Prof leads NSF network effort to bridge gaps between art, science

Carol LaFayette

Carol LaFayette

Artists and scientists looking to bridge the gap between their disciplines in a National Science Foundation-funded effort headed by Carol LaFayette, associate professor of visualization at Texas A&M, touted the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration in newly released position paper.

Participants in the effort have established SEAD, the Sciences, Engineering, Arts and Design Network, and published their plans for facilitating further interdisciplinary exchanges, which they said will point the way to the development of new, sustainable economies and harmonious, cooperating societies.

The world’s economy, culture and learning environments are being transformed through the development of products and ideas that are fundamentally hybrid, said the group, such as software, hardware designed with a nod to aesthetic elegance, or new means of interpretation and expression of scientific and cultural information.

“SEAD has enjoyed an international groundswell of interest and enthusiasm to support creative, innovative research and practice through exchanges across traditional boundaries,” said LaFayette. “Everyone wants to learn more about this phenomenon and how it can be nurtured. Contributors include educators, researchers, artists, scientists, engineers, designers, entrepreneurs, and many others.”

Participants in SEAD, which is being developed with a three-year, $190,000 National Science Foundation grant, held two 2011 workshops and has scheduled a summit in late fall 2012 to discuss its projects and objectives, which include:

  • Developing an educational initiative for academic institutions to mentor K-12 students in underrepresented populations for entry into career fields in science, engineering, arts, and design;
  • Addressing the need to raise awareness of the impacts, values, opportunities and challenges of cross-disciplinary research and creative work by issuing a call for white papers on the subject;
  • Articulating the impact of interdisciplinary skills on culture, innovation, and economic development;
  • Developing models for best collaborative practices and sharing of curricula across U.S. academic institutions;
  •  Fostering recognition of interdisciplinary projects with contests and awards, and
  • Identifying potential SEAD partners such as The American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, College Art Association, International Graphic Association for Computing Machinery, American Institute of Graphic Arts, and others.

The network has spawned two groups: NSEAD, to connect and support the artistic and scientific research communities in academia, nonprofit organizations and industry, and XSEAD, which is performing a needs assessment for a digital archive and resource for stakeholder researchers and educators.

Gunalan Nadarajan, dean and professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design and Carol Strohecker, director at the University of North Carolina System’s Center for Design Innovation, are the project’s co-principal investigators.

posted August 2, 2012