Research

Publications

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20) E. K. Read, M. O’Rourke, G. S. Hong, P. C. Hanson, L. A. Winslow, S. Crowley, C. A. Brewer, K. C. Weathers. (2016). Building the team for team science. Ecosphere. Available online.DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1291

Abstract

The ability to effectively exchange information and develop trusting, collaborative relationships across disciplinary boundaries is essential for 21st century scientists charged with solving complex and large-scale societal and environmental challenges, yet these communication skills are rarely taught. Here, we describe an adaptable training program designed to increase the capacity of scientists to engage in information exchange and relationship development in team science settings. A pilot of the program, developed by a leader in ecological network science, the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), indicates that the training program resulted in improvement in early career scientists’ confidence in team-based network science collaborations within and outside of the program. Fellows in the program navigated human-network challenges, expanded communication skills, and improved their ability to build professional relationships, all in the context of producing collaborative scientific outcomes. Here, we describe the rationale for key communication training elements and provide evidence that such training is effective in building essential team science skills.

19) Pennock, R. T., O’Rourke, M. (2016). Developing a scientific virtue-based approach to science ethics training. Science and Engineering Ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics. Available online. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11948-016-9757-2.

Abstract

Responsible conduct of research training typically includes only a subset of the issues that ought to be included in science ethics and sometimes makes ethics appear to be a set of externally imposed rules rather than something intrinsic to scientific practice. A new approach to science ethics training based upon Pennock’s notion of the scientific virtues may help avoid such problems. This paper motivates and describes three implementations—theory-centered, exemplar-centered, and concept-centered—that we have developed in courses and workshops to introduce students to this scientific virtue-based approach.

18) Robinson, B., Vasko, S. E., Gonnerman, C., Christen, M., O’Rourke, M. (2015). Human values and the value of humanities in interdisciplinary research. Cogent Arts & Humanities 3(1).

Abstract

Research integrating the perspectives of different disciplines, or interdisciplinary research, has become increasingly common in academia and is considered important for its ability to address complex questions and problems. This mode of research aims to leverage differences among disciplines in generating a more complex understanding of the research landscape. To interact successfully with other disciplines, researchers must appreciate their differences, and this requires recognizing how the research landscape looks from the perspective of other disciplines. One central aspect of these disciplinary perspectives involves values, and more specifically, the roles that values do, may, and should play in research practice. It is reasonable to 15 think that disciplines differ in part because of the different views that their practitioners have on these roles. This paper represents a step in the direction of evaluating this thought. Operating at the level of academic branches, which comprise relevantly similar disciplines (e.g. social and behavioral sciences), this paper uses quantitative techniques to investigate whether academic branches differ in terms of views on 20 the impact of values on research. Somewhat surprisingly, we find very little relation between differences in these views and differences in academic branch. We discuss these findings from a philosophical perspective to conclude the paper.

17) Hessels, A. J., Robinson B., O’Rourke M., Begg M. D., and Larson, E. L. (2015). Building Interdisciplinary Research Models Through Interactive Education. Clinical and Translational Science 8(6): 793–799. Available online. DOI: 10.1111/cts.12354.

Abstract

Background
Critical interdisciplinary research skills include effective communication with diverse disciplines and cultivating collaborative relationships. Acquiring these skills during graduate education may foster future interdisciplinary research quality and productivity.

Objective
The project aim was to develop and evaluate an interactive Toolbox workshop approach within an interprofessional graduate level course to enhance student learning and skill in interdisciplinary research. We sought to examine the student experience of integrating the Toolbox workshop in modular format over the duration of a 14-week course.

Methods
The Toolbox Health Sciences Instrument includes six modules that were introduced in a 110-minute dialogue session during the first class and then integrated into the course in a series of six individual workshops in three phases over the course of the semester.

