CAS was first established as a foundation in 1989 by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (DNVA). The Centre opened three years later, and has since hosted more than 75 research projects and 1,100 fellows from all disciplines.

In Defence of the ‘Usefulness of Uselessness’

Deliberations about a Norwegian Centre for Advanced Study began in 1986, when sociologist Gudmund Hernes wrote a feature article in the daily newspaper Dagbladet.

Describing an education and research system drained of creativity and curiosity by a bothersome level of bureaucracy, the weight of the academic teaching load, and an ever-growing emphasis on the ‘usefulness’ of research, Hernes identified an urgent need for a centre for fundamental research in Norway.

Inspired by his experience at the prestigious Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) in Palo Alto, California, Hernes envisioned the potential to establish a similar institution in Norway. Hernes described CASBS as ‘a(n) almost imaginary and … paradisal place.’  

Organisations such as the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Science (NIAS), the German Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS) also were of great influence when establishing CAS. According to Hernes, such places provide institutional expressions of what American researcher Abraham Flexner has called the ‘usefulness of uselessness.’

Today, these European institutions, along with CAS, are members of NetIAS (the Network of European Institutes for Advanced Study).

Chairs of the CAS Board of Directors

1989 - 1990 Professor Gudmund Hernes
1991 Professor Dagfinn Føllesdal
1992 - 1993 Professor Vigdis Ystad
1993 - 1999 Professor Torstein Jøssang
2000 - 2010 Professor Aanund Hylland
2011 - 2014 Professor Asbjørn Kjønstad
2015 - 2018 Professor Geir Ellingsrud
2018 -  Professor Rolf K. Reed

Scientific Directors

1999 - 2003 Professor Ole-Jørgen Skog
2003 - 2009 Professor Willy Østreng
2009 - 2012 Professor Gro Steinsland
2012 - 2014 Professor Brit Solli
2015 - 2018 Professor Vigdis Broch-Due
2018 -  Professor Camilla Serck-Hanssen

Special Projects


In the summers of 2017 and 2018, CAS hosted YoungCAS, a programme aimed at supporting scholars at the outset of their careers.

YoungCAS offered a unique opportunity for postdoctoral students and other young scholars to do group-based research with colleagues from around the world during a one-week stay in Oslo.

CAS hosted the following YoungCAS projects:

  • The Post-Antibiotic Era: End of the World As We Know It? led by Hanna Tiainen, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oslo (UiO)
  • Workshop on Indigenous Law and Methodology, led by Margherita Paola Poto, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tromsø - The Arctic University of Norway (UiT)
  • Do Electron Current Densities Determine All There Is to Know? led by Andre Laestadius, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oslo (UiO)


The Hippocampus Project

Cover of The Hippocampus BookWhen Per Andersen, a brain researcher at the University of Oslo (UiO), was selected to lead a CAS project in the 1990s, he initially turned down the offer due to prior research engagements. Recognising the potential of Andersen's work, the CAS Board of Directors chose to provide financial support, office space, and seminar rooms to one of his projects: The Hippocampus Book.

Andersen, along with fellow neuroscientists Richard Morris, David Amaral, Tim Bliss, and John O’Keefe, enjoyed several stays at CAS in the 1990s while they worked on unraveling the secrets of the brain.

The hippocampus is one of a group of remarkable structures embedded within the brain's medial temporal lobe. Long known to be important for memory, it has been a prime focus of neuroscience research for many years. 

The Hippocampus Book, published in 2007, offers a comprehensive account of what the hippocampus does, how it does it, and what happens when things go wrong. It is regarded as a seminal book in the field of neuroscience.


CAS hopes to support more special projects in the future.