Project: Science Design Dialogue

I might have got myself in trouble here…

A recent post stirred up some great conversation, and someone actually called me on an idea, and now I have to put my money where my mouth is. My question to the internet was;

“Is anyone interested in starting a dialogue around science with non-scientists?”

The answer was yes (thanks to Peter “Scelop” Nierowski and the mighty Tim McGee), and so now we have to think about setting this up.

Using this blog as the sounding board to get the initial discussion going, here is the game plan, and all you beautiful people out there, let me know what you think.

Here’s the the big goal:

To fuel deep dialogue about research, that includes a diverse array of voices, that opens science to a broader audience.

Here’s the elevator pitch:

A paper is selected for its scientific merit and opportunity. A group of motivated people start a free flowing dialogue that includes written discussions, questions, debates, hopes and dreams.

After a period of time, we call it quits and assemble some sort of review summarizing the discussion. It may be something like RSAnimate, or maybe a snippet of Design Fiction, or a paper that could be presented in a biomimicry conference. This could be a research project housed in a university, non-profit, or another model.

In the mean time a new dialogue would have begun around a different paper, and possibly an entirely new topic, for people to connect around.

The big hairy ambitious goal includes the possibility of this dialogue fuelling further research in different labs and institutions that might lead to some game changing insights and discoveries. Or to an incredible book discussing the implications of science in the broader community. At this point, who knows, the vision is broad, but emergent, and will respond to whatever brews up from the discussions.

Let’s do it – here comes the action plan!

Step 1: Assemble a core group

Core group would include a diverse array of disciplines, designers of different backgrounds and experiences, engineers, business, perhaps law, would love philosophy, and a group of biologists from various disciplines as well.

No real limit on number of voices, but would need to think carefully on what the criteria would be. Here are my initial thoughts:

  • Must be motivated to contribute. We need people who write, will add their thoughts and be vocal in the mix.
  • Must be driven by curiosity.
  • Must be passionate about creating future scenarios of sustainability. My personal interest in fuelling these conversations is the goal of creating deep discussions with long term effects. Therefore I wish for a bias in shaping this conversation.
  • Is a biomimicry background required? Not sure. As per my previous discussions, the simple fact of the process means the result will be biomimicry, whether it is explicit or not.

The team should be a blend of grey hairs and fresh naive enthusiasm. Please jump in on the comments if you have any thoughts or recommendations. Does the project need a couple of rock stars that will generate an audience? I wonder if Janine has any spare time…

Step 2: Pick a paper.

I have an idea in mind of where to start, perhaps a straight up bio-materials paper to get things rolling. But our discussion suggested papers could ultimately could be of materials, process, system, sociology, ecology. Whatever tickles the fancy of the group.

Process could be a simple one where everyone suggests one paper each, with a little reasoning behind it, and then we all vote and start the discussion.

I think we keep it simple, and just get started somewhere.

 Step 3: Dialogue.

Being new to the world of blogging, I think this medium could work well. Set up one central site, all the core group get accounts to post, and the blog would become a stream of dialogue about the initial starting point.

The blog would be open to the public, allowing anyone to post comments, adding their voices into the mix, which might allow us to create some new friends and hear some new opinions.

We keep the dialogue open for a few weeks, not so long that it gets bogged down, but enough time that everyone can think over it and contribute.

Step 4: Reflect and share.

Depending on the results of the discussion there may be a number of different opportunities at this stage, so it has been left the most open. I would hope that whatever dialogue is generated would be exciting enough to shape what this stage would look like.

Step 5: Repeat!

Learn from the process, refine and fix what is necessary, and look for a new paper to explore together.

Because I simply can’t help it, here is the diagram I drew as I was trying to work out this idea.

Anyone out there interested, or has any ideas of making this idea burst into reality, let me know!

Any names for the project? I’m thinking “Intersections Dialogue” but perhaps someone has something sexier?

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16 Comments on “Project: Science Design Dialogue”

  1. kzarsky says:

    Excellent idea, Carl! I’d love to join and hope to learn more in a couple of days:)

  2. swissdreamer says:

    What a great idea!

