What is IceLab Camp?
When asked this question, the Camp participants themselves gave many different replies. For some, the focus was meeting other researchers eager to learn how to communicate across disciplines. For others, the goal was turning something that seems tedious, like writing a research proposal, into an opportunity to do fascinating science.
For Martin Rosvall, IceLab director and Camp lead instructor since its inception, the IceLab Camp is about preparing its participants to create new inter- or multidisciplinary research by first teaching them to listen to each other – and to learn how to ask questions. This skill is not just crucial for working in multidisciplinary groups. It is also an essential skill a researcher must learn to become independent in academia.
An unusual structure
At IceLab Camp, the participants spend time getting to know each other through a series of creative exercises. On the bus ride to Granö, the students play an interview game, hopping between seats for an hour. When they arrive at Granö they are asked to introduce each other, followed by another icebreaker game involving movement and more questions. After lunch, there are even more games, where random groups are formed and given creative research question formation tasks. Finally, they self-organize into maximally diverse groups and begin searching for the research question they will develop into proposals – the outcome of the course.
IceLab Camp’s creative exercises, and how they fit into learning how to write an interdisciplinary research proposal, can appear unclear from the outset. For Sandro Sousa, a postdoc in the NEtwoRks, Data, and Society Group (NERDS), at IT University of Copenhagen, that initial uncertainty is a positive feature. “I wouldn’t spoil it by telling future participants what the games are about. The process of discovery was super fun.”
For Carmen Regner, PhD student from the Department for Applied and Molecular Microbiology, Technische Universität Berlin, the creative games were pivotal in approaching and succeeding at the challenging final research proposal exercise.
In between all the exercises and project work, participants took well-earned brain breaks to hear inspirational talks, discuss life in science, hike, play cooperative games, and alternate between baking in a sauna and freezing in the Umeälven, bordered by golden birch trees. It was a good mix, according to Filip, a second year PhD student from the department of Statistics at Umeå University. “The format was very good. Not super strict but we did a lot in these days – and had a lot of fun too”, said Filip.