Workshop: Transacademics: Making Use of Interdisciplinary Research Methods Outside of the Academy

Third Meeting of the Bay Area Intercampus Workshop on Interdisciplinarity

This workshop will consider how interdisciplinary research methods and knowledges can be used outside of specialized academic venues, with a particular focus on the importance of collaboration. Scholars who are drawn to interdisciplinary inquiry are often in search of knowledge that has more purchase on ‘real world’ problems. We will discuss how to accomplish this from positions that are both inside and outside of the traditional university setting, sharing insights from our own work, our institutions, and from experts who are now applying interdisciplinary training outside of the university.

Attendees are encouraged to prepare a 5 minute Lightning Talk that very briefly describes their research project and shares an insight, challenge or question about interdisciplinary collaboration that has arisen from their experience. Lightning talks are allowed a maximum of 3 slides. Attendees who do not want to give a lightning presentation are also welcome for the entire day.



10:30-11:00 Gather

11:00-11:15 Opening Remarks and brief introduction to the Science & Justice Research Center (Reardon and Metcalf)

11:15-12:45 Guest Speakers:

Natalie Purcell (Director of Collaborative Patient Care, Veterans Administration in San Francisco)

Karen Andrade (Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and The Science Shop, UC Berkeley)

12:45-1:15 Lunch

1:15-2:00 Optional walk and chat (dress for walking on moderate hills)

2:00-3:45 Lightning Talks

4:15-4:30 Break

4:30-5:00 Open Discussion

The UCSC Science & Justice Research Center | UCSC, College 8, Room 301 | Saturday, November 2, 2013

"Transacademics: Making Use of Interdisciplinary Research Methods Outside of the Academy"
Third Meeting of the Bay Area Intercampus Workshop on Interdisciplinarity
SJWG Rapporteur Report
2 November 2013
Rapporteur: Lizzy Hare, Anthropology
The goal for this workshop was to consider how interdisciplinary research methods and collaborations can be used outside of academic venues. Natalie Purcell, Director of Collaborative Patient Care at the Veterans Administration in San Francisco, CA and Karen Andrade, founder of the Berkeley Science Shop and Ph.D. candidate in UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, spoke about their experiences applying interdisciplinary training to their work outside of the university. Workshop attendees also gave 5-minute Lightning Talks to briefly describe their research and share an insight, question, or challenge from their own experience in interdisciplinary collaboration.

The workshop began with introductions and participants offered questions that they hoped would be addressed over the course of the day. Workshop attendees were concerned with making transacademic work that is research done outside of traditional academic settings, legible as valid contributions to research and in career development, with issues of translation across audiences, disciplines and different degrees of specialization and expertise. There was also significant interest in being involved in research that can address real world problems and help to build a more equitable and just world.

In her introduction, Jenny Reardon talked about the importance of institutional recognition and support. Quality work ought to be recognized both financially and through certification on transcripts, and this is something that requires the involvement of the university. Funding for the Center for Science and Justice, for example, initially came from the National Science Foundation, but the NSF supports research, not institutions. In order to receive additional funds from the NSF that money will need to go towards research that supports the institution.

Natalie Purcell talked about her experience at the Veterans Administration in San Francisco. She began working at the VA through a fellowship program and was surprised to find that she would not be working on sociological research, but instead was tasked with administrative duties. While this was frustrating at first, she realized that many who leave academia face similar challenges and that the assigned tasks provided an opportunity to apply education in unexpected ways. One of the examples Purcell used was the customer service classes that she was asked to lead. She was able to incorporate sociological principles by expressing them using in the language of the people in charge. She said that her graduate training fostered a suspicion of pragmatism, and a distrust of people who work within compromised institutions and frameworks, but that these expectations weren’t realistic in her current position. She cautioned that adhering to a sense of purity in one’s research simply displaces the problem and forces others to compromise.

Karen Andrade spoke about developing the Berkeley Science Shop, an organization that connects UC Berkeley graduate and undergraduate students with research projects that benefit local non-profits, businesses and governments. By connecting students who wish to do research and organizations that could benefit from scientific research, the organization hopes to foster innovative solutions for local social and environmental problems. The Science Shop connects undergraduate students with graduate research mentors, and allows them to engage in research that has real-world impacts.

