New Directions Vision
GoalTo develop new models for interdisciplinary collaboration, where physical scientists, social scientists, and humanists work together with public science agencies, the private sector, and communities to deepen our understanding of and develop effective responses to societal problems. The key element: integrating the perspectives and insights of the humanities with those of science, technology, and policy making.
What is the New Directions Initiative?Launched in the fall of 2001 with initial grants from the Colorado School of Mines and the National Science Foundation, New Directions has received support from NASA, USGS, EPA, NEH, NCAR, and the Geological Survey of Canada, as well as a consortium of universities (numbering 11 to date). New Directions seeks to develop the theory and practice of wide interdisciplinarity, integrating the values-dimensions of our societal challenges with on-going scientific research and education.
Why is New Directions Needed?The challenges we face today are as much value-driven as they are scientific and technological in nature. Whether the question is global climate change, the new genomics, or a local project of ecological restoration, ethical, political, aesthetic, and religious values are tied to the insights of science and engineering. Society needs a sustained cultural conversation across academia, and between academia and the public and private sectors, that bridges these domains and interests.
ProjectsSince 2002 New Directions has published two volumes and a number of papers, run 4 workshops and one conference, created a K-12 educational project, and provided funding for six case studies tied to the theme of water:
- Humanizing Environmental Research on the South Carolina Coast, U.S. At Winyah Bay, a marine biologist and a philosopher work with students to link scientific data to the needs of local communities.
- Ecology and Cultural History of the Neva River, St. Petersburg, Russia. Experts in Russian literature, landscape architecture, and geology examine the relation between the Neva River's ecological problems and its iconic status.
- Salmon Restoration in the Lower Columbia Basin, Northwestern U.S. An environmental scientist and a theologian examine the salmon controversy from scientific, religious, and ethical perspectives.
- Visualizing a Gulf of Maine Digital Library, Northeastern U.S. Researchers from the USGS, the University of Maine, and the Island Institute bring public science to local communities in a digital library format.
- Environmental Decision-Making and Hydrological Modeling, Utah, U.S. The role of computer models in water policy within state and federal agencies is examined by a geologist, a lawyer, and a communications expert.
- The Georgia Basin Futures Project (Vancouver and southwestern B.C., Canada). Geologists and humanists explore pathways to sustainability through the use of emerging digital library/semantic learning networks and scenario modeling tools.
In addition to these case studies, ND has run a series of workshops, a research conference, and a set of white papers, publications, and products in a variety of media (see Outcomes).
Long Range GoalsImproving the relevance of public science; providing new venues for citizen and stakeholder participation in societal decision making; evaluating the effectiveness of interdisciplinary teamwork; developing the theory and practice of interdisciplinary collaboration; gaining greater insight into the nature of interdisciplinary research and dialogue; and more richly expressing the human dimensions of our relationship with the environment.
Further informationDr. Robert Frodeman, Chair
Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies
University of North Texas
PO Box 310920
Denton, TX 76203-0920