Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

The Toolbox Approach to Enhanced Collaboration, Communication, and Integration in Cross-Disciplinary Research

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Michael O'Rourke
Brian Robinson, Michigan State University
Stephanie Vasko, Michigan State University

Cross-disciplinary research entails unique challenges due to differences among researchers’ disciplinary worldviews. These differences inhibit effective collaboration impeding clear communication. Cross-disciplinary researchers are often talking past one another. The Toolbox Project is a NSF-sponsored effort that uses philosophical concepts and methods to evaluate and facilitate improvement in communication and collaboration by cross-disciplinary and inter-professional groups (O’Rourke & Crowley 2013). The primary vehicle is the Toolbox workshop, which is a dialogue-based intervention designed to improve communication and collaboration by enhancing mutual and self-understanding of philosophical assumptions among collaborators. Since 2005, 160 workshops have been conducted for over 1,400 participants. Most workshops have involved groups with research or education missions. This poster summarizes the Toolbox approach, including examples from multiple Toolbox instruments, which serve as the focal point to dialogue-based intervention. We present quantitative and qualitative evidence demonstrating the effect of Toolbox workshops generally and for particular research groups. This includes our findings from a recent Toolbox workshop focusing on climate resiliency in West Michigan.