Plurality in research (s03e10)

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[00:00:00] Chris Hartgerink: Hi, and welcome to another episode of the Open Update. For Liberate Science, I'm Chris Hartgerink, joined by my co-host Sarahanne Field.

[00:00:07] Sarahanne Field: Hey there.

[00:00:08] Chris Hartgerink: In the Open Update, we talk about power imbalances in research and the societies we live in, to better understand and imagine alternatives where there's fewer power imbalances. So thanks for joining us on this journey.

And today we will talk about pluralism in science or in research, or maybe even just in general in society.

How does plurality play into the work we do and how we, how we view the world? Because we might have a very strong convictions that, you know, the way we see the world is the way to see the world, but other people feel the same. So, there are different views on how the world works, why the world works.

I come from a very western background. That's a very specific way of thinking. But there is also indigenous knowledges from all over the world that have a very different perspective on issues and they come to good understanding as well, which indicates that, this pluralism is something we need to recognize.

And also it keeps us very humble. Sarahanne, you love this topic, right?

[00:01:20] Sarahanne Field: I do. I think it's really important and I think that the more we're sort of starting to resolve or to work to resolve problems in research, in the research sphere, we're starting to recognize the importance of pluralism and the need to make space for it. In areas of research in say science and technology studies, you have discussions about responsible research and part of responsibility is to recognize the different perspectives, the different worldviews that exist in research.

So I'm really passionate about sort of thinking about this topic and raising awareness of the problems that can come from not having, not recognizing pluralism and the need for it in research, what we do, what we research, how we speak about it, and who we, who we basically encourage to be part of research.

[00:02:08] Chris Hartgerink: Can you expand on that last bit? Who do we encourage to be part of research? So maybe flip that around- who is being discouraged right now when you say that, who? Who goes through your mind?

[00:02:19] Sarahanne Field: There is a lot going on in research that is very implicit. A lot of emphasis on whiteness, a lot of emphasis on quantitative research disciplines. A lot of emphasis on the idea of objectivity and the idea that we have a a single scientific method. I mean, you hear about the scientific method, and that sounds very one dimensional to me.

And I think it has this implicit impact around who's welcome to be a researcher, when we have these dominant perspectives in research you, you end up implicitly discouraging some people to be part of it.

Certainly in open science, historically, qualitative researchers have felt like they don't really have a place at the open research table for exactly this reason.

[00:03:15] Chris Hartgerink: And it's also interesting from this feeling of not having a place at the table where, I come at this very much from an angle of colonialism and whose knowledge gets credited, gets seen as legitimate in that sense, and also which knowledge gets lost. And I find it very interesting that there are many forms of indigenous knowledge that then only when it goes through a "scientific method" that only then does it get recognized. So when the, the scientific method says it's legitimate, then we recognize it.

The indigenous knowledges have their own methods. They have these methods that, are multi-generational, where they convey knowledge that we might say we need to see it for ourselves from a very western perspective. And they get it handed down and they see it in practice because they, for example, in their agriculture, they apply these methods, or they've seen it because on a yearly basis this is part of their rituals and so completely different ways of not just how knowledge gets produced, but also how it gets conveyed.

Also, in light of, as you mentioned, the reform movement, open science, where it's very much about trying to open up the same thing, trying to open up, for example, publication systems, journals, but not so much thinking about what would be a different form of communicating research to begin with or a completely different form of doing research. Qualitative research is different from quantitative research, but there's also this question of, you know, what isn't being recognized within either of those fields, within those streams?

Again, because it's a different mode of being in research.

[00:05:19] Sarahanne Field: What I struggle with is kind of thinking about who is behind determining what's valid and what's legitimate. They may not understand or appreciate the value of some of these disciplines we're talking about.

But I just wanna touch on something that you mentioned before with indigenous knowledge. I think that that's something that responsible research scholarship is really starting to get exciting on, is making sure that protocols and practices surrounding indigenous research are improved. Even five, 10 years ago, there are examples in the literature about colonial methods of research where researchers just go into communities, indigenous communities and they don't attempt to engage with the culture and the context at all.

They just come in with their own ways of doing and ways of thinking . What I like about say, responsible research, the scholarship that's that's being produced is, or in this case co-produced, is that there's a lot real sensitivity to sort of these issues.

