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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Welcome to the

Transforming The Way We Think

The Institute of Advanced Study is a prestigious, ideas-based Institute with global reach. We bring together world-leading researchers from all disciplines to work with Durham colleagues on collaborative projects of major intellectual, scientific, political and practical significance. At least twenty visiting IAS Fellows join us in Durham each year to work with Durham scholars to spark new investigations, set tomorrow's agenda and participate in a varied programme of activities.

Each year, the IAS supports four ambitious interdisciplinary projects tackling major research questions. Leading researchers from around the globe join Durham colleagues in collaborative teams to develop ground-breaking ideas, explore interdisciplinary synergies and develop new programmes of research.

The Institute also serves as a top-level forum, enabling key-decision makers and experts to discuss pressing policy problems in an intellectually stimulating and unrestricted manner. We put on a wide range of public lectures and other events. There are also opportunities for postgraduates and other early career researchers to get involved.

The IAS aims to build research capacity, realise potential, and meet the challenges of a changing world. There are many ways to participate in the life and work of the institute. We warmly welcome your involvement.

Science, society and environmental change in the first millennium CE - Lecture: Transformative social changes and slowly unfolding environmental catastrophes in the Norse North Atlantic

17th February 2020, 16:00 to 17:30, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Professor Andrew Dugmore (University of Edinburgh)


An exploration of flexible responses to environmental change and path dependency

This talk is based on a chapter in a forthcoming book on catastrophes in context that will appear later this year published by Berghahn Books. Since the 9th century Norse colonisation of Iceland, soil erosion has transformed some 15-30% of the island’s surface area and impacted the animal husbandry that was a primary means of subsistence for a whole society into the early modern period. Buffered by the sufferings of regions of Iceland, individual farms and particular social groups, Icelandic society as a whole has endured through subsistence flexibility, social inequalities, and the ability to tap into larger provisioning and economic networks. This demonstrates how an adaptable society can confront challenges through social organisation and by diversifying their impacts on ecosystems. In the medium term—multi-century timescales—this can be an effective, if costly, strategy, in terms of both the environment and society. In Iceland, soil conservation is now a national priority, woodland is returning, and climate warming is opening up more potential for arable agriculture. However, the slow catastrophe of Icelandic soil erosion is still unfolding and with the perspective of the longue durée it is evident that decisions made in the Viking Age and medieval period still resonate, constraining future options for resilience and adaptive flexibility.

Directions to the Institute of Advanced Study

MapThe Institute of Advanced Study is denoted as building No.21

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IAS Contribution to the evaluation of interdisciplinary research in the REF

For a number of years the IAS has been closely involved in the development of methods of evaluating interdisciplinary research, working collaboratively with UK funding bodies/the REF. Its Executive Director, Professor Veronica Strang, is a member of the UKRI Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel, which is guiding this aspect of the REF process, and a regular speaker at the Annual REF Forum and related events. Her report Evaluating Interdisciplinary Research: a practical guide (Strang and McLeish 2015), written in consultation with a range of funding bodies, has been taken up widely, nationally and internationally. With the REF submission date coming up soon, colleagues who are considering interdisciplinary outputs for submission, or who will be involved in evaluating such research for REF sub-panels, may find this publication helpful.