Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics

Lars Bildsten, Director
Mark Bowick, Deputy Director

History and Mission:
The Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at UC Santa Barbara was created with funding from the National Science Foundation in 1979 and became the first Kavli Institute in 2002. KITP is the foremost scientific research facility for theorists in physics and allied fields to explore new ideas and to work together intensely on questions at the leading edges of science. KITP’s driving force has been the exploration and promotion of new areas of scientific study. We foster international and cross-disciplinary networks, train the next generation of theorists, and engage the public in our collaborative, transformational research. In addition to our 40-year reputation for excellence in theoretical physics, KITP is pioneering new ways to empower and train the next generation of scientists from a diverse range of backgrounds to pursue groundbreaking research and foster collaborative networks.

To carry out the KITP mission, the institute supports an array of concurrently running programs, ranging in length from a few weeks to several months. The programs, which attract select groups of participants from institutions worldwide, are designed to enhance interaction and collaboration among participants in order to stimulate the vibrant, creative thinking that leads to insight and significant scientific progress.

The number of participants in KITP programs and conferences averages 1,000 a year. That simple body count does not convey how well the KITP does in attracting scientists to engage in the sustained interactions that foster productive collaborations. A better metric for that assessment is the total number of days invested by visiting scientists, which currently averages 23,500 visitor days per year. (That number is equivalent to 230 visits of 100 days each or 2,300 visits of 10 days each.) The average length of visit to a KITP program is 36 days.

A 2007 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ranked KITP number one in its assessment of the impact of research conducted at a wide variety of different facilities, including national laboratories, research institutes, and major universities considered both as a whole, but also in terms of their individual best departments. In other words, research conducted in conjunction with KITP programming has had a greater effect on other researchers than research conducted anywhere else. (The study focused on science research facilities, including mathematics and the engineering fields, but excluding biomedical science.)

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