Results
Seventeen students participated; the majority were nursing students. Three measures were used to assess project outcomes: pre–post intervention Toolbox survey, competency self-assessment, and a postcourse survey. All measures indicated the objectives were met by a change in survey responses, improved competencies, and favorable experience of the Toolbox modular intervention.

Conclusion
Our experience indicates that incorporating this Toolbox modular approach into research curricula can enhance individual level scientific capacity, future interdisciplinary research project success, and ultimately impact on practice and policy.

16) O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S., Gonnerman, C. (2015). On the nature of cross-disciplinary integration: A philosophical framework. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. Available online. DOI: doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.10.003.

Abstract

Meeting grand challenges requires responses that constructively combine multiple forms of expertise, both academic and non-academic; that is, it requires cross-disciplinary integration. But just what is cross-disciplinary integration? In this paper, we supply a preliminary answer by reviewing prominent accounts of cross-disciplinary integration from two literatures that are rarely brought together: cross-disciplinarity and philosophy of biology. Reflecting on similarities and differences in these accounts, we develop a framework that integrates their insights—integration as a generic combination process the details of which are determined by the specific contexts in which particular integrations occur. One such context is cross-disciplinary research, which yields cross-disciplinary integration. We close by reflecting on the potential applicability of this framework to research efforts aimed at meeting grand challenges.

15) Gonnerman, C., O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S. J., Hall, T. E. (2015). Discovering philosophical assumptions that guide action research: The reflexive Toolbox approach. In H. Bradbury Huang and P. Reason (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Action Research, 3rd edition.

Abstract

Reflexivity is a complex phenomenon. In this chapter, we are primarily interested in reflex- ivity as a process of discovering for oneself and one’s audiences the perspectival features (e.g. background assumptions, social posi- tions, and biases) that shape one’s judgments, decisions, and behaviors. So understood, reflexivity isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes thinking can get in the way of doing. (Downhill ski racing springs to mind.) But for some activities, such as action research, reflexivity is critical for doing the activity well with others. While the value of reflexiv- ity for action research is well understood, we believe that there is a form of reflexivity underappreciated in some research circles – philosophical reflexivity. In this chapter, we outline this form, argue for its importance in sound action research, and offer a technique, the Toolbox approach, for facilitating it.

14)Donovan, S. M., O’Rourke, M., Looney, C. (2015). Your hypothesis or mine? Terminological and conceptual variation across disciplines. SAGE Open. 5(2): 1-13. DOI: 10.1177/2158244015586237.

Abstract

Cross-disciplinary research (CDR) is a necessary response to many current pressing problems, yet CDR practitioners face diverse research challenges. Communication challenges can limit a CDR team’s ability to collaborate effectively, including differing use of scientific terms among teammates. To illustrate this, we examine the conceptual complexity and cross-disciplinary ambiguity of the termhypothesis as it is used by researchers participating in 16 team building workshops. These workshops assist CDR teams in finding common ground about fundamental research assumptions through philosophically structured dialogue. Our results show that team members often have very different perceptions about the nature of hypotheses, the role of hypotheses in science, and the use of hypotheses within different disciplines. Furthermore, we find that such assumptions can be rooted in disciplinary-based training. These data indicate that potentially problematic terminological differences exist within CDR teams, and exercises that reveal this early in the collaborative process may be beneficial.

13) Fisher, E., O’Rourke, M., Evans, R., Kennedy, E. B., Gorman, M. E. Mapping the integrative field: taking stock of socio-technical collaboration. (2015). Journal of Responsible Innovation. DOI: 10.1080/23299460.2014.1001671.

