Research Workshop Proposal

evolving in response to comments, last update 27 May 08 (9/08: on hold until the research clusters are launched)

1. The University's research cluster initiative should build in support for transdisciplinary interactions that draw in personnel not directly involved in externally- and internally-funded cluster-based research. Depending on the mode of such interactions, they could have all or some of these benefits:
a. Generating novel ideas and initiating collaborations to pursue them and submit funding proposals;
b. Maintaining a pipeline of personnel from outside any cluster into its projects. (Doing this for junior faculty is an important component of mentoring them);
c. Acknowledging the intellectual work of faculty who are not well aligned with the clusters (and preempting any insider-outsider ill-feelings);
d. Facilitating work at the overlap of clusters (e.g., public health and developmental science); and
e. Promoting critical, social contextualization of new research developments (without making the common move of placing such discussion into a separate "Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications" box).

2. One mode of supporting transdisciplinary interactions would be to adapt the model of the Intercollege faculty Seminar on Humanities and Sciences (ISHS), in which "faculty from different disciplines and colleges come together [for a semester] to focus on topics of common interest, exchange ideas, renew their intellectual energy, and advance their work in a spirit of adventure and collaboration" ( The topic emphasis could rotate from one semester to the next among the four clusters, but be framed so as to invite participation across clusters and participation from faculty and doctoral students not directly involved in externally- and internally-funded cluster-based research, e.g., "Minds, bodies, contexts: Development, diversity, and change," "From classroom education to public participation around our research," "Networks that support community-based health initiatives."

3. This proposal is quite different from a conventional series of lectures. Perhaps we could call it a Research Workshop to highlight that a core group has sustained interaction about their research interests over a semester. Like ISHS, meetings could be every second week for, say, 2 hours (rather than the always too short 1.5 hours of ISHS meetings). With endorsement from the Provost and a modest stipend for core participants who stay with it through for a semester (see #6 below), the Research Workshop could raise the bar somewhat over what is possible in ISHS, say, by requiring core participants to lead a session around a manuscript or a research proposal that they precirculate. With modest additional funds, guest speakers could be invited to fill in some or all of the in-between weeks. Those in-between sessions -- and perhaps the regular sessions as well -- could be open to faculty and graduate students not in the core group for that semester.

4. The benefits from the Research Workshop for the Research Cluster initiative would include the five items mentioned in #1. These can all be achieved by inviting participants to approach the topic in their own way, and as it relates to their own interests, provided that, at least for the semester in question, they "would like to explore their own particular 'take' on the topic in the company of others; to enrich each other's perspectives; to deepen their own imagination and conception of the issues; and to see what results from a collaborative, interdisciplinary exercise" (again, from the ISHS model). Sometimes these interactions would lead to a more focused product, such as a research funding proposal, but transdisciplinarity is fostered better by not building this in as an expectation of the Workshop.

5. Possible names for the Research Workshop include: UMB Transdisciplinary Research Workshop, Research Workshop on Science and Social Change, ... The Research Workshop would not aim to evolve into an academic Program or Research Center, but to enhance the thinking and research of those from regular disciplines and from the cross-disciplinary research clusters who are looking for perspectives from outside of their disciplines and clusters.

6. The resources needed for this Research Workshop would be modest, ideally covering the following: University endorsement; stipends for core participants; one course release per year for the faculty organizer, a 5 hour/week graduate assistant, simple refreshments (water and cookies); and honoraria for outside speakers.

7. An advisory group consisting of the Provost (or representative) and the cluster leaders could appoint the Workshop organizer and work with the Workshop organizer to select the core participants from a pool of applicants each semester.

8. This could begin as early as the Fall 08 semester.

This has proposal had evolved with input and/or endorsement from Peter Taylor (Director of STV & CCT Programs), Gonzalo Bacigalupe (Chair, Counseling & School Psychology), Arthur Millman (Chair, Philosophy), Bala Sundaram (Chair, Physics), Dorothy Nelson (English), ...