Durham University Institute of Advanced Study

Transforming the Way we Think

Annual Theme

Durham’s Institute of Advanced Study is distinctive in organising the core of its work around a rolling programme of thematic priorities. Annual themes have interdisciplinary appeal; they are controversial, lie at the cutting edge of research, and require urgent attention from more than one perspective. Typically, themes run across one academic year; sometimes they form a platform for a much longer programme of work; in other circumstances they provide a rapid response to urgent needs over just a few months.

In anticipation of the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth in 2009, the Institute’s inaugural theme in 2006/07 addressed the Legacy of Charles Darwin from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.  The theme in 2007/08 was Modelling; interpreted in its broadest sense to be of wide appeal to a range of disciplines, this programme examined the value, strengths and weaknesses of a modelling culture upon which modern society has become so dependent.  The 2008/09 theme was Being Human; a theme that aimed to address the fundamental question of what is it to be human in a 21st Century of increased technological intervention and growing demand to recognise the rights of nature and animals, but, ironically, at a time when half of humanity remains deprived of the right to a full life.  The theme in 2009/10 was Water, something that pervades the arts and the sciences, both thematically and in the flesh, and is clearly a topic of growing global concern.  In 2010/11 the IAS, in supporting a theme on Futures, seeks to stimulate thinking on the question of what happens next, and in 2011/12, before returning to a programme of annual themes, the IAS will be supporting Futures II to support intra- inter- and multi-disciplinary ventures that could become real centres of excellence for Durham in the future.  The 2012-13 theme will be Time.  And the 2013/14 theme will be Light.

IAS Annual Themes

Any individual, research group, or department can propose annual themes or respond to calls for activities linked to the Institute’s annual themes.  The themes are broad, open to inflection, and designed to be as responsive as possible to research interests and strengths across the spectrum of disciplines at Durham.

Individuals or departments are welcome to suggest themes at any time of the year and simply need to email their suggestion, along with as much detail as possible about activities or fellows that could be linked with it, to the IAS.

Themes are selected in consultation with departments and the IAS Advisory Council.  They are chosen for their ability to resonate with research interests at Durham, for their interdisciplinary appeal, and their ability to contribute to internationally recognised cutting edge research.

Themes are announced 18 months ahead and an annual scoping meeting is organised to which all departments are invited to send representatives to enable inter- intra- and multi-disciplinary programmes of work to be mapped out for the year.

If you would like to propose an annual theme please email your suggestion to Linda Crowe.


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