Abstract

Responsible innovation requires that scientific and other expert practices be responsive to society. We take stock of various collaborative approaches to socio-technical integration that seek to broaden the societal contexts technical experts take into account during their routine activities. Part of a larger family of engaged scholarship that includes inter- and transdisciplinarity as well as stakeholder and public engagement, we distinguish collaborative socio-technical integration in terms of its proximity to and transformation of expert practices. We survey a variety of approaches that differ widely in terms of their integrative methods, conceptions of societal context, roles, and aspirations for intervention. Taking a handful of “communities of integration” as exemplars, we then provide a framework for comparing the forms, means, and ends of collaborative integration. We conclude by reflecting on some of the main features of, and tensions within, this developing arena of practical inquiry and engagement and what this suggests for integrative efforts aimed at responsible innovation.

12) Knowlton, J. L., Halvorsen, K. E., Handler, R. M., O’Rourke, M. (2014). Teaching interdisciplinary sustainability science teamwork skills to graduate students using in-person and web-based interactions. Sustainability 6(12): 9428-9440; doi:10.3390/su6129428.

Abstract

Interdisciplinary sustainability science teamwork skills are essential for addressing the world’s most pressing and complex sustainability problems, which inherently have social, natural, and engineering science dimensions. Further, because sustainability science problems exist at global scales, interdisciplinary science teams will need to consist of international members who communicate and work together effectively. Students trained in international interdisciplinary science skills will be able to hit the ground running when they obtain jobs requiring them to tackle sustainability problems. While many universities now have sustainability science programs, few offer courses that are interdisciplinary and international in scope. In the fall semester of 2013, we piloted a course for graduate students entitled “Principles of Interdisciplinary Sustainability Research” at Michigan Technological University. This course was part of our United States National Science Foundation Partnerships in International Research and Education project on bioenergy development impacts across the Americas. In this case study, we describe the course development and implementation, share critical insights from our experience teaching the course and student learning outcomes, and give recommendations for future similar courses.

11) Hall, T. E., O’Rourke, M. (2014). Responding to communication challenges in transdisciplinary sustainability science. In K. Huutoniemi & P. Tapio (Eds.), Heuristics for Transdisciplinary Sustainability Studies: Solution-oriented Approaches to Complex Problems. Oxford: Routledge.

Abstract

Coming Soon

10) Looney, C., Donovan, S., O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S., Eigenbrode, S. D., Rotschy, L., Bosque-Pérez, N. A., Wulfhorst, J. D. (2013). Seeing through the eyes of collaborators: Using Toolbox workshops to enhance cross-disciplinary communication. In M. O’Rourke, S. Crowley, S. D. Eigenbrode, and J. D., Wulfhorst (eds.) Enhancing Communication and Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Abstract

The emerging literature on the challenges of cross-disciplinary research emphasizes the critical importance of effective communication to project success, but mechanisms for developing such communication remain scarce. This chapter presents one approach to improving communication in cross-disciplinary research teams—the Toolbox method, a dialogue method rooted in the philosophy of science. Disparate views about the nature of phenomena studied and methods of inquiry can make research communication challenging for cross-disciplinary teams of scientific collaborators. The Toolbox method uses a philosophically based questionnaire in a workshop set- ting to guide dialogue about the nature and practice of science. This dialogue promotes understanding of diverse research worldviews within a team and helps participants identify potential conflict as well as common ground. The workshop can also reveal communication dynamics while helping build trust and mutual respect. This chapter provides background information on the nature and usefulness of the Toolbox, offers instructions for preparing and running a Toolbox workshop, outlines the necessary personnel and their roles, and provides examples of how to conduct a successful session. Follow-up activities and suggestions for using workshop results to improve team function and dynamics are also provided.

