From the Principal

                                                                                                                                                                                                September, 2016

Institutes for Advanced Study and the Common Good of the Community of Scholars
Half a century ago there were, for all practical purposes, but two institutes for advanced study,
namely the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) Princeton and the Center for Advanced Study in
the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Palo Alto. They differed in size, historical origin and orientation
but shared some characteristics. They were committed to the highest levels of scholarship. They
strove to create a community of scholars of exceptional promise who were free to pursue learning
“to the utmost degree that the facilities of the institution and the ability and faculty of the students
will permit”. Both of them were, in the words of Abraham Flexner, the first director of the institute
at Princeton, ”a free society of scholars”, coming from different fields but “animated by intellectual
purposes”. Furthermore they were supported either by an endowment or a long-term commitment
of a foundation that safeguarded a measure of long-term stability.

Half a century later, most of these features still persist at these institutions even though they have
changed profoundly in other respects, not least in the composition of their cohorts of fellows. At
the same time, the model of scholarly work that they represent has been embraced by a growing
number of institutes and centres worldwide.

In the second half of the 1960’s and in the 1970’s, amidst the transition to mass higher education,
efforts were made to create new institutes for advanced study. These efforts were often inspired
by personal experiences of scholars who had been members of one of the first two American
institutes. In the first half of the 1980’s additional institutes were created against the background
of a concern about the quality of scholarship after a decade and a half of academic growth, turbu-
lence and increasing demands on universities to demonstrate the usefulness of research for public
policy-making. Still, in the mid-1980’s there were only a handful of institutes for advanced study in

The real expansion both in Europe and globally has occurred in the course of the last fifteen years.
There are now close to two hundred centres for advanced study. Of course, these institutes differ
from each other in many ways and they belong to a variety of partly overlapping international consortia
with acronyms such SIAS, NetIAS, UBIAS and others.

However, despite differences almost all institutes for advanced study are sites where scholars can
focus on their own research work. Furthermore many of these institutes provide levels of support
that one can but rarely experience in a regular university setting. Furthermore they allow for easy and
frequent contacts across disciplinary boundaries. Thus institutes for advanced study stand out as
attractive locations. Questionnaires indicate that the experiences of their fellows largely correspond
to this image.

The growth in the number of institutes occurs in an academic landscape where university leaders have
become increasingly attentive to questions of competition, assessments and rankings. In this context an
institute for advanced study may appear to be a useful instrument. However there are also indications
that institutes for advanced study tend to be funded at levels that are suboptimal relative to their contri-
butions to the scholarly world.

Institutes for advanced study may, and often do, point to the fact that their fellows tend to excel in terms
of writing books and articles of high quality and long-term importance during their period in residence. At
least of equal significance is the role these institutes sometimes play for the promotion of early-career
scholars. IAS has had such a commitment as a core component from the founding of the institute, and
CASBS has also played a significant role. In some respects the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study
(SCAS) may have been something of a pioneer. In 1999 the Collegium and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond
(RJ; the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences) launched the so-called Pro Futura Scientia
programme for early-career scholars beyond the postdoctoral stage. This five-year programme is a sustained
effort to promote early-career scholars and to provide international experiences as well as a tenured position
within the university system.

There is yet another significant contribution to the overall research landscape that flows from the activities
of institutes for advanced study. In a research landscape there must be spaces where genuinely new ideas
may be explored in ways that may not fall within the framework of any existing strategic programme. Insti-
tutes for advanced study are ideal in this respect. They provide a setting where new ideas may be formulated
and where the first steps towards probing them can be undertaken.

In others words, institutes for advanced study provide important services that further the common good
of the entire research system. This is recognized and appreciated by far-sighted individuals in academia, in
foundations and governments and in the public at large. The Swedish Collegium has been fortunate enough
to enjoy sustained support of several key actors, most importantly perhaps from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.
Support from external sources makes up by far the largest share of funding for the Fellows in residence of
the Collegium. We are proud of the cohort of Fellows of the academic year 2016-17. We hope and believe
that their presence will contribute to vibrant scholarly discussions at the Collegium but also to new inter-
actions and initiatives in the research landscape in Sweden and beyond.

                                                                                                                                                Björn Wittrock