PhD Retreat

March 4, 2010

At the Integrated School of Ocean Sciences PhD candidates are encouraged to network personally outside their own academic field, to think beyond the PhD and to be enthused and inspired by role models who have forged individual career paths.

Discussing common themes in a socially conductive atmosphere – the ISOS PhD retreats are two-day events providing an opportunity for PhD candidates to address a theme of common interest, network with other PhD students and pick up new ideas. Invited experts give input and insights into their fields, and share personal experiences. For these retreats a group PhD-organisers work with the ISOS office to choose the theme and the invited guests.


4th ISOS PhD Retreat

Prepared for Social Responsibility? Understanding and Formulating Strategies for Responsible Use of Contemporary Science.

A Report by ISOS PhD Students Mirjam S. Glessmer and Jonathan V. Durgadoo

Have you ever had the feeling that an argument is completely flawed, but couldn't really pinpoint the exact reason why?  A lot of us PhD students have felt that way. However, this has changed. While using gut-feeling feels like a powerful tool to assess arguments, we are now equipped with a systematic approach to tackle arguments.

For two days this March, 32 PhD students from the ISOS, the graduate school Human Development in Landscapes and the social sciences met for their annual retreat at the Jugenddorf Falkenstein, discussing the pertinent subject of social responsibility of scientists. The retreat was lead and taught by Associate Professor Tom Børsen and Nicolas König of Aalborg University Copenhagen. Everybody’s attention was captivated the minute they introduced the subject.

In addition, we had the opportunity to meet two academics who act as role models for many of us. Prof Karin Lochte, director of the Alfred-Wegner-Inistitute for Polar Research, joined us on the first day and presented her personal experiences with dilemmas in a science and policy context. On the second day, Prof. Andreas Oschlies of GEOMAR told us about what he considered as a role model at the start of his scientific career and how this idealized picture changed over time. Their insights gave us a perspective of what issues we are likely to face in science, and examples of how to deal with them appropriately.

During these two days, we learnt how to (de)construct arguments, check their validity and evaluate the premises they contain. In small groups, we practiced breaking down statements into ethical categories using various texts - e.g. Björn Lomborg’s “We should change tack on climate after Copenhagen” and climate sceptic S. Fred Singer’s “Nature, Not Human Activity Rules the Climate”.

We also learnt structured methods to deal with dilemmas and the so called ‘wicked problems’. We discussed in small groups, and came up with possible solutions for severaldilemmas that either we feel weare in already, or that we think might face us at some point in ourcareers. While we certainly are not looking forward to be confronted with such dilemmas, we know they are inevitable. At least, we now feel more confident that we might be able to cope with themin an ethical way. So all we need to learn now (and we are hoping to do that soon! Any ISOS decision maker listening? ;-)) is how to approach and confront peopleputting forward flawed arguments.

‘I found the topics discussed very useful and they stimulated a lot of discussionoutside the retreat. I’m very happy to have attended this retreat and found thinking about these topics very useful. I would highly recommend continuing someform of ISOS activity on this topic.’

‘I found it very useful to learn instruments that help to analyse the argumentalstrategies of different stakeholders.’

‘Nice retreat, you managed to get really good teachers for your courses’

‘Excellent course, very thought-provoking, thanks!’

Download as pdf.