Understanding behaviors & cultures

Considering the deepest questions about human nature and society

IAST's scientific program involves ten disciplines: anthropology, biology, economics, history, law, mathematics, philosophy, political science, psychology and sociology. This is a unified scientific project whose aim is to study the behavior of human beings as evolved biological organisms who live in groups, form networks and coalitions, are governed by formal institutions and informal norms, produce and exchange scarce resources and are inspired by ideals and beliefs.






IAST's researchers typically have a training in one (sometimes more) of our ten disciplines, and we remain convinced of the importance of a rigorous disciplinary training. However, they work on questions that transcend disciplinary boundaries, and in teams that bring a variety of different scientific tools to bear on these questions. We do not expect or aim to make disciplinary boundaries redundant, but to transcend them by discovering complementarities between the tools that different researchers have to offer, in pursuit of the large questions that concern us all as scientists and as citizens.



Imagined by TSE Chairman and Nobel laureate Jean Tirole seven years ago, the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST) was created in 2011 thanks to support from the French government.

In 2010, as part of its €57bn. Investments for the Future program prominently dedicated to research and higher education, the French government launched an ambitious and extensive tender for applications to select the most promising research clusters and units, the laboratories of excellence (LABEX = laboratoires d’excellence). The tender resulted in the award of 171 multi-year LABEX across all disciplines, selected by an international selection jury. IAST received one of the largest LABEX grants: LABEX IAST was awarded in 2011 with a 25 M€ funding commitment over 9 years, the third largest among the 100 grants in the first wave of LABEX grants.

LABEX IAST, the highly original scientific project conceived in 2010 by Jean Tirole, the 2014 Nobel laureate in economics, received its LABEX label in 2011. The LABEX was instrumental for the creation of the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST) as a de novo creation in 2011 since it provides an indispensable source of funding: almost all of the funding for IAST’s activities and for its dedicated research staff come from the LABEX. Thus, activities and achievements of IAST and of the LABEX IAST are indistinguishable. Practically everything IAST has achieved is part of the LABEX project. 

The long-term recruitment of IAST, fully financed by LABEX IAST, is based on senior chairs (currently three), four tenure-track positions, six visiting fellowships, and numerous 3-year post-doctoral research fellowships (currently 20, rising to 23 in 2017). Another 20-25 researchers, who are either TSE economists or belong to research units in other disciplines in Toulouse, are active in IAST. Thus, IAST can be assured of on a research faculty of about 55 active, Toulouse-based members, of which 45 are resident members located on IAST and TSE premises, as well as many regular long-term visitors.

The scientific program of IAST involves nine scientific disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences: anthropology, biology, economics, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology and sociology, joined in 2016 by a small number of researchers in mathematics. This is a unified scientific project that aims to study the behavior of human beings as evolved biological organisms who live in groups, form networks and coalitions, are governed by formal institutions and informal norms, produce and exchange scarce resources and are motivated by identities, ideals and beliefs.

The 2015 mid-term evaluation report of LABEX IAST resulted in a very positive assessment by the international jury: “This is a high-risk, high-potential project that can lead to transformative research in the long term, Intersection between economics, biology, psychology, and other fields, perfectly suited for funding by a public research agency. (...) There are few internationally comparable structures, so the LABEX creates a rather unique institution in the world (...). IAST can build on established TSE excellence in economics.” (Excerpts from the general comment).

New developments since 2015 include:

  • Three Tenure-track recruitments at IAST in disciplines outside economics;

  • An exponential increase in scientific activity and production: 38 conferences in the two and a half years since 2015, compared with 15 conferences in the period 2011-2014, and 75 publications in 2015 and 2016, compared with 52 publications in the period 2011-2014;

  • First steps to advance into graduate education: planned launch of an M2 in Economy and Biology by researchers at TSE and IAST, and creation of TSE-IAST doctoral fellowships for interdisciplinary projects (2016), among other measures; and

  • The launch in 2015 of the Digital Chair IAST-TSE, with the support of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and funding from companies such as Samsung, AccorHotels, Société Générale or Orange.

Since its launch just under six years ago, IAST has held 254 seminars, hosted 239 visitors (of whom 35 have stayed for a month or more), and has organized 53 conferences, of which 38 conferences since 2015. Its researchers have published 9 monographs and over 130 research papers.

From its launch, IAST has developed a number of collaborations with other research centers in France or abroad, including repeat joint workshops with the IEC Cognition LABEX in Paris, with ETH Zürich, with the SMS LABEX in Toulouse, a series of 3 annual Pyrenean Research Network events, a series of 4 annual conferences in political economy and political science, and a series of 5 annual conferences in economics and biology. A number of other one-time workshops have been organized.

The LABEX also helps IAST to fund its own communication and outreach strategy, including a professional and widely disseminated magazine (IAST Connect, twice annually), press articles and social media.

Beyond the initial LABEX funding and co-recruitment with institutional partners, IAST researchers have succeeded in gaining funds from other sources: two ERC grants, three ANR grants, two IDEX senior chairs and a smaller IDEX grant, an IUF grant, a private donation to fund a center in political science, as well as a digital research program with both private and public funding). IAST is involved in a major fundraising drive for 2016-2020, organized jointly with TSE.