Exploratory Meetings

The Exploratory Fund was established in 2015 to support Members who wish to work together, and with other scholars, experts, and practitioners, to look 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 is made possible through the generous support of the Arnhold Foundation, John F. Cogan, Jr., Michael E. Gellert, Bob and Kristine Higgins, Carl and Betty Pforzheimer, William Poorvu, and Kenneth L. and Susan S. Wallach.

[To learn more about a meeting, click on the "+" for a description.]

To encourage open conversation and investigate shared research interests among climate scientists, policymakers, and international relations scholars, the Academy convened “Climate Conundrum: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Security.” Led by cochairs Neta Crawford (University of Oxford) and Tanisha Fazal (University of Minnesota), the participants in the interdisciplinary exploratory seminar discussed a range of issues, including the ethics and governance of solar radiation modification, tracking and mitigating military emissions, and securitizing nations and people equitably in a rapidly changing climate. Participants reflected on these topics and discussed areas for future research and collaboration. 

May 2024

In recognition of the contemporary mental health crisis, the Academy convened an exploratory meeting on the risks and opportunities that artificial intelligence poses for measurement, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of serious mental illness. Led by cochairs Paul Dagum (Applied Cognition) and Alan Leshner (formerly American Association for the Advancement of Science), the highly interdisciplinary group of participants touched on recurring themes of access, equity, ethics, and appropriate regulation during the two-day meeting. The nature of AI's transformative effect on society remains uncertain, but participants agreed this underexplored intersection will deeply impact both patients and providers. 

Funder: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation 

March 2024 

The Academy partnered with the American Council on Education and EducationCounsel to convene an exploratory meeting at the Academy with senior leaders from a range of institutions, including public and private, large and small, HBCUs, and some already operating within environments that had banned affirmative action. The participants - led by cochairs: Joanne Berger-Sweeney (Trinity College) and Kim Wilcox (UC Riverside) - discussed the anticipated impact of Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action. They also shared how they could continue to advance equity and diversity through available avenues. A summary of the meeting was published in March 2024.  

Academy Partners: Ted Mitchell (American Council on Education); Art Coleman and Jamie Lewis Keith (EducationCounsel)

Funders: Alfred P Sloan Foundation and Mellon Foundation

August 2023

In collaboration with the World Refugee & Migration Council, and with generous support from TRACE International and the Government of Canada, the Academy convened an exploratory meeting in May 2023 on measuring grand corruption, a follow-up to the prior year's “Checking Kleptocracy: Considering the Potential Establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Court.” The meeting - cochaired by Robert I. Rotberg (formerly, Harvard Kennedy School; World Peace Foundation) and Fen Osler Hampson (Carleton College) - brought together an international group of anti-corruption scholars and practitioners to explore existing regional approaches to managing corruption and imagine potential international applications.

Academy Partners: World Refugee & Migration Council

Funders: TRACE International and the Government of Canada

May 2023

On September 22-23, 2022, the Academy convened a hybrid exploratory meeting, led by Neta C. Crawford (University of Oxford) and Scott D. Sagan (Stanford University), on the effects of prolonged war on democracy. Beginning with a keynote address which addressed extremism in the U.S. military, the meeting brought together scholars and experts from a range of fields - political scientists, historians, lawyers, anthropologists, retired police and military personnel, and academics with expertise in militarization, civil-military relations, democratic erosion, gender and security issues, white supremacy movements, and budgeting and public finance. This meeting aimed to explore the relationship between long-term militarization, extremism, and democracy from a U.S. and international perspective and to address how mobilization for war, and war itself, fosters or diminishes democratic norms, institutions, and practices. The participants discussed several topics, including theories, concepts, and comparative perspectives of militarism, democratization, and democracy; militarism and extremism in the United States; and the effects of war on the rule of law, democracy, and state capacity.

On May 19-21, 2022, the Academy convened a hybrid exploratory meeting to discuss the efficacy and potential establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC). Chaired by Robert Rotberg (President Emeritus of the World Peace Foundation), the meeting continued the Academy’s work on the IACC, which included a conference in March 2019 and a Dædalus issue on “Anticorruption: How to Beat Back Political & Corporate Graft” in Summer 2018. A background paper prepared by Judge Mark L. Wolf (Chair of Integrity Initiatives International), Professor Rotberg, and Justice Richard Goldstone (Retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa) provided discussion material for the exploratory meeting. A distinguished group of experts [diplomats, legal scholars, judges with experience in domestic and international courts, and individuals involved in the creation of other international courts] from thirteen countries, including Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, South Africa, and Singapore, discussed issues central to the question of whether an IACC could help combat corruption in practice and how it could potentially be established.

Read more in the Bulletin. See research paper on the proposal for the IACC here.

