Category: Toolbox

Recent Publication in Cogent Arts and Humanities

I have 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!

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Research Institute for Humanity and Nature

RIHN-posterMichael O’Rourke and I just returned from Kyoto, Japan, where we spoke and conducted Toolbox workshops with the environmental researchers at the national Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN).

On the first day, we spoke on problems of communication and collaboration in cross-disciplinary research. As a way of introducing the problem, I 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 we 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, we 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.

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Back from the NIH

I just returned from SciTS 2015 at the National Institutes of Health, where I represented the Toolbox Project (along with Stephen Crowley). I presented some of my ongoing research on philosophical distinctions between various branches of science. In our role working with a wide variety of scientists on interdisciplinary research teams, we have found that differences in worldviews often differ by disciplines. And many of these differences are philosophical in nature.

This research in philosophy of science is continuing to progress. I am lead author on two papers in the works right now on this topic, so I expect I will have more to say about it soon (I hope) after additional presentations and publications.

Back from Columbia University

Michael O’Rourke
(Michigan State) and I have just returned from Columbia University, where we conducted two Toolbox workshops (one each) for the College of Nursing. Dr. Elaine Larson (Associate Dean of Research, School of Nursing) invited us to present the Toolbox method and facilitate Toolbox workshops using the Health Sciences Toolbox Instrument in her “Building Interdisciplinary Research Models” course. The students were predominantly nursing doctoral students and they had many interesting and insightful comments during the dialogue.

logo1901In a new twist for the Toolbox Project, Dr. Larson will have the students continue discussing the Health Sciences Toolbox Instrument for the next six weeks of the course, taking one module per week. This is the first time for the Toolbox Project that there has been an extended dialogue process. Dr. O’Rourke and I will continue to partner with Dr. Larson and her post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Amanda Hessels, on this extended collaboration. We currently plan to produce one to two research papers on this extended deployment of the Toolbox method in a Health Sciences setting.

Toolbox and K-12

toolbox_logoLast Friday Michael O’Rourke and I 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).gk126

Michael and I 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.

Teaching with the Toolbox

As I mentioned here before, I’m spending this year as a postdoc researcher for the Toolbox Project toolbox_logoin the Philosophy Department at Michigan State. I’ve come up with a new, pedagogical application for the Toolbox. The basic approach of the Toolbox can be applied to just about any philosophy course, and I will do so when I (hopefully) return to the classroom next year. It should build engagement, provide an initial overview and introduction to material, creates dialogue, and allows for a new kind of assessment.

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West Michigan Climate Resiliency Conference

copy-wmsbf-logoYesterday I attended the West Michigan Climate Resiliency Conference in Grand Rapids, MI, put on by the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. It was a terrific event that brought together government officials (including the mayor, George Heartwell), local business (including Amway and Spectrum Health), farmers, and academics. Prof. Adm. (ret.) David Titley gave a fantastic keynote address on climate change.

I was in attendance with Michael O’Rourke and a contingent from the Toolbox Projecttoolbox_logo. The Project, in conjunction with Penn State’s Rock Ethics Institute, have developed a new Toolbox instrument on climate resiliency. We led facilitated dialogues using the new instrument. In the session I led, there were leaders from the West Michigan Business Forum, including VPs from Amway and Spectrum Health, an academic, small business owners, and a representative from Grand Rapids’s city government. I facilitated their conversation on the prompts in the instrument. The dialogue that followed was a rich exchange of ideas and perspectives on the role of businesses and government in responding to climate change as it affects West Michigan.

The new climate resiliency Toolbox instrument is still being evaluated, in part based on the workshops conducted yesterday (so I can’t share it with you). Work will be progressing, so look for more on this front from the Toolbox Project. This is exciting work of engaging local stakeholders in a philosophical discussion about climate resiliency.

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