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The Exploratory Fund

The Exploratory Fund was established in 2015 to support Members who wish to work together, and with other scholars, experts, and practitioners, 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. Through the Exploratory Fund, the Academy is committed to encouraging forward-thinking collaborations that incorporate diverse perspectives and bring together creative thinkers and leaders representing a range of disciplines, career stages, backgrounds, and experiences.

Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis and awarded funds to cover the costs associated with an Exploratory Meeting. The Exploratory Fund has supported proposals on a wide array of topics, including The Future of Jazz in America, Women and Equality, and Understanding the New Nuclear Age. Members are encouraged to contact the Academy President to discuss their ideas for Exploratory Meetings. For more information, please contact: nlefebvre@amacad.org, Morton L. Mandel Presidential Fellow.


Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of Global Governance

Academy Member Jack Snyder will chair an exploratory meeting that brings scholars and experts from the fields of political science, international affairs, bioethics, and government to the House of the Academy on June 12, 2017. The purpose of the meeting is to examine whether there might be a common taproot behind the nationalist and populist movements that have recently emerged across the globe, and to look at how these movements relate to the existing multilateral architecture of global institutions. Participants will also assess any new forms of international cooperation or conflict that could emerge from these movements, and discuss concerns about the potential for political violence and related threats to democracy, liberty, equality, economic development, and international stability.

Chair: Jack Snyder (Columbia University)

The Future of Public Media

In 1967, the U.S. Congress passed the Public Broadcasting Act and the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television released its first and most influential report. On the fiftieth anniversary of these landmark events, Academy Member Bill Baker will convene a meeting of influential scholars, media executives, journalists, and other experts to discuss the future of public media. In the same spirit as the Carnegie Commission, participants will speak to the potential of public media, but also 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 will also share their hopes for public media, and discuss what current trends could mean for American media and the American people.

Chair: Bill Baker (Fordham University)

Science and the Legal System

As the overlap between scientific learning and legal issues increases, leading scientists reportedly shy away from involvement with the legal system or have difficulties communicating their knowledge. Despite the importance of this issue, there are few systematic studies on how scientists view the legal system or their experiences as consultants to lawyers or judges, or as expert witnesses. Academy Members Shari Diamond and Richard Lempert have led this initiative to learn what motivates scientists to participate in legal processes and recommend ways to improve the relationship between science and the law. In July they will chair a meeting at the House of the Academy for legal scholars and scientists to work together on a publication examining this topic.

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

Women and Equality

Many take for granted that women should share with men equal access to political, economic, and social resources and leadership. The lived experiences of women, however, vary enormously: by country, by sector of the economy, by class, by race, and by a large number of other factors. On December 10, 2016, Academy Members Nannerl O. Keohane and Frances McCall Rosenbluth convened a small meeting at the House of the Academy that included scholars from the fields of sociology, economics, political science, and history. Participants explored new and comprehensive ways of thinking about social, political, and economic realities for women across multiple, diverse contexts. At the recommendation of meeting participants, the Academy will host a larger international conference on the topic of women and equality in the winter of 2017.

Chairs: Nannerl O. Keohane (Princeton University) and Frances McCall Rosenbluth (Yale University)


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. Too little is known about their experiences in receiving communities, especially as increasing numbers move beyond major cities and into small towns and rural areas across the U.S. South and Midwest. Under the leadership of Academy Member, Alejandro Portes, thirteen scholars from across the United States and Mexico, representing the fields of sociology, education, anthropology, history, and economics, met at the House of the Academy on April 20-21, 2017 to review the current literature on this population, discuss their concerns, and outline ideas and priorities for the future.

Chair: Alejandro Portes (Princeton University)

Building and Strengthening the JCPOA

The implementation of the Iran Nuclear Agreement offered an historic opportunity to assess the state of arms control diplomacy, to distill lessons learned, and to suggest a framework for future international negotiations among the countries in the Persian Gulf and surrounding region. On February 5-6, 2017, Academy Members Robert Rosner and Don Lamb chaired a meeting at the House of the Academy that brought together a diverse group of thinkers, including former government officials experienced in negotiations with Iran, heads of think tanks, and scholars of nuclear studies and regional issues. The group discussed opportunities and questions raised by the JCPOA, and pathways towards fruitful conversations involving P5+1 representatives, Arab experts, and Iranians.

