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 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

Toolbox Presentations at the Nanoinformatics Workshop 2015 & Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization Conference 2015

November 18, 2015 at 7:26 pm

Drs. Michael O’Rourke and Stephanie E. Vasko traveled to Portland, OR from November 6-9, 2015 to participate in the 2015 Nanoinformatics Workshop & 2015 Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization (SNO) Conference . O’Rourke’s presented at the Nanoinformatics Workshop, introducing ways that the Toolbox Project could be involved in this community and the contribution, by way of an observation-based survey, of the Toolbox Project to the Nanoinformatics Workshop over the weekend.

Vasko’s talk on the first day of the SNO Conference (“Applying The Toolbox Project for Research Community Building: Early Thoughts and Planning Processes”) introduced the wider SNO community to the Toolbox approach and presented some of the preliminary findings of a short survey on zeta potential measurements, reproducibility, and relevance. The Toolbox Project is looking forward to continuing our interactions with the Nanoinformatics and SNO communities!

Toolbox at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature

November 8, 2015 at 3:13 am

RIHN-posterDrs. Michael O’Rourke and Brian  recently spoke and conducted Toolbox workshops with the environmental researchers at the national Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN) in Kyoto, Japan

On the first day, they spoke on problems of communication and collaboration in cross-disciplinary research. As a way of introducing the problem, Robinson compared inter- and transdisciplinary research (collectively cross-disciplinary research, CDR) to the game Double Cranko, which comes from an old episode of M*A*S*H. The game is a cross between chess, checker, poker, and gin (both the drink and the rummy).RIHN2There are no rules; players make them up as they go along. The problem for CDR is much worse. Imagine 2 scientists from different disciplines working on a research project and 2 non-research stakeholders in that project (say one from government and another from business). Each knows one game only, and all the rules, terms, and objectives of that game. In collaborating on this project, they have to develop a way to integrate 4 different games (chess, checker, poker, and gin) into one game. But they don’t even speak the same game language. A point O’Rourke and Robinson emphasized over the two days with the RIHN researchers is the need for a co-creation of meaning of ambiguous terms or concepts for effective collaboration.

In the morning workshop of the first day, O’Rourke and Robinson facilitated dialogues among the researchers to begin that process of co-creation of meaning. They had to negotiate various ambiguous terms that we gave them in a set of prompts. In the afternoon session, the researchers broke into their research teams to produce a concept map of their projects from which to find project-specific ambiguous terms or concepts that will have to be negotiated with their projects’ non-research stakeholders.

[cross-posted at brobinson.info]

The Toolbox at the Long-Term Ecological Research Network’s All Scientist Meeting

September 4, 2015 at 1:57 am

The 2015 LTER All Scientists Meeting took place August 30 through September 2 in Estes Park, Colorado (http://asm2015.lternet.edu). Michael O’Rourke, Toolbox Project Director and member of the MSU Kellogg Biological Station LTER community, represented the project at the meeting. In addition to presenting a poster describing the work of the Toolbox Project, O’Rourke had a chance to explore the prospects for expanded collaboration of the project with LTER sites. There were also opportunities to reconnect with Dr. Frank Davis, Director of NCEAS (https://www.nceas.ucsb.edu) and the new LTER National Communications Office and advisory panelist for the Toolbox Project on its first NSF award, as well as members of the GLEON group with whom the project has conducted a Toolbox workshop.

Toolbox-Overview_posterThe Toolbox Approach to Enhanced Collaboration, Communication, and Integration in Cross-Disciplinary Research

Michael O’Rourke, Brian Robinson, & Stephanie Vasko, Michigan State University

Cross-disciplinary research entails unique challenges due to differences among researchers’ disciplinary worldviews. These differences inhibit effective collaboration impeding clear communication. Cross-disciplinary researchers are often talking past one another. The Toolbox Project is a NSF-sponsored effort that uses philosophical concepts and methods to evaluate and facilitate improvement in communication and collaboration by cross-disciplinary and inter-professional groups (O’Rourke & Crowley 2013). The primary vehicle is the Toolbox workshop, which is a dialogue-based intervention designed to improve communication and collaboration by enhancing mutual and self-understanding of philosophical assumptions among collaborators. Since 2005, 160 workshops have been conducted for over 1,400 participants. Most workshops have involved groups with research or education missions. This poster summarizes the Toolbox approach, including examples from multiple Toolbox instruments, which serve as the focal point to dialogue-based intervention. We present quantitative and qualitative evidence demonstrating the effect of Toolbox workshops generally and for particular research groups. This includes our findings from a recent Toolbox workshop focusing on climate resiliency in West Michigan.

