Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 505493
Country: France

Fostering creativity in physics and mathematics

Pursuit of excellence in scientific research and the freedom to be truly creative are sometimes mutually exclusive. Encouraging both, an EU-funded programme enabled a world-renowned institute to welcome nearly 100 visiting European researchers with impressive results.
Fostering creativity in physics and mathematics
Within the scientific community, the need to address specific questions that are ‘hot topics’ in order to receive funding and the subsequent requirement of periodic deliveries of results for continued support can stifle true scientific enquiry.

In addition, while collaboration and sharing ideas are not uncommon, the competition is often fierce. For the same reasons outlined above, scientists can be under pressure to be somewhat secretive so as to be the first to publish novel ideas and breakthroughs.

In stark contrast to this general trend, the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in France was established with a vision of being the European counterpart of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in the United States. It has a long history of promoting fundamental research via its extensive international visitor programme.

Bringing in scientists from all over the world, the programme enables the exchange of ideas, sharing of discoveries and simply the opportunity to be inspired by one another. Researchers pursue their ideas in an open and supportive fashion without funding pressures or the requirement to deliver results within a certain time frame. After all, often the most exciting discoveries come out of unplanned changes in direction as a research course progresses.

The ability to foster creativity on individual projects of European researchers’ own making and at their own pace was the guiding idea behind the EU-funded IHES EURO-Programme project.

Funding of the project enabled close to 100 European scientists to take advantage of the creative and stimulating atmosphere at IHES to pursue fundamental theoretical questions in mathematics and physics.

The variety of projects pursued was amazing and all visitors commended the active participation and support of permanent staff in exchange of ideas and open discussions.

Numerous papers were published and scientists advanced their careers on the strength of project initiatives. At the same time, the Institute’s international reputation as a scientific ‘think tank’ fostering free and open pursuit of individual projects was further enhanced enabling it to attract even more top scientists.

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