General FAQs

What is SFI?

The Santa Fe Institute is a nonprofit, independent research center that leads global research in complexity science. SFI scientists seek the shared patterns and regularities across physical, biological, social, and technological systems that give rise to complexity—in any system in which its collective, system-wide behaviors cannot be understood merely by studying its parts or individuals in isolation. Insights from complexity science are increasingly useful in understanding questions far beyond the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines—urban sustainability, disease networks, and financial risk, to name a few. 

Who spends time at SFI?

SFI is a visiting institution, and each year we host some 30 scientific meetings, annual complexity summer schools totalling more than 150 students, visits by more than 800 collaborators and scholars, and numerous other research and education activities. SFI has a steady state averaging 30 resident professors and postdoctoral fellows on site at any one time, with many more at the Institute during the summer months. 110 external faculty members from 86 institutions collaborate with SFI’s resident faculty and postdoctoral fellows. Thus, our actual scientific impact goes well beyond the usual measures.

Rather than being restrictive and competitive, we pride ourselves in being intellectually inclusive, a world hub for big thinkers. Dozens of scientists affiliated with the Institute have won the top awards in their fields and serve in key positions of national and international scientific leadership.

How is SFI funded?

As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, SFI relies on the support of philanthropic individuals and foundations, forward-thinking partner companies that are members of our Applied Complexity Network (ACtioN), and government science agencies to conduct our highly-exploratory, interdisciplinary brand of research. For every SFI dollar we spend, we leverage more than four additional dollars from federal grants, foundations, and strategic partners to raise the impact, reach, and application of our research.

How can I follow SFI research?

Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for the latest research news and big ideas from SFI. We also publish the quarterly Parallax newsletter, which highlights our scientific activities and results.

How can I access SFI's financial disclosures?

You can access SFI's audited financial statements and IRS Form 990 online.

How does SFI protect donor information?

The Santa Fe Institute takes the privacy of its donors seriously. SFI does not share, sell, or exchange donor information with other nonprofits. SFI does not mail to donors on behalf of other organizations. We use technical safeguards to protect donor information and limit access to information among our staff, who are bound by a code of conduct. 

SFI discloses donor information as part of required financial disclosures, and publicly acknowledges and thanks those donors who permit us to do so. SFI will always respect donors' requests for anonymity and will not disclose their names other than as required by law and financial reporting standards.

What is SFI's policy to prevent sexual harassment and sexual misconduct?

You can access the SFI Policy to Prevent Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct here.


How do I join the Applied Complexity Network?

To join the Applied Complexity Network, please send an email expressing your interest in Membership to the  Applied Complexity Network Office. Memberships are for a 12-month period, commencing upon receipt of the membership fee.

What is the profile of a typical member?

Applied Complexity Network members include companies and organizations from diverse industries and government agencies around the world. Industrial research laboratories, manufacturing companies, financial institutions, and several sectors of high tech have been drawn to SFI. What unites all members is a desire to learn about the catalytic research that occurs here, and to discuss, in cross-industry groups, how results may be applied in their areas of interest.

What is complexity, or complex systems research?

Systems with many interacting components, or agents, from which surprising and unpredictable system-wide behaviors can emerge is the hallmark of complexity research. This includes examining the dynamics of these "complex adaptive systems" and how they evolve as agents interact and react to one another an their environments. Our work is  theoretical. Organizations that join the Applied Complexity Network are often involved in applied research areas that have their roots in, or can be informed by, the work being performed at SFI. ACtioN provides a bridge between SFI's basic research and the applied work in which our members are engaged.

How does SFI deal with intellectual property?

If an organization wishes to work with an SFI researcher on a specific project of mutual interest, the researcher brokers that relationship and the organization on terms decided by the two parties (e.g., independent contractor, consultant, non-disclosure, etc.).

Can members send a researcher to SFI?

Yes. In fact, members are encouraged to submit an application for the SFI sponsored Applied Complexity Network Fellowship. In addition, visits to the Institute by Applied Complexity Network members can be arranged.

Learn FAQs

How can I start learning about complexity science?

Introduction to Complexity is a great way to get started learning about the field of complex systems science. This free online course is taught by Dr. Melanie Mitchell. Lectures are based on Dr. Mitchell's Hugo-Award winning book and interviews with SFI researchers. Intro to Complexity provides an overview of the general principles of complexity and outlines the exciting research happening today. 

Does SFI grant degrees?

SFI is not an accredited institution and does not grant degrees. However, plans are underway to create a Multiversity — a more formal collaboration among SFI and degree-granting universities. Currently in development as part of the Multiversity is the joint ASU-SFI Online Master’s in Complex Systems

Are SFI's online courses offered for college credit?

SFI is not an accredited institution and does not grant college credit. However, many students take courses through SFI's online learning platform, Complexity Explorer, to enhance their resumes and CVs. We provide certificates that serve as proof of passing the course, which can also be embedded into a LinkedIn profile. 

How else can I use Complexity Explorer?

In addition to full, semester-length courses, hosts tutorials in complex systems theory and methods, 190+ glossary terms, a database of complexity science centers, books and research from around the globe. Explore our resources about complexity science.

Is there any way to get involved or volunteer my time with SFI education?

There are several ways to contribute. You can submit content to be included on the site, help subtitle videos in your native language, give feedback, make a donation, or leave reviews on Class Central. Find more details on