The Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST) was founded by Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) chairman and Noble laureate Jean Tirole in 2011, with the aim to bring together different disciplines to better understand human nature and society. It is located in the heart of Toulouse, a vivid city in the southwest of France. Currently there are 70 researchers from 10 different disciplines, e.g. economics, political science, law, history, psychology, sociology, anthropology and biology, working together on questions like: What are the roots of decision-making? How do norms evolve? How do social groups emerge? and so on. The scope is relatively broad, and researchers are free to study the questions they find most interesting. Although research is mainly focused on humans, comparative research in primates, monkeys, and other species, also plays an important role.
The team is very young compared to other institutions (many ECRs) and research fellowships usually run for 2+1 years. This relatively high turnover creates a highly dynamic environment. To foster collaborations between the researchers, IAST offers each year the “IAST multidisciplinary prize” for an interdisciplinary project between two IAST researchers from different disciplines and two external collaborators. The prize includes a small starter grant and support to organize a workshop on a chosen topic. Last year’s winners include Alice Baniel (biology) and Luke Glowacki (anthropology) with their project “Understanding male-female aggression in mammals and humans using a comparative approach” and Harilanto Razafindrazaka (anthropology) and Astrid Hopfensitz (economics) with their project “BLOOD-COOP: a genome wide study of the altruistic motivation of blood donors”. This year Bence Bago (psychology) and Leah Rosenzweig (political science) won with their project “Cognitive and Emotional Processes Behind Susceptibility to Political Misinformation in the US and Nigeria”.
To inspire people and build a scientific network, the institute runs two weekly seminars, one presented by an internal fellow and the other presented by an external guest, usually someone well known in their field. The institute hosts visitors from all over the world (in total 108 last year) for short periods, and there are also possibilities to join IAST as a long-term visitor, usually for periods of 2-6 months. At the beginning of each academic year, there is a 2-day workshop to welcome the new fellows in the community. In winter, the research fellows organize a 2-day retreat in Ax-les-Thermes, a small skiing resort in the Pyrenees, to exchange and discuss their projects in a more informal environment and get to know each other better. And at the end of the academic year, there is a 2-day workshop for current and former fellows to foster collaborations within the community, and this is followed by a farewell party before everyone goes on fieldwork and/or holidays. Each year IAST also organizes several workshops, such as the Toulouse Economics and Biology workshop, which have more the character of mini conferences. They also organize events for the general public every year, including three distinguished lectures on a certain topic, such as identity.
IAST is a really stimulating, open-minded, truly interdisciplinary environment that tackles questions from different perspectives and using complementary tools. Toulouse itself is also a good place to live in. The weather in southern France is relatively sunny and good food and wine is everywhere. Although it is sometimes hard for vegetarians as the French cuisine is heavy in meat and (goat) cheese. There might be times where you have to disconnect from work to recharge your batteries, and the surrounding of Toulouse has a lot to offer. It is not far from the Atlantic coast and the Basque country (Biarritz, San Sebastian), Bordeaux with its famous vineyards, the Dordogne with its amazing caves with stone age paintings (Lascaux), the Mediterranean beaches and the Pyrenees for hiking or skiing.
If you feel inspired now and want to join IAST, applications for postdoc fellowships and visiting scholarships for 2020 are open now, with a deadline of the 15th of November 2019 (visit https://www.iast.fr/research-fellowships for more information).