The Institute of Advanced Studies
The Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Surrey hosts small-scale, scientific and scholarly meetings of leading academics from all over the world to discuss specialist topics in a free-flowing and productive atmosphere, away from the pressure of everyday work.
The workshops are multidisciplinary, bringing together scholars from different disciplines to share alternative perspectives on common problems.
In 2004, the then Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dowling, agreed to provide £30,000 per year for three years from the University's Strategic Development fund to support the activities of the Institute of Advanced Studies.
Each autumn, bids have been invited from the university's academic staff for support to help fund short workshops and seminars on leading edge subjects. The competition calls for bids that are multi-disciplinary, are likely to lead to significant advances, will attract international scholars, and are linked to current research at the University. Four awards of up to £5,000 each are made and the remaining £5,000 is used to pay an administrator for one day a week, who assists seminar organisers with arranging their workshops. In addition, the Institute has created software running on the Web that automates much of the routine involved in registering participants and creating a web site to advertise each seminar.
The first, pilot, workshop was held in April 2005 and the first competition was held in October 2005. Since then, the Institute has supported 27 seminars and workshops. The level of interest has increased as the scheme became better known and we now receive between 10 and 13 bids every year.
The Institute's principal objectives in supporting these workshops are to attract international scholars to the University and to encourage new and productive research collaborations. A booklet, IAS Seminars and workshops: outcomes, has recently been produced by the Institute which indicates the success it has had in meeting these objectives. Some 30 publications and over £2 million in external grants and contracts can be directly traced back to the effect of the workshops and we estimate that about 1,000 scholars have attended the events, many from overseas and many of whom would not have previously been to the campus.
Feedback from participants has been almost universally positive and in some cases approaching the ecstatic. Comments on the evaluation forms they return after the workshops include: "It's a really nice event, hope it will happen next year/on annual basis", "One of the best conferences I have attended recently", "The scientific level of the presentations was as high as any meeting I have been to recently" and "I wanted to thank you for a truly wonderful gathering last week".