NanoBubbles Winter School in Maastricht

From 30 January to 3 February, NanoBubbles organised its Winter School focusing on ethics, critical thinking and shared vocabulary in Maastricht. This workshop was organised by PI Cyrus Mody (Maastricht University), YJ Erden (University of Twente) and Frédérique Bordignon (Ecole des Ponts ParisTech). The event was also punctuated by small visits to the city of Maastricht, including a guided tour of the North Cave.

The Winter School began with an introduction to critical thinking led by YJ Erden. This session aimed to explain how an argument is structured, the importance of logic while building an argument, and the consistency of one’s beliefs. Erden also discussed the ways an argument can be critiqued – one must either question the truth of the premises or the validity of the argument. The workshop continued with an ethics training, also led by Erden, in which project members collectively worked on developing concrete practical tools (e.g. codes of conduct / decision trees / guidelines). They then split into three working groups – the first one is about internal conduct, the second one to external engagement, and the last one tackles publishing, information sharing, and attribution. The idea was to initiate a new subproject during the workshop, and continue the work  after the end of the event and throughout the project.

The second day of the Winter school was mainly dedicated to the building and development of common vocabulary for NanoBubbles members. Frédérique Bordignon identified the need to choose specific terms that are used by project members – some of them being polysemous or simply ambiguous – and find a common definition that everyone should agree on. Thus, under the supervision of Bordignon, members of the vocabulary subproject worked on defining terms that fall under their research area, and presented their work to everyone during the workshop. Among the defined terms were “research integrity”, “annotation”, “critical citation”, and “bubble”. The “expert” had 3 minutes to present their definition and, depending of the broadness of the term, an 8-minute discussion plus a 9-minute Q&A followed. For simpler terms, the presentation was only followed by a 5-minute Q&A.  Subsequently, following an introduction to debate and rhetoric session given by YJ Erden, project member Maha Said introduced a ‘matching the debate’ activity to put what we have learnt in practice. For this, she prepared a debate that was deconstructed and the two teams of players needed to reconstruct it and identify what part of a debate it is: negative or affirmative, first constructive speech, second constructive speech, refutation or final rebuttal. The second part of the activity was a debate, where each team were either affirmative or negative, and had to either defend or refute the use of a specific type of nanoparticles. Each group was given some time to prepare their arguments, before defending them and providing a final rebuttal. After this very performative debate, the activity was judged by three members based on the quality of the arguments presented. The winning team received a much coveted prize: a bouquet of  local chocolates. Finally, the second day of the workshop ended with a session about “the dark side of critical thinking” delivered by project member Martin Lentschat, whose target was primarily junior researchers.

On the last day of the workshop, Cyrus co-led a session about archival research and critical interpretation of historical documents along with Geert Somsen, a historian of science working in Maastricht University. Somsen selected conference reports, and attendees had to deduce the type of setting and the social aspect of these conferences. Later in the day, project member Max Roßmann presented digital methods and computational narratives with Monika Barget. This interactive session aimed to explore a Twitter data set and protocol the endeavour via a tool based on Google Drive. Team members were split into small groups and got to discover the tool and understand how Twitter can be used for academic purposes. Finally, project member Candida Sanchez Burmester organised an activity on the topic of ethnography along with her colleague Alexandra Supper. After defining “ethnography” and explaining how Sanchez Burmester has practiced it in conferences, both speakers introduced an observational exercise that aimed for attendees to learn the importance of meticulous observational skills, and to reflect on the quality of field notes and the role of research questions in observation. For this activity, two groups (participants and observers) were formed and each member was given a “role card” – the participants were playing a game of Uno while taking their ‘role’ into account, and the observers had to take notes of what they were witnessing according to the instructions written on their role card. After reorganising their notes, each observer had to report what they saw to the whole group.

Cite this blog post
ztoure (2023, February 20). NanoBubbles Winter School in Maastricht. NanoBubbles . Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

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