Celebrating World Philosophy Day with Stories (Part 1)

In honor of World Philosophy Day (November 16th), we asked a few Springer Nature researchers to tell us the story behind how they got into philosophy and why they’re so passionate about their field. Get to know Federica Russo and Hsiang-ke Chao in the feature below and check back next week for the next two installments of this series!

Federica Russo

Nederland,city, 2016
Geesteswetenschappen, master studies Universiteit van Amsterdam.
Foto: Bob Bronshoff

Describe what it is to be an academic philosopher in your country and if/how it has any influence on your research.

I left Italy as an Erasmus student in 2000 and I have been abroad ever since. After studying and working in four different academic environments in three European countries (and a short stay in the US), I landed in the Netherlands in 2014. In my experience, academic philosophers (of science) here enjoy quite an interesting and stimulating environment, being in close contact with science and technology – both in research and in teaching programmes. This is an asset for my own research. In particular, in the Netherlands – unlike other academic environments – scholars do not draw a sharp line between philosophy of science and the social studies of science. For philosophy of science, this means creating a rich hub were philosophers, historians, sociologists, and anthropologists set up a dialogue about the practice of the sciences and about its role in society. Yet, while it is a very positive experience to be a researcher and teacher, the Netherlands is also undergoing hard times in the form of budget cuts, especially in the humanities. Academic philosophers, as well as philosophy students, are strenuously fighting against the managerial and neoliberal drift that is so badly damaging our university. While this situation is making working conditions suboptimal, I also take it as an important moment for us philosophers to assert the relevance of our discipline, based on arguments other than its intrinsic value or tradition.

How, would you say, is philosophy evolving as a study within your region?

I consider myself a European philosopher, as I have been trained and active in several countries, where distinct approaches and schools of thought have strong roots or influence. In Europe, philosophy of science is gradually becoming more inclusive and open to many traditions, for instance the rather analytical approach of Britain, or the historical of France and Italy, or the applied one of the Netherlands. This is a very good thing. In my view, this will help us restore a useful dialogue with scientists and technologists (from the humanities, social, biomedical, or natural sciences) and with society at large. It certainly requires a deep and thorough self-reflective exercise, but one that is much needed. Philosophers aren’t born in an armchair and should certainly get out of it and meet the world (again).

What would you like to change in philosophy / if you could make one wish for the development of philosophy what would it be?

I see positive changes in my discipline and these concern the content, but not yet, or enough, of norms and habits. Philosophy is by its very nature critical, but this doesn’t mean it should be aggressive, patronizing, elitist, or exclusive. Critical thinking can and should be exercised in a collegial and constructive way. I wish we could develop our sharp arguments thinking that we are helping each other – rather than arguing against each other. I like to think that our exercise in critical thinking is aimed at enhancing our understanding of ourselves and of the world, and at improving our environment, be it via policy making, teaching, etc., not at showing each other wrong. We bear a high responsibility by calling ourselves philosophers – in Greek, those who love wisdom – and should live up to this expectation.

Hsiang-ke Chao

Describe what it is to be an academic philosopher in your country and if/how it has any influence on your research.

Tough. Having a PhD degree in economics and teaching in one of the top economics departments in Taiwan, I am not regarded as a conventional philosopher. However, because the research in philosophy in Taiwan is diverse and each sub-community of a subfield within philosophy is not large, I am well received among this small group of Taiwanese philosophers of science. Philosophy is a tough discipline as it requires thinking clearly through the subject, even tougher for a philosopher of economic science like me who needs to catch up on the developments in both philosophy and economics, and to prove one’s own research is meaningful to both philosophers as well as scientists. More importantly, we have to demonstrate to younger generations that philosophy, as a career, is worth pursuing. Philosophy departments in Taiwan are now facing a crisis of shortage of student demand in studying philosophy. It is partly because the low birth rate causes student populations of universities and colleges to drop significantly. It is also partly because philosophy is not regarded as a useful discipline. Unlike, in the USA where undergraduate students study philosophy because they consider pursuing a pre-law major, students in Taiwan usually do not regard philosophy as practical discipline with a bright career outlook. In philosophy of science, because one needs to have a sufficient knowledge of science, there is a high barrier of entry for students to finish studying philosophy of science. But philosophy is useful! Hopefully, there are more people who realize the importance of philosophy and more young people are willing to study philosophy in the future.

How, would you say, is philosophy evolving as a study within your region?

