— Cultural Sources of Newness

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April 2016 Monthly archive

Starting a big research project that is very different from my past studies requires exploring new theories and methods. Old friends are a delightful source of learning. This week offered two ideal opportunities: one planned, one spontaneous; one with a woman I met at Academy of Management conferences in the early 1980s; one with a man I met when he was 6 years old in the late 1970s; one via Skype, one over dinner. Both generously shared their experiences in generating, analyzing and communicating their research-based knowledge.

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Crossfertilization is a recognized source of new ideas and products. Companies create multifunctional teams and move employees around the organization and the world so that their knowledge and competences can mingle with those of others and, hopefully, spark off new ideas to explore together. Crossfertilization is also used in laboratories in experiments to create products, for example in the agricultural and health sectors. Academia is replete with publications about the benefits of crossfertilization, but is not very good at putting it into practice. Instead, this world has increasingly tended towards structuring itself in disciplinary and sub-disciplinary silos with their own norms, languages, and reward systems.

Last year two colleagues at the WZB launched an unusual initiative for crossfertilization at the WZB when they invited people throughout the institution to share their thoughts and findings on the theme of Religion and Society. It was fascinating to see how a topic that has no official home in the institution attracted people from many different units and diverse disciplines. When asked why they came to the meeting on this topic, many said this was a personal intellectual interest for which they had not yet found an outlet or platform in their academic setting. The organizers invited people to use the new platform to present research ideas, whether in the earliest stage of development or in advanced paper form.

 

Silke Gülker presenting at WZB April 2016

Silke Gülker presenting at WZB April 2016

This week Silke Gülker  (WZB research group Science Policy Studies) presented findings from her current project, conducted with support from the prestigious Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, on “Science and (Religious) Culture: Identity Constructions in Stem Cell Research in Germany and the USA”.  She wanted to try out her ideas on us before presenting them at the upcoming conference of the German Sociological Association (Division for the Sociology of Religion).

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