The Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP), located on the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California (UCSB), serves the diverse goals of theoretical physics via a unique mode of operation and structure. The combination of visiting research programs with a small permanent faculty and postdoctoral fellows enables interactions among visiting scientists to occur with lasting impact. As a largely peer-managed institute, with essential input in the planning and implementation of its research programs from the community, the KITP responds to new scientific opportunities, encourages transformational research, and promotes diversity by ensuring broad representation. The programs, which attract select groups of participants from institutions worldwide, are designed to enhance interaction and collaboration among participants in order to stimulate the vibrant, creative thinking that leads to insight and significant scientific progress. The KITP strives to reach out to new scientific communities and to foster inter-disciplinary research, at the crossroads between Physics and allied fields, such as Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, and Mathematics.
The research programs of the KITP cover all the traditional areas of theoretical physics: Condensed Matter Physics, Astrophysics, High-Energy and Particle Physics, String Theory and Mathematical Physics, Atomic Physics and Optics, Gravitational Physics and Relativity, as well as Biological Physics. The Advisory Board chooses KITP programs with a 1.5-2 year lead time, in response to proposals submitted by the community. The Board, which rotates membership on a three year cycle, is broadly representative of the national physics community, and is instrumental in conveying to the Institute the desires, the suggestions and the complaints of the community, as well as serving as a pool of potential organizers for programs. The choice of programs is dictated by the excellence of the science, the potential for successful advances, the timing of the program and the potential for synergy with programs running in parallel. Special attention is given to programs that span different fields, such as Atomic and Condensed Matter Physics, Quantum Information and Condensed Matter Physics, Quantum Field Theory and Mathematics, Biology. and Physics, and Climate Science. Almost all NSF funds are used to support the expenses of the visitors, the infrastructure of the programs and the KITP postdocs. In a typical year, the Institute runs 8-12 research programs, lasting 1-6 months long. At any given time there are two or three overlapping programs, with about 20-25 visitors resident in each program. This results in more than 1000 visitors per year and a total of approximately 23,000 visitor-days per year.
The Institute offers an exciting experience for young theorists. Postdoctoral fellows are exposed to more different aspects of theory and to more scientists than at any other institution, providing unique opportunities to develop broad perspectives and begin independent research. The Graduate Fellows program offers an opportunity for advanced graduate students matriculated elsewhere to spend 5-6 months participating in KITP activities and broadening their grasp of physics. Participating scientists at KITP can bring their students with them as Affiliates. All in all, there are about 10-20 graduate students at the KITP at any given time. In order to bring forefront physics to as large an audience as possible, the KITP has developed a web site that covers all Institute activities. Audio recordings, transparencies, PowerPoint, web-cam images, computer graphics, and video of all talks, seminars and the four yearly public lectures are posted on the Web. This archive now contains over 10,000 talks, and receives over 95,000,000 hits per year (including over 30 million hits on the public lectures), resulting in over 73,500 hours of audio streamed to the world. All program talks are recorded and all conference talks are put on the Web in almost real time. A Journalist-in-Residence program (supported by private funds) enables communicators of science to come to KITP for insight into what theoretical physicists are thinking and doing, and to share with interested scientists tips about communicating science. The KITP Scholars program supports the research efforts of faculty not working at major research institutions by funding two-week annual visits to KITP. The annual spring Secondary School Teachers conference brings teachers from around the United States to participate in talks and discussions on a topic associated with one of the concurrently running scientific programs.