2022-2023: The Public

During the 2022-2023 academic year, the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study is sponsoring research projects that investigate the concept of The Public from many disciplines and applications. The project will bring together humanists, scientists, social scientists, legal scholars, and artists to examine how we organize individuals, political and scientific institutions, cultural resources, and informational structures into public, private, and expert domains.

Potential research proposal topics on The Public may address, but are not limited to:

  • Public Health: How can we make health systems that better reflect the diversity of the populations they are meant to serve? How can scientists better inform debates about what governments mandate from a public health perspective? What research trends now will inform the future of public-facing sciences?
  • Environmental Science and Humanities: What role can public institutions play in addressing large-scale collective action problems involving the natural world? Taking into account our best science, what detrimental environmental trends are best addressed by public interventions vs. private or individual interventions?
  • Technology and Engineering: How has the emergence and spread of social media transformed the conception of the public sphere? How might developments in data analysis and surveillance challenge individuals’ relationships with governments and private entities? As engineering gets more and more advanced, what role do engineers have in helping the public understand the products they create? What can research show us about the future of digital public life?
  • Political Science and Law: What is “the public” and how many publics are there? What are the barriers to enter/exit a public sphere? What moral obligations do political institutions have to create or remove such barriers? What can research show us about the future of civic life in different regional contexts and the future of public service careers?
  • Architecture / Urban Planning: What public spaces belong in modern cities and how should they be designed and maintained? How should we understand infrastructure in the 21st century?
  • Philosophy and Social Theory: Do large groups have rights, or are rights only held by individuals? What does it mean for evidence or reasons to be public? Does it matter for standards of rationality if we have reasons that cannot be widely shared? How should political, educational, and economic institutions balance meritocratic, egalitarian, and democratic values?
  • History and Literature: How have our concepts of what characterizes the public realm developed over time or changed in light of recent disruptions? What role have public intellectuals had in the past, and how do they compare to public-facing intellectuals of the present? How do literature and history shed light on the difficulties individuals face entering or exiting public life?
  • Religion: How should we understand institutional disaffiliation trends among religions, accelerated by recent crises? What duties do we have to create or limit religious ideas in the public sphere? To what extent is religion a common good, and how does it compete with other common goods? What should public theology look like going forward?
  • Arts and Culture: How do arts and culture help us understand what it is to be a unified or disunified public, or help us understand the extent to which arts and culture have duties to the public? The NDIAS is also interested in supporting creative works—fiction writing, visual arts, musical composition, etc.—that explore or address issues related to our theme.

Proposals will be evaluated on the basis of their potential for research impact, fit with the theme, and fit with the Institute’s mission.

Meet the 2022-2023 Fellowship Class