New England Workshop on Science and Social Change

The New England Workshop on Science and Social Change (NewSSC) organizes innovative, interaction-intensive workshops designed to facilitate discussion, teaching innovation, and longer-term collaboration among faculty and graduate students who teach and write about interactions between scientific developments and social change.

Specific objectives of NewSSC

  • 1. Promote Social Contextualization of Science
  • 2. Innovative workshop processes
  • 3. Training and capacity-building
  • 4. Repeatable, evolving workshops See Background and Rationale for each objective, including how it will be achieved and evaluated.

    Funding for the 2006 workshop has been provided by the National Science Foundation (SES-0551843) and, to assist graduate student participation, by the International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (as one of their off-year workshops). Support has also been received from the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Science and Mathematics and the Programs in Public Policy and Critical & Creative Thinking at UMass Boston.

    Spring 2006 Workshop, "Ecological restoration as social reconstruction "

    This workshop is concerned with ways to conceptualize, interpret, teach about, and engage in the many, and often contested, social and scientific dynamics that are entailed by the enterprise of restoring ecological structure and dynamics to an earlier state (presumably less disturbed by humans). Restoration draws people into: reconstructing what the past state was at any particular site and debating what features are essential to its restoration; debating scientifically the ecological principles that can guide the restoration and ensure that the renewed dynamics are sustainable; weighing the authority of experts versus public oversight and direction (which may not pull only in one direction); enlisting participation to ensure that restoration efforts are maintained; making economic calculations about the costs and benefits and addressing the distribution of those costs and benefits; shaping appropriate language (e.g., "gardening" or "healing," "humans in nature" or "humans disturbing nature"); and clarifying whether restoration is for nature's own value, a forerunner of efforts that will be needed to adapt to global climate change, or an issue of current economic welfare for producers and consumers making their living in degraded ecological and social systems. Indeed, many questions about analyzing, teaching, and engaging in restoration are raised by the simple diagram of Mexican restoration ecologist-economist Raúl García-Barrios.[1]

    García-Barrios wants to highlight that in many places the environment or natural resources, for example, topsoils, rainforests, bodies of water, have already been deeply transformed by people. A local threshold has been reached and surpassed, but this socially conditioned environment (ball 1) is prevented from "rolling down the hill" into a situation of degradation by various social conservative forces (e.g., when agricultural terraces are maintained by well disciplined labor). If this social-natural system degrades, the reason is not that a natural balance has been disturbed by social forces beyond nature's basin of resilience (ball 2). The left-hand picture, which applies equally well to urban situations, means that ecological restoration requires inquiry into how the social conservative forces have been eroded and how they may be reconstructed.

    In summary, the social contextualization of ecological restoration invites attention to the diversity of institutional arrangements and citizen initiatives as well as the specific forms of inquiry and engagement that give shape to ecological restoration as a heterogeneous set of processes under banners of environmental balance and environmental justice. Applications for an interaction-intensive workshop on these issues are sought from scientists, science educators, and scholars in history, philosophy, and social studies of science (including graduate students) who are interested in promoting the social contextualization of science through interdisciplinary education and outreach activities beyond their current disciplinary and academic boundaries.

    1 See Taylor and García-Barrios (1997) and Taylor (2006)

    Location: Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole MA, USA
    Dates: 9am April 20 - 2pm April 23, 2006

    Organizer: Peter J. Taylor, University of Massachusetts Boston, Programs in Science, Technology and Values and Critical and Creative Thinking.
    Facilitator: Collective of Taylor, Nunes, Coe/Matias, Fifield
    Participant-Evaluator: Steve Fifield


    Participants & short profiles

    Jan Coe (apprentice)
    UMass, Boston (& reference librarian, Rio Hondo College)
    Bioethics, consensus conferences, problem-based learning

    Steve Fifield (participant evaluator)
    U Delaware
    studies how school science curricula are shaped by broader culture(s), and how science education, in turn, mediates the ways we understand ourselves in relation to science.

    Kurt Jax
    UFZ Environmental Research Centre Leipzig
    History & philosophy of ecology

    Christine Keiner
    Rochester Institute of Technology
    Teaching history of ecology and of the social, political, and environmental contexts of modern science and technology; research on conflicts between Chesapeake oystermen and scientists since 1880

    Brendon Larson
    UC Davis -> University of Waterloo, Canada
    Metaphors and frames we use for environmental issues, esp. "invasions"

    Marisa Santos Matias
    Coimbra, Portugal
    Relations between health, environment and sustainability, namely through their enactment in situations of public controversy

    Leonora Milán Fe
    UNAM, Mexico
    U/g thesis on The Precautionary Principle applied to Genetically Modified Organisms. Bio- and environmental ethics // Teaching Philosophy and History of Biology; soon, also Bioethics

    Pat Munday
    Montana Tech
    Professor of History & Philosophy. Using the tools of the social history of science and actor-network theory, Pat hopes to discover, describe, and assess the role of activist scientists, grass roots organizations, and local culture in the social construction of Superfund remedies. He is also interested and involved in other environmental work in the northern Rockies--including native species restoration, forestry management, and land use practices.

    João Arriscado Nunes
    Coimbra, Portugal
    Training courses for environmental protection staff, activists and members of the Civil Protection Agency, as well as in initiatives in science education and the development of participatory procedures in the fields of assessment of controversial knowledge and technology, health and environment

    Dan Perry
    Bar Ilan U, Israel
    HPS re: invasive species; youth science education

    Aviva Rahmani
    Maine & NYC
    An ecological artist who works across disciplines, with scientists, city planners and Indigenous Peoples to restore degraded environmental sites.

