Conclusions and Recommendations
The following points were gleaned from the Thursday and Friday break-out meetings and the Saturday afternoon concluding session. The points have been paraphrased and rearranged into clusters. Some points overlap or could go under multiple headings.
Regarding the IGERT conference:
- This group was upbeat, not the usual environmental gloom & doom.
- Being with other IGERT students encouraged fellows whose universities lack interdisciplinary support.
- Let’s have another conference, perhaps at Arizona State U, in 2 years.
What it means to be an IGERT person:
- Maybe we are the generation of academics who can figure some of this out (complex sustainability problems, ways to do interdisciplinary science).
- Define your own expertise, and defend it from those who want to pigeonhole you in traditional disciplinary categories.
- Challenge & expand what people perceive as scientists’ roles.
- Challenge yourself by going outside your comfort zones.
- The conference ended up talking a great deal about interdisciplinarity & IGERTs, but not much about sustainability.
- Issues of scale, reference viewpoint and social justice are intrinsic to sustainability discourse.
- Sustainability is about being flexible, not about being “right.”
- We need to change ourselves to change the world.
- Explore the roles of arts & humanities in sustainability.
- Sustainability issues have an element of urgency and mission, pushing us beyond traditional science and into advocacy.
- The starting point for good interdisciplinary work is open-mindedness – respect & understanding others’ epistemologies.
- Avoid situations where disciplinary institutions press for exhaustive specialization at the expense of “the big picture.”
- Interdisciplinarity is not an anomaly, but will become the norm.
- Problems that seem disparate have common ground.
- We need to develop more sophisticated & effective interdisciplinary teams that truly meld.
- Explore and develop interdisciplinary methodologies.
- Try the “T” competency tool to evaluate breadth vs. depth approaches.
- Find meaningful ways to involve stakeholders from outside academia in projects.
- Partner with others from the beginning in defining problems, rather than calling them in later for token collaboration or “tech support.”
- We need to keep talking – even with people who frustrate us.
Recruiting & keeping diverse IGERT students:
- Encourage role models & mentors.
- Recruit older students who are already community leaders.
- Provide support networks to nurture participation by under-represented groups.
- Foster family-friendly programs (e.g. accommodating babies).
- Address anxieties about career and financial risks.
Tips for a better IGERT:
- IGERTs work better when the direction comes from students clarifying their needs, rather than top-down management.
- Have a common space where students can interact.
- Provide focused, practical overviews to educate students on topics or tools outside their core expertise.
- Use adaptive management approaches to review and improve programs.
- Develop sister programs to work with foreign colleagues.
- Take time to build networks and trust.
- Create non-traditional informative products (ones mentioned included a movie, a cabaret, school programs, white papers and fairs for undergrads).
Ways IGERTs can help each other:
- Compile a “best practices” list.
- Give other IGERTs feedback on their projects.
- Distribute relevant job postings.
- Notify each other of in-house conferences.
- Have an alumni directory to track the fate of grads & build a mentoring network.
Ways IGERTs can work together:
- Make more use of the existing IGERT list serve.
- Promote online community via blog, list-serve, Google, Face Book, or access grid node groups.
- Develop & conduct student-led, distance-delivery workshops.
- Have an online book group.
- Work together to produce curricula for IGERT courses.
- Do group publications on topics of interest (e.g. mapping epistemologies).
- Partner on comparative studies.
- Help faculty & students from different institutions work together.
- Pursue having small groups hash out ideas more often.