In the afternoon, conference attendees gave brief “lightning talks” about their experiences working collaboratively both inside and outside the academy. More than one talk questioned the assumption that collaboration is inherently good. Attendees were concerned that collaboration might be seen as a quick and easy solution to issues of credibility or a lack of diversity, but it can just as easily reproduce silences and impose limitations on ideas. Instead, collaboration needs to be done for the purpose of coming together around a common concern. Stopping to thinking of collaboration as co-labor-ation might be one way to remind ourselves of what is entailed in the act of engaging in collaboration. We should also be attentive to when and how interdisciplinarity and collaboration is good and why it is good in those situations. It can be helpful in exposing the normally invisible theoretical, methodological, and organizational assumptions that are a part of the collective sociality of disciplinary training, but we must be careful not to reproduce those in our collaborative, interdisciplinary work.

Sibyl Diver, a PhD Candidate from UC Berkeley, explained that presenting technical language as a gift might be one way to avoid alienating people with academic jargon. Instead of thinking and acting as though people should be familiar with technical words, she has tried to present them as a tool that could be used by people if they want to, if they find it useful. Several attendees said they liked the idea of using technical language as a gift in this way, rather than as a tool to exclude people.

One theme that ran through the entire day was that the divisions that are invoked to keep research “pure” and inside of the academy can also make it much more difficult to make a difference. Working to enact change outside of an academic context might require the provisional acceptance of logics that we might want to critique within the academy. Natalie’s talk provided an example of this, and Emily York offered an example from her own research as well For Emily, attempts to instantiate changes in the undergraduate nanoengineering curriculum at UCSD might require that she works within capitalist and humanist frameworks that she critiques in her more traditional academic work. Instead of seeing situations like this as a compromise, they could be considered successful in bringing attention to social and ethical issues that would have otherwise been ignored. Transacademic research is one way of being more attentive to these different research products for different intended audiences.

The day ended with concluding thoughts from Jenny. The problem of translation is recurrent, and we talked about the use of translate as a metaphor in this context. In linguistics, translation implies a slight slippage. Do we mean to suggest that, or are we using it differently? It seems we are using translation to describe the process of making research appeal to multiple audiences, but maybe we could find a more productive metaphor that doesn’t suggest incommensurability.

Future meetings will continue to work towards the goal of intercampus collaboration and research that benefits people outside of the academy. This process will require being humble and carefully listening to each other. Jake Metcalf will be working on the UCOP multi-campus research initiative to try to gain institutional and monetary support for our efforts.

Jenny Reardon, Director of the SJRC, gives lecture in Clarke Forum Meanings of Race Series at Dickinson College

The opening decade of this millennium witnessed genome scientists, policy makers, critical race theorists and world leaders proclaiming the anti-racist democratic potential of human genomics. These views stand in stark contrast to the 1990s concern that genomics might create new forms of racism. This lecture explores this shift, both why it happened and what it reveals about emerging challenges for understanding issues of race and racism in the genomic age.

This event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Departments of American Studies, Anthropology, and Spanish & Portuguese. This program is also part of the Clarke Forum’s semester theme, The Meanings of Race.

Video of lecture

Thawing Justice?

Wednesday October 16, 2013


Engineering 2, Room 599

Joanna Radin (Yale, Department of History)  will join us to discuss what happens when biological tissues in freezers take on different ethical meanings over time.  What are our responsibilities towards the life immortal?  Who is responsible?  At this session, we will also discuss the recent NIH decision to give the Henrietta Lacks family the right to oversee uses of the HeLa cell line derived from Henrietta Lacks. See here for a recent magazine article by Radin on these topics.

Joanna Radin, "Thawing Justice?"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
16 October 2013
Rapporteur: Lizzy Hare, Anthropology
Joanna Radin, Assistant Professor in the History of Medicine and of History at the Yale School of Medicine, presented her research on the changing ethical meanings of frozen biological samples. Radin researches the consequences, intended and otherwise, of freezer technology that enables scientists to “stopping the biological clock” (a quote from an advertisement for early cryo equipment that she showed in her presentation). The International Biological Program (IBP), which ran from 1964-1974 included early researchers in cryobiology, who hoped the freezers could work as a kind of time machine, a way to collect and preserve information about indigenous populations before they went extinct.

