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The Exploratory Fund

The goal of the Exploratory Fund is to support Fellows who want to work together to look over the horizon for issues and opportunities not well understood, to think of problems in a fresh way, and to search for connections between research and policy that advance the common good. By encouraging smaller scale initiatives in a variety of venues, the Academy assists Fellows in pursuing the subjects that concern them most.

The Fund provides up to $35,000 for a limited number of projects each year. Funds can be used in any way that furthers the proposed work, including covering costs associated with the organization of meetings, symposia, and conferences that can be held at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, at the home institutions of interested Fellows, or at other locations relevant to discussion topics. Recipients will also receive the organizational, scholarly, and logistical support of the Academy staff.

Projects supported by the Exploratory Fund will be selected according to the creativity of the work proposed, the effective use of Academy resources, and the promise of important future advances based on the partnerships created during the meetings. In recognition of the Academy’s desire to foster the next generation of scholars, special consideration may be given to Fellows who propose to partner with early- or mid-career scholars in framing topics and organizing meetings.

Recipients of Exploratory Fund support will be expected to provide a brief summary and report of their work, to be published and circulated among Fellows in an effort to extend important conversations and, possibly, to develop future initiatives.


The Future of Public Media

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, and of the report of the First Carnegie Commission on Educational Television. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences will convene a meeting this June in the same spirit of that Commission to speak to the potential of public media, but also to frankly assess where it fits within a profoundly altered American media landscape, and what its continued role, if any, might be over the next fifty years and beyond. Participants from a diverse background will discuss what their hopes for public media are, what current trends suggest for the future, and what all of this means for American media and the American people.

Organizer: Bill Baker (Fordham University)

Science and the Legal System

As science and technology become more intertwined in our society, a greater number of scientists, engineers, and medical experts are called on to testify about technical issues in courts of law. However, respected scientists are often reluctant to become involved with the legal system, and when they are willing to share their expertise, their unfamiliarity with the legal terrain may leave them unprepared for effective participation in legal settings. The goal of this exploratory meeting is to bring together scientists and legal experts to understand and recommend ways to improve the relationship between science and the legal system.

Organizers: Shari Diamond (Northwestern University) and Richard Lempert (University of Michigan)

Children of Immigrants in New Places of Settlement

Immigrant children and children of immigrants are the fastest growing component of America’s young population, now comprising one-in-four of all persons aged 18 and younger. Scholarly attention to the flow of new migrants toward the rural South and Midwest, overwhelmingly Mexicans and Central Americans, has focused primarily on adult immigrants rather than their children. On April 19-21, 2017 the Academy will hold an exploratory meeting to discuss the broader social contexts received by children of immigrants in isolated areas of the United States and their social relationships and community involvement outside of school as well as key features of psycho-social adaptation including aspirations, self-identities, and self-esteem.

Organizers: Alejandro Portes (Princeton University)

Women and Equality

On December 10, 2016, the Academy convened the first of two exploratory meetings on the topic of women and equality. The initial meeting focused on how gender inequalities persist in the modern world despite egalitarian pressures. The meeting assessed the existing empirical data across multiple academic disciplines as a way to investigate the sources of enduring gender disparities. Participants discussed the social, political, and economic realities for women in the United States and around the world. Other topics discussed at the meeting included the macro-level beliefs about men and women in diverse contexts; the changing definitions and understandings of feminism; and the increasing importance of examining women’s experiences through intersections of race, class, and geographical location. The Academy will host a larger international conference specifically focused on equality among women and between genders. In what ways do women exercise influence to make changes (in their communities, as leaders, as managers, as mothers, as citizens)? How do women relate to power – when do they have power and why? In addressing these questions and topics, the conference will explore gendered power structures globally in a way that pushes beyond the selective focus on women who have “made it.”

Organizers: Nannerl Keohane (Princeton University) and Frances McCall Rosenbluth (Yale University)


Building and Strengthening the JCPOA

The Iran Nuclear Agreement offers an historic opportunity to assess the current state of arms control diplomacy, distill lessons learned, and suggest a framework for future international negotiations among the countries in the Persian Gulf and surrounding region. Implementation Day for the Iran Nuclear Agreement has come and gone. Now progress must now be made in strengthening regional nuclear and security cooperation among the nations in the Persian Gulf and the surrounding region, so that multilateral agreements and understandings are in place well before Iran regains the right to enrich uranium in nine years. The American Academy will convene an exploratory meeting that will bring together a diverse group with interests including former government officials who had been previously involved in negotiations with Iran, heads of think tanks and scholars of nuclear studies and regional issues to discuss three major questions: What opportunities does the Iran agreement present both at the regional and global level? What is currently done by think tanks, scholarly centers, policy-centers to explore these opportunities? What is missing from the existing projects? And how should a project be designed to involve P5+1 representatives, Arab experts and Iranians in a fruitful conversation?

