News FocusBehavioral Sciences

Modernizing an Academic Monastery

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Science  27 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6067, pp. 398-399
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6067.398

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Since the Ford Foundation started it in 1954, the exclusive Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences has offered leading behavioral and social scientists freedom from teaching and other academic obligations, as well as a quiet place to reflect and write. But in recent years, the center has attracted fewer big-name scholars and produced fewer high-impact works. Stanford University took over the center in 2008 and recruited Stephen Kosslyn as director to shake things up. A distinguished psychologist, he left his post as dean of social sciences at Harvard University to become the director of the center in January 2011. He wants to emphasize real-world problem solving over heady academic ruminations and has proposed setting up networks of researchers to examine specific issues, from how to make technology more accessible to elderly people to documenting psychological obstacles to peace in the Middle East.