On October 29, 2021, the Academy held a hybrid exploratory meeting, led by co-chairs Margaret Levi (Stanford University) and Richard Locke (Brown University), on building resilient and ethical supply chains for a post-COVID world. The meeting, which followed from three virtual soundings held during the spring and summer of 2020 that engaged Academy members, brought together experts from academia, business, philanthropy, and government. The participants considered the supply chain vulnerabilities that were surfaced, exacerbated, and/or created by the global pandemic and discussed possible solutions to build more ethical and resilient supply chain systems. They explored three domains in particular: healthcare and food security; ethics, labor, and workers’ protections; and security and resiliency of global supply chains.

Researchers and administrators from universities, professional organizations, and institutional review boards shared perspectives on some of the most pressing challenges to contemporary fieldwork in social sciences. Convened by Rose McDermott, David and Mariana Fisher University Professor of International Relations at Brown University, the participants looked at how ethical issues related to large-scale studies have manifested themselves in a variety of fields and evaluated proposed guidelines meant to address these challenges.  

On the campuses of residential colleges and universities, young adults (18-25 years old) are experiencing an intensifying crisis of their mental health and well-being. Students have increasing levels of depression and anxiety, which interfere with and may interrupt both their academic and developmental progress.  This gathering of university presidents and mental health leaders - led by John DeGioia, the President of Georgetown University - explored the roles colleges and universities have in creating campus cultures that foster student mental health and well-being; deepened understanding of how recent research can inform this work; and identified pathways forward.

Chaired by Mark Tushnet, this exploratory meeting brought together scholars from the law, political science, public administration, history, and organizational design to discuss the history, current challenges, and potential futures of regulatory agencies. Participants discussed both smaller reforms and larger reconstructions of the nature and role of regulatory bodies. The meeting is intended to inform a future issue of Daedalus, to be published no earlier than 2021.

In June 2019, the Academy hosted an Exploratory Meeting on Water in Our Future in Boston, MA. Meeting cochairs Allen Isaacman and Geraldine Richmond convened a range of experts, including scientists, scholars, policymakers, and NGO representatives. Over the two-day workshop, participants dove into three topic areas, including 1) Basin Development and Impact Assessments; 2) Water Safety and Access in Urban and Rural Areas; and 3) Large Dams and Ecological and Social Impacts. The discussions at the meeting will help to clarify and shape future research and policy development regarding water in our future, and will help to inform how the American Academy could contribute to responding to these challenges.

Read more in the Bulletin.

As a follow-up to the December 2017 planning meeting convened at the Academy, Roddy Roediger and James Wertsch (both of Washington University in St. Louis) cochaired this exploratory meeting which brought together scholars from across the globe to discuss national narratives, historiography, and shared identity in the current context of rising populism. Papers discussed the formation of collective identify in both the past and present using insights from fields as diverse as neuroscience and history. Conference organizers are planning to release papers from the event in a collected volume.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences convened a pair of exploratory meetings on rethinking the humanitarian health response to violent conflict as part of the development of a new initiative on this topic. The first meeting was held in Cambridge, MA  and brought together diplomats and security experts, political scientists, international lawyers, health professionals, and humanitarian practitioners in an effort to examine current challenges to effective humanitarian intervention and to develop, where necessary, new strategies for preventing civilian harm and delivering critical health services in areas plagued by violent conflict. 

A second exploratory meeting, held in London, was co-convened with Chatham House’s Centre on Global Health Security and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and brought together a similar emphasis on bringing together a wide range of experts, particularly including humanitarian responders working in the field. This second meeting built upon and refined the ideas raised during the Cambridge meeting, helping to lay the groundwork for the Academy to make important, pragmatic contributions in this area.

David Nirenberg (Executive Vice Provost; Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Distinguished Service Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought at the University of Chicago) and Nancy C. Andrews (Chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors; Dean and Vice Chancellor Emerita at Duke University School of Medicine) cochaired an exploratory meeting on “The Future of the Ph.D.” The participants reviewed the currently available data on doctoral education across disciplines; identified the anticipated purposes and values of doctoral education in light of our society’s changing needs; examined the complex financial relationship between graduate and undergraduate programs within the modern university; and recommended changes that should take place going forward.

February 2018
Cambridge, MA

The Academy held an exploratory meeting on “Technology and the Future of Work” in partnership with the Royal Society and the U.K. Science and Innovation Network. Led by co-chairs Peter Donnelly (University of Oxford), Margaret Levi (Stanford University), and Moshe Vardi (Rice University), sixty participants discussed how AI-enabled automation will affect the workforce, what can be learned from history, and the use of AI for the social good. Participants represented a wide range of fields from sociology, business, and public policy to labor, computer science, and economics. Keynote speakers included Earl Lewis, President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Antony Phillipson, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner to the United States, and Megan Smith, CEO of shift7 and formerly Third US Chief Technology Officer.