Toolbox Presentations at SciTS 2015 at NIH

June 7, 2015 at 5:00 pm

The Toolbox Project was well represented by Stephen Crowley (Boise State) and Brian Robinson (Michigan State) at the recent Science of Team Science (SciTS) 2015 conference at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Crowley’s presentation (“Let’s Talk about It – How Dialogue Supports Integration”) focused on the various ways in which dialogue (particularly as conducted in a Toolbox workshop) can foster epistemic integration among cross-disciplinary researchers. Robinson’s talk (“Diagnosis Differences among Disciplinary Worldviews”) presented some of the preliminary findings of philosophical differences between various branches of sciences, based upon data collected during Toolbox workshops.

Toolbox at NORDP

April 30, 2015 at 1:27 am

On April 29, 2015, the Toolbox Project joined forces with Holly Falk-Krzesinski (Elsevier, Northwestern University) to deliver a workshop, “Collaborative Communication for Team Science”, at the 2015 National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) Annual Research Development Conference in Bethesda, MD (). The 4-hour workshop involved 35 participants from the NORDP community, who received a “train-the-trainer” exposure to the Toolbox dialogue method. After an opening introduction to the approach, the participants divided into three groups and participated in introductory Toolbox dialogue sessions facilitated by Steve Crowley (Toolbox Project, Boise State), Michael O’Rourke (Toolbox Project, MSU), and Dr. Falk-Krzesinski. The workshop concluded with activities and discussions designed to identify ways in which this approach could prove useful for trainees and investigators at their home institutions.

Toolbox in K-12

April 16, 2015 at 1:58 am

Following up from our presentation and mini-workshop last fall at the Kellogg Biological Station, Brian Robinson (Toolbox Project, MSU) and Michael O’Rourke (Toolbox Project, MSU) returned to KBS for their annual K-12 Partnership Workshop. This event was attended by regional K-12  teachers. Robinson and O’Rourke delivered a mini-workshop, “Science Lost in Translation” with these teachers, in order to present the Toolbox approach and discuss with them how it might be implemented in K-12 classrooms. Approximately 26 teachers attended two sessions of the workshop, and they gave enthusiastic reviews of their experience.

Toolbox and K-12

November 25, 2014 at 4:26 am

toolbox_logoLast Friday Michael O’Rourke and Brian Robinson presented the Toolbox Project to the Kellogg Biological Station’s GK-12 Bioenergy Sustainability Project. This project is Michigan State’s program (funded by the National Science Foundation) that puts Graduate STEM students in K-12 classrooms. We got to hear about some of the exciting experiments on bioenergy sustainability that they are doing with the kids to help teach how science is done (as opposed to just conveying scientific findings).

gk126Michael and Brian presented the Toolbox methodology and ran the grad students through an abbreviated Toolbox Workshop. Since the graduate students come from a variety of STEM fields, what their doing is a kind of interdisciplinary endeavor, albeit pedagogical instead of research. We had them complete Toolbox modules on the purpose of science and confirmation and then dialogue on those topics. As we hoped, a variety of views were expressed. As they talked, several of them verbally expressed that articulating their assumptions about science grew harder as the dialogue proceeded. This was precisely our goal, as we believe it will help them as science communicators.

After the presentation and workshop, we discussed with the grad students the possibility of using the Toolbox method for facilitated dialogues in the classroom (with modified, easier prompts) or for training K-12 science teachers. Both ideas were well received and the grad students gave some great feedback and ideas. Both of these would be exciting new avenues to expand the Toolbox into and we may have updates next term on our efforts.


cross-posted on Brian Robinson’s site: Ceteris Paribus

Toolbox at the ASC, CSSA, and SSSA Annual Meeting

November 18, 2014 at 8:25 pm

On November 15 at the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Soil Science Society of America, & Soil Science Society of America International Annual Meeting, Jodi Johnson-Maynard (Idaho) presented work on behalf of the Toolbox and Drs. O’Rourke (Michigan State), Robinson (Michigan State), Janet Rachlow (Idaho), and Eigenbrode (Idaho).

The presentation (“Building Interdisciplinary Communication Skills”) focuses on the collaboration of the Toolbox Project and the University of Idaho’s CRISSP Research Undergraduate Experience (REU). REU has been employing Toolbox workshops for several years now to help train their students in interdisciplinary communication. We reported some new findings on successful outcomes of the Toolbox workshop with these undergraduates.