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

R2P: Cultural Heritage

An increase in attacks on cultural heritage sites since 2013, especially in Syria and Iraq, has raised questions and concerns about how best to protect irreplaceable heritage. In partnership with the J. Paul Getty Trust, Academy Member James Cuno convened a group of world renowned museum directors and specialists in international law and doctrine formation to discuss what role the international community could play in protecting the cultural heritage of countries in warfare. The group met in London from November 28-December 1, 2016, and drew on the Responsibility to Protect Norm, adopted by the United Nations in 2005, as a foundation for thinking about possible new frameworks for protecting cultural heritage sites.

Chair: James Cuno (J. Paul Getty Trust)

Preserving Intellectual Legacies in a Digital Age

As scholars become more dependent on digital technology to preserve and archive their scholarly findings, concerns about how to make intellectual production available to future generations have grown. At the House of the Academy on September 22-23, 2016, Academy Members Pamela Samuelson, Carla Hesse, and Robert Darnton convened a meeting of prominent authors, publishers, librarians, lawyers, archivists, and public policy experts representing an array of disciplines and backgrounds to address these concerns. Participants raised questions about the equitable transmission of scholarly and cultural knowledge and discussed new possibilities for scalable methods of digital publication and preservation.

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

Native Americans and Academia

On August 21-23, 2016, Academy Members Philip J. Deloria, Loren Ghiglione, and Douglas Medin, along with Ned Blackhawk, Bryan Brayboy, K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Jean O’Brien, and Mark Trahant convened a meeting that brought Native American scholars, experts on Native American issues, and Native American tribal leaders to the House of the Academy. Participants discussed critical issues related to Native American representation in academia, such as the future of Native American students and scholars and new intellectual directions for scholarship on American Indian people. The group also considered how academics could, through serious engagement with Native American issues, develop new models for thinking about social diversity, politics, and law that address some of the burdens of American history.

Chairs: 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 America

Inspired by their concerns over the changing popular profile and diminished radio exposure of jazz music, Academy Members and jazz enthusiasts Felton Earls and William Damon convened a meeting at the House of the Academy on May 19, 2016. They brought together jazz scholars, performers, business leaders, philanthropists, and fellow enthusiasts to discuss issues related to performance and outreach, the business of jazz, and jazz education. The group also began planning an issue of Dædalus, which will feature guest editors Gerald Early and Ingrid Monson and explore why jazz still matters.

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

Bridging the Gap between Area and Global Studies

With the divides between area and global studies widening, Academy Member Arthur Kleinman chaired a meeting of scholars from across the United States and the United Kingdom to develop novel ways of easing these longstanding tensions. On March 7, 2017, at the House of the Academy, participants worked to identify and better understand impediments to collaboration between the fields and to develop initial steps towards strengthening and sustaining cross-disciplinary relationships. The meeting also provided an opportunity for scholars to explore broader questions about how knowledge might be re-organized and institutionalized to support twenty-first century scholarship.

Chair: Arthur Kleinman (Harvard University)

Collaborative on Autism and Sign Language

On December 12-13, 2015, Academy Members Mark Aronoff, Susan Goldin-Meadow, and Charles Nelson, in collaboration with Matthew Lerner, convened a meeting of the Consortium on Autism and Sign Language (CASL) at the House of the Academy. The meeting brought together scholars from more than nine fields and nineteen universities for the purpose of advancing novel hypotheses about the emergence of communication in autism by leveraging methods and insights from the latest research on sign language. Participants also welcomed and integrated the voices of people from autistic and deaf communities into their plans for developing a cross-disciplinary research agenda on the nature of communication in these populations.

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

In collaboration with: Matthew Lerner (Stony Brook University)

Making Justice Accessible

By some estimates, only 20% of qualified Americans receive the necessary aid they require as they move through the American justice system. Millions are left unaided, and unable to negotiate a complicated legal system on their own. To begin addressing this critical issue, Academy Members John Levi, Martha Minow, and Lance Liebman chaired a meeting of more than fifty Judges and Justices, Chief Justices, legal scholars, and lawyers at the House of the Academy on November 11-12, 2015. Participants discussed issues ranging from fees and the difficulty of navigating the court system to the role of corporations in providing pro bono representation and the use of technology in the legal profession.

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

Understanding the New Nuclear Age

As the foundations and principles that defined the nuclear order after the Second World War and during the Cold War shift and evolve, new challenges confront the international community. On June 19, 2015, Academy Member Robert Legvold chaired a meeting at the House of the Academy that brought together a group of experts in international security. The group 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 could be designed to address these changes. The meeting has since developed into an Academy project in the Global Security and International Affairs program area.

Chair: Robert Legvold (Columbia University)