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About IEA

by Richard Meckien - published Apr 11, 2013 02:25 PM - - last modified Oct 28, 2015 12:47 PM

Driven by the democratic opening in Brazil and by intellectuals engaged in shaping a new society, the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo has as its mission: “to research and to discuss–comprehensively—fundamental issues of science, technology, the arts and other areas of knowledge, stimulating the generation of new ideas and contributing to the analysis of social issues and the development of public policies". Since its foundation in 1986, the IEA-USP has provided the academic community and the general public with the opportunity to establish direct contact with the ideas of several Brazilian and foreign personalities from scientific, political and cultural areas. It has also produced essential proposals for the economic, social, political and cultural development of Brazil. The emphasis on the debate of interdisciplinary themes makes the IEA-USP able to act in the shaping of research and public policies guidances. The interdisciplinary projects developed at the IEA-USP are conducted either by research groups or visiting professors and researchers.

Due to the peculiarities of its objectives, the IEA-USP has an academic and administrative structure that differs from the usual standard adopted by most of the university institutions. The emphasis on the debate of interdisciplinary themes makes the IEA-USP able to act in the definition of research and public policy directives, but not in educating researchers or executing experimental projects. That is the reason why the IEA-USP does not offer undergraduation or graduation programs, does not have a permanent board of researchers and does not possess laboratories.

Many programs, projects and cycles carried out by the Institute stand out due to the relevance of their themes for the future of the country. Some exemples of activities that produced detailed analyses and recommendations for the improvement of public policies in numerous sectors: "Education for Citizenship" and "Constitutional Review", as well as the projects "Floram" (Forests for the Environment) and "Brazil in the Future – 2022", the forum "Capital-Labor" and the cycles "Dilemmas and Challenges in Higher Education", "Technology Innovation" and "Biomass Civilization". The IEA-USP also acts as a think-thank and incubator for future models of new institutes of higher education and even the academia itself. The creation of the International Relations Institute of the University of São Paulo (IRI-USP) in 2004 is one fruitful example. More recently the Intercontinental Academia has proven the interdisciplinary potential of working together not only amidst different disciplines but also globally, through a network of University Based Institutes for Advanced Studies-UBIAS. Another project being developed is the Rainforest Continent Business School by the Amazon Transformation: History and Perspectives research group.

The programs, projects, areas and groups of the Institute have already received the collaboration of hundreds of participants, who have acted as visiting professors or researchers, lecturers or collaborators. Among those with greater international visibility are John Kenneth Galbraith, Noam Chomsky, Jürgen Habermas, Jacques Derrida, Christopher Hill, José Saramago, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Robert Darnton, Bernard Feld, Georges Charpak, Milton Santos, Ignacy Sachs, JeanChristophe Yoccoz, Newton da Costa, Enzo Faletto, Mario Molina, Edgar Morin, Oscar Sala, Peter Burke, Alan Sokal, Jean-Pierre Changeux, Robert Trivers, Stanislas Dehaene, Otto Gottlieb, Alain Touraine, Hans-Joaquim Köellreutter, John Casti, Miguel Nicolelis, Yochai Benkler, Werner Arber, Jacob Palis, Renato Janine Ribeiro, José Goldemberg, Richard Morse, Richard Nelson, David King, John Gledson, Hélio Jaguaribe, Iván Izquierdo, Marina Silva.

The important role played by the journal "Estudos Avançados" could not be left out from this short outline of the history of the Institute. The journal is a publication for scientific and cultural debate that has been issued uninterruptedly every four months since 1987. This journal is top 5 of the Scielo, the most important online database/library/platform of open access scientific journals in Latin America.


The projects are developed by research groups that are specially constituted for each of the analyzed themes. These themes are chosen from a series of proposals presented by researchers and institutions to the Board of Trustees, who often defines the work topics of its own accord.

The duration of each group is conditioned by the time that is necessary for the execution of the respective project. The average term lasts for two years. Due to the relevance of certain themes or to long-lasting agreements with other institutions, some groups act for longer or undetermined periods of time.

