How to Work?

Embedded philosophy is slow philosophy. It takes a long time to learn how to collaborate and, in particular, to learn the language and research methods of the team members and for them to learn yours to a sufficient extent to be able to start to work together. Embedded philosophy means going to lab meetings and learning about a range of research projects and different types of computer modeling long before (and after) one has a sense of which project or model is most salient for the embedded work. There are often time delays for publications as it takes time for philosophers to become embedded and for their collaborative role to begin to have an impact on the shaping of the transdisciplinary approaches of the team. This is one of the reasons we tty' to ensure that postdoctoral appointments are multi-year, as it often takes a full year just to begin to see the research results of a project. But the learning curve is steep, and philosophers can discover that they don’t have the aptitude needed for collaborative work; so we are unable to guarantee more than a first year for a new postdoc. That means a postdoc will have to be doing the work while being on the job market, just in case. A postdoc appointment with a NSF grant, however, unlike many of the currently labeled postdocs in philosophy, is 100 percent research. This means that along with learning skills regarding transdisciplinary collaboration, expanding their understanding of climate science, and crafting new research projects, postdocs working with me have time to finish publications from their dissertations or previous research positions.

The learning process is ongoing. With each new collaboration, new approaches can result in another level of challenge. For example, when we built on the successes of SCRiM by partnering with the ViFF team, that team brought to bear techniques for visualizing forests under different types of climate futures. Using the tools of the LANDIS-II computer model of forest landscape disturbance and succession (Scheller et al. 2007) and immersive virtual reality' imaging have resulted in new challenges and steep learning curves. Translating the findings of coupled epistemic-ethical analyses into two very different visualizing strategies has required another round of steep learning.

Learning to write with others is not an easy process, particularly for philosophers who are not trained to do so. Even issues of author order were, at times, complicated. How much of a contribution is required to be included in an author line? How is the author order determined? How is first authorship decided upon? We found that this issue required exceptionally clear communication. Once a member of our team has identified a project that they are interested in and that has publication potential, we require them to write up a one- to two-page description of the paper which outlines the research team, the author order, the publication venue, and an outline of the ideas. These proposals are negotiated with the entire publication team, making sure each proposed author agrees to the work proposed, commits to their contribution to the research, and approves of the author order. These proposals are often modified and renegotiated over time as the work shifts or we realize that the work will require an additional contributor, etc. But such proposals, agreed upon by all in their first instantiation and in all subsequent modifications, have ensured clear and effective working collaborations throughout our network.

Not all efforts work out. There are many first drafts of papers, efforts to design collaborations, dialogues, and plans that don’t work out. This can be particularly challenging to our postdoctoral researchers who need appropriate publications should they decide to apply for academic jobs upon completion of their postdoctoral appointment, as most of the philosophers who have had postdocs have done.

We also have had to negotiate the very different publication demands for our postdoctoral scholars. Our scientists need to publish in quite different journals than our philosophers require to get recognition for their publications and build their CV with the job market in mind. We addressed this issue by putting together teams designed to work on a series of papers related to a topic that had scientific import as well being a topic that would benefit from the insights of philosophical analysis. One successful example of this strategy involved the one philosophy graduate student, Toby Svoboda, from my department who was interested in climate ethics and whom I was able to fund through the grant and embed in the team.

Klaus Keller and I had completed a study with Marios Goes, a geoscientist and, at that time, a postdoctoral researcher with SCRiM, on the topic of aerosol geoengineering that we published in Climatic Change (Goes et al. 2011). The research deployed a simple integrated assessment model of climate change to analyze potential economic impacts of aerosol geoengineering strategies over a wide range of uncertain parameters such as climate sensitivity, economic damages due to climate change, and the negative impacts associated with adding aerosols to the stratosphere. While the focus of the paper was on the findings of the climate risk modeling, the paper included a section on the ethical implications of the findings. We argued that the findings provided an empirical base for examining issues of intergenerational justice raised by aerosol geoengineering.

While this paper provided initial “ethics-spotting” relevant to the analysis, it did not develop the full range of ethical issues regarding aerosol geoengineering. For that purpose, we invited Toby Svoboda to work with the team and, in particular, to work closely with Marios Goes to understand the full implications of the modeling. The result was Svoboda’s first publication (Svoboda et al. 2011). This collaboration initiated a series of papers with the team just prior to and after Svoboda completed his PhD in 2012, including “Ethical and technical challenges in compensating for harm due to solar radiation management geoengineering” (Svoboda and Irvine 2014) and “Towards integrated ethical and scientific analysis of geoengineering: A research agenda” (Tuana et al. 2012). The experience with SCRiM was a key influence in Svoboda’s continuing research on the topic of the ethics of geoengineering and in publishing a series of articles and eventually a book, The Ethics of Climate Engineering: Solar Radiation Management and Non-IdealJustice (Svoboda 2017).

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