Why a scientist would be interested in collaboration

Some students asked me why, as a scientist, I would also write and teach about collaborative processes. There are a variety of angles:
1. Teaching science students to ask questions about scientific ideas, not simply learn what has been established led me from showing them where there were problems with current assumptions/reasoning/evidence/applications to helping them develop their lifelong capacities to do that for themselves. (Analogy: “if you give a person a fish they eat for a day. if you teach them to fish they eat for a lifetime”) The result was an emphasis on tools and processes like those in workshop 2, http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/journey.html#challenges

2. Working on environmental problems: “Since the 1990s collaboration has become a dominant concern in environmental planning and management, but the need to organize collaborative environmental research can be traced back at least as far as the tropical rainforest ecosystem projects led by H.T. Odum in the 1950s and 60s…” — see start of this article for more.

3. Studying science in its social context: “I argue that both the situations studied [in environmental and health sciences] and the social situation of the researchers can be characterized in terms of unruly complexity or “intersecting processes” that cut across scales, involve heterogeneous components, and develop over time. These cannot be understood from an outside view; instead positions of engagement must be taken within the complexity. Knowledge production needs to be linked with planning for action and action itself in an ongoing process so that knowledge, plans, and action can be continually reassessed in response to developments — predicted and surprising alike. In this spirit, I explore ways to stimulate researchers (and students training to become researchers) to self-consciously examine the complexity of their social situatedness so as to change the ways they address the complexity of the situations they study” (from my UMB home page).

4. Reflective practice in research: The tools and processes as well as the connections made in workshops helps researchers to take stock of what they have been doing and consider alternative paths ahead, so that they do not simply continue along previous lines. (invitation to a talk on this topic and audio & slides for the talk itself)


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