9) Crowley, S., Eigenbrode, S. D., O’Rourke, M., Wulfhorst, J. D. (2013). Introduction. In M. O’Rourke, S. Crowley, S. D. Eigenbrode, and J. D., Wulfhorst (eds.) Enhancing Communication and Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Abstract

Coming Soon

8) O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S., Eigenbrode, S. D., Wulfhorst, J. D. (2013). Enhancing Communication and Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Book Description

Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research, edited by  Michael O’Rourke, Stephen Crowley, Sanford D. Eigenbrode, and J. D. Wulfhorst, is a volume of previously unpublished, state-of-the-art chapters on interdisciplinary communication and collaboration written by leading figures and promising junior scholars in the world of interdisciplinary research, education, and administration. Designed to inform both teaching and research, this innovative book covers the spectrum of interdisciplinary activity, offering a timely emphasis on collaborative interdisciplinary work. The book’s four main parts focus on theoretical perspectives, case studies, communication tools, and institutional perspectives, while a final chapter ties together the various strands that emerge in the book and defines trend-lines and future research questions for those conducting work on interdisciplinary communication.

7) Williams, C., O’Rourke, M., Eigenbrode, S. D., O’Loughlin, I., Crowley, S. (2013). Williams, C., O’Rourke, M., Eigenbrode, S. D., O’Loughlin, I., Crowley, S. (2013). Using bibliometrics to support the facilitation of cross-disciplinary communication. Journal of the American Society of Information Science and Technology 64(9): 1768-1779. DOI: 10.1002/asi.22874.

Abstract

Given the importance of cross-disciplinary research (CDR), facilitating CDR effectiveness is a priority for many institutions and funding agencies. There are a number of CDR types, however, and the effectiveness of facilitation efforts will require sensitivity to that diversity. This article presents a method characterizing a spectrum of CDR designed to inform facilitation efforts that relies on bibliometric techniques and citation data. We illustrate its use by the Toolbox Project, an ongoing effort to enhance cross-disciplinary communication in CDR teams through structured, philosophical dialogue about research assumptions in a workshop setting. Toolbox Project workshops have been conducted with more than 85 research teams, but the project’s extensibility to an objectively characterized range of CDR collaborations has not been examined. To guide wider application of the Toolbox Project, we have developed a method that uses multivariate statistical analyses of transformed citation proportions from published manuscripts to identify candidate areas of CDR, and then overlays information from previous Toolbox participant groups on these areas to determine candidate areas for future application. The approach supplies 3 results of general interest:

1. A way to employ small data sets and familiar statistical techniques to characterize CDR spectra as a guide to scholarship on CDR pat- terns and trends.

2. A model for using bibliometric techniques to guide broadly applicable interventions similar to the Toolbox.

3. Amethodforidentifyingthelocationofcollaborative CDR teams on a map of scientific activity, of use to research administrators, research teams, and other efforts to enhance CDR projects.

6) O’Rourke, M. (2013). Philosophy as a theoretical foundation for I2S. In G. Bammer, Disciplining Interdisciplinarity: Integration and Implementation Sciences for Researching Complex Real-World Problems, Canberra: ANU E Press.

5) O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S.  (2012). Philosophical intervention and cross-disciplinary science: The story of the Toolbox Project. Synthese, doi: 10.1007/s11229-012-0175-y.

Abstract

In this article we argue that philosophy can facilitate improvement in cross-disciplinary science. In particular, we discuss in detail the Toolbox Project, an effort in applied epistemology that deploys philosophical analysis for the purpose of enhancing collaborative, cross-disciplinary scientific research through improvements in cross-disciplinary communication. We begin by sketching the scientific context within which the Toolbox Project operates, a context that features a growing interest in and commitment to cross-disciplinary research (CDR). We then develop an argument for the leading idea behind this effort, namely, that philosophical dialogue can improve cross-disciplinary science by effecting epistemic changes that lead to better group communication. On the heels of this argument, we describe our approach and its output; in particular, we emphasize the Toolbox instrument that generates philosophical dialogue and the Toolbox workshop in which that dialogue takes place. Together, these constitute a philosophical intervention into the life of CDR teams. We conclude by considering the philosophical implications of this intervention.

4) Schnapp, L. M., Rotschy, L., Hall, T. E., Crowley, S., O’Rourke, M. (2012). How to talk to strangers: Facilitating knowledge sharing within translational health teams with the Toolbox dialogue method.  Translational Behavioral Medicine, 2(4): 469-479. doi: 10.1007/s13142-012-0171-2.

