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Colloquium Andreas Reuter: Habitual Inclination Towards Scrutiny: A Brief Reflection on How HITS Came About
Institutes can be created/established for various reasons. Universities (in Germany) do it routinely as a means of structuring their organization. Beauty parlors and private schools like to polish their image by trading under the name of „Institute of XYZ“. And then there are (a few) independent institutes that were established with a more or less specific mission. Those mission statements typically avoid mentioning the expectation underlying the effort in the first place: Be excellent, win awards. This becomes apparent when analyzing which role models are quoted for the newly established institutes.
Whether or not such an institute lives up to the aspirations of its founders is often hard to judge. And in fact, one typically finds that the rationale for setting up the organization is continuously retrofitted to match the actual development.
HITS was established in 2010, the discussions about the idea and its implementation having started some three years before. Unfortunately, not all the people directly involved in defining both structure and mission of the new institute are still around, but while some of them are, it probably is interesting to reflect on how the whole thing started and how it evolved – compared to the original expectations. I will give an account of that process, which (at least initially) was guided by a very simple, yet ambitious, recipe formulated by James Bryant Conant: „There is only one proved method of assisting the advancement of pure science: that of picking [individuals] of genius, backing them heavily, and leaving them to direct themselves.“