Global. Since I returned to Taiwan in 2002, we have had more Taiwanese philosophers who are willing to conquer the language barrier to collaborate with scholars from other countries in exploring important philosophical topics. I think this is the right way to change the dire academic environment (when compared with other disciplines) for philosophers. The “publish or perish” atmosphere does have an effect in providing philosophers with incentive to publish in international journals and with publishers. Given also that some Taiwanese philosophers are willing to share their international research resources and networks with their fellow philosophers, their work is becoming more recognizable internationally. My two edited volumes published with Springer are perfect examples of this.

What would you like to change in philosophy / if you could make one wish for the development of philosophy what would it be?

Useful. I wish there are more people discovering philosophy is a discipline useful to society. Perhaps, we philosophers in Taiwan need to be able to transform our philosophical knowledge into solutions to practical problems, engage in public debate, and shape public policy. Thus, the real power of philosophy is demonstrated!



Michael R. Brudzinski: Just Keep Swimming

As a professor and a new father, Michael R. Brudzinski juggles building a new online class with starting a family.

Listen on iTunes!

Michael R. Brudzinski earned a Ph.D. in Geophysics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed an endowed postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before joining Miami University of Ohio in 2004. (Read more here)

Dawn Wright: A Good Old-Fashioned Sea Story

As the only black woman on a two-month voyage, Dawn Wright tries to find her place aboard scientific drill vessel JOIDES Resolution.

Listen on iTunes!

Dawn Wright
 is chief scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (aka Esri), as well as a professor of geography and oceanography at Oregon State University.

How to Write a Plain-language Abstract

A plain-language abstract is an incredibly effective science communication tool because it allows researchers to reach a wider audience by summarizing papers in terms that are accessible to people outside of a specific scientific circle. We asked Shane M. Hanlon, an ecologist by training and a Senior Specialist with AGU’s Sharing Science program, to share his advice for writing the most effective plain-language abstract.

Written by Shane M. Hanlon

I’m an ecologist by training who now spends the bulk of my time training fellow scientists how to talk to non-scientists through the Sharing Science program at the American Geophysical Union. So, I’ve spent a fair amount of time chatting with scientists on technical issues and reading abstracts from scientific papers on areas both in and outside of my expertise. One thing I’ve learned is that even as a scientist, scientific findings from other fields can be difficult to understand. And even though my professional goal is primarily to help scientists communicate outside of the scientific industry, I want to help improve communication, not just from scientists to non-scientists, but between scientists as well.

I once heard a great quote from a scientist who is also an effective communicator (paraphrasing), “anyone outside of your specific field of interest is considered ‘the public,’ regardless of whether they’re a scientist or not.” Taking this sentiment into consideration, it makes sense that we as scientists would try to make our work more accessible in our professional communications through, for example, plainspoken abstracts in manuscripts.

Plain-language abstracts are becoming an increasingly popular option in scientific publishing. The basic idea is that in addition the typical abstract, authors write another abstract that’s free of technical jargon and accessible to a broader audience. Plain-language abstracts have two-fold benefits – they’re a good idea for dissemination outside of scientific circles and can also be helpful for fellow scientists who may not be in your field and not familiar with your particular type of jargon. While the option of including a plain-language abstract in journals is increasing, many scientists are not trained in how to distill their work in a distilled and accessible manner. Fortunately, we at Sharing Science developed a guide to help!

  • First and foremost, think about your audience(e.g. journalists, science-interested public). What is their level of science-specific knowledge? What is going to interest them in your work? (For more ideas, see our “Is my science newsworthy?” document and our “connecting with community groups” pages.)
  • Get rid of jargon.This includes acronyms, field-specific language, and words that have different meanings to non-scientists (see our page on reducing/eliminating jargon).
  • Explain what the study is about.Remember, others will need more context about what you studied and why than will those in your field.
  • Explain what you found.
  • Explain why this matters.Discuss the importance of these findings not just in terms of their implications for your field but in terms of their relevance to the public: how will these results relate to people, regions, the economy, healthy, safety, and/or technology? Are you results new/novel, related to a current event, in a certain audience’s backyard? AT the end of the day people want the answer to the “Why should I care? question.
  • Test the summary.Have a first reader—someone who is not a scientist—read your summary and then explain your study to you. If they can’t do it, the summary should be revised for clarity.
  • Take the time to do it right.This summary may generate wider notice for your paper than your abstract will. That’s why you want to be able to highlight the novelty, value, and importance of your research so that everyone can appreciate and understand it.

As a professional science communicator, I like to say, “You don’t have a be a scicomm champion, but you should at least know how to explain your work if someone asks you.” Even if you’re not submitting a manuscript to a journal that requires/has the option to submit a plain-language abstract, practicing the translation can only make you a better communicator.

This piece is adapted from one originally posted in The Plainspoken Scientist.



