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New Member Monday: Dr. Marisa Rinkus

March 6, 2017 at 8:00 am

Dr. Marisa Rinkus joined the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative in January 2017 as a postdoctoral research assistant. She holds a PhD and an MS in Fisheries and Wildlife, Human Dimensions focus, with specializations in International Development and Gender, Justice, and Environmental Change from Michigan State University, and a BS in Wildlife Science from Purdue University. Her interest in the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative (TDI) lies in the acknowledgment of scientific research as a human endeavor and the importance of communication and collaboration in pushing knowledge production forward.

In her role as Research Associate, Dr. Rinkus will be establishing a longitudinal study to examine the short and long-term impacts of TDI on individuals, research teams, and institutions. This study will focus on process, with the goal of understanding how an impact was achieved. Her area of study is community participation in conservation, particularly in an international development context, with a focus on understanding community social structure (including aspects of gender, race, and class) in order to better engage people in conservation. Dr. Rinkus hopes to apply insights from the TDI process to improve communication and collaboration among diverse stakeholders in conservation research and management.

New Member Monday: Dr. Anna Malavisi

February 27, 2017 at 6:10 pm

Dr. Anna Malavisi joined the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative in January 2017 as a postdoctoral research assistant. Dr. Malavisi holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a Masters in Health and International Development. She joined TDI because of the potential impact TDI can have within the area of global development and humanitarian aid. Dr. Malavisi brings 16 years of experience as a development practitioner and is interested in bridging the gap between the theory and practice, particularly between philosophers and development professionals. Her role within TDI is to extend TDI efforts to global research initiatives on the MSU campus and to institutions working in the area of global development and humanitarian aid.

Additionally, she will be focusing on coupling ethical and epistemic issues within global development and humanitarian aid from a feminist methodological standpoint. Her personal research includes the above, however will extend to influence policy, particularly in respect to increasing responsibility and accountability of our social institutions.

Using the Toolbox Method to Prepare the Next-Gen Scientific Workforce for Grand Challenges in Social Work

February 16, 2017 at 4:19 pm

In Gehlert, Hall, and Palinkas’ “Preparing Our Next-Generation Scientific Workforce to Address the Grand Challenges for Social Work” in Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, the authors state in the abstract that “We identify the major challenges entailed in this ambitious agenda and highlight strategies for successfully conducting coordinated team science that spans disciplines and extends across the entire translational continuum.” In the section titled “Strategies for Mitigating Collaborative Challenges and Facilitating Success,” Gehlert et al. mention Hall et al.s’ 2012 ten component collaboration planning framework. The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, here mentioned by our old name (the Toolbox Project), is discussed as an example tool to help with the seventh component, “conflict prevention and management.”

We extend a deep thanks to the author team for their support of our method as a way to help in the preparation of the next generation of scientific workforce tackling grand challenges in social work and for enabling successful collaborations between members of this generation.

We at the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative are always grateful to our current and former collaborators, colleagues, and participants and always looking for new and exciting collaborations! Please contact us at if you are interested!

Full paper info:
Sarah Gehlert, Kara L. Hall, and Lawrence A.Palinkas, “Preparing Our Next-Generation Scientific Workforce to Address the Grand Challenges for Social Work,” Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research 8, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 119-136.


Toolbox in Vienna

July 28, 2016 at 3:41 am

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.

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Team Science

July 26, 2016 at 3:36 am

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.

3rd Annual Consortium for Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering

May 22, 2016 at 6:53 pm

At the 3rd Annual Consortium for Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering (SRPoiSE) meeting at the University of Texas at Dallas, the Toolbox Project was well represented. First, we kicked of the program with a Toolbox workshop to facilitate a meta-philosophical dialogue for the SRPoiSE community. We employed a new instrument developed specifically for SRPoiSE that focused on the nature of philosophy, the nature of science, engaged philosophy, and philosophical dialogue. Brian Robinson led the workshop and was joined by Stephen Crowley (Boise State), Chad Gonnerman (Southern Indiana), Zach Piso (Michigan State), and Kathryn Plaisance (Waterloo) to facilitate five dialogue groups.

