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A new institute for advanced study in the UK

by Richard Meckien - published Apr 19, 2013 10:30 AM - - last modified Sep 30, 2015 12:28 PM

On April 11, Malcolm Press, Director of the University of Birmingham’s IAS, visited the IEA to talk about the first year of activities in his institute.

Malcolm PressOnce more the IEA has promoted an international meeting to exchange experiences with institutes for advanced studies of other countries. On April 11, Malcolm Press, Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) of the University of Birmingham, UK, visited the Institute to present the development process of the IAS, the results of the first year of activities and expectations for the future.

According to Press, who is also Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Life and Environmental Sciences of the institution, the IAS was created with three main objectives: to promote an interdisciplinary approach, to show the world the quality of research conducted at the university, stimulating scientific exchange with other institutions, and to act as an internal catalyst, ‘promoting a synergy between the various colleges and inspiring excellence within the campus’.

The Director noted that encouraging interdisciplinarity is essential to explore the scientific potential of the university since the global challenges require interdisciplinary solutions and due to the increasing fact that funding resources are being allocated to researches with this kind of approach.


The first step to start the activities of the IAS was to develop a simplified system in which researchers could submit proposals for workshops with agility and convenience. ‘The idea was to reduce the bureaucracy in the process of submission and approval, enabling a quick decision’, said Press.

According to him, if the idea was good and relevant, the workshop would be approved, funded and organized in short time. For this, stakeholders needed only to submit a simple and short proposal to obey some criteria, such as choosing interdisciplinary themes, including the participation of researchers from outside and covering more than one research group.

The submission scheme generated positive results. In the first nine months, 45 workshops were held and 15 ones were scheduled. The events have involved all the 28 colleges that comprise the University of Birmingham, more than 80 external organizations, researchers from 40 universities, including the USP, and graduate students.


In addition to boosting the initial activities of the IAS, the workshops were designed to help to outline issues of concentration. From the held events there were chosen two major research themes that will guide the institute's activities from now on: ‘Regeneration Economies: Transforming People, Place and Production’ and ‘Saving Humans: Risk, Intervention, Survival’.

The first theme is focused on understanding the factors that will drive economic growth in two regions - Birmingham and Chicago - considering the current economic recession. Among the factors to be observed in the comparative analysis are industry, education and workplace.

The second theme deals with humanitarian aspects, ethical dilemmas, technological challenges and sociopolitical problems associated to human health. Thus it involves issues related to the future of humanity, such as biological (pandemics and the cure of diseases), environmental (natural disaster prevention) and security (wars, conflicts and terrorism) threats.


The meeting with the Director of IAS is part of the series of events organized by the IEA to promote a reflection on the role of institutes of advanced studies and to stimulate exchange between such institutions. These meta-critical debates integrate the guidelines of the Institutional Project 2012-2017 and are located in the Green Room of the institute.

The first event was held in 2011, when Peter Godard, Director of IAS Princeton, and Eliezer Rabinovici, Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, came to the IEA to talk about the operation of their institutes and the specificity of advanced studies.

In 2012 Aditya Mukherjee, Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies Jawaharlal Nehru, visited the IEA. At the meeting, he dealt with the origin and the academic profile of the institute as well as the university in which it is based.

The last event took place last February, when Dapeng Cai and Susumu Saito, researchers at the Institute for Advanced Research of the Nagoya University, gave a presentation at the IEA on good practices for the development of high-level research adopted by their institute.



Video of the event

Video of Malcolm Press presenting the IAS (on YouTube)