Feb. 3, 2011

Funds focus: Science communication, theatrical production, new approach for autistic kids

Three university teams are the first to benefit from a new seed grant program to help initiate collaborative, interdisciplinary research or artistic production. The grants, offered through the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities, are intended to support projects with the potential to compete for national recognition or sponsored funding. CEAH provides grants ranging from $20,000 to $30,000.

About the grants

For more information about the seed-grants program, see Seed Grants for Collaborative Work (PDF).

Following are seed grant recipients this year:

Ethical science communication

Jean Goodwin, Mike Dahlstrom, Kevin de Laplante and the Science Communication at ISU research group received a grant to begin building an interdisciplinary program focused on effective, ethical use of science communication within controversial policy-making. Goodwin is associate professor of English; Dahlstrom, assistant professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication and deLaplante, chair of philosophy and religious studies. They will:

  • Explore ways to guard against politicization of scientific information and promote informed decision-making
  • Host a summer symposia series at which science communicators from around the world will discuss the challenges of maintaining scientific credibility during heated policy debates
  • Design a seminar course for graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math fields to disseminate the results of their research

"Scientists are being called to bridge the gap between science and policy, which is a communicative role that is poorly understood and filled with significant pitfalls," Goodwin said. "When policy makers confuse scientific information with political advocacy, democracy cannot function as it should."

The Science Communication at ISU research group invites interested faculty to attend its monthly colloquium series or contact a member of the group to get involved.

Immigrants' words, photos, form backdrop for theatrical production

Mary Swander and Dennis Chamberlin will create a readers' theatre production based on interviews and photographs of immigrant farmers from the Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Russian traditions. Immigrants' own words will become the text of the script created by Swander, Distinguished professor in English. Chamberlin, assistant professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, will photograph the immigrants, and photos will be projected on the face of the venue building and on the back wall of the set, becoming the backdrop for the staged production.

The play will be produced on campus and tour throughout the United States and Europe. Swander and Chamberlin also will create a website archive that will allow scholars around the world to post and share agricultural documentary materials. This data will be available for the study of sustainable agricultural practices, immigrant and labor relations, gastronomy, photojournalism, play wrighting and interviewing techniques.

New experience for autistic children

Art and design faculty Debra Satterfield, Sunghyun Kang, Anson Call and Steve Herrnstadt will conduct research to design and evaluate an educational experience for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This play experience, called Play•IT, seeks to create a learning environment that allows a child with ASD and a typical child to play together in ways that are socially, emotionally, behaviorally and motivationally appropriate for both children, thereby enhancing their social experiences.

The team will conduct ethnographic research with children, caregivers and other collaborators who have expertise in autism, design, disabilities, physical therapy, occupational therapy, neurology, computer science, game design and education.

The long-term goal of the research is to develop a new approach for the design and evaluation of the learning experiences. The research will be shared so that products and services designed for children with autism better meet their unique needs and enhance their quality of life.