Crossing Boundaries to New Horizons
Declaration of the Founders Meeting of the ‘Institute Para Limes’, August 30th, 2005.
At the dawn of the new century, science has achieved much for the wellbeing of humanity and holds the promise of much more to come. Today we have accumulated and continue to generate an enormous body of knowledge. Furthermore, the ever more powerful tools at our disposal open new avenues for understanding in ways that are beyond the dreams of our predecessors. The excellent work being done in many institutions is accomplishing much, but in its pursuit of the twin objectives of training the younger generation and responding to societal priorities, it leaves some fundamental questions inadequately addressed, and many others unasked. In part, this is also because some of the most fertile questions lie in the gray areas between existing disciplines, and the prevalent administrative arrangements for deployment of expertise and talent are not optimally organized to address such questions.
Burning questions calling for new strategies of investigation include the birth, life and death of natural systems. To develop the tools to understand the evolution and functioning of our biological, socio-cultural and economic systems requires the insights and talents of many disciplines. These should be brought together in new and creative ways to discuss with rigor and openness the mutually reinforcing contributions that they can collectively make, in a manner where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
- We need to ask the unconventional questions.
- We need to stimulate encounters across disciplinary boundaries
- We need to challenge the established ways of thinking.
- We need to open unexplored, yet promising, avenues for research.
We need to develop a place, where a community of scholars can assemble and exchange views in an open, questioning environment freed from the boundaries of disciplines, the formality of rank, the burden of administration and the pressure of short-term deliverables. A place where people would be encouraged to question the bedrock assumptions with which they work, and dare to dream of bridging the gaps in our understanding. A place where new ideas would be listened to and challenged from many different angles, honed by criticism, enriched by cross-disciplinary inputs and nurtured by encouragement.
To respond to these challenges, a group of scientists from Europe and elsewhere met in Ruurlo, the Netherlands, from the 28th to the 30th of August, 2005. They studied many different models including the eminent and successful Santa Fe Institute in the USA. They decided to found the Institute Para Limes (IPL), as a place that would respond to that felt need.
The IPL will act as a European free port for developing new multidisciplinary methods based on intense collaboration between scientific disciplines, creating a strong stimulating effect on European and global research in any number of areas considered relevant by participating scientists. It will be a place where new sciences can freely emerge, not hampered by dividing lines between conventional scientific realms or preconceived limits as to what is possible. It will provide the inspirational attraction to pull in the best scientists from all over the world to contribute to frontier research on worthy scientific problems of trans-disciplinary nature.
To achieve that vision, the IPL shall be organized as follows:
- IPL will be small. There shall be no tenured faculty. A number of scientists of high international standing will work at IPL as resident researchers for periods of several years, while others will work in the institute for shorter periods as external faculty. Still others will be invited to participate in activities aimed at exploring or further developing new scientific approaches. The Institute will have a professional and permanent staff that supports the director, resident and visiting scientists. IPL must rely on networks of committed and interested scientists, but must retain the size that allows for interaction among all present without the need for creating administrative units.
- The units of organization shall be the scientific initiatives, first being elaborated by working groups of 5-7 persons, who then can organize workshops and other informal meetings to bring in more participants, and ultimately pursue their topic in a challenging, rigorous and trans-disciplinary fashion. The outputs of IPL’s work shall be published and widely disseminated. An important effort shall be made to ensure the participation of the young, and to define the role of the established scientists of stature. Thus will the pluralistic, multi-generational science community of the IPL be formed, where scientists from European and other nations will meet and work together.
- IPL will be chartered as a not-for-profit entity housed at an independent location in the Netherlands.
- Funding for IPL will be based on three main sources: (i) institutions of the European community and its member states, (ii) corporations, and (iii) private foundations and academic institutions from the whole world, including funding attached to individual projects. Funding from all sources is welcome, provided it does not in any way limit the freedom of the institute to make its own choices.
- IPL will have a Board of Trustees. They will control the property and manage the affairs of the Institute. Members of the Board of Trustees will be selected for a term of three years, and for no more than two consecutive terms.
- The Director will be the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute. He or she will be responsible for the management of the institute. The Director as well as all the other members of the professional staff will be appointed by the Board of Trustees.
- IPL will have a Science Board to play a principal role in setting the major directions of scientific programs and academic policies of the institute. Members of the Science Board will be selected for a term of three years, and for no more than two consecutive terms. They will interact with the researchers.
The founders are committed to maintain the momentum of this initiative. They and others who share this vision will pursue the creation of the IPL without delay. They will work at the formal legal establishment of IPL, the identification of a suitable director and the formation of the Board of Trustees and the Science Board. They will multiply contacts to identify the curiosity driven individuals who will be the core of the first activities of IPL, and will accordingly help to articulate the direction of the scientific program. The founders will help raise funds for the preparatory steps and the first operational phase of the Institute.
The IPL will address important issues that will have profound influence on opening new avenues for research in this new era. The founders are committed to turn this vision into reality. We welcome all those who share our concerns, partake of our ideas, and want to make a difference. We invite them to join us in the creation of the Institute Para Limes (IPL), and make it a stimulating place for scientists to engage in a free cross-disciplinary commerce of thoughts, insights and understanding, to pursue their ideas to wherever human imagination and ingenuity can push the boundaries of science.
Thus agreed at Ruurlo, August 30th 2005