This is part of series of blog posts looking at People and Projects funded by the AHRC Science in Culture Theme.
This post is a question and answer feature with Professor Sally Shuttleworth (Principal Investigator) and Dr Sally Frampton (Post-doctoral researcher), from the AHRC Large Grant ‘Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries’
1. What excites you about the Large Grant project?
The opportunity for large-scale collaboration between the science and humanities, with each genuinely and energetically informing the other. It’s the chance to do something new and to show how historical research can inform scientific practice today – and vice versa.
2. How is the project developing? What are you looking forward to working on over the next 3 years?
With such a big, multi-partner project, it’s been important to start by finding out more about one another’s disciplines and institutions. For example I’ve spent a lot of time with the Zooniverse team, learning about what they do, as well as visiting and exploring the collections of our Museum partners. We’ve had some very fruitful meetings planning the next three years and we have a particularly strong public engagement program coming into place. It’s also been a time for team members to think in more detail about how their individual research will connect with the wider aims of the project.
3. Can you explain how your project will be transformative?
Citizen science is already changing the way science is done. By working across disciplines our project will look at how the philosophy underpinning citizen science can be used for much more as well: to help develop a ‘citizen humanities’, to frame new historical questions, and to strengthen the academic world’s commitment to public engagement.
4. What do you think are the key challenges for researchers working between Sciences and Arts and Humanities?
It’s important to come into a project like this with an open mind. Inevitably your own disciplinary background can mean that crossing academic boundaries is not always easy to get your head around! However it’s precisely such challenges that make the project invigorating and help you to constantly question your own assumptions.
5. How did you start collaborating across disciplines?
The success of Zooniverse suggested the need for an historical understanding of the citizen science phenomenon. However it was evident that the connection between historical and contemporary citizen science could be pushed further to involve collaboration beyond this. In particular, by working together, we hope to increase the range of citizen humanities and citizen science projects available to the public today.
6. How did you put together your current interdisciplinary research team? Do you have any tips for other researchers interested in working across disciplines?
Our team members come from a diverse range of backgrounds: historians, literary scholars, scientists,librarians and museum professionals. For such a wide-ranging project it was important that all disciplines were involved and working as a team.
My main tip would be to be curious. Go out and see what interesting projects are emerging from your university or other universities. Many connections aren’t apparent at first but take time to develop.
Interested in finding out more about the ‘Constructing Scientific Communities’ grant? Visit the project website http://conscicom.org/ for further information.