We are conducting a sociological study of the John Templeton Foundation sponsored project entitled “Agency, Directionality, and Function: Foundations for a Science of Purpose” (the Purpose Project), which seeks to develop a new science of purpose.
The Purpose Project
Directed by Dr. Alan Love of the University of Minnesota, the Purpose Project includes subawards supporting 25 research projects, which in turn are grouped into seven clusters organized around key concepts. It involves more than 120 scientists and scholars from a wide range of disciplines including biology, philosophy, earth science, computer science, mathematics, and the social sciences who will be interacting within individual project groups, within the seven clusters, across the project as a whole, and with researchers outside the Project over a period of three years. The Purpose Project thus serves as a test case for studying interdisciplinary research at multiple scales across a variety of projects. This proposal is focused on developing systematic ways of understanding complex multi-discipline, multi-organization, multi-site projects that address large-scale questions.
The Sociology of the Purpose Project
The chief aim of our sociological study is to understand how the ideas, concepts, research directions (programs, projects, perspectives), and workflows (organizations of work to achieve these changes) in the Purpose Project evolve and progress when incorporating diverse, interdisciplinary perspectives. We aim to understand how conceptual, philosophical work interacts with practical, empirical work to catalyze research programs and to discover new hypotheses to pursue. Studies of interdisciplinarity have increased markedly in recent years. Much of this literature has focused on the anticipated merits of increased interdisciplinary research, along with some attention to anticipated administrative difficulties (e.g., problems of evaluating participation in interdisciplinary work, or allocating credit in interdisciplinary projects). This work has been prospective and policy-oriented in focus; the number of systematic studies that directly assess the conduct of interdisciplinary projects is still small, and the development of effective concepts, models, and measures for addressing questions about joint efforts across specialty boundaries is even smaller (e.g., Barry and Born 2013, Frodeman et al. 2010). This project seeks to expand these analytic resources by studying the conduct of interdisciplinary efforts at multiple scales across a variety of projects located at different host organizations and in different countries.
If you are a participant in the Purpose Project and are enrolled or considering enrolling in our sociological study, you can find our informed consent information sheet and policy here: CONSENT.
We are a group of four social science and humanities researchers with expertise in qualitative and quantitative social science methods, theory, and philosophy of biological sciences. We came together to form a team to carry out this John Templeton Foundation funded sociological analysis of the Purpose Project.