The samples collected by those researchers are now being used in ways that were wholly unimaginable at the time when the samples had been collected. For example, the samples were collected well before it was possible to cheaply and quickly sequence DNA. One specific example of new uses for old samples is what Radin calls “mosquito anthropology”. Some of the samples in the IBP collections contained both human DNA and malaria plasmodia. Malaria researchers are interested in the samples because the malaria contained within them predates chloroquine resistance. Sequencing the pre-resistance malaria genome might help researchers discover alternative compounds that would be effective against the parasite. In coopting the samples for malaria research, the malaria researchers effectively transform a human blood samples into nonhuman samples. This presents interesting questions and thoughts about the boundaries of ecosystems.

In Radin’s terms “The project that collected the samples was looking to find the role of the humans in the ecosystem, but it ended up finding the ecosystem within the human”. As there is increasing interest in the human microbiome project, the use of human blood and tissue samples to understand nonhuman DNA will likely become more common. Does this change the ethical considerations given the samples and research on them?

Ultimately, the time machine quality of freezers becomes a problem for researchers who have to live within the constraints of their own mortal existence. Radin asked the audience “What happens when scientists reach the end of their careers and they have samples they’ve been the overseer of, but then they pass?” Freezers make it possible for samples to outlive their collector. Many collections are well curated and cared for, and are finding new purchase as new technologies make them relevant to new questions. But collections are also expensive to maintain, may be physically unwieldy, and contain people’s genetic information that may or may not have been collected in an ethical manner.

During the discussion, Donna Haraway remarked, “nothing gets to die”. She says this issue makes a case for why we need to have productive conversations about death, mourning and senescence. Can we start to think of best practices for allowing things to disappear, decay, or simply be left out of the database? She asked us to imagine what we would do if there weren’t freezers that allow us to keep things for as long as possible, to exploited to the very end. This led to James Battle’s question about salvage politics. The collection of many of these samples are linked to colonial politics and the idea that scientists need to extract information quickly before things disappear. This collect now, think later mentality works to defer discussions about ethics into an ever-receding future horizon.

Several comments were related to matters of profit and ownership. How much control can we or should we have over our genetic and biological materials after they have left our bodies? Some participants suggested that scientists should be able to claim a sort of ownership or intellectual property of information that comes from biological tissues, because it is the work of the scientists that make that information legible. However, others are concerned that informed consent cannot adequately handle the possibility that technologies change and that biological tissues may be used differently in the future. With the help of freezer technology, biological samples gathered in the 1950’s have now come to represent something different. In Radin’s words “it may just be blood until someone makes a massive profit”. The samples and their meanings are dynamic.

Micha Rahder asked if the scientists working with cryo technology believe they are creating the future they imagine. Radin said that they work through what she calls “planned hindsight”. The goal of planned hindsight is to plan for a future inhabited by people that look back and think these scientists planned well for the future. Though they recognize that predicting the future has inherent limitations, these scientists try to anticipate the consequences of their plans as best as they can. Radin said that the problem with this is that it is at odds with the salvage conditions under which many of the samples are originally collected, and the trouble with the freezer as technology is that it allows the difficult discussions to be displaced into the future. As the final comment, Haraway reminded us that the person who tries to save everything loses everything.

UCSC Science and Justice Program Receives National Attention

UCSC Science and Justice Program Receives National Attention
By Kara Guzman

Santa Cruz Sentinel

POSTED: 08/20/2013 05:53:05 PM PDT

SANTA CRUZ — An interdisciplinary team of professors and graduate students from UC Santa Cruz’s Science & Justice Training Program have been recognized on the national stage for their work to integrate ethical training into scientific fields.

The team recently published an article in Public Library of Science Biology, a national peer-reviewed science journal, about the need to create institutional space for the exploration of the links between science and questions of ethics and justice, and how they were able to achieve that at UCSC.

