International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Coordinates: 48°04′06″N 16°21′31″E / 48.068323°N 16.358512°E / 48.068323; 16.358512

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

IIASA is housed in the Blauer Hof Palace in Laxenburg, Austria
Abbreviation IIASA
Formation 1972 (1972)
Region served
Official language
Parent organization
National Member Organizations (NMOs)

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international research organization located in Laxenburg, near Vienna, in Austria. IIASA conducts interdisciplinary scientific studies on environmental, economic, technological and social issues in the context of human dimensions of global change. IIASA’s mission is "to provide insights and guidance to policymakers worldwide by finding solutions to global and universal problems through applied systems analysis in order to improve human and social wellbeing and to protect the environment."[1]


IIASA brings its experience of managing international tensions through science to today's global issues. Its multinational and multidisciplinary teams of researchers have a growing membership, now including the world's four largest economies.

The institute is currently directed by Pavel Kabat. Nebojsa Nakicenovic is the current Deputy Director General/ Deputy CEO. Past directors have included Howard Raiffa, professor at Harvard's Business School and Kennedy School of Government, Roger Levien, former Vice President for Strategy at Xerox, Leen Hordijk, former Director at the Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Ispra, Italy, and Detlof von Winterfeldt, professor at the University of Southern California.[2]

IIASA is a non-governmental institution funded by scientific organizations in its member countries, which currently include: Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, and the USA.[3] Funding for the Institute also comes from contracts, grants, and donations from governments, international organizations, academia, business, and individuals.[4]


On 4 October 1972 representatives of the Soviet Union, United States, and 10 other countries from the Eastern and Western blocs met at The Royal Society in London to sign the charter establishing IIASA.[5] It was the culmination of six years’ effort driven forward by both the US President Lyndon Johnson and the USSR Premier Alexei Kosygin. For IIASA it was the beginning of a remarkable project to use scientific cooperation to build bridges across the Cold War divide and to confront growing global problems on a truly international scale.[6] The first scientist had arrived at IIASA in June, 1973.[7]

Clearly, success at bridge building and successful science would go hand in hand. But neither was a foregone conclusion. This was the 1970s, and most research organizations focused on national issues. Few encouraged researchers from different countries or disciplines to work together for the greater good.

To achieve its ambitious research vision, IIASA would have to break down the barriers between nations and disciplines. This it did, building international multidisciplinary teams to confront innumerable global challenges, both long-standing and emerging. For example, a study on water pollution carried out in the 1980s by a team of IIASA chemists, biologists, and economists still forms the basis of modern water policy design in Japan, USA, and the former USSR.

When the Cold War ended, IIASA’s sponsoring countries could have said “mission accomplished” and disbanded the Institute. IIASA had certainly helped foster mutual understanding among scientists from East and West. But it had also done more than this. IIASA had shown the scientific benefits of bringing together different nationalities and disciplines to work toward common goals. Indeed, this approach has been widely imitated, for example, in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.

So instead of closing in the 1990s the Institute broadened its mandate from the East and West to a truly global focus. Today IIASA brings together a wide range of scientific skills to provide science-based insights into critical policy issues in international and national debates on global change.[8]

Current research

IIASA research focuses on complex problems that extend beyond a single country or a single discipline.

In 2010, IIASA launched a new strategic plan for the next ten years, which focuses on three general problem areas: Energy and Climate Change, Food and Water, and Poverty and Equity.[9]

Every year approximately 200 researchers from over 35 countries research at IIASA.[10] They work on these broader topics within and across 9 research programs: Advanced Systems Analysis, Ecosystems Services and Management, Energy, Evolution and Ecology, Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases, Risk, Policy and Vulnerability, Transitions to New Technologies, Water, and World Population.

Major Projects

Ten IIASA scientists were among the authors of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (the work of the IPCC, including the contributions of many scientists, was recognised by the joint award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize).[11]

The Global Energy Assessment, released in 2012. The report was a result of collaborative and integrated work of over 500 authors, analysts and reviewers worldwide who contributed independent, scientifically based and policy-relevant analysis of current and emerging energy issues and options. The assessment provides a thorough assessment of energy-related issues including sustainable development, including poverty eradication, climate change mitigation, health, energy security and energy access.[12] The entire assessment is available online as a PDF.

The Water Futures and Solutions: World Water Scenarios initiative, launched in 2012, aims to provide a similarly broad assessment of global water challenges, in much the same scope as the Global Energy Assessment.[13]

IIASA researchers are major contributors to Working Groups II and III of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.[14]

Since 2010, IIASA is also one of the three "pillar institutions" of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital.[15]


  1. IIASA's New Strategic Plan 2011-2020, retrieved 2 May 2010
  3. IIASA's National Member Organizations
  4. IIASA Funding
  5. Profile of IISA appended to summary of "Energy in a Finite World" (1981)
  6. McDONALD, A. (1998), Scientific Cooperation as a Bridge Across the Cold War Divide: The Case of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) . Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 866: 55–83. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1998.tb09147.x
  7. Jermen Gvishiani and Roger E. Lewis in Foreword to "Energy in a Finite World"(1981)
  8. A Brief History of IIASA, retrieved 2 May 2010.
  12. GEA, 2012: Global Energy Assessment - Toward a Sustainable Future, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria.
  15. Der Standard, 31 January 2011: “Vienna Wittgenstein Centre aims for top position among demography institutes worldwide”

External links

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