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.
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!
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!
The Toolbox Project conducted two workshops at Columbia University’s College of Nursing. The Project partnered with Columbia’s Elaine Larson and Melissa Begg to work with the doctoral students enrolled in the “Building Interdisciplinary Research Models” course. Two Toolbox representatives, Michael O’Rourke (Michigan State) and Brian Robinson (Michigan State), facilitated two sessions with the students using the Health Sciences Toolbox Instrument. Contributors to the discussions were reflective, insightful, and willing to engage when their views diverged. Both sessions highlighted concepts (e.g., disease, control) that are central to interdisciplinary practice in the health sciences and could divide collaborators.
In a new development for the Toolbox Project, the class will experience an extended deployment of the Health Sciences Toolbox Instrument. This instrument consist of six modules: Motivation, Values, Reductionism, Research Approaches, Methodology, and Confirmation. Prompts in these modules focuses on specific related issues in health sciences. For each of the next six weeks, the class will spend a portion of their class time in small group discussion on one module. Amanda Hessels (Columbia) will lead these sessions.
We are happy to welcome Brian Robinson to the Toolbox Project as our new postdoctoral researcher. He will be joining Michael O’Rourke at Michigan State. He completed his PhD in 2011 at the City University of New York. He’s coming to us from grand Valley State University, where he has been a visiting professor for the last three years. We are excited about the contributions he will make to the project.
Today, Crowley and O’Rourke presented their work on “Cross-Disciplinary Research and the Epistemology of Disagreement” to the Philosophy Department of the University of Sydney.