The training program, which teaches both science and humanities graduate students to integrate ethical questions into their work, is the first of its kind, according to co-director Jenny Reardon. One of the program’s goals is to inspire the growth of this type of work on a national level, said Reardon.

“We live in a world where science and technology are a part of everybody’s lives,” said Reardon, who is an associate professor in sociology and faculty affiliate in UCSC’s Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering. “What we wanted to do was build a space where scientists and engineers could come together with social scientists and humanists around areas of common concern.”

Reardon listed topics such as dam construction, fish stock management and genomics as areas where people beyond just scientists are needed to answer broader political and justice questions.

A subtle yet significant shift has occurred in the principles of the National Science Foundation, a federal agency that funds approximately 20 percent of federally supported university research, and the agency now seeks to fund research that explicitly engages the public and benefits society, according to the article.

This shift has resulted in an effort at the national level to increase science ethics education, according to assistant program director Jake Metcalf. Traditionally science ethics education is built around responsible conduct of research, or “don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t lie,” said Metcalf.

“We’re trying to expand that to say we can develop better forms of knowledge when we actually have space and funding and time to recognize the interdisciplinary nature of the problems that scientists and engineers encounter,” said Metcalf.

Along with coursework that teaches graduate students how to identify intersections between science and ethics, such as in genomics or climate change, the program offers a working group and research center, which provide an institutionalized space to explore these intersections.

Science & Justice fellow Tiffany Wise-West, a civil engineer who is completing a Ph.D. in environmental studies, said that the program helped her think beyond just engineering, and brought the social implications of her work to the foreground.

“It’s added a new dimension,” said Wise-West. “I had not thought in that way before.”

A key part of the program is encouraging scientists to step away from the “publish or perish” pressure and take the time to reflect on these broader issues. Reardon said she sees a long-standing competitive culture within the scientific community that encourages sacrificing personal time to quickly churn out scholarly articles.

“That’s why I think these questions of justice are important,” said Reardon. “It encourages us to think about what life is about, what is the good life and what is the place of knowledge and knowledge production.”

Science and Justice Training Program explores ethics of scientific research

Science and Justice Training Program explores ethics of scientific research

Founders and participants outline program in ‘PLOS Biology’

By Guy Lasnier

Jenny Reardon is an associate professor of sociology and co-director of the Science and Justice Training Program. Co-director Karen Barad is professor of feminist studies and history of consciousness.

A subtle but significant shift in how national science policy makers regard the outcomes of scientific research has created opportunities for innovative programs such as the Science and Justice Training Program (SJTP) at UC Santa Cruz.

The interdisciplinary program, within UCSC’s Science and Justice Research Center, trains graduate students to explore the effects and impacts of their research on society. Writing recently in a scientific journal, members of the training program, co-directed by Jenny Reardon, associate professor of sociology, and Karen Barad, professor of feminist studies, outline the UCSC effort that was founded in 2010 with a National Science Foundation grant.

The article “Experiments in Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Science and Justice” appears on the community page of the July 30 issue of PLOS Biology.

“In a world increasingly shaped by science and technology, the SJTP aims to offer one pathway for science and engineering to connect to social issues and public concerns in a more practical, substantive, and thoughtful way,” the authors write.

Although policy changes over the past 20 years have led to an increased awareness of the impact of science on society, little direction is provided on how to proceed. That has created “an unexpected and underexploited benefit,” the authors write. “Where there is a mandate with little guidance, there is also an opportunity to innovate.”

At UCSC that means increased ethics education requirements for graduate students and a training program to deliver it. It means scientists and engineers working with colleagues in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

As an example, the authors cite two physics students working on solar greenhouse technology for industrial applications. They had hoped their technology also would be useful to and embraced by small-scale organic farmers.

However, after interviewing farmers using techniques learned in an SJTP research methods seminar, they learned the farmers wanted nothing to do with high-tech approaches. This prompted the researchers to rethink who might benefit from their work.

The goal is “not to turn scientists into social scientists or humanities scholars or vice versa,” the authors write. “Rather, it is to create opportunities for graduate students and other SJTP members to gather around common objects and concerns (e.g., a greenhouse, climate change, or the use of racial categories in biomedical research.”