Then, Brian Robinson (Michigan State), Michael O’Rourke (Michigan State), and Chad Gonnerman (Southern Indiana) presented two works in progress, “Philosophy of Science as a Hindrance to Scientific Integration” and “Philosophy as Facilitator, not Gadfly: Philosophical Dialogue, Mutual Understanding, and Collaborative Science”.

Toolbox Workshop: Winnebago County Illinois Land Perspective

February 26, 2016 at 2:31 am

On January 30, 2016, Dr. Graham Hubbs from the University of Idaho moderated a toolbox workshop for landowners and land managers in Winnebago County, Illinois. The purpose of the toolbox was to explore how different types of farmers, land owners, and environmentalists view the relationship between agricultural practices and environmental concerns within the social confide of their evolving community. A specific instrument was designed to help organize thoughts as well as serve as discussion topics for the community representatives that participated. During the toolbox presentation, Dr. Hubbs guided participants to focus on the theme of the workshop and not rely on negative stereotypes that can erode the ability to work toward a common goal. The discussion period of the workshop was lively and amicable and participants all felt the need for a greater awareness and sense of community within any discipline of land user in the county. Future toolbox workshops will focus on action items that can be used towards the common ideological grounds uncovered in the first workshop.

Recent Toolbox Publication in Cogent Arts and Humanities

February 16, 2016 at 9:46 pm

The Toolbox Project has a new publication, “Human values and the value of humanities in interdisciplinary research,” recently published in Cogent Arts & Humanities. It’s open access, so check it out!

Toolbox Workshop for Antimicrobial Resistance Mitigation Research at MSU

January 31, 2016 at 2:11 pm

On January 19, 2016, Dr. Vasko facilitated a Toolbox workshop for researchers at Michigan State University who are interested in antimicrobial resistance mitigation (AMRM) research and in collaboratively writing a grant together. We created a Toolbox instrument specifically for this group by using survey data, discussions with grant leadership, and documentation from previous grant efforts. This workshop focused on fostering collaboration and communication within the AMRM research team and on addressing grant specific needs, such as methodology, stakeholders, education, and outreach.   During the workshop itself, Dr. O’Rourke recorded speaking turns and Dr. Robinson observed. The debrief discussion at the end of the workshop focused briefly on impressions of the Toolbox workshop, but was used by collaborators primarily as space to synthesize the ideas that came up in the Toolbox dialogue and create some concrete steps for moving forward with the grant writing process.

We look forward to future work with this community here at MSU!

Toolbox at the Ecosystems Impacts of Oil & Gas Inputs to the Gulf (ECOGIG)-2 All-Hands Meeting

December 10, 2015 at 4:44 pm

This past weekend, Drs. O’Rourke and Vasko traveled to Athens, GA for the Ecosystems Impacts of Oil & Gas Inputs to the Gulf (ECOGIG)-2 All-Hands meeting. According to ECOGIG’s website, they are “…one of eight research consortia awarded grants by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), a 20-member independent research board created to allocate the $500 million committed by BP for independent research programs following the April 20, 2010, Macondo well blowout.” On Saturday, December 5, Drs. O’Rourke and Vasko facilitated two Toolbox workshops for PIs on the ECOGIG project that focused on fostering collaboration and communication within the ECOGIG PI team. These workshops marked the debut of our new online Toolbox app. An ECOGIG-specific science communication and team communication survey was also implemented during the workshop, with live results presented to participants. Our end of the day discussions brought both workshops together to discuss the Toolbox instrument, the survey, and issues of communication and collaboration within ECOGIG.

Additionally, as part of both ECOGIG and Dr. Vasko’s* commitment to graduate education, Dr. Vasko ran a separate workshop for the ECOGIG graduate students and postdocs on the morning of Sunday, December 6.

We look forward to our continuing work with ECOGIG-2!

*See S.E. Vasko. “The Alternative Career is no Longer Alternative.” Physics Today (6 August 2014). http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/news/10.1063/PT.5.2016