A Brief History of Time(ly SSHRC feedback).


I’ll be the first to admit it. I was pretty disappointed when we found out that our SSHRC proposal wasn’t successful. We had quite a few folks take a good look at the documentation we worked on, and generally speaking I really thought we had a strong and interesting proposal which stood a good chance.

Still, I think one of the curious things about these interdisciplinary projects, is that perhaps I got especially caught up in my own biases and particular academic views. Since the project is tip toeing across so many ideas, and therefore different areas of research, it was perhaps inevitable that how others viewed the project was different, although different in a way that would provide valuable insight. As well, the process of looking at this with social science eyes was new to me (as a science academic), and reading through the comments was actually quite challenging for me (which is to say that jargon exists everywhere!).

In any event, in empirical terms, our “score” (based on “challenge”, “feasibility”, and “capability” categories) was 11.88 out of 18, which I think meant that we ranked somewhere in the middle. These ratings were determined as an average between two reviewers, whereupon we essentially received one strong review, and one weak review. In both cases, it was our numbers for the “challenge” element that took a hit.

Since we’re not sure of the copyright around straight up releasing the reviewers comments, we thought it best to simply highlight the core criticisms. At this point, I won’t respond to them, as I think it’ll make more sense to address them at a later date and when we’ve move along in the project and have had a chance to see how anticipatory these comments were.

Overall, however, I think they do a great job of showcasing a variety of valid criticisms inherent in our proposal (although I’ll also let Marie-Claire comment on this in the future, especially as she is the more experienced social scientist in this project).

Anyway, in no particular order, here are the main points of concern:

1. That the research primarily focuses on ideas where creativity is a general construct, as oppose to forms that are tied to specific scientific practices in specific fields (i.e. the specifics of creativity in DNA work, or particle physics or microscopy/microbial exploration as the case would be in our particular outreach opportunities). In general, it was thought that this more directed examination (a “situated approach”) would better focus the research.

2. That perhaps a broader framing of science studies literature would better serve the project. Here, the proposal was thought to have good grounding from a sociological perspective, but that it would be beneficial to also explore framing with other areas (such as philosophy, anthropology, history, rhetoric, etc… of sciences).

3. That given the overall goals of the research (towards impacting identities, impacting school science and teaching practices), there may be problems with using one-day fieldtrips as our experiential conduit, where the limited time is likely insufficient. Possibly related to this, one of the reviewer expressed some confusion over our plans for longitudinal data (i.e. returning kids over a three year period).

4. That the research strongly assumes the notions of children thinking that science is “an algorithmic process that always proceeds as a set of research steps resulting in potential loss of scientific identity.” Basically, there was concern that this was too vague a generalization, and that using this to initially frame the studies is premature if not incomplete.

– – –

Anyway, there you have it. I think laying this all out was certainly a good starting point for our next steps, as well as great fodder for potentially thinking about a second application down the road.

And luckily, we were able to find some funding to start the research project in an exploratory way. Partly to see if we can begin to collect some data that can strengthen our proposal, and also to begin logistically working out what processes/techniques/methods may be best suited for our study.

Anyway I’ll start to unpack the build up to this preliminary work in the next few blog posts. Stay tuned!


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