Toolbox Response to the Nature Interdisciplinarity Issue (Volume 525, Number 7569, pp289-418)

October 26, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Communication, you maintain, is crucial to successful interdisciplinary research, and we couldn’t agree more. We believe that interdisciplinary collaborators should develop “constructive dialogue skills” that support trust, mutual learning, respectful deliberation, equality, and efficient knowledge transfer. Without these, collaborators will be hard pressed to achieve the integration of perspectives required to address complex problems. However, while the trial and error approach to fostering constructive dialogue may work for some groups (see Nature 525, 315–317; 2015), interdisciplinary collaborations typically involve busy people engaging in complex interactions who don’t have time to wait for the communicative magic to happen. Facilitated approaches to communication—specifically to constructive dialogue—can systematically reduce interdisciplinary transaction costs, enabling collaborators to appreciate alternative research perspectives, understand the distribution of values across an interdisciplinary project, and develop integrative research questions and project goals (see McDonald et al. Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods, ANU ePress, 2009). We are part of a US-NSF-supported interdisciplinary team that has developed a philosophical approach to facilitating constructive dialogue. Combining concepts drawn from the philosophy of science and epistemology with mixed methods social science, our “Toolbox” approach is built around structured dialogue in which collaborators articulate and share their scientific research worldviews (see M. O’Rourke & S. Crowley Synthese. 190, 1937-1954; 2013). In over 160 workshops during the past 10 years, we have deployed the Toolbox approach to increase the self-awareness and mutual understanding needed for team cohesion and effective communication. Our experience supports two conclusions: (1) interdisciplinary teams can systematically and efficiently develop the skills of constructive dialogue by utilizing dialogue-based methods from the outset, and (2) the humanities and social sciences can contribute to the intellectual merit of interdisciplinary science, participating in “genuine” disciplinary integration that is to everyone’s benefit (see Nature 525, 291; 2015).

-Michael O’Rourke, Stephanie E. Vasko, Brian Robinson

Toolbox @ The West Michigan Climate Resiliency Conference

October 1, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Next week in Grand Rapids, the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum is hosting The West Michigan Climate Resiliency Conference. We at the Toolbox Project are excited about this conference since they have invited us to be a significant part of the event. We will conduct a large-scale deployment of a unique Toolbox instrument during the conference.

Over the past year and in conjunction with the Rock Ethics Institute, we have interviewed a large number of individuals associated with the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum to assess what topics and issues regarding climate resiliency in West Michigan. We’ve taken this data and created a unique Toolbox instrument specifically for this audience. We will conduct both facilitated and non-facilitated workshops will all of the conference participants.

If you’re already coming the conference, we look forward to seeing you there. If not and you’re in the Grand Rapids area, you can show up that morning to register, so come.

Departing Post-Doc: Chad Gonnerman

July 3, 2014 at 4:26 am

cgonnermanWe are happy to announce that our Chad Gonnerman (who has been a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Michigan State working on the Toolbox) will be moving on to greener pastures. He has accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Indiana.

We are thankful that though he’s leaving Michigan State, he is not leaving the Toolbox Project. He plans to continue all the terrific research he started this past year.