Academic profile and strengths to build on:
Since its establishment in 2000, the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia has developed a scholarly identity and an agenda, unique in the Bulgarian academic milieu, defined by and committed to:
- upholding academic independence and freedom of research, scholarly excellence, and intellectual creativity – values that are still under threat in Eastern Europe
- acting as a flagship with positive spill-over effect by diffusing high standards of academic performance and innovative knowledge across the national academic environment
- strong international and transdisciplinary orientation of research: contributing to the creation of scientific communities as an alternative to the disciplinary structuring of knowledge; expanding its international outreach beyond Eastern, Central Europe and the Balkans to more encompassing European and global perspectives
- robust selection by leading independent domestic and non-domestic experts geared at fostering internationally-competitive levels of performance
- exerting constructive pressure “from outside” on the academic establishment by radiating a new type of institutional culture
- acting as a transmission between high quality research, education, and civil society; increasing public awareness of the intimate link between level of research, quality of education and social progress
- concentration on the sustained cultivation of intellectual agency capable to generate and radiate such knowledge; helping consolidate national and regional academic elites on behalf of independent thinking and critical reflection on the state of society, and active engagement with the problems of a politically unstable and economically underdeveloped region
- nurturing a distinctive culture of intellectual socialization through group discussion, teamwork, and peer interaction, particularly among scholars of the younger generations, which has become a brand mark of CAS Sofia
- buttressing the CAS’ international embedding, scholarly and institutional network-building as well as its working partnerships within the Network of the European Institutes for Advanced Study (NetIAS).
In future the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia will retain its human and social science profile and its main objective of creating learning communities across these fields. The general state of these scientific areas, the social demands for their improvement, and the underprivileged conditions which they face in terms of public science policy-making justify this choice. Having established itself as an important platform for high-level exploration in these areas, the Centre will concentrate on enhancing its outreach and intensifying its impact on the quality of knowledge produced as well as on the diffusion and the application of this knowledge. It will continue identifying and supporting individuals with strong leadership capacities and commitment to reform in the scientific community and the broader society.
The special role CAS is determined by the specific regional, social and historical context it operates – South-Eastern Europe and neighbouring regions -and should be gauged against the backdrop of unremitting brain-drain, underfunded academia, limited career opportunities for young scholars, dependence on state funding, and institutional culture tolerant to mediocracy. CAS will continue to uphold and conjure up its overall work on the conviction that science and scientific progress rest, above all, on internationality, openness and the free exchange of ideas and knowledge, transcending boundaries between countries and cultures as well as between scientific disciplines and schools of thought.
CAS will persist in its role of a show case and corrective to the national institutions of higher education and research. Building upon a momentum already gathered, it will continue to function as a platform bringing together various regions, countries, and academic traditions, creating stronger relations among various disciplines and scholarly communities. The core strength of the Centre to build and streamline broadly international and multidisciplinary networks – a capacity that mainly accounts for its dynamic character and growing outreach – is a distinguishable one that must be maintained and cultivated in the future. What initially stood as a potential liability – the relatively small size of the national scholarly community, CAS has succeeded to turn into an advantage: it has opened up most widely towards the outside world thus largely eliminating the space for parochialism and national self-centeredness.
A major structural benefit from CAS is that it combines its local embeddedness and, due to its external funding, extraterritorial status to disseminate cutting-edge academic developments coming from the West in the local milieu. At the same time, it provides a framework for a more balanced interaction between the Eastern and Western European academic communities. In its specific field of operation – the humanities and social sciences – CAS is entitled to grapple with major intellectual challenges such as: how to produce regionally relevant knowledge without closing oneself into a “ghetto” of regional specialists, and how to enter the global debates without just “reproducing” the mainstream intellectual trends that circulate in the Western “core(s)”.
Structure, organization and administration
CAS research infrastructure will continue to evolve around the following major components:
- Individual, thematically open fellowships for prominent Bulgarian and foreign scholars;
- Collaborative international projects ensuring multidisciplinary approaches to innovative / important topics of broader public relevance;
- Engagement with up-to-date intellectual debates, civil society sustainability, contemporary societal issues, and efforts at building an informed public opinion.
- Dissemination of knowledge and increased public visibility through various communication platforms: seminars, lectures, conferences, public events, online and printed publications.
CAS will uphold its reputation of a good-practice model by:
- applying transparent international quality criteria to and involving international selection bodies in the evaluation and enrollment of junior and senior academics
- up-keeping the Centre’s institutional independence while diversifying its academic contacts and joint initiatives
- maintaining a lean, efficient and flexible administration attuned to the particular needs of individual scholars and research groups
- transparent decision-making procedures and best practice management
- diversification of funding as a major instrument in upholding CAS’ autonomy and financial stability.
Increased attention to junior scholars and academic diaspora
- CAS will seek to make up for the lack of post-doc programmes in Bulgaria by enhancing academic expertise and research skills beyond the PhD level; it thus will help foster the career opportunities for junior scholars.
- It will keep creating international scholarly communities at home and ensuring access to international networks based on both individual contacts and institutional ties; international experience and skill enhancement thus become a vital part of a formalised knowledge sharing and transfer process.
- It will ensure international visibility for the best scholars.
- Emphasis on gifted junior scholars will persist as they are the most reliable vehicle for short-circuiting research and education. The biography of CAS attests to its ability to adjust to the expectations of up-and-coming academics and serve as a springboard to a successful career for many of them.
- The Centre will encourage brain circulation and “brain re-gain” by attracting national scholars from the academic diaspora and outstanding international scholars.
- It will continue to serve as a place where returning scholars are welcomed and appreciated and their foreign experience is applied.
- It will provide for more balanced and mutually enriching interaction between Eastern and Western European academic communities.
Improving CAS’ performance and local impact
Having been repeatedly acknowledged as a role model in the region and beyond, CAS will seek to enhance its domestic recognition and visibility through
- Sustained efforts at raising public awareness of the importance of human and social knowledge for the well-being of society.
- Strengthening the linkage between research and education.
- Receiving formal recognition from the Ministry of Education and Science for the important role played by CAS in the academic life of the country and ensuring its support for the Centre without risking its academic independence.
- Ensuring CAS’ institutional sustainability by multiplying its sources of financial support.