    I am also wondering if the original author can give feedback on the comments made by the non-scientists after the dialog has stopped …or maybe that is redundant, not sure.

    I also think we should have someone with kids or teenagers be involved with this to get their input as well 🙂

  3. scelop says:

    i like the plan. Don’t really see that it needs tweaking right now. One way to start your invites would be to ask each of those who already expressed interest to invite one more person they think would be good, given the way you have laid it out? that would be 8 – 10 people, right?

  4. Alëna Konyk says:

    Sounds great! This almost reminds me of John Warner’s presentation, and his thoughts on the problem of industrial design (trying to instigate materials to a designed function rather than explore function through available materials). Seems, like the latter approach (that this discussion might facilitate) leads to greater innovations. I almost want to grab a paper about biomaterials that I would be able to get a hold of, to maybe get the interdisciplinary on-hands workshop going. Long-term dreaming, perhaps? 🙂

  5. scelop says:

    take a look at the following potential reads….if i am way off the mark let me know, but i figured the only way to get started was to climb out on a limb. The six papers are a wide range of review with very general info, to highly technical….i am not partial to any particular one and am interested in what others might throw into the mix. Carl?

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2010215/J.%20R.%20Soc.%20Interface-2009-Meadows-S107-13.pdf

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2010215/J.%20R.%20Soc.%20Interface-2010-Cadiou-S193-205.pdf

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2010215/J.%20R.%20Soc.%20Interface-2011-Harmer-457-71.pdf

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2010215/journal.pone.0011234.pdf

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2010215/PNAS-2011-Chiao-9148-53.pdf

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2010215/Reguera_G.pdf

    • Carl Hastrich says:

      Hey Peter,
      These are superb. The microbial communication dovetails with specific discussions from the weekend which is kind of amazing.
      I’m going to write up an invite “letter” to potential participants, with a link to this post and see if we can get a core group interested over the next few weeks.

      @Alena – lots of great papers here for your area of interest…
      @Swissdreamer – there have been a bunch of great conversations around getting childrens’ voices in the mix, i wonder if this is the right platform, but definitely something to add to the mix

  6. Carl Hastrich says:

    Ok everyone – thanks for the positive feedback. Agreed, we simply need to start. Invite people, suggest papers, launch site, discuss!

  7. Jamie says:

    This is awesome – I’m game

  8. Tim McGee says:

    wicked awesome.

    I spent an hour or so last night reading the Iridescence paper – I now ‘need’ to see 5 of the papers references. Also I wrote up a few little sketches- but can’t figure out how to post them to the blog – the dropbox links were magic (how did you do that scelop?)

    Who wants to be ‘webmaster’ of the site? Carl? If you need help I’m game.

    • Carl Hastrich says:

      Tim – I have no idea how Peter did the drop box, if need be email them to me for now and I can upload them to this blog. But we should have a quick chat about setting up separate infrastructure for this project specifically.

      I was floored by the microbial communication in light of the conversations we were discussing on the weekend.

    • scelop says:

      there is a ‘public’ folder on dropbox accounts so you can share without having to specify a user. Once we get going we might use a shared folder on dropbox….it is a reasonably nice interface and free. if you email me the refs you want as doi’s or standard citations i will put them into the same public folder and post the links.

  9. […] far, one of the most exciting concepts to emerge out of Bouncing Ideas is the Science Design Dialogue. I’m excited about the idea for several reasons, one is that at the end of so many scientific […]

  10. Svsi says:

    So, anybody who knows what happened to that idea? 10 days in July 2011 and then. …?

    • Carl Hastrich says:

      Hey,
      Well … I sort of dropped the ball on that one. Was too busy and didn’t really know how to move it forward. Have been thinking a lot about rekindling some of these discussions. You have any suggestions?

      • Svsi says:

        An experienced facilitator would be helpful. He should have no shares in that procedure and should be neutral but committed to advance the process. And a timetable with marked milestones …

  11. Rooth says:

    Great idea. As a former evolutionary biologist and current sculptor/art professor, I would love to participate in the discussions!


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