Beginning its work in 1975, the Institute for Advanced Studies has determined its primary objective to be that of acting as a catalyst for the prominent work of scholars in such fields as History, Philosophy, Jewish Studies, Islamic Studies, Life Sciences, Literature, Mathematics, and Physics. Today, the Institute is home to many researchers, both Israeli and foreign. It strives to provide an environment, favorable for the scholars to be able to perform their research on the highest level. Any scholar of the Institute for Advanced Studies may submit a topic for study, together with the names of the scholars, who will comprise the research team. Research topics are chosen by the Academic Committee, which, together with the Standing Committee, is considered to be the main directing body of the Institute.
The members of the Academic Committee are appointed by the Rector of Hebrew University and the President of the Academy of Sciences of Israel. The Committee selects four to five research teams and topics annually. Most often, research teams will stay in residence at the Institute for a period of six or twelve months, until the research topic is completed. They are released from such academic obligations as supervising or teaching. The Institute sustains the research work of the teams by providing a range of support services, such as office space, a communication and computer network, and audiovisual equipment.
The Institute pays salaries to the researchers in accordance with their academic rank. All the project proposals are to be submitted not later than December 1. The Institute for Advanced Studies is also known to operate five short-term schools, which are dedicated to the following areas and fields: Life Sciences, Economic Theory, Theoretical Physics, Mathematics, and Jewish Studies. There also exists the School in Comparative History, which operates on the experimental basis. The schools are targeted at doctoral and post-doctoral students, who are interested in the subject matter. Students from Israel and abroad are welcomed. Each school is managed by a foreign scholar together with a scholar from Israel.
Currently the School of Physics is headed by Professor David Cross from the University of California at Santa Barbara; the School of Life Sciences is managed by Professor Bert Sakmann from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research; the joint School of Jewish Studies and Comparative History is run by Professor Haym Soloveitchik from Yeshiva University; and the School of Economics is directed by Professor Kenneth Arrow from Stanford University.
The Curriculum Committee is responsible for setting the study topic for each school. Regarded as Hebrew University faculty, the Institute for Advanced Studies has proven to be a leading and principal institution with the scope surpassing that of a faculty. It sees its mission to provide scholars and scientists with the opportunity for a discussion of ideas, who would then be able to make an essential breakthrough. At least three workshops are planned to take place each year, each bringing together eight scholars and scientists. The proposals focus on a topic and its significance, a list of research team participants, and previous breakthroughs achieved by them.