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The Idea of Shrinking
The Idea of Shrinking

The Idea of Shrinking

Arne Hendriks, artist-in-residence in the spring of 2016, explored the implications of downsizing the human species to better fit the earth.

“There are BIG things one can do to embrace the idea of shrinking, like finding a short partner, hormone therapy, or gently curbing the excess growth of your children by feeding them growth suppressing foods. And there are SMALL things you can do to embrace the idea of shrinking. Small things like standing next to a very tall person, or object,  visiting an Ames room, or folding and tearing paper in half. The schematic notion of folding something in half, tearing it at the fold, then folding it in half again, and then again until a satisfactory reduction in size has been accomplished embodies notions of scale, of direction, of materiality, and of time. If we consider contemporary man to be an A1, then how far can we go? Although somewhat abstract I believe such exercises can open up a thought process that allows the embrace of unfamiliar concepts, like becoming smaller.”

More about The Incredible Shrinking Man project

Our mission

NIAS - one of the institutes of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) – has made it its mission to provide a physical and intellectual space for advanced research in the humanities and social sciences that is driven by curiosity and cross-discipline collaboration. NIAS is committed to supporting independent research and knowledge exchange in a setting that is both collaborative and multi-disciplinary – breaking down cross-discipline barriers and facilitating innovative advances in the process.

Our goals

NIAS’ goal is to enable independent curiosity-driven advanced research in the humanities and social sciences. Moreover, NIAS aims to bridge the gap between the research practices of the humanities and social sciences on the one hand and the natural sciences and life sciences on the other hand. In addition, the academic community is enriched by the presence of writers, journalists and artists producing a serendipitous and collaborative work environment, which unlocks imagination and curiosity.

Our mission

How we achieve our goals

NIAS aims to attract high quality scholars and select the best scientists. Succesful applicants are selected by an external review process, where the quality and innovative value of the research proposal count.

The institute offers offices, research facilities, library services and – if eligible – accommodation to its fellows. Researchers from universities and research organisations in the Netherlands can apply for a teaching replacement fund, which frees them from their teaching commitments and enables them to focus on what matters: their research. In addition, international fellows are eligible for a stipend and accommodation subsidy.

The institute’s support facilities – as well as its international and interdisciplinary community – provide an autonomous research setting in which creativity and forward-thinking ideas can thrive. In addition to the cross-discipline collaborations within the sciences, NIAS stimulates collaboration between the arts and the sciences by offering fellowships to writers, journalists and artists. This allows the fellows to meet, interact and form new partnerships with researchers from disciplines with whom they would not have an opportunity to engage with in their own academic settings.

Composing a year group

Applicants for regular fellowships are evaluated by external reviewers, while co-sponsored candidates are put forward by the sponsors. The final selection is made from the best candidates to form a balanced year group in terms of gender, region and disciplines. Owing to NIAS’ aim of creating a collaborative international and interdisciplinary community, half of its fellows come from universities or research organisations in the Netherlands while the other half come from outside the Netherlands. Many of the researchers hold individual fellowships, but some participate as members of a theme group. Fellowships can be regular NIAS fellowships, co-sponsored fellowships or specific-programme fellowships such as the Guest of the Director. Regular individual fellowships make up the bulk of NIAS’ community of fellows.

As well as being international and interdisciplinary, NIAS’ community is also a balanced mix of distinguished senior scholars and promising younger researchers. The maximum number of fellowship places during the 10-month academic year is 30. However, due to the higher number of shorter fellowships, the total number of researchers per academic year is around 50. The institute offers researchers three-, five- or ten-month fellowships to work on their studies – in an environment free from the distractions, interruptions and other commitments of daily university life such as teaching and management tasks.

Our ambitions for the future

NIAS’ core task is to maintain and reinforce its position as an international institute for independent advanced study. In the coming years, NIAS’ ambition in Amsterdam is to establish itself further as a national institute that promotes reflective and curiosity-driven advanced research – one that is recognised as a unique and vital aspect of the Netherlands’ academic infrastructure. The organisation aims to continue to play a visible role in forming interdisciplinary research partnerships driven by innovative research questions, directions, strategies and methodologies.


NIAS has a small staff and a flat (horizontal) organisational structure with short lines of communication and minimal bureaucracy. NIAS is led by the director, who represents the institute and is responsible for strategic planning. The director is supported by the institute manager who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the centre and the fellow-selection process. Together, the director and the institute manager form the directorate.

The Scientific Advisory Board (WECO) advises the NIAS director, the board and the director general of the KNAW on matters concerning the institute’s long-term strategic policy in relation to its core mission. The Scientific Advisory Board may offer advice with or without being requested, and it forms an important forum for the institute. The board meets at least once a year or as often as the chair and two other members deem necessary.

Members of the Scientific Advisory Board are:

  • Professor Johan Schot, University of Sussex, History of Technology (chair)
  • Professor Cars Hommes, University of Amsterdam, Economics
  • Professor Marieke de Goede, University of Amsterdam, Political Sciences
  • Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek, University of Twente, Philosophy of Technology


NIAS is one of the institutes of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The institute receives an annual lump sum from KNAW to cover running costs, fellowships and staff. A number of fellowships are co-sponsored by public and private organisations.