Also contributing to the article were Jacob Metcalf, a postdoctoral fellow for the training program; along with graduate student fellows Ian Carbone, Martha Kenney, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Derek Padilla, Miriam Olivera, Kate Richerson, and Tiffany Wise-West.

Andrew Mathews co-authors article on the contributions of anthropology to understanding climate change

SJRC Director Andrew Mathews contributed to a recently published Perspectives piece in Nature Climate Change (pdf here) detailing how anthropologists can contribute to understanding the social and political dynamics of climate change. In this piece, Barnes et al. identify three types of insights anthropologists are well suited to provide.

First, the discipline draws attention to the cultural values and political relations that shape climate-related knowledge creation and interpretation and that form the basis of responses to continuing environmental changes. These insights come from the in-depth fieldwork that has long been the hallmark of anthropology. The second contribution is an awareness of the historical context underpinning contemporary climate debates — a result of archaeologists’ and environmental anthro- pologists’ interest in the history of society–environment interactions. The third is anthropology’s broad, holistic view of human and natural systems, which highlights the multiple cultural, social, political and economic changes that take place in our societies. Societal dynamics, as drivers of change, always interact with, and often outweigh, climate change — an issue that needs recognition for the success of public policies.

The authors note the challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration that Science & Justice has also worked to address. Varied temporal and geographic scales, differing approaches to qualitative and quantitative work, and contrasting commitments of the values of specificity and generalization for understanding phenomena can sometimes put social and natural sciences at cross purposes. However, when gathered around shared and pressing problems, the friction between disciplines can be made productive rather than detrimental or competitive. They write,

Ever more serious challenges to scientific understandings of climate change and policy responses — in both domestic and international political arenas — make the climate science and policy community more open to inputs from the social sciences. This Perspective argues that anthropology could play a central role in this, by offering methods to access the social, cultural and political processes that shape climate debates. Just as anthropologists can learn from climate science about the changing environmental conditions we live in, so too can climate scientists learn from anthropological research.

Science & Justice aims to foster just such cross-disciplinary collaboration and literacy, bringing together multiple forms of expertise to address major problems in contemporary science and technology.

S&J Training Program Fellow joins delegation in DC to advocate for more graduate training funding

SJTP Fellow and Environmental Studies doctoral student Tiffany Wise-West filed this report from a lobbying trip to Washington, DC with the “UC in DC” program. The statements made in this piece are her own opinions and not those of any UC-affiliated advocacy group.

In late May, 2013 a delegation from UCSC joined other UC campus delegations for UC in DC day, advocating to Congress for strong and sustained federal funding of graduate research and education. Over 26,000 graduate researchers are partially supported by the $3.1 billion in federal research funding annually, representing two-thirds of total research funding awarded to UCs each year. With over 7% of the nation’s PhDs being awarded from the UC system, UC leads the way in building the intellectual capital necessary to fill the 2.6 million jobs in California projected to require advanced degree by year 2020.

The UCSC delegation meets with Representative Sam Farr (CA-20th District) to discuss the consequences of budget cuts on graduate student training.

Graduate training, long a focal area of the Science and Justice Research Center, will be impacted by cuts to federal discretionary funding in the next fiscal year as a result of the sequestration mechanism put into law by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Additional discretionary cuts to research, education, and health programs will be accomplished in future years by decreasing the total funds available for annual appropriations. Without a change to or repeal of the sequestration law, the following impacts to graduate education will go into effect:

 · Deep cuts through year 2021 to key agencies funding graduate research opportunities such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, USDA, NASA, Department of Defense, and others.

· Reductions in student aid support will occur as the number of Pell Grants awarded decrease through year 2021 and interest rates for new federal students loans could increase from 3.4 to 6.8% after July 2013.

