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Centre for Advanced Study:

Cultivating the crème de la crème of basic research

"The Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) was the first institution in Norway to devote specific attention to elite-level researchers, and their ability to achieve excellence in research," says Gro Steinsland, Scientific Director of CAS.

The Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters was founded in 1989 and opened in 1992. At that time, the notion of special efforts to foster an elite among researchers was new to the Norwegian research system. Ten years passed before this way of thinking became so well entrenched that the Research Council took it a step further and launched the Centres of Excellence (SFF) scheme.

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During the start-up phase, the membership of the CAS was comprised of the four traditional universities in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø. Today all seven of Norway’s universities, as well as the Norwegian School of Management (BI) and the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH), are participating institutions.

First a researcher, now a director

Gro Steinsland. Photo: BR Media Gro Steinsland. (Photo: BR Media) Gro Steinsland, a professor of religious history, became the new Scientific Director of CAS on 1 August 2009. Her goal has been to ensure that the experience of future CAS researchers is just as positive as hers was two years prior.

In 2007-2008, Dr Steinsland headed a research group at CAS comprised of religious historians, other historians and philologists. She found her stay to be extremely rewarding and this is what motivated her to apply for the position as Scientific Director a short time later.

Generates value added

Dr Steinsland emphasises that a stay at CAS generates value added for both the researchers and their institutions.

“Researchers say that CAS has given them the opportunity to conduct research in a relatively short period of time which otherwise would have taken them 15 years to complete or which might not have been carried out at all. A researcher’s day usually consists of administration, teaching, preparing funding applications and many other things. There is little time left for research and that is often interrupted. But here at CAS research is their only task,” says Dr Steinsland.

Good for years of publishing activity

The three group leaders at CAS receive a one-year leave as an extra sabbatical year from their home institutions. According to Dr Steinsland, this is an investment rather than an expense.

One of the research groups at CAS: (from left) Frode Fossøy, Jacqui Shykoff, Anton Antonov, Bård Stokke, Eivin Røskaft (group leader), Anders Pape Møller and Manuel Soler. All are conducting research on cuckoos. Photo: BR Media One of the research groups at CAS: (from left) Frode Fossøy, Jacqui Shykoff, Anton Antonov, Bård Stokke, Eivin Røskaft (group leader), Anders Pape Møller and Manuel Soler. All are conducting research on cuckoos. (Photo: BR Media)

“The researchers get a rare opportunity to expand on their own research while at CAS, and they return home with a lot of ideas for new research as well as a stronger network of international contacts. During their stay with us, the researchers plan their publishing activities for many years into the future and publication is, after all, a source of new income for the institutions they come from,” she adds.

Centre for Advanced Study (CAS)

The Centre for Advanced Study is an independent, private foundation established by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The objective of the centre is to promote basic research of high international calibre with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity.

The research activities at the centre are organised into three groups: humanities and theology; social science and law; and natural science, medicine and mathematics. Each group is led by one or two Norwegian professors who are appointed by the centre’s board on the basis of nominations.


Written by:
Bjarne Røsjø/Else Lie. Translation: Connie Stultz/Carol B. Eckmann
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