On March 13, the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) announced five Austrian research projects selected for major funding under the Clusters of Excellence initiative "excellent=austria", awarding multi-year funding to two research clusters with the participation of Central European University (CEU): Knowledge in Crisis, for which CEU is the lead institution, headed by Pro-Rector and Professor Tim Crane; and EurAsian Transformations, with CEU’s participation led by Associate Professor Tijana Krstic.
With the Clusters of Excellence, the FWF has committed itself to funding projects with Austrian research institutions on an unprecedented scale. The program is dedicated to strengthening basic research with the aim of innovating beyond established approaches.
“Since its arrival in Austria, CEU has established itself as one of the leading research universities in the social sciences and humanities,” said Shalini Randeria, President and Rector of CEU. “The FWF initiative 'Clusters of Excellence' is their most ambitious funding project. CEU received a 'ticket' through the opportunity to apply as the lead institution and they won. Not only that; the second project in the final round, with the participation of CEU researchers - 'EurAsia Transformations' - also won,” added Randeria. “That's a 100 percent success rate for CEU in the finals. It provides clear and undeniable proof of CEU's excellence in the research discipline. I am very proud of the excellent work of my colleagues and I am very happy that we can cooperate with other Austrian universities at such a high academic level."
Knowledge in Crisis - Understanding and Overcoming the Crisis of Knowledge
The Knowledge in Crisis research cluster, headed by Tim Crane from CEU’s Department of Philosophy was awarded €8.9 million from the FWF. The project addresses threats to claims of knowledge caused by rapid and spectacular developments in technology as well as attacks on the very ideas of knowledge and truth. The flood of information on the internet challenges one’s ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, and a widespread rejection of standards of scientific evidence and expertise has grown. The researchers, which in addition to CEU, include collaborators from the universities of Graz, Salzburg and Vienna, see this as a manifestation of a larger practical and theoretical crisis, affecting the way we live and a basic understanding of the world.
“This Cluster of Excellence will address fundamental questions about knowledge, many of which have deep social, ethical, and political relevance, by linking many different areas of philosophy which normally function independently. This is something that never has been done before in philosophical research,” said Crane. The research questions will be addressed in entirely new ways to understand the crisis of knowledge in all its manifestations, and will seek strategies to address challenges and reshape relationships to knowledge. It will additionally transform the academic discipline of philosophy in Austria, firmly embedding CEU into the country’s research culture.
EurAsian Transformations - Discovering the Historical Heritage of Eurasia
EurAsian Transformations, awarded €9.2 million from the FWF, will establish a research and training infrastructure for studying the rich and diverse textual, visual, and material resources created over the last 3000 years of Eurasian history. The Austrian Academy of Sciences is the lead institution of the project, with CEU and the universities of Vienna and Innsbruck composing the research cluster.
Engaging with the contested nature of “Eurasia” as both a geographic space and category for framing political, social and cultural developments, the cluster adopts a deep historical perspective. It will explore different modes of transformation across the vast land stretch from Central Europe to Eastern Asia, focusing on the regions that escape the explanation patterns of European overseas colonization and de-colonization. With questions of both comparison and connectivity in mind, the research agenda will focus on various imperial formations and discourses (as well as resistances to them); dynamics between ecological and economic trends; cultural and linguistic diversity; mobility and communication; and constructions of identities.
"Since we started working on the Cluster with our partners two years ago we have already learned so much about each other's research questions, methods and goals, and even began to realize first teaching and research cooperations. That has only made us more excited about what is to come," explains Tijana Krstić from CEU’s Departments of Medieval Studies and History, who will lead CEU’s participation in the research cluster.
The cluster brings together specialists in over twenty regional languages and scripts, historians, art historians, as well as experts in digital humanities. The chief intellectual goal is to reorient the study of Eurasia from a global history approach based largely on sources in Western languages, to the rich textual resources from the regions, thus setting the basis for greater diversity and appreciation of cultural heritage in both research and teaching curricula.
31 scientists from the four institutions will devote themselves to researching such topics in dialogue with international partners and to training a new generation of doctoral students and young researchers with a wide range of skills in research-related teaching. Beyond the four universities, this infrastructure will include collaboration with various museums, libraries, and institutes to coordinate community engagement and public outreach, thus situating CEU as a key player in the Austrian educational and cultural landscape.
FWF is the funding body of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, which aims to strengthen Austria as a top international location for science. The programs offer scientists new opportunities to conduct research at the highest level to expand Austria's innovative power and to find answers to the challenges of tomorrow. For the Clusters of Excellence, the FWF provides 60 percent of the funding volume for the individual clusters, and the remaining 40 percent comes from the participating research institutions’ own funds. In total, the FWF will be providing approximately €81 million for the first five years of the "excellent=austria" initiative.