IRIS showcase tackles interdisciplinary research barriers

birds eye view of a river

Difficult issues, such as climate change and poverty, are highly complex and defy traditional problem-solving approaches. York’s Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) will tackle how to transcend the typical interdisciplinary research barriers to find solutions to these problems at its upcoming research showcase.

Transcending Interdisciplinary Research Barriers: Best Practices for Mobilizing Knowledge will take place Thursday, March 8, from 10:30am to 12:30pm, at 1002 Osgoode Hall Law School, Keele campus. Anyone who can’t attend the event in person can join electronically here.

Several speakers from the natural and social sciences, who have sought to move out of their comfort zones – their labs, field sites and libraries – will examine the issue of overcoming interdisciplinary barriers, as well as the power of interdisciplinary approaches. These approaches are widely touted by all universities and colleges today, although they have seldom been critically examined. Gabrielle SloweySpeakers will also look at whether electronic communications are key to providing solutions to some of the problems by building a global knowledge society and generating new kinds of knowledge.

Gabrielle Slowey

A common experience today is that even with current communication technologies there are barriers of language and culture among academics. Transcending these barriers remains an ongoing challenge for effective team science because of the high transaction costs of interdisciplinary interactions compared with discipline-centric research in a familiar setting.

The speakers will discuss identifying best practices for interdisciplinary team science and how global communication technologies have been used in mobilizing science into sound policy solutions. Andrew Tanentzap (BSc Spec. Hons. ’05, MSc ’07), a Banting postdoctoral Fellow in biology at York, will moderate the discussions.

York political science Professor Gabrielle Slowey will look at “Oil and Gas Development: Dealing with a Necessary Evil”. She will discuss results from the International Polar Year GAPS Project (Gas, Arctic Peoples & Security), comparing research from Dawn BazelyCanada, Norway and Russia with that from the United States, about the local impacts of oil and gas development.

York biology Professor Dawn Bazely (right) will deliver the talk, “Managing Northward-Bound Species: Which Will Become Invasive?” Along with habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species are recognized as a major threat to biodiversity. Research examining the ecological impacts of invasive non-indigenous species has increased hugely; yet managing invasive species remains problematic due to conflicting societal values. Additionally, determining the impacts of invasives under climate warming scenarios is even more complex.

Nina Hewitt Nina Hewitt (left), a postdoctoral Fellow and lecturer in York’s Department of Geography and a senior Fellow and postdoctoral researcher with IRIS, will discuss “The Various Dilemmas of Assisted Migration for Slow-Moving Species”. Ecologists recognize that many species will not migrate rapidly enough to keep up with shifting ecosystem conditions due to climate change. Assisted migration was proposed several decades ago as a strategy to help maintain populations of slow-moving species. However, many scientists see assisted migration as problematic, largely because its potential to preserve species stands in direct tension with its potential to produce invasion by the focal species, thereby threatening the recipient ecosystem. Scholarly debate on this topic has intensified during the last three years and threatens to produce a stalemate in policy and action on the issue. Hewitt will tease apart the arguments and present a conceptual framework to help scientists and policy-makers find common ground and work Steve Tufts towards case- and context-specific solutions.

Steve Tufts (right), a York geography professor, will examine the question, “What Will Work in a Warming World Look Like?” Adapting to and mitigating climate change requires major societal shifts, but what will everyday jobs look like?

These talks were originally presented during this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting held in Vancouver in February.

For more information, visit the IRIS website.