BBC News: Carbon credits undercut climate change actions

By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News
The vast majority of carbon credits generated by Russia and Ukraine did not represent cuts in emissions, according to a new study. The authors say that offsets created under a UN scheme “significantly undermined” efforts to tackle climate change. The credits may have increased emissions by 600 million tones. In some projects, chemicals known to warm the climate were created and then destroyed to claim cash.
As a result of political horse trading at UN negotiations on ...

Open Access Week: Victoria Stodden to speak on campus October 22nd

The Virginia Tech Libraries are bringing Dr. Victoria Stodden to campus to speak on Thursday October 22, 2015 as part of Open Access Week. Her keynote talk will address reproducibility as a frame for openness in computational research.
Victoria Stodden is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed both her PhD in statistics and her law degree at Stanford University. She also holds a master’s degree in economics from ...

Think Piece: What makes a graduate superstar?

As the new academic year starts, it is timely to reflect on characteristics that help make a student successful in graduate school.  Raw intellect is only one part of a more complex recipe for success.
Characteristics of Graduate School Superstars
“Graduate school can be a traumatic experience. Some graduate students spend their time complaining about a heavy work load, uncaring attitudes of faculty, or constant pressure of being evaluated. These students quickly begin to devalue their graduate education, deny its ...

Distinguished Lecture 2015: Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University

Should We Trust Science?
Perspectives From The History And Philosophy Of Science
The Global Change Center at Virginia Tech was pleased to welcome Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Harvard historian and author, for a Distinguished Lecture on September 2, 2015, at 4:00 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre.
Press Release from VT News:
BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 25, 2015 – Naomi Oreskes, a world-renowned science historian who focuses on understanding scientific consensus and dissent in relation to environmental science, will visit Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Sept. 2.
She will ...

New Agriculture & Environment Seminar Series at Virginia Tech

We would like to invite you to a new, interdepartmental seminar series entitled, “Agriculture and the Environment.” This seminar series will be held weekly, Fall 2015, each Tuesday from 3:00-4:00 in the Fralin Auditorium, Sept. 1 through Nov. 10, 2015.  The seminar is being co-sponsored by the departments of Entomology, CSES, PPWS, and Horticulture and features invited academic and industry speakers from outside the VT community.
Students are encouraged to register for the seminar for 1 credit under ALS 5984 ...

Interdisciplinary thinking

Klein bookThe higher education community has long discussed, debated and defined (and redefined) interdisciplinary education and research.  Published in 1990, Julie Thompson Klein wrote the first comprehensive overview of interdisciplinarity. Since then, many books have been written, articles published, and conferences held.  In the early 21st century, two prominent federal funding agencies (NSF, NIH) would articulate the importance of interdisciplinary research (and graduate education) through the publication of Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research (2004, National Academies Press) and NIH Roadmap Interdisciplinary Research initiatives (2005, National Institutes of Health).

With increased attention about interdisciplinary research including the notion of “grand challenges“, the development and implementation of interdisciplinary programs followed.  Leading the discussions at the graduate level was the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) that offered sessions during its annual meetings and summer workshops.  Having been a participant in these conversations, the focus was primarily on content knowledge and research methodologies cutting across disciplines and the development of graduate degree programs.  Examples of good practices exist (e.g., Penn State, University of California-Davis, University of Central Florida, University of Minnesota, University of Washington, Virginia Tech).  At Virginia Tech, we have also established a blog site as a means of sharing research across interdisciplinary degree programs as well.  And all the while, very little discussion has occurred around interdisciplinary thinking and its relationship to graduate education until CGS President Suzanne Ortega invited Vice Provost Frances Leslie (UC Irvine) and me to facilitate such a discussion.  A great discussion occurred; the results of which will be shared in a different forum.  What follows here are my reflections and musings about interdisciplinary thinking in preparation for and after that session.

I have previously blogged about interdisciplinary thinking and different metaphors for graduate education.  I proposed the symbol of “pi” as metaphor for interdisciplinary (transdisciplinary as well) imagesand preparing graduate students to become adaptive innovators.  My musings about interdisciplinary thinking continue and have been informed by Simeon Dreyfuss article entitled “Something essential about interdisciplinary thinking” published in 2011 in Issues in Integrative Studies (29, 67-83)

So how do I understand interdisciplinary thinking?  Interdisciplinary thinking (I-thinking) must extend beyond the sharing of content and methodology from different disciplinary perspectives.  I-thinking must reach beyond common courses, shared research projects, case studies and joint publications. I-thinking most likely involves team science especially collaboration and clear, direct communication.

I-thinking should involve problem solving as well as problem defining and problem posing.  Yes, it involves what is known as critical thinking skills however these are defined. It is about asking questions and “sitting with” the question before jumping to solutions or answers quickly.  I-thinking takes time and requires perseverance.

Interdisciplinary thinking is about different ways of knowing and knowing differently and knowing in relationship to other even dissimilar views. It is about differing modalities of thinking and learning which requires acceptance of and tolerance for ambiguity and dissonance and perhaps confusion at times.  Creativity and innovation are key components and outcomes of interdisciplinary thinking.

Interdisciplinary thinking is a non-linear process and doesn’t embrace dualities but seeks intersections and connections.  I-thinking is about acknowledging the notion of a “baggy idea of truth, understanding the multiplicity of truth and the ongoing search for evolving truth.  It involves looking for and seeing the “unobvious” – to see things in ways which might not be obvious.

Interdisciplinary thinking is not only integrative but much more.  Beyond analysis and synthesis across disciplines, interdisciplinary thinking must be iterative and emergent.

Dreyfuss (2011) wrote that the difference between disciplinary and interdisciplinary thinking is “a manifestation of how deeply one is wed to particular historical institutionalizations of knowledge” (p. 80). In order to prepare the graduate students for the future, graduate deans must encourage programs and provide opportunities to push beyond the historical institutionalization of knowledge and disciplinary boundaries into interdisciplinary thinking.  The abilities and skills associated with interdisciplinary thinking will serve all graduate students well in discipline-based or interdisciplinary programs.

So, the question now is how.

GCC Seed Grant gains roots, bears fruits

Last fall, the Global Change Center released its first call for proposals to support interdisciplinary research. A team of VT researchers led by Dr. Cayelan Carey received ~$18,000 for their project titled, “Managing human needs and ecosystem services in drinking water reservoirs confronted with global change.” Dr. Carey’s team includes Dr. John Little, Dr. Madeline Schreiber, and Dr. Quinn Thomas. 
This interdisciplinary group is currently examining the effects of altered climate on nutrient cycling and food web dynamics in four drinking-water reservoirs that supply Roanoke. Southeastern U.S. reservoirs are experiencing both increased ...

IGC Fellows host “Science Girls!” summer campers

August 1, 2015
IGC Fellows Tamara Fetters and Heather Govenor recently hosted a research tour in Derring Hall for a group of summer campers from the Science Museum of Western Virginia (SMWV). The K-5 summer camp, called “Science  Girls!”, featured women working in STEM-related fields, and included field trips and presentations from women who currently work in those fields.
Tamara and Heather showed the girls around the Derring Hall “lizard room”, a brown anole colony, and talked about anole ecology ...

The first 21 days of a bee’s life: a Ted Talk photo journey

We’ve heard that bees are disappearing. But what is making bee colonies so vulnerable? Photographer Anand Varma raised bees in his backyard — in front of a camera — to get an up close view. This project, for National Geographic, gives a lyrical glimpse into a bee hive — and reveals one of the biggest threats to its health, a mite that preys on baby bees in the first 21 days of life. With his incredible footage, set to music ...