Tag Archives: collaboration

Intersecting Processes: May 2017 New England Workshop on Science and Social Change

Location: Old Fire Station, Woods Hole MA, USA
New Dates May 2017, 8am Sat May 27 – 2.30pm Weds May 31

In this five-day workshop participants will create spaces, interactions, and support in formulating plans to extend our own projects of inquiry and engagement around “intersecting processes.”

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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)

A brief design sketch for a collaborative project that I would like to be part of

22 August 2012 (prepared for discussion with Portuguese and Mexican colleagues)

1. We are concerned with prefiguring the future without disordering the present.

2. This requires theorized engagement within intersecting (cross-scale) processes of socio-environmental and social epidemiological change.

3. There are multiple potential points of engagement within the intersecting processes.  In what ways can these be linked together in a manner that is intentional and explicit, that allows for indeterminancy of outcomes and does not assume that “truth is great and will prevail”?

4. There is always a tension between solidarities forged through working and living together in particular places—“militant particularism”—and the application of trans-local perspectives, abstractions, or other resources.

5. “Flexible engagement” = a process challenge, rather than a content challenge for researchers in any knowledge-making situation: How do we connect quickly with others who are almost ready to foster—formally or otherwise—participatory processes and, through the experience such processes provide their participants, contribute to enhancing the capacity of others to do likewise?

6. We seek personal integrity (in the sense both of whole-ness and ethical consistency) in the ways that the collaboration prefigures the way we want others to prefigure the future without disordering the present.  (Evidence of that seeking is various explorations including, in my case, narrative and human givens approaches to therapy and community work.)

7. During workshops and other interactions we can experiment with creating spaces for connecting, probing, and reflecting (“CPR”), spaces that allow us to engage within intersecting (cross-scale) processes of somatic, mental, and emotional change over our life courses.  In such spaces we see that it is not possible to simply continue along previous lines.

8.  In those spaces we cultivate ourselves and others as collaborators through the “4R”s.  In brief, the more Respect is established, the more Risks participants are likely to take; the more Risks, the more likely they are to have new insights or Revelations; and the more Revelations, the more likely they are to Re-engage with their interests and aspirations to make a difference through their work and lives.

9.  There is always a tension between, on one hand, the insights, ethical commitments, and energy that arise in CPR spaces and, on the other hand, the challenges of translating those insights, ethical commitments, and energy into engagements outside those spaces with people who have not cultivated themselves as collaborators.

10.  I have a proclivity for making what I now call “design sketches”—Design is about intentionality in construction, which involves a range of materials, a sequence of steps, and principles that inform the choice of material and the steps.  Sketch denotes the incompleteness of the designs—there is often a gap between the principles I lay out and their realization in practice or established knowledge.

11.  This is a brief design sketch for a collaborative project that I would like to be part of.


1.  R. García Barrios.

2. Taylor, P. J. and R. García-Barrios (1995). “The social analysis of ecological change: From systems to intersecting processes.” Social Science Information 34(1): 5-30.

3. Taylor, P. J. (2005). “Unruly Complexity; Intersecting Processes,” Pp. 156-165  in Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press

4 & 5. Taylor, P. J. (2005). “Epilogue: Three Stories,” Pp. 203-213  in Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/epilogue.pdf).

6. White, M. (2007). Maps of Narrative Practice. New York: Norton. Griffin, J. and I. Tyrrell, Eds. (2007). An idea in practice: Using the human givens approach. Chalvington, UK: Human Givens Publishing.

7. http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/CPRworkshop

8. Taylor, P. J., S. J. Fifield, C. Young. (2011). “Cultivating Collaborators: Concepts and Questions Emerging Interactively From An Evolving, Interdisciplinary Workshop.” Science as Culture 20(1): 89-105 (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/08c.pdf). Taylor, P. and J. Szteiter (2012) Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement. Arlington: The Pumping Station (available online as paperback or pdf from http://thepumpingstation.org/books/)

9. http://wp.me/p1gwfa-px

10. http://designcatalog.wordpress.com/

11. Similar points are developed in Taylor, P. J. (2012ms). “Now it is impossible ‘simply to continue along previous lines’– Incomplete and unrevised notes on Enactable Social Theorizing and Open Spaces.”  http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/12a.pdf.

Collaborative for Exploration of Scientific and Political Change

Initial prospectus [from April 19]:

The overall goals of the Collaborative are to support inquiries, teaching-learning interactions, and other practices of critical intellectual exchange and cooperation that challenge the barriers of expertise, gender, race, class, and place that normally restrict access to, understanding of, and influence on the production of scientific knowledge and technologies.

In its first phase of the Collaborative, this support will happen in connection with two graduate courses–Scientific and Political Change and Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology–offered in alternate spring semesters in association with the Science in a Changing World graduate track at UMass Boston.

