Systems StudiesKalamazoo CollegeMichiganUSA
  11. 11.ETH ZürichZürichSwitzerland

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