So one example of sort of helping with this is to get young people from the indigenous communities that are being included in the research and having them act as brokers where having one foot in one world and one foot in the other.

So they're sort aware and familiar with modern, the modern world and modern research, but they have this ancient, in some cases culture behind them that sort of helps them communicate across that barrier.

[00:06:59] Chris Hartgerink: I read this book "Braiding Sweetgrass," and there it's a botanist, I think, who has exactly this one foot in one world, one in the other.

But what's super interesting about this is that they that they talk about concepts that completely unknown to be before. So they talk, for example, about the Honorable Harvest, which is this concept in, I mean, not all indigenous cultures are the same, but in, in an indigenous culture where this idea is: you have a harvest, you only take half because you need that other half to persist for other species, but also the idea to persist it over time. And that's what they call it honorable harvest. With the flip side, if you take everything, it's dishonorable and this concept you know, within botany or within agriculture, It's completely different from what we talk about when we talk about yields and efficiency purely.

And for me, this and a few other things, but the book I can recommend in any case to touch more with indigenous knowledges. It highlighted for me how much of that is not even known to us. So how do we even get to start learning about these things?

And there I would really also challenge listeners to, you know, find some angle into these really completely different ways of knowing to get a sense of also what we're missing and what it can mean and what could, what it can add also to your own understanding of how you look at the world.

So Braiding Sweetgrass, highly recommended.

[00:08:47] Sarahanne Field: Two things that you mentioned before, I just wanna return to briefly. The idea that we're white researchers are going in, always taking a lot of the approach in more contemporary participatory research is to actually help and give skills in return for getting information. And obviously that doesn't fix everything, but it's definitely, you know, a step forward from where, from where we used to be.

The paper that I'm, I've really got in mind when I'm saying these things right now is by Matson and colleagues. I think it's from 2021. It's, it's a really cool paper that goes into the example of a kind of wild rice called manoomim, which is a food for nourishment, but also for spiritual nourishment.

So for physical and spiritual nourishment that's used in some of the indigenous tribes in the Great Lakes region in the United States. And it's a fascinating paper because they really go into the harms that have been done and the ways that they've been speaking to the indigenous community about repairing the harms.

And so there's a real sensitivity and awareness about the harms that have been done and how they can sort of be addressed in research going forward.

[00:10:05] Chris Hartgerink: So indeed we see a shift happening. Flip side of that being, why don't we know about these concepts, about these indigenous knowledges is also because of a societal history of literally eliminating it from our purview. So this is also why I encourage people to, to seek it out more.

I feel it's a bit similar with, when there's men who say, I'm a feminist, but they don't actually read literature on, or books on or find talks to go to or whatever, to expand their understanding of what, what sexism in our society means. That they also don't know what they're missing, what they don't know.

Not every area and research is developing at the same pace. Qualitative research is developing at a much faster pace and quantitative research, which has a longer history with eugenics as well, and a much longer distance to, to cover in that sense.

[00:11:06] Sarahanne Field: So I think what you do, you know, read, read widely and read outside your, your sort of comfort zone or your awareness zone get outside of your bubble, I think is, is a really great way to sort of get a sense of, of the, the pluralism that research.

Try to read widely, don't stick within the bubble that someone of your particular demographic would necessarily stick to. You seem to, I don't, I don't know if you actually do this, but you seem to sort of seek out authors that are just diverse and I think that that kind of thing is really good for broadening your perspectives on things, and particularly in research. I think the more we're exposed to different voices in the research sphere, the more we're gonna recognize and, and ultimately end up valuing that plurality. So I think just hearing, being more open to hearing more voices, I think that's a really just an important takeaway for this.

[00:12:09] Chris Hartgerink: I was very taken aback when I started as an exercise, just like noting the name of who I was reading. And then afterwards trying to assess, you know, what kind of people are they not like in personality way, but are they male passing? Are they female passing? Are they from, like what country are they from?

And I was really inspired also by somebody I know very closely who said, you know, I wanna read a book by an author from every country in the world. They have not achieved this. This is a lot of course, but I like the goal. And so also this idea indeed of just literally, go through the last five things you've read. And just see who's written it. And are they indeed, are they diverse or not?

