Fostering Creativity through Collaboration: Polar Learning and Responding Climate Change Education Partnership

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 9:00 AM
Stephanie L Pfirman1, Jessica Brunacini2, Theresa Hernandez2 and Elizabeth Bachrach3, (1)Barnard College, New York, NY, United States, (2)Columbia University in the City of New York, New York, NY, United States, (3)Goodman Research Group, Cambridge, MA, United States
What is the best way to foster creative collaborative interdisciplinary research, education and outreach? In the past, proposal solicitations were open-ended, leaving it to the community to assemble relevant expertise and institutions. In several recent solicitations, the National Science Foundation has required inclusion of specific expertise. For example, the Climate Change Education Partnership solicitation stated, “Each CCEP is required to include substantial involvement of representatives from each of the following communities: climate scientists; experts in the learning sciences; and, practitioners from within formal or informal education venues. This combined expertise is intended to foster innovative, trans-disciplinary advances in climate change education … Additional types of expertise are allowed, but these three required areas must form the core partnership.”

An Interdisciplinary Collaboration Survey of the Polar Learning and Responding: PoLAR CCEP (http://thepolarhub.org/) implemented by Goodman Research Group, the project’s evaluators, assessed the PoLAR Partnership to determine if the collaboration is effective and to understand how the experience affects the partners themselves. The data showed that the NSF goal of fostering innovative teams is being met: “It has brought me into contact with new people, ideas, and approaches that are on the cutting edge and that can be applied not only to this project …” Expertise is distributed within and across the partners with most working in three to four of the required areas (climate science, learning science, formal and/or informal education), and they seek advice from partners across the four areas. Partners experience both personal and professional benefits, including increased satisfaction with their own current work and research, and they anticipate continued work with this group of colleagues on this, as well as future projects.

This analysis of partnership development and implementation advances understanding of how the diverse but complementary backgrounds of our partners are leading to new connections, bridging different academic fields, and positioning the partnership with the critical mass necessary to tackle challenges with innovative, novel approaches.