Monday, February 17, 2014

Week #4 Summary Notes: STS Seminar/Spring 2014/Interdisciplinarity/02.14.2014

·         Proposed structure for discussions going forward: get down the basic points (3-4 key insights) of each of the assigned readings and look for connections and debates, then proceed with a substantive conversation about each (chalkboard exercise with Greg)

·         Klein, Hackett, Weingart, Rhoten, Frodeman et al., Sa, Jacobs et al.

o   Klein:
§  history of science 101 "Plato to NATO"
§  tension between universal knowledge vs. specialization
§  endogenous (organization of knowledge) vs. exogenous (society, social problems, industry)
§  ideal vs. evaluation

o   Hackett:
§  functional approach
§  bold vs. effective 
§  Interdisciplinarity as political
§  community, the way you decide what to pursue and how to evaluate it is that there has to be a community of practitioners; an administrator in the NSF sees their job not just as making things happen but building and sustaining community 
§  problems with measurement
§  talking about what's happening today, real political constraints and concerns and constraints
§  (Daniel) in Hackett, the issue of workshops comes up, does Interdisciplinarity come from the top down?  He is trying to assert that it comes from the bottom up.

o   Weingart:
§  identifies longstanding paradox in the way people talk about interdisciplinary research 
§  contradiction
§  despite the rhetoric of Interdisciplinarity (positive for innovation) science is becoming more specialized
§  sees Interdisciplinarity as new type of specialization with its own blind spots
§  questions whether innovation comes from Interdisciplinarity because science still comes from gatekeepers
§  tension between tradition and change 
§  no effort to really change structures
§  you can't have disciplinary without interdisciplinary (dialectic); every time you try to pin down one you get pushed to the other one; any claim for each is doomed to failure because they are tied to this dance 
§  the reason, he claims, it’s a paradox, is because people see them as inherently separate
§  (Daniel)  these interdisciplinary fields are not constructed out of thin air, they come out of disciplines themselves 
§  (Greg)  differs from Klein in that "this year’s Interdisciplinarity is next year’s discipline

o   Rhoten:
§  more hopeful
§  does the empirical data collection that Weingart calls for 
§  ethnographic
§  looks at how Interdisciplinarity is enacted in interdisciplinary research centers 
§  sees the failure coming from some sort of systemic failure: no lack of funding or attention, but doesn't see the research centers structured in a way that makes this work effective
§  strategies: thinks innovation comes from Interdisciplinarity and that it is different from that 
§  talk: walk |  walk: talk…. scholars are still working in isolation, not getting reward for collaboration
§  need to restructure graduate ed and physically restructure centers, smaller, where scholars stay for a while
§  she was commissioned to do a study
§  the university research center becomes the unit of analysis (vs. community as unit of analysis in Hackett)
§  idea that face to face interaction is important 

o   Frodeman et al.:
§  summary: "blow it all up"
§  arguing for critical Interdisciplinarity, we need to rethink it as broad but deep, needs to be engaged with public, private, and community
§  integrate knowledge but in an action-based context 
§  (Daniel) does the public orientation come across in the other readings? 

o   Sa:
§  a study (100 university documents and visit to 5 unis)
§  to understand strategies universities are using to promote Interdisciplinarity
§  Incentive grants, faculty recruitment, etc.
§  these strategies don't necessarily go against the disciplinary structure of the university
§  point where he questions top-down vs. bottom-up
§  focus within the university 
§  suggests there is not a lot of empirical evidence within these strategies to understand what's happening within campus-wide institutes:  what do faculty who are hired into these clusters think, what is it like to work in them, what work is actually being done (per Daniel, great topic for a paper and the information is there on the cluster hires at UW) 
§  there is a web site on the clusters and who the head of the cluster is; they didn't actually budget enough money; argument over whether there should be sunset processes; structural deficit identified years ago; initially all the money was coming centrally, but now cost-sharing and because nobody has money it’s in question how well it works/will work
§  (Greg) when does something interdisciplinary become disciplinary; when does it become customary (not innovative anymore) and what does that mean for the funding and support; cluster hires came from? 
§  (Daniel) Greg highlighted sunset and innovation, these themes run through all papers; but Greg brings up people who were hired into specific interdisciplinary centers; 
§  Sa - innovation means things on two levels:  normative goal of creating something new (cluster hire, interdisciplinary X), but on the other hand, how do you pursue innovation (UW - cluster hire, WID, Nelson); different universities pursue different innovative strategies, how do you make sure those strategies work? NSF - make sure your program is "the thing"
§  (Daniel) similarities between Sa and Rhoten; methodologically they are quite different; think about this as you study phenomenon

o   Jacobs et al (most recent piece - look at this piece to mine endnotes; great piece on the state of the field right now)
§  staking out Interdisciplinarity as an object of study within the field of sociology
§  the study of Interdisciplinarity needs to be a thing, because current studies (i.e. sociology of knowledge) aren't quite good enough
§  review a lot of the work we've read
§  study citation patterns in journals and hiring patterns
§  they deploy Interdisciplinarity as viewed as a social movement 
§  focus back on the phenomenon of "what is Interdisciplinarity" (Jacobs et al. as sociological view and Klein as a historical view) 
§  (Daniel) thinks authors are skeptical of Interdisciplinarity, projects make limited gains and those that are successful lead to new rounds of inquiry leading to new areas of differentiation
§  Interdisciplinarity reasserted itself in early 2000s as well; good article to turn to for sources 

