Since the establishment of modern academic disciplines in the 19th century, social scientists, humanists, natural scientists and engineers have regularly joined together to address complex problems that cannot be tackled by any single discipline. One explanation for this is that reality is complex and often involves so-called “wicked problems” which defy simplistic solutions. With the accelerating pace of scientific discoveries, this complexity is increasing, threatening to make established knowledge and research models obsolete at an increasing rate.

In sum, modern societies are facing challenges that require complex responses. This requires the mobilisation of interdisciplinary research. The first Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) was established in Princeton almost a century ago to enable curiosity-driven pursuit of knowledge with no view to its immediate utility or the expectation of meeting predetermined goals. While modern universities tend to operate fixed, disciplinary models and are becoming increasingly results-oriented, the IAS model offers a highly viable and flexible “bottom-up”, interdisciplinary research approach within which “blue-sky thinking” can have demonstrable results.

With their shared commitment towards public investment in social welfare and education, as well as their cultural and linguistic connections, Nordic societies benefit from unique levels of social capital and trust. These are fundamental resources that strengthen Nordic research in terms of incremental innovation, absorption of knowledge produced elsewhere and rapid adaptation. This offers excellent potential to facilitate the development of a shared platform of trust between separate research institutions, to support the collaborative exploration of new research paradigms and the pursuit of new research opportunities.

“Beyond Advanced Studies” is a series of three exploratory workshops, hosted by the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS, Finland), Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS, Denmark) and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS), with participants from across – and beyond – the Nordic Region. The workshops will bring together Nordic IASs for the first time to collaboratively examine and develop current Nordic IAS models and interdisciplinary research practices as part of a coordinated approach. The series will result in exploratory and concrete outcomes, some immediate, such as publications and the strengthening of the Nordic IAS network, and some longer-term, such as research exchanges and joint funding applications. “Beyond Advanced Studies” is funded by an Exploratory Workshop Grant from the Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS).