MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVI No. 4
February / March 2004
The New President
The New President
Improving Our System
of Faculty Governance
Update on Women Faculty in the
School of Engineering
Recommendations for Improving
Faculty Quality of Life
FRADS Supports Faculty Fundraising
Reminiscences: Fifty Years on the Engineering Faculty
A Formal Recommendation
to the MIT Corporation
The Center for International Studies
The Clinical Research Center
The Operations Research Center
Beyond Fuzzy Definitions of Community:
A Report and an Invitation
Cambridge and MIT:
Exchanging Students, Exchanging Ideas
Information Services & Technololgy (IS&T):
The Focus is on Service
Campus Growth (1985 – Present)
Printable Version

Research at MIT

The Center for International Studies

Richard J. Samuels

For 52 years, MIT's Center for International Studies (CIS) has played a central role in fostering social science research at MIT. It also has helped to define the way in which academic research centers conduct research on international affairs in the public interest. Today, while the Center's research portfolio is more wide-ranging than ever, we continue to capitalize on MIT's great strengths in science and engineering, examining the international aspects of these fields as they relate to both policy and practice, and focusing on those issues where science and engineering intersect most closely with foreign affairs. Our affiliates come from across the Institute, but faculty from the Departments of Political Science, Urban Studies and Planning, History, and STS predominate.

The Security Studies Program (SSP) is the Center's largest research and education program. Affiliated faculty teach subjects on Grand Strategy, Defense Technology, Arms Control, and Bureaucratic Politics.

A special feature of the program is the integration of technical and political analyses in studies of international security problems. Faculty members advise or comment frequently on current policy problems, but the Program's prime task is educating the next generation of scholars and practitioners in international security policy making. SSP supports the research work of graduate students, faculty, and fellows, and sponsors seminars and conferences to bring the results of this work to the attention of academic and policy audiences.

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Since 1974, CIS has chaired the Inter-University Committee on International Migration, which provides a focal point for migration and refugee studies in Greater Boston and features a small-grants program supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These grants stimulate applied research on policy issues of concern to NGOs actively working in the field with refugees and the internally displaced; they also promote greater dialogue between these NGOs and researchers from the Committee's member institutions (Boston University, Tufts University, Wellesley College, and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy). The Migration program also sponsors several working groups for students and practitioners.

CIS established the Program on Human Rights and Justice (PHRJ) in 2000 to conduct research on a range of subjects, including the impact of globalization on local democratic institutions, the integration of human rights and development, the relevance of human rights to new areas of science and technology, alternative models of accountability for mass crimes, corporate best practices, labor standards, and environmental assessment and monitoring. PHRJ is the first human rights program with a specific focus on the human rights aspects of economic, scientific, and technological developments.

The newly-formed Cities in Conflict Working Group, a joint effort with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, brings together faculty and graduate students to discuss the root causes of violence in cities and to consider innovative strategies for advancing a vision for peace in such cities as Jerusalem, Belfast, Mitrovica, and Jakarta.

The overall aim is to build on deep, historical knowledge of the cosmopolitan dynamics of city life as a possible way of forming new practices or commitments that would contrast with (and hopefully counter-balance some of) the essentialist identities or social, ethnic, religious, or national allegiances that have led to violence, conflict, and public insecurity in so many cities around the world.

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CIS also has several new research projects in the works. Looking ahead, we are particularly enthused about two initiatives: CIS and its partners in MIT's Technology and Policy Program, the Science, Technology and Society Program, and the Department of Political Science were recently awarded a $2.9 million NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training program (IGERT) grant. This five-year award is for a multidisciplinary program on assessing effects of emerging technologies, such as ubiquitous computing, genetic engineering, and nanotechnologies. The emerging technologies program will develop three new core courses to develop competencies in evaluating economic, security, environmental, societal, and ethical consequences of technical change. It also will assemble multidisciplinary panels to develop methods used in training students to respond to emerging technologies and shaping faculty-student research on critical areas of uncertainty. The active participation of government, business, and NGOs will be an integral element of the IGERT project, and students from MIT and elsewhere will be eligible to apply.

Another promising initiative, "Making Peace: The Israeli-Palestinian Forum at MIT," is housed at CIS and led by faculty from Urban Studies and Planning. The Forum aims to enable dialogue between these two peoples to help to build trust and "peace from below." One aspect of the project is an offshoot of the Cities in Conflict working group - a project that will foster creative ideas about the kinds of institutions, practices, and uses of space in Jerusalem that might unite its citizens. Specifically, we are planning an international, juried design competition, "Jerusalem 2050," to facilitate these possibilities.

Perhaps the best known program within the CIS is the MIT Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), the nation's first and largest program of "applied area studies."

For 50 years after WWII, education and research in science and technology proceeded under the assumption that theories, discoveries, and practices evolve independent of national or cultural context. Today, accepted ideas about scientific and technological progress are being transformed at MIT, where fundamentally new approaches to the organization of education and research are developed. At the heart of these new ideas is the recognition that context shapes both learning and the process of innovation. Context in the broadest sense means life experience (including, but not limited to) the nature of research and educational communities, practical experiences, life in the dormitory, and life in the workplace.

Context also means location in international networks of knowledge creation and technological applications. An MIT education linking research, life experience, and classroom learning enables students and faculty to participate in centers of technological, scientific, and economic advance outside our own society. For nearly two decades, since the creation of the MIT Japan Program, the CIS has been a leader in preparing scientists, technologists, and managers for professional lives and mental horizons that span national boundaries. The lives and careers of MISTI graduates are global and cross-cultural in ways and with consequences that we cannot yet fully imagine. Toward that end, MISTI prepares MIT students for internships at companies in Italy, France, Germany, China, Japan, and India.

We at CIS welcome input on and participation in our research projects. Additional information is available on our Website, .

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