·         Post-article summary group discussion:
o   Daniel: now we can talk about cross-cutting themes 
§  Relations
§  Organizational Forms-strategies
§  Evaluation/Efficacy
§  Methods for studying 
§  Meta-problem 

o   interesting to look at the relationship between disc/interdisc go back and forth
o   it's all slippery; "interdisciplinary" incorporates the word discipline
o   terms used interchangeably 
o   (Daniel) Bourdieu (science as any other "field"; an ongoing struggle; instability)
o   (Greg) Klein published this in the 90s; OECD reports fresher in people's minds in  70s, literature focused the conversation on undergraduate education 
o   (Greg) look at the board, there are assumptions about the most effective route to get to Interdisciplinarity (put the word in a black box); in late 1970s, how you make it happen is that you create an interdisciplinary major or a center on interdisciplinary education 
o   What do you think are the most productive or bold strategies for producing Interdisciplinarity? What should we be doing?
§  Rhoten explicit about strategies (like a managerial perspective, someone should lead, someone who can act as a brand of a community; two terms "star" and "connector")
§  (Daniel)  Top-Down, Bottom Up; read Inside Wisconsin every time it is published; we are a bottom up uni but we are at a very top-down moment with the University getting instructions from Obama on scientific imperatives
§  Weingart: (Greg) talks about metaphors (territorial and geographic metaphors) metaphors of bridging, defending territory; the way we talk about this suggests what we need to make it happen 
§  (Meredith): connected to what Hackett was saying that people don't even know what they’re talking about, not arguing on common ground; connectors and bridgers may be able to obviate this; producing a translation and people who can translate (going back to metaphor of community) 
§  (Jen) and boundary objects from Rhoten; gives example of the interdisciplinary research she is working on; the science professor and the education professor differ in how they want to get the research out; sees tension in the goals of the project; catch-all themes (sustainability) but every researcher has different goals for the project;
§  (Daniel) prompts two issues (Sa article talks about interdisciplinary tenure guidelines, these people are still part of their departments, maybe at this university you need to give interdisciplinary scholars more time; opportunity costs (if you are used to publishing 5 articles a year and you are working with scholars on other publishing timelines)
§  Jen (Seed money) - when it runs out, people are figuring out how to scale up the project; (Daniel) (seed money in graduate school competition only for 1 year); expectations; can't expect that all of these will produce a workable outcomes
o   (June) language in terms of different methodologies; in Jacobs article they see terminology used in different fields; how do you evaluate Interdisciplinarity on truly embracing interdisciplinary theory 
o   Meredith: can you be interdisciplinary in your own discipline? 
o   (Greg) Klein piece points to Area Studies program as exemplars of Interdisciplinarity which was a big claim for its time; Area studies wouldn't come up today; why don't we see them now (Daniel: great research topic, this U was a leader in Area Studies, you could do a case study, which disciplines were drawn into this and why) week we read Mode II where claims to Interdisciplinarity are about problem-oriented work/Area studies was the same but the focus was understanding the "problem of the area" (example used "Southeast" Asia)
o   (Meredith) half of the reading sees innovation as an end in itself; rhetoric of why? is missing; (Matt) Frodeman would say the reason would be putting the university to work in the public interest; (Daniel) this is a pretty basic question- what is the goal of Interdisciplinarity and could we achieve the same with just disciplines?
o   To what degree is everything we are talking about in its own field of study; thinking about the bias of every author we have is shaping how we are approaching Interdisciplinarity; simply the bias as wanting to problematize Interdisciplinarity (tinge of belaboring the problem) 
o   Greg: there is a lot of churning discussion - there is not much more out there that is missed by these pieces
o   using interdisciplinary discourse as a strategy toward biomedical technology?
o   (Daniel) comes down to the question of "why are we studying this"; studying this is a meta-problem, how do we structure knowledge and is there a way to assess; Sigrid makes important point; when I started I thought one of the things about the university is that it creates a space where scholars can do things that the market can’t/won’t do; it creates a space for putting a critical lens on the society in which we live; a space where a kind of critique is possible that isn't as possible in other areas; if you look at a change in University leadership from the 60s; point about medical research and Interdisciplinarity; a huge amount of it is translational research; NIH would be a pretty interesting space 
o   (June) interdisciplinary research as a social product; in line with social structure; meaning of that term doesn't need to be static 
o   (Greg): hoping our projects will operationalize circularity of thoughts to a particular case 


·         Daniel: it's easy to move into abstraction (a lot of repeated themes throughout the semester); the changes in higher ed repeat certain words over and over again; how do we process this information going forward?
·         Need to discipline ourselves to get at what are the three most important things being said on each article; do people agree? (yes)
·         Could we do summaries at the very least including the three main points (process going forward
·         (Greg) jumpstarting last 30 minutes:  Why are these authors writing these articles? or How would someone use one of these articles?  Scenario: UW Madison experience funding cuts; we are all faculty members here; out of the shrinking pie; the state is very interested in information technology and they are going to build a big interdisciplinary building dedicated to IT; it's innovative and interdisciplinary; resources that could go to your programs?  What tools from these articles help us mobilize a response to this; 
o   Rhoten would say build it small; and a building to be re-used later once that problem is solved; Daniel: another good project (size and space): WID is a giant space, not as giant as some but it is proposed to promote or obviate individual isolation (metric for big and small buildings would be interesting
o   who are your stars and connectors
o   Sa would say, other universities have done similar things and are hiring interdisciplinary people to get things off the ground; but there isn't enough empirical evidence
o   Greg's blog post "knowledge to action" [may be helpful to read]
o   location of the funding matters (it's reallocation of base university funds) 
o   what do the readings say about how a stakeholder in the community would react to this:
o   Weingart would say who would regulate how interdisciplinary the work is; is it a top-down evaluation or a bottom-up evaluation or is evaluation never going to happen?
o   Hackett points out that communities write the terms of these proposals so we would want to know what scale of conversations were had before the Institute was formally proposed 

o   Gets back to the question about at what scale these operate?  

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