I think I could say a lot about our session last week “Communicating Science”… about what stories I am drawn to, about what others seemed drawn to, about spontaneity, presence, directness, and connection. About considering our research “in context” – of our own stories, of others, of the world in which we live and how our research matters. But I actually want to note instead what an interesting process it was to watch us all loosen up and get in touch with our more creative, more playful sides. In some ways, that is understandable… We don’t like to look or feel silly, or vulnerable. But, as I thought about it more I realized just how tightly wound I can be some times (and maybe you felt the same way?) by the juggling act of family, work, school, research…this life that each of us has! Also, the “oddity” of last Monday’s class leads me to believe that we have largely sterilized our classrooms, our labs, and our offices to be places where laughter, dancing, noise – life! – is not welcome. While some of that, sometimes, may be ok… I worry how this environment seems to also exile the vulnerability that is needed for high quality learning, partnership, and mentorship. When we talked about academic ethics and the misconduct cases, one of there questions I kept asking is Why? What environment have we created together in our institutions of higher education that seem to breed that sort of pursuit of perfection rather than the sort of humbly persistent awe that seems embedded in Thomas Edison’s “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”
Though I don’t think the answer to shifting to a more openly vulnerable academic culture will be achieved by a series of Communicating Science workshops (nor is that their intended purpose), the sessions certainly did make me think. What about you? What ideas are you wrestling with?