This July, on the second day of the Summer School on Science, Values, and Democracy? at the Institut Wiener Kreis (University of Vienna), 25 graduate students participated in a Toolbox exercise. We (Mark Brown, Heather Douglas, and Andrew Jewett) assigned the exercise not because the students would be collaborating together on a research project, but because we needed a way for them to discuss their disciplinary differences, with the aim of improving discussion and debate among the students over the coming two weeks of the summer school. With students from political theory, history of science, philosophy of science, religious studies, and STS, such an exercise was definitely needed. We tailored it to explore different conceptions of science, politics, and philosophy, to get at likely differences within the cohort of students. And it worked. After the exercise, the students were more relaxed with each other, understanding better where their fellow students might be coming from, even if they did not agree with them. The Toolbox exercise cleared the air, and in place of potential suspicions, mutual respect became the standard tone in the discussions (over often contentious issues) in the days that followed. The Summer School was an intense teaching experience, and the Toolbox exercise made it a more rewarding one for all involved.
The Toolbox Project, an NSF-funded initiative based at Michigan State University that focuses on enhancing the quality of interdisciplinary team science, seeks candidates to fill a 12-month postdoctoral Research Fellow position beginning as soon as August 2016 but no later than January 2017. Candidates will be based in East Lansing, Michigan, with potential for negotiation. This is a one-year position, with the possibility of renewal for a second year.
The successful applicant will become part of an interdisciplinary team dedicated to investigating the use of philosophical concepts and methods to enhance communication and collaboration in interdisciplinary research. Responsibilities will be divided between (a) research on the communicative and collaborative aspects of cross-disciplinary team science in a variety of contexts, e.g., traditional social and biophysical science, health science, environmental science, (b) dissemination of research results in publications and presentations, and (c) delivery of Toolbox workshops and the collection of associated data. There will be opportunities to work with high-profile groups and institutions in the US and internationally. The successful applicant will also be expected to continue their own scholarship, and will receive support for those activities.