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Key Thinkers Key Concepts 2017: Objectivity in the Human Sciences and Beyond

Faculty of Human Sciences Macquarie University

Friday, 3 February 2017 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm (AEDT)

Key Thinkers Key Concepts 2017: Objectivity in the...

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Objectivity in the Human Sciences and Beyond

There is a widespread belief that scholarly understanding proceeds from objectivity, from maintaining an appropriate distance between the researcher and their ‘object of study’. Nobel Prize winning cytogeneticist, Barbara McClintock, contested this view of scientific understanding, suggesting instead that insight arises when researchers develop a ‘feeling for the organism’. Her view was that sympathy, intimacy and proximity, rather than distance and neutrality, give us access to the things we study. She called this being open to ‘what the material has to say to you’.

This provocation may be more familiar to the social science and humanities disciplines, but it has implications for all forms of scholarly research. In this third Key Thinkers Key Concepts workshop we bring together an interdisciplinary panel of scholars to discuss objectivity and what it means for them and their research contexts.

All Macquarie staff and current or prospective research students are invited.  The panel discussion - which will invite the participation of audience members through comments and questions - will conclude with a light lunch, and time for more talk and meeting fellow researchers.
(A selection of vegetarian and GF options will be provided but do email to if you have special dietary requirements).

Panel Members:


Dr Adam Dunn

Centre for Health Informatics, Australian Institute of Health Innovation

Research interests: Clinical Epidemiology, Health Informatics, Computational Epidemiology


Associate Professor Sheila Degotardi

Department of Educational Studies

Research interests: Infant-toddler curriculum and pedagogy, relationship-based pedagogies and learning, children’s play and inquiry, teacher and parent perspectives about children and their learning

Dr Victoria Flanagan

Department of English, ARTS MRES Faculty Director, Convenor of Master of Children's Literature

Research interests: Gendered bodies in children’s literature and film 

Professor Ewa Goldys

Deputy Director, Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics, Director of MQ BioFocus Research Centre

Research interests: Nanobiophotonics - multidisciplinary research across biology, physics, chemistry, bioengineering and medicine, developing technologies applied in contexts as diverse as public health, food processing and safety, and environmental monitoring

The questions that will guide this discussion are:

-       How do we develop an understanding of our ‘objects of study’?

-       What kind of perspectives do we bring to bear in order to produce that understanding?

-       Where do these perspectives come from? Does it help to look at the phenomena we are studying from another disciplinary perspective?

-       Can we make our research questions tractable, without losing sight of the broader systems or environments to which the phenomena we study belong?

-       Is ‘objectivity’ a useful concept?

Talking points for discussion:

-       The use of theory and paradigm to organise research and shape perspective

-       Working with and between different scales and perspectives

-       Working within the tension between the larger picture which holds together disparate scales, phenomena and relationships (the whole) and the narrow focus that allows us to see specificity (the part).

Have questions about Key Thinkers Key Concepts 2017: Objectivity in the Human Sciences and Beyond? Contact Faculty of Human Sciences Macquarie University

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