Organizers: Robert Rosner (University of Chicago) and Don Lamb (University of Chicago)

R2P: Cultural Heritage

Recent events in Syria and Iraq have raised concerns that irreplaceable cultural heritage sites are being damaged or destroyed. On November 28-30, 2016, using an analogy to the Responsibility to Protect Norm adopted by the United Nations in 2005, which states that when nations are unable to protect their citizens—or are the source of the problem—they yield sovereignty to the international community, the Academy convened a group of world renowned museum directors and specialists in international law and doctrine formation to discuss what role the international community at large could play in protecting the cultural heritage of countries in warfare.

Organizer: James Cuno (J. Paul Getty Trust)

Preserving of Intellectual Legacies

On September 22-23, 2016, the Academy convened a group of prominent authors, publishers, librarians, lawyers, archivists, and public policy experts from a wide array of disciplines and experiences to address the questions of: how (if at all) will future generations of scholars and interested members of the public be able to access and appreciate the contributions that scholars have made to the advancement of knowledge? Will the long terms of copyright protection impede efforts to enable broader access to important scholarship? And, what are the obstacles to creating a universally accessible digital library and how can these obstacles be overcome?

Organizers: Pamela Samuelson (University of California, Berkeley); Carla Hesse (University of California, Berkeley); and Robert Darnton (Harvard University)

Native Americans and Academia

An exploratory meeting, held at the House of the Academy, on August 21-23, 2016 brought together Native American and non-Native scholars from a range of intellectual fields to discuss three major themes: 1) the future of Native American students and scholars as a critical part of academia, from the tribal and community college to the liberal arts college, research university, and scholarly association; 2) the past, present, and future intellectual directions for scholarship that concerns itself with American Indian people; and 3) the ways in which higher education, through a serious engagement with Native American issues, might discover new models for thinking about social diversity and the politics and law that address the burdens of American history.

Organizers: Philip J. Deloria (University of Michigan); Loren Ghiglione (University); Douglas Medin (Northwestern University)

In collaboration with: Ned Blackhawk (Yale University); Bryan Brayboy (Arizona State University); K. Tsianina Lomawaima (Arizona State University); Jean O’Brien (University of Minnesota); Mark Trahant (University of North Dakota)

The Future of Jazz in American Life

On May 19, 2016, the Academy held an exploratory meeting to address the challenging economics of jazz—from the struggling recording industry to the decline in the number of performance venues—as well as new opportunities for educational institutions and other organizations to broaden access to jazz education for young people.

Organizers: Felton Earls (Harvard University) and William Damon (Stanford University)

Bridging the Gap between Area and Global Studies

The Academy convened a meeting on March 7, 2016, to discuss the long-standing tensions and growing gap between area and global studies. The meeting discussed the political and historical contexts in which the two fields were formed—World War II and the Cold War for area studies; the increased globalization of the capitalist world order, intensified in the post–Cold War decades, for global studies—have decisively shaped the epistemological focus of the fields and cemented the way in which universities organize local and global knowledge.

Organizer: Arthur Kleinman (Harvard University)

Collaborative on Autism and Sign Language

At a meeting at the House of the Academy on December 12 and 13, 2015, the Collaborative on Autism and Sign Language brought together linguists who have devoted their careers to the study of sign languages; researchers on ASD, especially from a communicative perspective; and a small number of researchers who have begun to explore the connection between the two areas of research. The meeting advanced novel hypotheses about the emergence of communication in autism by leveraging methods and insights from sign language research.

Organizers: Mark Aronoff (State University of New York at Stony Brook); Susan Golden Meadow (University of Chicago); Charles Nelson (Harvard University)

Making Justice Accessible

By some estimates, only 20 percent of all Americans who qualify for legal aid receive the kind of support they require. These unrepresented Americans must try to navigate a complicated court system without any guidance. To address this critical issue, over fifty participants—including state and federal judges, distinguished legal scholars, litigators, and other experts—met at the Academy on November 11 and 12, 2015, to define the issues, consider existing scholarship, and identify possible responses. The meeting was followed by the Inaugural Distinguished Morton L. Mandel Annual Public Lecture and Stated Meeting.

Organizers: John Levi (Legal Services Corporation); Martha Minow (Harvard Law School); Lance Liebman (Columbia Law School)

Understanding the New Nuclear Age

At a meeting on June 19, 2015, at the House of the Academy, a group of experts in international security examined recent changes in the dynamics of the nuclear order, explored the effect of new technologies on nuclear strategies, and assessed how future arms control agreements may be designed in order to address these contextual changes. The meeting has since developed into an Academy project under the Global Security and International Affairs program area.

Organizer: Robert Legvold (Columbia University)

Applications and Inquiries

Please send a brief description of your meeting, symposium, or conference idea and any questions to Sara Monteabaro.