These courses use a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach that allows students to shape their own directions of inquiry and develop their skills as investigators and prospective teachers (in the broadest sense of the word).

In this first phase, the Collaborative aims to draw a wider range of participants into the 3-week PBL cases: for-credit students from distant locations; not-for-credit students; course alums returning for a refresher; panel members for the final presentations in each case; guides to help in the inquiries of participants; and co-instructors.

Graduate and advanced undergraduate students from all fields and levels of preparation are encouraged to register for the courses. Other participants should contact the SICW track about getting involved, sicw@umb.edu.

In the second phase, participants might translate their experience into running their own PBL-style courses, for which other members of the Collaborative might serve as guides and panel members. The Collaborative may eventually host PBL inquiry and presentations outside the structure of the two courses.


For inquiry towards further development of the Collaborative, see companion blog.

Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology: A bibliography

In a 2011 graduate course on “Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology,” students were asked to add an annotated reference or resource (=person, organization…) to the evolving googledocs bibliography each week.  (Annotations were to convey the article’s key points as well as its connection to the student’s own inquiries and interests.)  The result is as follows: Continue reading

Future Ideal Retrospective activity on collaborative production of knowledge the life sciences and public engagement

Imagine May 2014, you meet someone and you are telling them: “I am very pleased with my work as a researcher concerned with collaborative production of knowledge (in some area of) the life sciences and public engagement.” The person asks you to tell them what happened over that last three years to bring you to this state.  You prepare 5 statements, we collate these; each of us clusters them and gives names to the clusters.  (This activity was conduced on Day 3 of a May 2011 workshop “Collaborative production of knowledge: Health, environment, and publics” in Arouca, Portugal.)

My cluster names were as follows:

C. serious attention to physical & non-professional routines as well as intellectual led to productivity, achievement, well-being &  positive outlook

E. Took up the challenge of broadening & deepening my intellectual foundations & getting to be pleased with the results

B. moving steadily from planning to completion of research projects (e.g., PhD) & beyond to where we have an impact

H. Continuing to learn in & about open spaces

D. Have a more positive attitude & making better use of situations that I had become somewhat skeptical of

G. Collaborations & networks established at a range of scales that are productive for my work

F. Kept humor about the scramble needed to keep things going

A. Collaborative research recognized & supported by institutions

I then arranged the clusters to convey relative relatedness:

Collaborative production of knowledge: Health, environment, and publics

The workshop “Collaborative production of knowledge: Health, environment, and publics” in Arouca, Portugal aimed to

make sense of the growing attention to the collaborations with the public (or different selection of the public) in the production of knowledge about health and environmental concerns. All research is collaborative-even solitary scientists have to secure audiences if their findings are to become established as knowledge-so why emphasize collaboration in health and environmental research? The workshop will consider the diverse reasons that might be put forward to explain that emphasis. How are different angles on collaboration related in theory and practice? In what ways can scientists, science educators, science shop organizers, and researchers in history, philosophy, and social studies of science conceptualize, interpret, teach about, and engage in the collaborative generation of knowledge and inquiry? What can we learn reflexively from our own experience in an interaction-intensive workshop around these questions?

Applications were sought from teachers and researchers (including students) who are interested in promoting the social contextualization of science through interdisciplinary education and outreach activities beyond their current disciplinary and academic boundaries.

At the start of each day participants undertook daily writing on the theme of the workshop.  My own writing makes up the next few posts.

22 May 2011

The growing attention to collaborations with the public in the production of knowledge about health and environmental concerns represents, I believe, a confluence of a number of streams:

  1. “Science for the People” and similar slogans were promoted by radical organizations during the 1970s.   However, scientists pushed back against local democratic accountability and pushed for the “freedom” for their research to be directed by corporations (and to share in profits).  The growing attention to collaborations with the pubic involves a push back against that pushback.
  2. Environment, health, and environmental health issues in particular involve activists who push for changes in policy, expose or exploit controversies in the science, and, in some cases, become conversant in the science and push for changes in funding priorities and regulations.  Collaboration with the public in this case means collaboration with these activist subsets of the public.
  3. Health and, to some extent, environmental remediation require people to follow advice or guidelines from authorities.  Physicians and environmental managers often lament the “lack of compliance” among members of the public.  Collaboration is valuable so these professionals can see the extent to which lack of compliance is rational resistance, can draw models or best practices from successful communities, and can co-develop policies that are more likely to be implemented and maintained.  In short, collaboration is a pragmatic move for professionals who want their advice to be taken up.
  4. The shifting social, economic, and political conditions means that ongoing innovation, monitoring, and adjustment is needed.  The “unruly complexity” of health and environmental situations does not allow for overarching, once-and-for-all knowledge to be established.