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IM903 Complexity in the Social Sciences


15/20/30 CATS - (7.5/10/15 ECTS)

Easter Vacation

CIM and Centre for Complexity Science (CCS), Economics, Psychology, Statistics and Warwick Business School (WBS).

This module introduces an interdisciplinary group of students to some of the main quantitative and computational approaches for modelling complex social systems. You will be introduced to a range of methodological approaches from across a range of disciplines. You will be encouraged to think both practically and critically about some of the key issues raised by modelling complex social systems. You are expected to read core reading before each class, participate in group work and project presentations. No prerequisites are required for this module. However, please note that some of this teaching will involve mathematics and related computational techniques. You will all work in ‘teams’ or ‘pairs’ allowing a range of disciplinary backgrounds to come together and work on similar problems. A key part of this module is to learn to work with others in different disciplines. In addition, the assessment is designed to support both those with more mathematical background as well as those with little or no mathematical background.

Module Convenors - Dr Emma Uprichard, CIM / Dr Colm Connaughton, Maths

Indicative Syllabus

Please note that the exact content may vary due to staff availability.

Day 1

AM - Introduction to Module

PM - Networks / Complex Policy and Evaluation

Day 2

AM - Food security and a quantitative approach to policy design

PM - Using language networks to understand the mind

Day 3

AM - Understanding and using social network data

PM - Computational social science and big data

Day 4

AM - Game theory across the disciplines

PM - "The plural of 'traders' is not 'market"

Day 5

AM - Simulating the Social

PM - Assessment Workshop

Illustrative Bibliography

Ball, P. (2012) 'Why Society is a complex matter', Springer.

Barabási, A.-L., "Scale-Free Networks". Scientific American 288,60 (May 2003).

Caldarelli, D (2007) Scale-Free Networks: Complex Webs in Nature and Technology, Oxford Finance Series.

Holland, J. (1999) Emergence from Chaos to Order. Mass: Perseus Press.

Johnson, S. (2001) Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software. New York: Scribner.

Kauffman, S. (1995) At Home in the Universe. London: Viking.

Room, G. (2011) Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy: Agile Decision-making in a Turbulent World, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Sawyer, K. (2003) Social Emergence: Societies as Complex Systems, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Waldrop, M. (1992) Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos. New York: Simon and Schuster

Jensen, HJ (1998) Self-Organized Criticality. Cambridge: CUP

Strogatz, S.H. (2000) Nonlinear dynamics and chaos. (Westview Press).

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • develop independent critical thinking;
  • appreciate multi-disciplinary approaches to complex systems;
  • work in a team where others have more or less technical, mathematical, or computational expertise for problems arising at the forefront of Complexity Science;
  • work in teams; and
  • communicate with their peers and with other academics within and outside of one’s own discipline.

Important Information on Admission

CIM Students – Please complete the optional module choice forms distributed during the induction programme and get approval from your personal tutors during the Personal Tutor Meeting. Please then submit your approved form to Gheerdhardhini (CIM PG Coordinator) in room B0.04 by Week 0: Wednesday, 25th September by 17.00 GMT.

External Students

  • Computer Science – Please register your interest in the CIM module with the PG Administrator in your home department – Ms Sharon Hayes – by Week 1: Wednesday, 2rd October, 17.00 GMT.
  • Life Sciences – Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator (Gheerdhardhini) via email (, to request your optional module choice by Week 1 : Thursday, 3rd October, 17.00 GMT.
  • All other external students - Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator (Gheerdhardhini) via email (, to request your optional module choice by Week 1 : Wednesday, 2nd October, 17.00 GMT.


  • You may be expected to have access to a laptop for some of these courses due to software requirements; the Centre is unable to provide a laptop for external students.
  • Some modules may have restricted numbers and places are allocated according to availability.
  • Please note that a request does NOT guarantee a place on the module and is subject to availability.
  • Gaining permission of a member of CIM teaching staff or a member of staff from your home department or filling in the eVision Module Registration (eMR) system with the desired module does NOT guarantee a place on that module.
  • Requests after the specified deadline will not be considered.
  • The CIM PG Coordinator will get back confirming your place in the module by 27th September 2019 (for CIM students), or 4th October 2019 (for Life Sciences students).
  • Only after confirmation of a place from the CIM PG Coordinator can students’ home departments confirm their registration on eVision/MRM. Registrations by students who have not received confirmation of a place from CIM will be rejected via the system.

NOTE – The above-mentioned registration deadline also applies to the CIM optional modules running in Term 2. We will consider registrations again in the first week of Term 2, but only in relation to modules where there is availability.

We are normally unable to allow students (registered or auditing) to join/leave the module after the second week of the module commencing.