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.

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

The Toolbox Project “in” Amani, Tanzania

December 2, 2015 at 2:33 am

Michael O’Rourke and Sanford Eigenbrode conducted a Toolbox workshop with the Woody Weeds Project on 29 November 2015, checking in virtually with the group during their project meeting in Amani, Tanzania. This marked the second dialogue-based workshop that the Toolbox Project has conducted with Woody Weeds, and was the first involving a Toolbox instrument designed by and for the group. Together with several members of the Woody Weeds Project team, Sanford and Michael developed the new “Woody Weeds Toolbox” to address methodological, cultural, and institutional challenges that are of special concern to this multinational transdisciplinary research project. Designing and conducting project-sensitive, dialogue-based workshops is one of the Toolbox Project’s responsibilities as the Woody Weeds partner concerned with communication.


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]

Toolbox Workshops in Kenya

June 4, 2015 at 4:52 pm

The Toolbox Project has just completed two workshops in Kenya, making Africa our fourth continent on which we’ve lead Toolbox workshops and conducted research. Sanford Eigenbrode (Idaho) and Michael O’Rourke (Michigan State) traveled to Nairobi to work with the Swiss NSF-funded “Woody Weeds” project at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI). The conducted two workshops using a Toolbox instrument custom-designed for this context. We look forward to future updates here on our findings and ongoing collaborations.

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 at Whittier College

April 3, 2015 at 1:21 am

The Toolbox Project continued its ongoing collaboration with Dr. Paul Kjellberg and the Whittier Scholars Program at Whittier College, Whittier, CA. Dr. Kjellberg has worked with the Toolbox Project since 2012 to develop a version of the Toolbox instrument that is applicable at the undergraduate level across a wide range of disciplines, including business and creative writing. The key innovation in the design of this instrument is the focus on the process of scholarship, which is common ground for all Whittier Scholars. The undergraduates in the Whittier Scholars Program design their own majors, and as juniors participate in WSP 301: Nature, Theory, and Bases of Knowledge, a course in interdisciplinary epistemology. Dr. Kjellberg and Michael O’Rourke (Toolbox Project, MSU) conducted one Toolbox workshop with each of two sections of WSP 301 on April 1 and 2, 2015.

Toolbox Workshop at Columbia University

February 2, 2015 at 2:16 am

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.

Toolbox Workshops at Tri-State EPSCoR meeting in New Mexico

January 19, 2015 at 9:20 pm

The Toolbox Project conducted two successful workshops as part of the Winter Tri-State Meeting of the Western Consortium for Watershed Analysis, Visualization and Exploration (WC-WAVE) in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 13 January 2015. Two Toolbox representatives, Sanford Eigenbrode (Idaho) and Michael O’Rourke (Michigan State), facilitated separate workshops, assisted by WC-WAVE personnel. Thirty WC-WAVE project members participated in the workshops, which ranged over issues related to modeling, uncertainty, the value of basic research, and objectivity. WC-WAVE is part of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Track 2 Research Infrastructure Improvement Program. WC-WAVE goal is to “enable integration of creative observation and analytical strategies using advanced modeling approaches and CI in a virtual watershed platform” (http://westernconsortium.org).