Obviously failure to “build the brain trust” has the potential to stifle technological innovation and could be economically damaging for the State. Chancellor Blumenthal, in his Open Forum piece in the May 9, 2013 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, frames this issue in terms of UCSC’s cancer genome research and asks how we, as a society, cannot afford this research that is so clearly in the public’s interest. Thus, crucial social justice questions are also associated with the current funding situation. Societal human health impacts aside, the inability to maintain or increase funding to graduate programs and grant-making agencies will have dire impacts on prospective graduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds or communities with respect to affordability and accessibility of healthcare.

Moreover, as Senator Harkin’s (D-Iowa) Education Policy Advisor pointed out, the Senator believes that education should never be treated as a discretionary expense but rather always speaks of it in terms of an investment in a self-perpetuating source of innovation, an economic driver and equalizer. As long as Congress thinks of educational funding as an “expense” vs. an “investment” and continues to make choices that prohibit pathways to advanced degrees, generations of Americans may accept the notion that advanced degrees are simply “out of reach” and be dissuaded from pursuing them.

So, what are our options? Outside of aggressive advocacy with Congress to improve the situation through legislative means, UC delegates informed Senator Feinstein (D-CA) that UC is working to enhance early and robust alumni contribution campaigns and foster public-private partnerships in research funding as a means to deal with continual uncertainty and reductions in funding. While these actions can make significant contributions, they do not begin to reach the order of magnitude required to offset the divestment of federal funding in graduate research and education. Congressional representatives from districts in which UCSC is located all explicitly support UC’s graduate research funding agenda. But with such a divided Congress, it is unlikely that legislative action will succeed in maintaining or increasing funding levels.

The next opportunity to weigh in on this issue is at the state level by contacting your legislator to support the increases proposed for UC in Governor Brown’s proposed, revised state budget that was released on May 14, 2013 and will be voted on by the legislature on June 14, 2013.



When does science become justice? Scientific evidence, pesticides and food system justice

Tuesday May 28, 2013


Engineering 2, 599

Panel guests:

Tyrone Hayes, UC Berkeley

Jill Harrison, Colorado-Boulder

Emily Marquez, Pesticide Action Network of North America

At the heart of disputes over pesticide use in agriculture are questions of evidence. Whose evidence is to be trusted? When causal relations between pesticides and human illness or ecological harm are disputed, who decides on their continued use? Is it appropriate for regulators to take into account matters of political economy and social justice when regulating agricultural practices or are there plainly empirical criteria of risk for regulators to use? This panel will bring together a social scientist, an activist organization, a natural scientist, and a pesticide regulator. We will search for shared insights into the meeting of scientific knowledge and democratic governance of food systems, giving credence to the positions of the many stakeholders in food systems—farmers, workers, neighbors and eaters alike.


Putting Earthquake Prediction on Trial: Lessons from the 2009 L’Aquila Earthquake

In spite of recent advances, predicting earthquakes remains difficult and uncertain, challenging scientists both to predict and to communicate the probability of earthquakes to policymakers and to the general public. In October, 2012, seven Italian earthquake scientists were found guilty of manslaughter for their role in failing to communicate the risk of a possible earthquake, shortly before a powerful 2009 earthquake killed more than 300 people in the city of L’Aquila, Italy. This trial has become an international cause celebre; in today’s event, Professor Susan Schwartz (Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC) will talk about the state of current knowledge in earthquake prediction, and about her experience of communicating this to multiple audiences in Costa Rica. Professor Massimo Mazzotti, (History, UC Berkeley) will talk about the political and institutional context which led to the seven scientists’ being put on trial, and how their conviction was affected by popular understandings of what scientists and the Italian state should have done.

Following the event, there will be a reception in the Science & Justice Research Center with refreshments and featuring works from our artists in residence.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | 4:00-6:00 pm | Oakes Mural Room

Andrew Mathews receives the Harold & Margaret Sprout Award for recent book

Andrew S. Mathews, Director of the Science & Justice Research Center and Associate Professor of Anthropology, received the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award  from the International Studies Association’s Environment Section for his 2011 book Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise, and Power in Mexican Forests (MIT Press). The Harold and Margaret Sprout Award recognizes the best book in the study of international environmental problems in the preceding two years. Mathew’s book traces the hundred year history of how the science of forestry arrived in the forests of Mexico and was transformed by indigenous communities who live and work in forests.