Chairs: Margaret Levi (Stanford University), Moshe Vardi (Rice University), and Peter Donnelly (University of Oxford)

February 2018

Academy Members Nannerl Keohane and Frances McCall Rosenbluth convened a conference that grew out of a 2016 meeting at the Academy. The purpose of the conference was to delve deeply into the social, political, and economic realities for women around the world across multiple, diverse contexts—considering, for example, how women exercise influence as leaders, managers, mothers, and citizens to make changes in their communities, and how women relate to power. Conference participants represented numerous fields of study and practice, including politics, economics, gender studies, public policy, human rights activism, history, law, and more. The agenda covered five major areas: Work and the Economy; the Care Agenda; Vulnerability and Resilience; Innovation in Global Development; and Feminism, Intersectionality, and Inclusion. In addressing these topics, participants explored gendered power structures globally in a way that pushed beyond the selective focus on women who have “made it.”

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

December 2017

In all too many countries today one hears comments about how people in power feel entitled to rewrite history. At a time when nationalist and populist leaders are emerging across the globe, this issue takes on especially ominous overtones. Recent research in cognitive psychology has shown that people interpret current events and imagine events in the future based on how they recollect similar events from the past. Some of these findings also extend to the latest research in neuroscience on how various areas of the brain work. On December 4, Academy Members Henry Roediger and James Wertsch convened a small meeting of scholars from psychology, history, and sociology to begin planning a larger interdisciplinary exploratory meeting on the implications of psychological and neuroscientific research on collective memories held by people in nation states and their leaders.

Chairs: Henry L. Roediger, III (Washington University in St. Louis) and James V. Wertsch (Washington University in St. Louis)

December 2017

Academy Member Jack Snyder chaired an exploratory meeting that brought 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 goal of the meeting was 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 also assessed any new forms of international cooperation or conflict that could emerge from these movements, and discussed concerns about the potential for political violence and related threats to democracy, liberty, equality, economic development, and international stability.

Chair: Jack Snyder (Columbia University)

June 2017

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 convened a meeting of scholars, media executives, journalists, and other experts to discuss the future of public media. In the same spirit as the Carnegie Commission, participants spoke to the potential of public media, but also frankly assessed where it fit within a profoundly altered American media landscape, and what its continued role, if any, might be over the next fifty years and beyond. Participants also shared their hopes for public media and discussed what current trends could mean for American media and the American people.

Chair: Bill Baker (Fordham University)

June 2017

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 to review the current literature on this population, discuss their concerns, and outline ideas and priorities for the future.

Chair: Alejandro Portes (Princeton University)

April 2017

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 Donald 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 toward fruitful conversations involving P5+1 representatives, technical experts, policy-makers, and government officials.

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

February 2017

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 Rosenbluthconvened 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 in December 2017 on the topic of women and equality.

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

December 2016

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 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)

November - December 2016

As U.S. government funding for research and other services continues to decline, non-governmental funders, including foundations, corporations, individuals, and even foreign governments, have provided crucial support in a wide range of fields. At the same time, there have been instances, both real and perceived, in which donors may have exercised undue influence on their grantees. Academy Member Larry Kramer convened a meeting at the House of the Academy on October 17–18, 2016, which brought together university and government officials, heads of foundations, media representatives, and researchers. Participants considered whether a statement of best practices could protect the integrity of research, the reputations of donors, and the independence of recipients.

Chair: Larry Kramer (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation)

October 2016


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. On September 22–23, 2016, Academy Members Pamela SamuelsonCarla Hesse, and Robert Darnton convened a meeting of 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)

September 2016

Read more in the Bulletin.


Academy Members Philip J. DeloriaLoren Ghiglione, and Douglas Medin, along with Ned Blackhawk, Bryan Brayboy, K. Tsianina Lomawaima, 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 (Northwestern University); Douglas Medin (Northwestern University)

in collaboration with Ned Blackhawk (Yale University), Bryan Brayboy (Arizona State University), K. Tsianina Lomawaima (Arizona State University), and Mark Trahant (University of North Dakota)

August 2016

Inspired by their concerns over the changing popular profile and diminished radio exposure of jazz music, Academy Members and jazz enthusiasts Felton Earls (Harvard University) and William Damon (Stanford University) 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 be guest edited by Gerald Early and Ingrid Monson and explore why jazz still matters.

May 2016

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

Chair: Arthur Kleinman (Harvard University)

March 2016

Academy Members Mark AronoffSusan Goldin Meadow, and Charles Nelson, in collaboration with Matthew Lerner, convened a meeting of the Consortium on Autism and Sign Language 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)

December 2015

Read more in the Bulletin.

By some estimates, only 20 percent 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 LeviMartha 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. 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. An Academy project on Making Justice Accessible: Data Collection and Legal Services for Low-Income Americans has been developed from this meeting.

Chairs: John G. Levi (Legal Services Corporation; Sidley Austin, LLP); Martha Minow (Harvard Law School); Lance Liebman (Columbia Law School)

November 2015

As the foundations and principles that defined the nuclear order after the World War II 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 participants 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)

June 2015