Philosophy and Communication

We are conducting workshops based on what we call the ‘Toolbox’, a list of questions that can guide collaborators into discussions that explore the philosophical dimensions of their work together.
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Philosophy TV episode on the Toolbox Approach featuring Michael O'Rourke and Graham Hubbs


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Toolbox Instrument by Toolbox Project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


A Philosophical Approach to Improving
Cross-Disciplinary Communication

Michigan State University, University of Idaho, Boise State University,
University of Alaska, Anchorage & the National Science Foundation


Collaborative, cross-disciplinary science is an increasingly important part of responses to proliferating, complex problems. Complexity typifies certain problems facing human societies, such as poverty, infectious diseases, and the quest for sustainable use of natural resources. Improving the cross-disciplinary research (CDR) required to address such problems is a significant challenge. Meeting this challenge will alter contemporary science, dramatically changing how scientists think about science within and across disciplines and how they communicate in creating and applying new knowledge within collaborative scientific endeavors. Despite this challenge, practical approaches to enhancing collaboration have emerged slowly, lagging behind the initiation of collaborative projects and the increase in funding opportunities that encourage collaboration.

The emerging literature on how to conduct CDR focuses on the difficulties of integrating the social, biological, and physical aspects of collaborative research projects, disciplinary chauvinism, group processes conducive to effective research, and institutional and educational structures congenial to cross-disciplinary collaboration. These published approaches emphasize a common theme: the need to develop effective communication as part of the CDR process.

The Toolbox Project is intended to provide a philosophical yet practical enhancement to cross-disciplinary, collaborative science. Rooted in philosophical analysis, Toolbox workshops enable cross-disciplinary collaborators to engage in a structured dialogue about their research assumptions. This yields both self-awareness and mutual understanding, supplying CDR collaborators with the robust foundation needed for effective collaborative research.