Collaboration: Expanding the very model of a modern major scientist

Feb 17, 2012

The traditional seas of scientific practice were once commanded by solitary captains in disciplinary ships. However, the nature of scientific practice has changed significantly in the 21st century. Collaborations now draw singular H.M.S. Pinafores into interdisciplinary armadas armed to address complex, cross-cutting problems in health, energy, agriculture, education and conservation.

So how does an agency, a foundation, a policy maker or an institution judge individual contribution in this rising tide of collaborative efforts? And should existing evaluation tools still in fact be centered on traditional individual reward mechanisms?

Arizona State University scientist James Collins examines how the transformation in scientific practice affects the business of how science is done in his opening talk for the AAAS Symposium "Successful interdisciplinary collaboration: Insights from practice and theory" on Friday, Feb. 17.

"Thinking about the goals of science and how interdisciplinary, collaborative approaches can help to achieve them is an important challenge to the standard independent investigator model of scientific practice," says Collins, who is the Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment in ASU's School of Life Sciences. "These talks will address the broader implications of such transformations, not only for scientists but for educators, funding agencies and foundations, science policy makers, and the broader public, and strategies for increasing the rewards of shared knowledge production."

In addition to Collins, five speakers address the implications of collaborative approaches to scientific study, from the need for organizational restructuring and the sociological underpinnings of interdisciplinary synthesis, to the impacts of differing values and goals and lessons learned through existing cooperative research centers and the "Sea Around Us" project.

Symposium speakers include Collins, Daniel Pauly (University of British Columbia); Irwin Feller (AAAS); Stephanie Pfirman (Barnard College), Michele Lamont (Harvard University), Denis Gray (North Carolina State University). The session was organized by Melanie Roberts and Edward Derrick with AAAS Science and Policy Programs, who is moderator.

"The challenge going forward is creating environments for individuals and institutions that foster interdisciplinary innovation within cultures adapted to reward disciplinary excellence," says Collins. "One outcome of this session would be examples of what makes for successful collaborations and how we might use such things as electronic communication and information resources to tackle the complex problems of the 21st century on a global scale through international, interdisciplinary efforts."

Explore further: Academic journals should adopt nonprofit publishing model, expert says

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Alliance aims to stem extinctions

Jul 11, 2006

Scientists racing to save large groups of amphibians that are teetering on the brink of extinction are proposing the creation of an alliance to help save the animals. The Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) would be a new international ...

Faking it for physicists

Jul 06, 2006

In a "faking it" style test, a social scientist has fooled a panel of physicist judges into believing he was an experienced gravitational wave physicist.

Recommended for you

Research band at Karolinska tuck Dylan gems into papers

Sep 29, 2014

(Phys.org) —A 17-year old bet among scientists at the Karolinska Institute has been a wager that whoever wrote the most articles with Dylan quotes before they retired would get a free lunch. Results included ...

A simulation game to help people prep for court

Sep 25, 2014

Preparing for court and appearing before a judge can be a daunting experience, particularly for people who are representing themselves because they can't afford a lawyer or simply don't know all the ropes ...

When finding 'nothing' means something

Sep 25, 2014

Scientists usually communicate their latest findings by publishing results as scientific papers in journals that are almost always accessible online (albeit often at a price), ensuring fast sharing of latest ...

User comments : 0