And with that, I also want to ask a question because I think when we talk about pluralism and science or in society, we can go very high level. I think you and I do this very quickly anyway, but there's also this question of, what does pluralism mean in your day-to-day life? What does pluralism look like in day-to-day life? Because I think we probably have family members or acquaintances whose opinions and perspectives on the world we definitely disagree with, to what degree is pluralism and science saying let's, or pluralism in general let's accept those view points we vehemently disagree with or that there is also a component of, separating differences from plurality in everyday life.

[00:13:43] Sarahanne Field: I mean, What is plurality? for me, that's, and, and I'm not gonna open that Pandora's box, but I will say that it, it does make me think there's a big difference between listening to your racist neighbor and, and accepting their viewpoint and understanding that there are diverging viewpoints from yours and how you handle that.

Look, there are people in, in my particular research sphere whose perspectives I just, I reject because I think they're wrong. They are narrow-minded, in my opinion, and they are well, all sorts of problems. But I, I think this is a really important question and it's, I think it's a difficult distinction to make.

What does plurality mean? Is it just that there are different voices or is it, does it imply something more active that you need to do something with that? I mean, we've been discussing that this is sort of implicitly as though it's an active thing that we need to accept those voices that we need to be open to those voices that we need to include those voices.

But I think this is a really important sort thing to think about. I dunno the answer. And I think there are risks that accepting a lot of these diverging voices, you know, carries I dunno, what are, what are your thoughts?

[00:15:07] Chris Hartgerink: Plurality and pluralism doesn't mean we have to indeed accept everything. It's fully about recognizing that there's different different ways to get to legitimate understanding of the world.

There, it's also the question of not getting of not getting sucked into a reasoning that's being presented, but also asking the question of, you know, does this even meet my minimum boundaries or minimum conditions for being acceptable in that sense.

So, you know, for me, one of the things is always human rights, to me those sound super basic, but apparently they're very progressive for a lot of people. So to me that's always a thing. Anything that promotes human rights are at least, you know, make sure that those are there, that is acceptable if it starts doing anything beyond that.

I sort of quickly reject that. And the same as with, you know does it have basic human dignity in there? Basic mutual respect in there. I would say it's also very helpful to understand, you know, no different viewpoint on the world requires you to trespass on your own boundaries. I think there's also a sense of connecting very much this how do we view the world? How do we understand the world with literally how do we understand ourselves and those two things, I personally think are very heavily connected and in science or in research or at the university, we very often try to disentangle those way too much to say, well, but I'm being objective.

I have the stats, and that allows me to undermine that mutual respect and that basic human dignity. So I think there is where my mind goes and anything that meets, you know, the bar of being mutually respectful and respecting human rights and human dignity, I go like, okay, that we can discuss. But anything below that bar, I'm like, I'm out because I'll just get it sucked into details I don't want to discuss to begin with.

It's like the whole bathroom debate. When people talk about transgender, Folk, and I just think like, that's not at all what's, what's the issue here? This one tiny specific aspect that you zoom in on completely makes us forget about the bigger picture.

[00:17:34] Sarahanne Field: What's difficult for, for me and probably for, for a lot of people, which is why this is just a complex thing, is that we are relying on our own personal judgments, our own judgments of what's relevant and important and necessary relative to our own sort of context.

That lack of clarity and that variability in, in where people draw the line, what, what you think is worth discussing may be different to the next person along from you. I think that's difficult, you know? Cause we're all relying on this, this judgment calls that we're making.

For me, just to sort of wrap up the, the recording today, for me what's really important is openness in the first place. Being willing to hear other people, listen to other people. I think there's a real lack of that in, in research and I think that's sort of the first step to allowing for healthy plurality in science.

[00:18:41] Chris Hartgerink: Well, that's a perfect take home message right there.

So thanks for joining us for the Open Update. This was already the 10th episode of season three.

As you know, we have a Signal group. People have been coming in feel, feel free to drop your thoughts there around the topics that we discuss here in the podcast.

If you leave a voice message, we might very well include it. We'll definitely listen to it. And with that, we'll be back in another few weeks to talk more about power imbalances and research and society and how we can bring balance more balance to it in the future. So thanks for taking the time and.

Hope to see you again in a few weeks.

Plurality in research (s03e10)
Liberate Science GmbH June 19, 2023
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