About us

Welcome to Cultivating Common Ground. We are planning a workshop in July at the University of Reading and we are looking for around 20 biologists to participate. The aim is to foster interdisciplinary interaction - and to understand the barriers to such interaction - by exploring the response of biologists to the work of humanities researchers in areas related to biology. This will form the basis for a long-term collaborative network between biologists and the humanities.

It is now over fifty years since C.P. Snow's seminal lecture on the 'Two Cultures' of science and humanities and the distance between 'natural Luddites' (literary scholars) and their insular and narrow-minded scientific colleagues. Although Snow himself declared a plague on both their houses, it is his comments upon the scientifically impoverished humanists, unable to explain the second law of thermodynamics at a dinner party, that most endure. There has been much debate about the topic in the ensuing period. But there are signs of progress towards a more integrative approach, and a concurrent valuing of different perspectives. It's that potential that offers the brightest hope for the future of research and teaching.

We are looking for people who are professionally interested in biology (e.g. undergraduates, postgraduates, faculty, research scientists, science communicators, teachers, and teacher trainers and trainees). We want to understand your response to the way the humanities study biology. Are these new and unfamiliar ideas? Are they useful or do they reflect unhelpful ways of thinking? Do they offer new insights and possibilities to you? We will be actively seeking your views and exploring how the experience of the workshop might impact your future work in biology.

The workshop will include short presentations by humanities researchers John Holmes (poetry and Darwinian evolution'), David Stack (the development of biology during the 19th century), Karin Lesnik-Oberstein (pre-conceptions in biomedical research) and Francoise Le Saux (medieval ideas of magic and the natural world), followed by discussion and analysis of these and other topics. Nick Battey, a plant biologist with a long-standing interest in the value of humanities research to biology, will orchestrate proceedings. Please contact us to register your interest and receive an application form. Attendance costs will be fully covered, including overnight accommodation as necessary. 'We are able to offer teachers buy-out costs for teaching cover.'

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'This project is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council under its 'Science in Culture' initiative.'

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Professor Nick Battey

Dr. John Holmes

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