Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein writes:
The workshop for ‘Cultivating Common Ground’ took place on Wednesday July 18th 2012 in the Henley Business School on Whiteknights campus of the University of Reading. The organisers of the project (project lead Professor Nick Battey, RA Dr Rachel Crossland, co-investigators Dr David Stack, Professor Francoise Le Saux, Dr John Holmes and Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein and presenter Dr Paul Hatcher) were joined by thirty-two participants, most of whom are practising academic biologists, but also several teachers of biology, museum and research institute staff and interdisciplinary humanities and social sciences researchers.
The workshop proved to be a very lively and positive event: there was throughout a sense of enthusiastic engagement and thought. The workshop was divided into several sections: first there was a morning introduction from Professor Battey, followed by presentations from each of the four co-investigators on their specific areas of expertise. The presentations were then responded to through group-discussions based on five pre-set questions. After a break for lunch Dr Paul Hatcher introduced and presented two short natural history films on parasitoids, one from 1931 and one more contemporary one, to see what responses these might elicit in the light of the humanities. After this everyone departed to join one of four break-out groups that had been signed-up for earlier on the day: either a group thinking about interdisciplinary research-proposals, led by Professor Battey and Professor Le Saux, or a group on how humanities might be used in natural history museum curating, led by Dr John Holmes and joined by the Director of the University of Reading’s Cole Museum of Zoology (where that break-out group also took place), Dr Amanda Callaghan, or a group on teaching an interdisciplinary science and humanities module, led by Dr David Stack and based on a module designed and forthcoming at the University of Reading, or a group considering analytic ways of reading led by Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein, focussing on a critical reading of an article by Vittorio Gallese and Alvin Goldman on ‘Mirror Neurons and the Simulation Theory of Mind-Reading’, Trends in Cognitive Sciences2:12, December 1998, 493-501. The workshop then ended with a summarising of the day’s events by Professor Battey.
All in all, it was a most enjoyable and productive day with the exchange of many interesting and important ideas and questions, on which we will be reporting further here in the near future.