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Biology Department Seminar Series

Wicked problems, such as climate change and poverty, are highly complex, defying traditional problem-solving approaches. Ecological theory and research more often than not, have an important contribution to make to the understanding and framing of these issues. The power of interdisciplinary approaches facilitated by global communication networks to generating new kinds of knowledge and outcomes, are, today, widely touted by all universities and colleges everywhere. Yet their authenticity and effectiveness are seldom examined critically, except, perhaps by those who have trodden the thorny path of interdisciplinary academic collaboration, seeking transdisciplinary and novel solutions.

A common finding among academics of all stripes is that even with today’s awesome communication technologies, there exists resistance to interdisciplinary collaborations, as well as limitations of language and culture. Transcending these limitations remains an ongoing challenge for effective team science, due to the high transaction costs of interdisciplinary interactions, compared with discipline-centric science, in a familiar area.

I will be exploring some examples of projects in the natural and social sciences where researchers have sought to move out of their comfort zones: their labs, field sites and libraries.

One of the goals of my current work while at Harvard Forest, is to identify suites of best practices for interdisciplinary team science, as well as how global communication technologies have been used in mobilizing science into sound policy solutions.

Questions for the Memorial community to ponder:
A. What do I understand a policy to be? (for cheat notes, see Wikipedia).
B. How could OR should the scientific research that I do, inform policy development? (How far should my research be mobilized?)
C. When was the last time I read the UN CBD, or any state or federal legislation relating to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning?  (be prepared to defend "never").
D. Is interdisciplinary or collaborative team science, something that benefits the mobilization of your ecological research?

Jan 26th, 2012

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