Second NanoBubbles in-person meeting in Autrans

From 22 to 24 March 2022, the NanoBubbles consortium had a workshop in Autrans-Méaudre en Vercors (France). This 3-day meeting in the Alps aimed to catch up on the ongoing projects, take measures for the next months and, most of all, physically meet every team member. 

The workshop enabled the team to discuss each ongoing subproject, as well as everyone’s implication in them. Several topics were broached, such as ethics, nanobiology, history of science, computer science, linguistics… Since our first physical meeting in Brussels last September, many new members have joined the project. Thus, it was necessary to introduce them to our must-read documents (grant agreement, memorandum of understanding, data management plan…). Subsequently, several training sessions were organised throughout the workshop – some of which were dedicated to nano-politics,  replication crisis and spherical nucleic acids (SNA). Furthermore, team members have also discussed new project ideas, as well as new synergies within the group. Finally, this workshop additionally led the team to participate in outdoor activities such as climbing, biathlon and hiking.

 

 

In order to further describe the content of the workshop as well as its impact on the NanoBubbles team members, we asked some of them to write a few words on their impressions.

Amira Barhoumi (future postdoctoral researcher in natural language processing): The Nanobubbles workshop in Autrans was an opportunity to meet the majority of project members. I had a global vision of this multidisciplinary project. The presentations were interesting and the discussions were rewarding. All in a pleasant setting!

Max Rossman (postdoctoral researcher in Science Technology Studies): I joined this highly interdisciplinary project only a few weeks ago, and I often have only a vague idea of some of my colleagues’ concepts, theories, and methods. Although I have the feeling that my special expertise could be useful in some way.  Being in Autrans, we were not only isolated and forced to deal with certain topics over days. There was also the possibility to try the extent of our mutual understanding and to deepen it with coffee and small walks. The most important thing for me, however, was getting to know my colleagues as persons.  In fact, some of us got along so well that we “newcomers” had the feeling that some kind of “psychological” (artificial?) intelligence must have been involved in putting the team together. But why does this seem so important that I like to share this impression? As our confidence within the group grew, not only different perspectives but also misunderstandings and objections were shared in our discussions. But later those days, it became evident that we still can understand each other, even though, we sometimes misconceptualized, disagree, or misunderstand each other. Therefore, in addition to the space for exchanging content, it was particularly important for me to get finally also to know my colleagues in real life. In my eyes, the emerging mutual trust and error culture gave room for shared curiosity to flourish – a curiosity for our shared research questions and our joint endeavor in the next few years.

Federico Boem (postdoctoral researcher in philosophy): After a week spent with scholars and researchers who come from very different personal and disciplinary backgrounds, I feel like making some brief reflections. It is not common to be together, united by a purpose, with people coming from physics to philosophy, from sociology to biology, from STS to computer science, and from history to linguistics. Understanding each other, in the sense of being on the same page, was not easy also because there are fundamental questions (in the etymological sense of the term “fundamental”) that can undermine mutual understanding. In wondering what science is, why it is done and what are the ways to correct it when it fails, words that have a different history and yet very often we tend to consider them synonymous are colliding. Each of these words/ideas can then be further specified, in diverse, even very technical, ways. Working together was first of all trying to understand each other, trying (because it is not certain that we have always succeeded) to look at the object of our research through the eyes of others. I was surprised, given the difficulties that there are and will be, in realizing how much will and commitment there was to put ourselves in others’ minds, in trying to understand their own perspectives. During these days at Autrans, I saw something different. Certainly not the end of our goal, nor the beginning of that goal. But perhaps the end of the beginning. I am happy and honoured to be part of this “crew”.


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