The Dublin Institute For Advanced Studies (DIAS)
DIAS is an internationally renowned research institute established seventy years ago by the government of Taoiseach Éamon de Valera (Institute for Advanced Studies Act, 1940). Modelled on the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study (1930) it combines scientific and humanistic disciplines in a framework of three schools, Theoretical Physics, Celtic Studies and Cosmic Physics. Its foundation during World War II was hailed as a demonstration that ‘there is a better way than war for advancing the welfare of mankind’. It remains a powerful symbol of the value attached by Ireland to research and scholarship, a symbolism reinforced by historical associations with the sanctuary offered to the Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger who became first Director of the School of Theoretical Physics. By maintaining the high distinction of its constituent schools DIAS has realized the ambition set for it at the time of its foundation, which was ‘that all the various rays of credit, the good name that we get, may be focused into a single institute’ (An Taoiseach, Seanad Éireann 24–15 May, 1940, http://historical-debates.Oireachtas.ie/S/0024/S.0024.194005150003, p. 6).
Today DIAS is Ireland’s pre-eminent Fourth-Level (4th Level) research and educational establishment with wide international ties in Europe and the United States. Its mission is: (1) to facilitate furtherance of advanced study and the conduct of research by senior scholars in each of the specialized branches of knowledge practised in its constituent schools; (2) to provide an environment to which researchers of international repute are attracted; (3) to engage in the mentoring and training of gifted young scholars in the methods of fundamental research and scholarship; (4) to publish its research findings. In the science field DIAS has succeeded at all times in attracting the expertise of outstanding researchers from abroad to work in Ireland, and has thereby made a major contribution to Ireland’s intellectual life and international prestige. Many present and past university lecturers and professors in Physics and Mathematics are former Scholars of DIAS, and these continue to maintain links with the broader Irish research community through DIAS. In Celtic Studies DIAS remains the paramount world-centre of the discipline as shown by the fact that virtually all scholars of international repute in the field in Europe and the United States received part of their training at DIAS. They maintain links to the School either directly or through attendance by their students at the triennial DIAS International Celtic Studies Summer School.
DIAS enjoys the status of an independent facility with cooperative links to universities and institutes both nationally and internationally. It offers a valued neutral space for a wide range of original research projects and enterprises. As a consequence its schools are enabled to take the initiative in establishing highly important shared national research infrastructures. Among its recent initiatives are
- Establishment of the Irish Centre for High-End Computing and development of the advanced optical network and national data store in the e-INIS project;
- Leadership of the Irish Geoscience Graduate Programme, an all-Ireland virtual graduate school in the geosciences (4th Level);
- Development of Irish-Script-on-Screen (ISOS), a national project for digitization of manuscripts in the Irish language.
On the humanities side DIAS is the leading publisher of academic material in Celtic Studies. DIAS research projects on the science side have brought beneficial results with profound long-term economic significance. A recent example has been the fundamental and globally-praised work on the formation of the North Atlantic Ocean. This showed that the Irish continental shelf is twice as large as previously thought, comprising up to ten times the land area. The result represents a huge expansion of the area over which Ireland has substantial rights under the Law of the Sea. The acclaimed Irish National Seabed Survey (INSS) resulted as a direct consequence of pilot studies by DIAS. On-going work by DIAS on quantum computing is expected to seed a future technology vastly superior to that in current use. Unexpected economic advantage accruing from DIAS research is represented by the study of the foundations of statistical mechanics and the relation of entropy to information. This brought with it a realization that similar ideas could be applied to telecommunications, and a high-tech start-up company was established to exploit the resulting intellectual property. A comprehensive outreach programme is actively pursued by DIAS in each of its constituent disciplines.
The DIAS template, like that of IAS Princeton, is of a self-standing research institution with light administrative overheads. It is part of the academic system yet independent of the universities and commercial enterprises. It thus offers a valued facility to scientists and scholars from a mixture of disciplines who come together in the common pursuit of knowledge in an environment that is dedicated to their needs. In the European context an ever-increasing number of similar research institutes have been established in the post-war period (Germany, the Netherlands, U.K., Sweden and Finland). The influence of the DIAS model is accordingly more and more evident in societies that are to the forefront in fostering the knowledge economy. DIAS has continuously driven inter-institutional collaboration and advances the establishment of common infrastructures. It produces discoveries of real economic benefit. It contributes added value to the graduate training experience of the universities. Not least, as envisaged at its foundation ‘in an extraordinary time’, it continues to have significant symbolic value for the nation, bringing to it major credit internationally and helping to refine understanding of our history and sense of identity.