There are also research projects that are developed individually by visiting professors and visiting researchers, but they are always related to the themes of interest of the Institute.


The participation in the activities is open to researchers and professionals with projects that are related to IEA’s work themes. The analysis of this thematic confluence is performed by the research team coordinators and/or by the Board of Trustees. Participation is allowed to Brazilians and foreigners, those related to USP or not, holders of a university degree or not.

There are five positions for visiting professors (those external to USP), who receive a remuneration and a time limit of one to two years to develop their research projects. Other experts integrate into the activities without remuneration, as visiting researchers, to carry out individual projects or coordinate research teams. The body of researchers is completed with the other members of the teams and some of the Institute’s honorary professors, besides the specialists that are invited to deliver conferences or participate in seminars, panel discussions and other events.


The ultimate deciding body is the Governing Council, which has ten members — among whom are the director and the deputy director. One of the positions is filled by a non-academic that represents the civil society. Another one is destined to a graduate student of the University of São Paulo. The remaining members are professors — one of them may be from another university.

The director’s duty is to chair the Board of Trustees, comply with its deliberations, manage and coordinate the activities of the Institute.


The new IEA-USP charter, in effect since 2009, introduced a major institutional innovation, namely, official guidelines to create IEA hubs in other USP campuses in the state of São Paulo. In addition to specifying the goals and structure of the Institute, and the scope of its Governing Council and Board, the new charter also defines categories of researchers (visiting professors, collaborative professors, visiting researchers) and their responsibilities, and establishes criteria to create and run research groups and chairs.


Ribeirão Preto — The Ribeirão Preto Hub opened in November 2009 and organized a series of conferences during its first two years. The first research groups began to be defined by late 2011. The Ribeirão Preto Hub will organize both extended and brief activities. Long duration actions will feature workgroups and chairs for visiting professors; among those of short duration there will be seminars, conferences and workshops, for instance. Topics that are already part of programs of the Ribeirão Preto campus will benefit from the existence of the Hub as an enhanced forum for debate and reflection. These topics include agribusiness, regional development, education, environmental problems, transport/traffic problems, public and family health, and health technology, among others.

São Carlos — An initiative of physicist Sérgio Mascarenhas, its first coordinator, the São Carlos Hub was created in 1997 and operates in partnership with the city’s research institutions (USP, UFSCar and Embrapa), the Technology Park, business incubators, high-tech industries, and public elementary schools. The Hub currently has ten research groups: Complex Systems, Information Technology, Organic Semiconductors, Bionanotechnology, Agricultural Instrumentation, Scientific Dissemination in Support of Education, Space Aeronautics, Innovation Network, Technological Prospecting for Agribusinesses, Education and Environment, and University and Businesses Enterprises.


The activities of an institute of advanced studies bear the charm of innovation, non-conventionality and, in the case of the University of São Paulo´s Institute, also a connection with social problems toward which the sciences are always tempted to make a contribution. Institutes of advanced studies represent a special place in a university, a place to carry out the conceptual experimentation required to advance any kind of knowledge, where the forgathering of perspectives is not a rare event but the very matrix that engenders new ideas. Far from paths already trodden (isn’t this almost a definition of exploration?), they offer special freedom to explore, and an understanding that the fields of knowledge, arts and ethics do come together in possible syntheses.

The Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo (IEA-USP) is an active and varied institution, a meeting-point of discovery and reflection, a galvanizer of interfaces, hospitable, in constant interaction and involvement with other sectors of the university, sensitive to social issues, to what is best and to what is fair, concerned with excellence, interested in expanding its networking with other similar institutes and other institutions of society, aware of the internationality that is increasingly becoming the backdrop of science and culture, but centered nevertheless in its own context. It is an honor to the Institute its 25 years of existence that open the field to many other achievements, which we may strategically anticipate and plan for.

Welcome to IEA-USP.

César Ades
Late director of IEA-USP
"Estudos Avançados" journal nº 73