Abstract

Translational behavioral medicine involves experts from different disciplines and professions interacting to solve complex problems. Coordinating this expertise can be frustrated by the partially tacit nature of expertise and by the various ways in which it manifests in different communities. We describe a method—the Toolbox dialogue method—for addressing these challenges by means of a structured dialogue among team members concerning their respective approaches to complex problems. The Toolbox dialogue method consists of a philosophically grounded questionnaire—the “Toolbox”—deployed in workshops by collaborators from different disciplines and professions. The Health Science Toolbox was modified from an extensively utilized questionnaire designed for Science–Technology–Engineering–Mathematics (STEM) research and has been piloted with translational medicine teams. Eighty-five percent of participants in STEM workshops indicated a positive impact on awareness of the knowledge, opinions, or scientific approach of teammates. In the Health Science Toolbox, 35 % of questionnaire responses changed substantially from pre- to post-workshop, demonstrating impact of the workshops. The Toolbox dialogue method is a relatively brief workshop encounter that can have a positive impact on mutual understanding within translational medicine teams.

3) Crowley, S. (2011). NEH panel: A model for philosophers. Complex Adaptive Systems: Energy, Information and Intelligence: Papers from the 2011 AAAI Fall Symposium (FS-11-03). Palo Alto, CA: AAAI.

Abstract

Cross-disciplinary research (CDR) is an increasingly important part of the contemporary research ‘landscape’. Despite its growing importance there remain a large number of barriers to successful CDR and many of these barriers are poorly understood. In particular there are challenges at the conceptual and communicative levels that have relatively little attention. In this paper it is argued that these challenges are appropriate topics of analysis for philosophers. Appropriate methodologies for such an inquiry are considered and the case is made that agent based models (ABM’s) are an appropriate and under utilized resource. Current research using an ABM approach to philosophical issues in CDR is then described.

2) Crowley, S., Eigenbrode, S. D., O’Rourke, M., Wulfhorst, J. D. (2010). Localization in Cross-Disciplinary Research: A Philosophical Approach, Multilingual, 114.

Abstract

Localization aims to adapt a product so that it feels “natural” to end-users in a target locale. This suggests that without localization, the product will feel foreign due to differences in knowledge — epistemic differences — between the source and target locales. These differences arise because culture and language frame how we understand our experiences and how we think of ourselves as a collective. Classic exam- ples of localization are international, involving differences in language and culture, but local- ization can be required intra-nationally when the nation in question comprises more than one language and culture, as is true of many contemporary nation-states. The United States is certainly one of these nations embedding a large number of indigenous and imported lan- guages and overlapping cultures.

1) Eigenbrode, S.D., O’Rourke, M., Wulfhorst, J.D., Althoff, D.M., Goldberg, C.S., Merrill, K., Morse W., Nielsen-Pincus, M., Stephens, J., Winowiecki, L., Bosque-Pérez, N.  (2007). Employing Philosophical Dialogue in Collaborative Science. (2007). Bioscience 57(1):55-64.

Abstract

Integrated research across disciplines is required to address many of the pressing environmental problems facing human societies. Often the integration involves disparate disciplines, including those in the biological sciences, and demands collaboration from problem formulation through hypothesis development, data analysis, interpretation, and application. Such projects raise conceptual and methodological challenges that are new to many researchers in the biological sciences and to their collaborators in other disciplines. In this article, we develop the theme that many of these challenges are fundamentally philosophical, a dimension that has been largely overlooked in the extensive literature on cross-disciplinary research and education. We present a “toolbox for philosophical dialogue,” consisting of a set of questions for self-examination that cross-disciplinary collaborators can use to identify and address their philosophical disparities and commonalities. We provide a brief user’s manual for this toolbox and evidence for its effectiveness in promoting successful integration across disciplines.