The proposal to create the Intercontinental Academia was brought up during the meeting of the Steering Committee of Ubias (University-Based Institutes for Advanced Studies - a network between national institutes of advanced studies of 36 universities around the world), held in March 2012 at the Institute for Advanced Study Jawaharlal Nehru, in New Delhi, India. The initial idea was of the then director of the IAS of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, Eliezer Rabinovici. The IEA-USP and the IAR (Institute for Advanced Research) of the Nagoya University felt motivated by the insight of the Israeli scientist and decided to be behind the pilot project for this initiative, which operates as a joint venture.

The project has been structured since then, either at a distance or when physical meeting between the representatives of the IEA-USP and the IAR-Nagoya were possible. Professors Dapeng Cai and Susumo Saito, both from the IAR-Nagoya, visited the IEA-USP in February 2013 in order to share ideas and discuss the future of the project in a working meeting with representatives of USP's Agency for National and International Academic Cooperation, members of IEA-USP's Board and members of research groups of the institute.

The meeting of UBIAS's directors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in March, 2013, marked a new level of involvement with the project because after further conversations the executive coordinator of FRIAS (the IAS of the University of Freiburg, Germany), Carsten Dose, became general secretary of the Intercontinental Academia.

Finally, after extensive disclosure through the UBIAS network, the conference of the network in September 2013, held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, reserved a special place in its agenda for the presentation and discussion of the project. The institutional commitment became even more evident with the participation interests demonstrated by representatives of the IAS's of the University of Helsinki, Finland, the University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At that time, a letter of intent was signed by the directors of both sponsors for the first edition of the Intercontinental Academia: IEA-USP and IAR-Nagoya.

The proposal is to promote scientific exchange between generations, disciplines, cultures and continents, investing particularly in young scientists aged between 30 and 40 years from different areas of knowledge to engage in an interdisciplinary collaborative study under the guidance of three senior scientists - of regional and international recognition - who should coordinate the activities. For this, 13 researchers from several universities that keep an UBIAS-member IAS on its chart have been selected.

Immersive meetings have been planned for the researchers to have the chance to discuss the researched topic through lectures, readings, workshops and discussions, besides sharing experiences, and participating in intercultural activities and social programme. The idea is that the exchange of information takes place not only among the selected participants, but also in their local scientific communities, offering contact to worldwide science, culture and research projects of excellence.

Each one of the 36 UBIAS-member IASs could indicate, on average, three names of high relevance among young researchers in their locality. From this group of approximately 100 names, 13 have been selected keeping the proposal to establish a mosaic of different areas of knowledge and nationalities.

The expectation of Martin Grossmann, director of the IEA-USP by the time of the selection process, was that the Intercontinental Academia would act as a laboratory for future university-level collaborative work. "It is a small-scale project, but has the potential to bring about a new format in higher education.” The term ‘academia’ may have a pejorative overtone, since it is used to refer to the body of great names in science who admittedly generated quality knowledge, but were uncommitted to transforming prevalent thoughts. “However, in the sense used at the Intercontinental Academia, the term refers to a cutting edge environment, an experimental space for discussions, risk-taking and fostering unexpected encounters,” he stressed.

According to Dapeng Cai, this type of initiative is very important because “university research is overly focused and specialized, and researchers fail to share languages, do not relate to other fields, and forget how to communicate with each other.” The economist noted that the Intercontinental Academia is guided by three goals: to stimulate joint research among Ubias members; to establish cooperation networks among the next generation’s scientific leaders; and to explore new forms of collective academic practices and new formats of scientific training, collaboration and dissemination.

From September 18 to 21, University of Freiburg's Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) hosted the first meeting of the Intercontinental Academia's Senior Committee. It was attended by Takaho Ando, Takao Kondo and Dapeng Cai, all from the University of Nagoya, representing the IAR; Carsten Dose, Hermann Grabert and Bernd Kortmann, from the FRIAS, the last two being academic directors of the institute; Till Roenneberg, Eliezer Rabinovici (via Skype), Sami Pihlström (via Skype), Regina Markus and Martin Grossmann.

Over the four-day event, the group has made a series of workshops to proceed the planning of the Intercontinental Academia. The Senior Committee, formed by Grossmann, Markus, Kondo, Roenneberg, Rabinovici, Ando and Pihlström, has gathered to select the first names of young researchers to be part of the pilot project, to set the preliminary programme of the workshops in São Paulo and Nagoya, and to discuss possible results to be given by the Intercontinental Academia.

The young researchers have been chosen based on the analysis of their resumes and letters of motivation, considering two main guidelines: interdisciplinarity, and cultural and geographical variety. These criteria aimed to compose a group of plural scientists with potential to contemplate various disciplines, fields of knowledge, research traditions, countries and regions worldwide.

Among the decisions taken by the committee during the meeting, a new objective has been risen up. Besides the formation of international research networks, the development of cooperative research programmes and the publication of articles in renowned scientific journals, the Intercontinental Academia should create a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) as an outcome of both immersion periods.

The Senior Committee gathered again during the UBIAS Directors Meeting in Taipei, from November 27 to 29. The primary purpose of the meeting was to resume the second and final stage of the selection of 13 particpants. In September, only 10 names were chosen. In order to ensure the formation of a plural group, composed of scientists from different continents, countries, cultures and academic traditions, the decision on the other five participants was postponed until there was time for newcomers to sign up. In Taipei, the leaders came to an agreement on the appointment of three new names linked to the Nanjing University (China), the Waseda University (Japan) and the National Taiwan University, host of the directors' meeting.

The second group of selected candidates has intensified the participation of researchers from East Asia, increasing the representation of science and Eastern culture in the initiative. These efforts concluded the selection process in the first half of February, 2015.

The first phase of the Intercontinental Academia in São Paulo gathered more than 30 lecturers from the fields of anthropology, philosophy, neurobiology, chronobiology, physics and biology in April, 2015. They have presented papers to ample discussions on “Time,” the unifying theme of the entire project. Eight critical rapporteurs have been in charge of elaborating a scientific report on the whole event. The whole programme can be checked out here.

Senior committee members and young researchers met in November 2015 for an interim workshop. Held seven months after the first meeting in São Paulo, the meeting in Munich enabled the participants to advance the discussions and studies being conducted virtually since May, and to plan activities for the meeting in Nagoya in March 2016. The workshop has taken place at the headquarters of the Centre for Advanced Studies of the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität (LMU) and had the support of the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS). The meeting was intended to discuss the work carried out from May to November by the young researchers; to present and define the program of activities for the meeting in Nagoya; to think of the details of the MOOC that will be produced by the young researchers; and to discuss the partnership with Coursera.

Almost a year ago after the first phase in São Paulo, the second phase of the Intercontinental Academia was held at the Nagoya University in March, 2016. After a new series of lectures by experts from various fields and a special section of the programme organized by the Waseda University, the participants gave their final presentation on the academic experience and the prospects for handing in the MOOC. The whole programme can be checked out here.

The filming of the online course prepared by the participants of the first edition of the Intercontinental Academia (ICA) was held in March 2017, in Ubatuba, at the "Clarimundo de Jesus" Research Base of USP's Oceanographic Institute (IO). The group of 13 participants is being represented by David Gange, from the University of Birmingham; Eduardo Almeida and Helder Nakaya, both from USP; Nikki Moore, from Rice University; and Valtteri Arstila, from the University of Turku.