April 12, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 14

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    Templeton grant to fund investigations into wisdom

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The University will serve as the center for a new national effort to develop scholarly investigations into the nature, cultivation, benefits and applications of wisdom.

    The John Templeton Foundation is providing a $3 million, three-year grant to the University to establish the Research Initiative on the Nature and Benefits of Wisdom, which will be managed by the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.

    John Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and the College, and Howard Nusbaum, Chairman and Professor of Psychology and Professor in the College, will serve as the principal investigators for the initiative. Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor in the Divinity School, will serve as a lead collaborator on the project.

    “At one time, wisdom was regarded as a subject for the most rigorous and sophisticated methods of inquiry. However, wisdom is currently overlooked and neglected as a topic for serious scholarly investigations,” said Cacioppo.

    A well-respected science of wisdom could provide great potential for informing important political, business and personal decisions, he said.

    “New discoveries gained through a new study of wisdom hold the possibility of transforming life across a range of endeavors,” Nusbaum added.

    Sometime later this year, Cacioppo, Nusbaum and Elshtain will issue a request for proposals to encourage young scholars and scientists from around the country to apply for grants to study wisdom. A priority will be given to those proposals submitted by researchers who are within 10 years of having received a Ph.D.

    A “wisdom” Web site also will be developed to announce the competition, provide background information on the initiative and to publicize the research projects that will be undertaken.

    Initiative leaders also will recruit prominent scholars to be part of a project council that will guide the initiative and help select promising projects to be funded.

    Once proposals have been submitted, a symposium on wisdom will be held in Chicago, giving grant applicants an opportunity to present their ideas. Members of the project council will then review the proposals and their accompanying peer reviews, before selecting 20 projects to receive the Templeton-funded awards of approximately $100,000 each.

    The winning investigators will become part of a Wisdom Research Network that will meet periodically to share research and results. One product of this work is expected to be a book published by a scholarly press. Nusbaum will serve as editor of the volume.

    The John Templeton Foundation has supported research and scholarly programs on a global scale for nearly 20 years.