    Fabio De Sio
    History of Science Unit and Historical Archives, Stazione Zoologica "A. Dohrn", Napoli
    Historian of science // involved in the planning of a Master School in Scientific Communication

    Peter Taylor (organizer)
    UMass Boston
    Studies the "unruly complexity" or "intersecting processes" of, respectively, ecological or environmental situations and the social situations in which the environmental research is undertaken

    Yen-Chu Weng
    U Wisconsin Madison
    PhD student in Geography , Interested in the ideas of "urban nature" through the practice of ecological restoration

    Sections to follow (or to be added in due course) and associated links

    Adjustments relative to previous workshops


    (after modification & elaboration as participants shared their interests and developed activities)

    Wednesday, April 19 -- Arrivals







    Travel to Woods Hole


    Arrive at Woods Hole, Swope Hall Check in

    Early arrivals ask for directions to dinner places, Captain Kidd etc.


    Dinner & Social (Captain Kidd)

    time for conversation for those who want to participate.

    Thursday, April 20 - Exposing diverse points of potential interaction




    Breakfast (freelance in Woods Hole)


    Lillie Hall 103

    Welcome, logistics & initial activity (guided freewriting & hopes for workshop)

    Peter Taylor

    Welcome people to workshop, explain details that need to be covered, talk about your hopes for workshop

    Autobiographical Introductions (15 minutes each)

    Peter T will go first to model

    Jan Coe will keep time (incl. refreshment break)

    Everyone - encouraged to take their own notes of points of intersection or curiosity

    Give participants an opportunity to introduce themselves in narrative depth, their current and emerging work, and learn more about each other




    Autobiographical Introductions (cont.)

    Followed by Sense of Place map and Songlines connections among maps

    Review, reinforce and deepen an understanding of the scope of experience that has come together here.




    Participant-generated Activity I

    Peter T, assisted by Jan C

    Use of KAQ & wikis to stimulate exchange and inquiry in Problem-Based Learning.

     Scenario related to stream restoration (precirculated)

    Jan, who has experience doing wiki-based PBLs, assists everyone to get into swing of it.

    Model how we can experiment & get help with our experiments


    Reflection on the day, led by João

    Generate list of topics people want to take up.





    Dinner (bought in from a restaurant; eaten in Swope downstairs cafe)


    Entertainmentâdepictions of ecological restoration/social reconstruction (and/or science and scientists) in popular culture

    Everyone welcome to bring images or videos cued to a scene we could discuss.

     The evening sessions are designed to facilitate ways of knowing that aren't necessarily text-based.

    Friday, April 21 - Activities to engage each other in our projects & Excursion for informal conversations




    Breakfast (freelance in Woods Hole)


    Check-in, led by João

    Air reflections


    Participant-generated Activity II

    Role-play of town-hall meeting led by Yen-Chu Weng




    Participant-generated Activity III led by Aviva

    Use visual modes because, to deal with big problems, we need to get out of our comfort zones

    c. 1:00

    Picnic Lunch & Excursion, a walk on the beach

    Conversation among participants, reflection on emerging ideas, enjoy the day




    Preparation for office hours (one-on-one consulting) and formation of groups for group work

    Steve Fifield facilitates

    Move to participants taking initiative to make things happen, including planning activities for day 3 & morning of day 4




    Dinner (bought in from a restaurant; eaten in Swope downstairs cafe)


     Bedtime reading

     Participants read articles, passages, & poems, show pictures or photos

    Saturday, April 22 - Activities to engage each other in our projects (cont.)




    Breakfast (freelance in Woods Hole)


    Check-in: I didn't expect to be thinking about...:p>



    Participant-generated Activity IV, Forum theater as a participatory procedure,

    led by Marisa & João

    c. 10:45



    Office Hours, followed by refelction on experience

    Opportunities to solicit advice one on one.


    Lunch & Long break

    Long break for conversation, catching up, walking, reflecting, reading, and some group work

    c. 4.00

    Participant-generated Activity V,led by Metaphor group.

    Bar-coding animals




    Dinner (bought in from a restaurant)


    Dialogue Process

    Exploring other ways of knowing and/or working together, experience of understandings emerging in a group listening/speaking process.

    Sunday, April 23 -- Development of educational & outreach units & Taking stock of the experience




    Breakfast (freelance in Woods Hole)

    Check out of room and bring bags to Lillie 103


    Workshop on development of educational & outreach units I, led by Steve Fifield

    Guidelines for curriculum units

    To fulfill grant-funded expectation




    Workshop on development of educational & outreach units  II,

    Groups prepare & deliver work-in-progress presentations (incl. recap on Peter's and Aviva's activities from day 1 &2)


    Appreciative evaluation, designed by Steve

    Review what people found innovative, important, helpful; what they would like to change


    What we are taking away to chew on & Appreciation & Something to be developed


    Pack up & clean up & prepare lunch for the road



    ending time adjusted to ensure return to Boston to catch planes & bus

    References cited in workshop description & during sessions

    Taylor, P.J. and R. Garcia-Barrios (1997) "Dynamics and rhetorics of socio-environmental change: Critical perspectives on the limits of neo-Malthusian environmentalism," pp. 257-292 in L. Freese (ed.), Advances in Human Ecology, Vol. 6. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1997.
    Taylor, P.J. (2006) "Exploring themes about social agency through interpretation of diagrams of nature and society," in How Nature Speaks: The Dynamics of the Human Ecological Condition. Ed. Y. Haila and C. Dyke. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

    "Ecological Restoration as Social Reconstruction: Definition and Debates," Bibliography compiled by Yen-Chu Weng.

    Sources for passages read aloud:
    Last update 15 July 08