In 2015, the Academy established The Exploratory Fund to support Members who wish 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. To date, the Academy has supported eighteen exploratory meetings on a wide range of topics from Making Justice Accessible and The Responsibility to Protect Cultural Heritage to The Future of Public Media and Moving Towards Equality: Mapping Women’s Achievements and Challenges.
More than four hundred leading scholars and practitioners representing a wide range of disciplines, career stages, backgrounds, and experiences have participated in exploratory meetings. The opportunity for Members and others to work together and bridge differences in training, background, and perspective is part of what makes The Exploratory Fund an important contribution to the life and work of the Academy.
Although exploratory meetings are not expected to produce particular outcomes, they often generate meaningful contributions to scholarly debates and policy questions. Two exploratory meetings, Understanding the New Nuclear Age and Making Justice Accessible, have been developed into full Academy projects. Five have inspired issues of Dædalus, among them are Science and the Legal System and The Future of Jazz in American Life. Several more have gone on to produce external publications and projects at other institutions, and still more may lead to new collaborations and research projects that inform scholarly and public dialogue beyond the Academy.
In February 2018, the Academy partnered with the Royal Society and U.K. Science and Innovation Network to hold a meeting on Technology and the Future of Work. The participants represented more than one dozen disciplines and professions and the program was designed to stimulate conversations that were exploratory in nature. This is the kind of forward-thinking conversation envisioned when The Exploratory Fund was established nearly three years ago, and Academy Members can feel proud of how these meetings have addressed critical questions facing our country and the world.
The Exploratory Fund expands upon the programmatic work of the Academy, which includes a wide range of longer-term projects and publications that advance useful knowledge and shape civil dialogue. I encourage you to read about the first report from the Public Face of Science project, Perceptions of Science in America, and the presentations given at two recent Stated Meetings on ”New Opportunities for American Undergraduate Education” and ”Jefferson, Race, and Democracy.” You will also enjoy reading about the spring issue of Dædalus on ”Unfolding Futures: Indigenous Ways of Knowing for the Twenty-First Century,” which emerged from a 2016 exploratory meeting on Native Americans and Academia.
Over the coming year, I hope to connect with many of you and hear your ideas about issues that might be addressed through The Exploratory Fund. A full and productive year lies ahead, and I look forward to making common cause with you.