International Nurses Day 2017: True, personal stories from nursing researchers

We’re honoring International Nurses Day this week (May 12th) with a spotlight on our incredible nursing researchers. Read and listen to true, personal stories told by nurses themselves! 






Madrean Schober, PhD, MSN, BGS, ANP, FAANP, a global healthcare consulting expert reflects on the roles she’s adopted in her life, including how the emerging position of nurse practitioner had an unparalleled impact on her career. Listen to her story below!


Sheila Bonito shares her experience living in a developing country and working as a nurse in a community that’s all too familiar with natural disasters. Read her story below!

Written by Sheila Bonito

One would think that people involved with working in disasters must be brave and courageous.  I am not.  I took up nursing because I could not make the commute to a farther campus, where I would suffer from motion sickness riding the bus.  I do not faint from the sight of blood but the idea of being pricked by a needle sends a nervous tingle through my body. Somehow I was able to survive nursing school and was able to work in the surgical intensive care unit in the Philippine’s premier tertiary hospital.  I never had first-hand experience working as a staff nurse in disaster times, but living in a developing country where natural hazards are common, I have memories of typhoons where the first floor of our house was flooded. We even had to take in neighbours to live with us on the second floor.  I have felt the tremor of a mighty earthquake that struck several buildings miles away from me.  I have seen the majestic eruption of Mayon Volcano and witnessed the ash fall that Mt Pinatubo caused.  And I have experienced working with limited supplies and sometimes long power outages when even hospital generators were not enough. I’ve even had to do manual compression of an ambubag for patients in need of respirators. But these experiences were at least under “normal” circumstances.  I know that working in a hospital during disasters is a lot worse.

Through the many years of living in a country with all these natural hazards, one becomes either desensitized to the threat or one gets immersed in the work needed to prevent, mitigate and prepare individuals and communities.  I chose the latter.  I have worked with the Health Emergency Management Staff of the Department of Health and the Emergency Humanitarian Action of World Health Organization in mounting campaigns to raise awareness on Safe Hospitals and document major disasters in the country in order to learn from them.  I have also had the privilege of working with nurse leaders in the Asia Pacific Disaster Nursing Network (APEDNN) where the contribution of nurses and midwives in disaster preparedness, response and recovery are very important.  In 2008, I was involved together with nurses from APEDNN in training Chinese nurses on psychological first aid to help in caring for survivors of the Sichuan earthquake. Since then, APEDNN has been working with nurse leaders to build capacities of nurses and midwives in emergencies and disasters.

Strengthened by the experience in APEDNN, I accepted the responsibility to be Chair of the Disaster Preparedness Committee of the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) from 2010 – 2016.  The work was voluntary but crucial since PNA is the national nursing association.  In 2011, we helped in supporting victims of Typhoon Sendong (Typhoon Washi) that killed 1249 in Cagayan de Oro through psychological first aid and provision of relief medications and supplies.  In 2012 we also helped local nurses in Davao face the challenge of helping victims of Typhoon Pablo (Typhoon Bopha) that killed 1067 and displaced nearly 200,000 people.  In 2013, we faced an even greater challenge, helping survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan).

Typhoon Haiyan was the world’s strongest storm in recent history, that killed 6,300 people and affected about 11 million people.  I remember monitoring the news as the super typhoon traversed the country.  We thought we were spared the worst since we did not hear right away the devastation that happened in Tacloban due to power and communication failures.  Immediately after hearing what happened, we started coordinating with national agencies and with our local nurses to mount whatever support we can extend to the survivors.  We never dreamed of being able to go to the disaster site knowing how difficult the situation was.  And yet we had the opportunity of helping first hand when survivors were airlifted from Tacloban and brought to Manila.  We organized nurses to meet these survivors and help them through rapid health assessment, psychological first aid and reuniting them with relatives and friends in Metro Manila. PNA also initiated a call for donations for affected nurses and communities. We issued a call for nurse volunteers for deployment to affected areas.  We used social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, in issuing calls for donations and volunteers.  PNA demonstrated its role to coordinate preparedness, response and recovery efforts to demonstrate a strong collective action of nurses in emergency and disasters.

Working with people in times of emergencies/ disasters is an eye opening experience that teaches you the importance of always being ready.  The publication of The Role of nurses in Disaster Management in Asia Pacificthe ten case studies in Asia Pacific describing the work of nurses in disaster preparedness, response and recovery, highlights the different roles nurses occupy in helping save lives and supporting communities build back up better.  I hope that these case studies inspire more nurses to get involved in emergency and disaster nursing work.

Visit the Springer page for more on International Nurses Day!