The Toolbox at the Long-Term Ecological Research Network’s All Scientist Meeting

September 4, 2015 at 1:57 am

The 2015 LTER All Scientists Meeting took place August 30 through September 2 in Estes Park, Colorado ( Michael O’Rourke, Toolbox Project Director and member of the MSU Kellogg Biological Station LTER community, represented the project at the meeting. In addition to presenting a poster describing the work of the Toolbox Project, O’Rourke had a chance to explore the prospects for expanded collaboration of the project with LTER sites. There were also opportunities to reconnect with Dr. Frank Davis, Director of NCEAS ( and the new LTER National Communications Office and advisory panelist for the Toolbox Project on its first NSF award, as well as members of the GLEON group with whom the project has conducted a Toolbox workshop.

Toolbox-Overview_posterThe Toolbox Approach to Enhanced Collaboration, Communication, and Integration in Cross-Disciplinary Research

Michael O’Rourke, Brian Robinson, & Stephanie Vasko, Michigan State University

Cross-disciplinary research entails unique challenges due to differences among researchers’ disciplinary worldviews. These differences inhibit effective collaboration impeding clear communication. Cross-disciplinary researchers are often talking past one another. The Toolbox Project is a NSF-sponsored effort that uses philosophical concepts and methods to evaluate and facilitate improvement in communication and collaboration by cross-disciplinary and inter-professional groups (O’Rourke & Crowley 2013). The primary vehicle is the Toolbox workshop, which is a dialogue-based intervention designed to improve communication and collaboration by enhancing mutual and self-understanding of philosophical assumptions among collaborators. Since 2005, 160 workshops have been conducted for over 1,400 participants. Most workshops have involved groups with research or education missions. This poster summarizes the Toolbox approach, including examples from multiple Toolbox instruments, which serve as the focal point to dialogue-based intervention. We present quantitative and qualitative evidence demonstrating the effect of Toolbox workshops generally and for particular research groups. This includes our findings from a recent Toolbox workshop focusing on climate resiliency in West Michigan.