Prize Challenges

Mercury Challenge

Can you create a method to forecast the future? The Mercury Challenge presents an opportunity for individuals and teams to earn prizes by creating innovative solutions using machine learning and artificial intelligence methods to automatically predict the occurrence of critical events.

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Who We Are: The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), focuses on high-risk, high-payoff research programs to tackle difficult challenges of the agencies and disciplines in the intelligence community. IARPA’s challenges invite experts from the broader research community to participate in IARPA research in a convenient, efficient, and non-contractual way.

What We’re Doing: IARPA is looking for innovative machine learning techniques that would improve the accuracy and timeliness of global forecasts. IARPA hosts these challenges to identify ways that individuals, academia, and others with a passion for forecasting can showcase their skills easily.

Why We’re Doing This: Surprise events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the civil unrest that gave rise to the Arab Spring, and Russian incursions into Ukraine, forced rapid responses in the absence of data related to the underlying causes of these events.

In an effort to strengthen global crisis response capabilities, The IARPA Mercury Challenge seeks innovative solutions using machine learning and artificial intelligence methods to automatically predict the occurrence of critical events involving military action, non-violent civil unrest, and infectious diseases in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan, and Bahrain.

Who Should Participate: Technologists, data scientists, and machine learning engineers who are skilled at breaking down complex data are encouraged to join. Individuals ranging from private industry and academia are all eligible to participate and win prizes. The Mercury Challenge Team believes success in this challenge can prove to be a strong addition to any data science practitioner’s portfolio.

Certain individuals and groups with existing agreements with IARPA may not be eligible for cash prizes but may be able to compete for standing on the leaderboard and other non-monetary incentives. Additional eligibility rules will be available closer to launch.

Why Should You Participate: This challenge gives you a chance to join a community of leading experts to advance your research, contribute to global security and humanitarian activities, and compete for cash prizes. This is your chance to test your forecasting skills and prove yourself against the state-of-the-art, and to demonstrate your superiority over political pundits. By participating, you may:

  • Network with collaborators and experts to advance your research
  • Gain recognition for your work and your methods
  • Test your methods and monitor how you stack up amongst competitors
  • Win prizes from a total prize purse of $100,000

Throughout the challenge, an online leaderboard will display solvers’ rankings and accomplishments, giving you opportunities to have your work viewed and appreciated by leaders from industry, government and academia.

When We’re Doing This: To receive updates or request more information email at

When does registration and algorithm building begin? July 2, 2018
When does the scoring period begin? August 1, 2018
How do I stay connected to get information about the challenge? Visit the Mercury Challenge microsite to join our mailing list
Where do I learn more about the specifics of the challenge?
Where can I find the Mercury Challenge code repository?
When does the challenge end? January 31, 2019


Related Program(s):