Training Scientists to Tackle Grand Challenge Societal Problems through Convergent Action in Transdisciplinary Teams

By Mark Moritz, PI

Humanity faces a number of wicked problems, from global climate change and the coronavirus pandemic to systemic racism and widening economic inequality. Since such complex and dynamic problems are plagued by disagreement among stakeholders over their nature and cause, they are notoriously difficult to solve. This commentary argues that if humanity truly aspires to address the grand challenges of today and tomorrow, then graduate education must be redesigned. It is no longer sufficient to train students only to be experts in their respective fields. They also must hone the interpersonal and professional skills that allow them to collaborate successfully within diverse teams of researchers and other stakeholders.

The Ohio State University will pilot, test, and validate an innovative project that trains graduate students to become “wicked” scientists—researchers who can work effectively in transdisciplinary teams to tackle the complexities, uncertainties, and conflictive nature of such problems. The researchers will use a mixed-methods approach that integrates validated psychometric assessments and ethnographic methods to examine whether and how the project succeeds in training “wicked scientists” and creating an institutional culture of convergence. The program assessment consists of four parts.



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Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, Training wicked scientists for a world of wicked problems