Asking Different Questions

Asking Different Questions: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Science is funded by National Science Foundation Innovations in Graduate Education grant (#1807056). Original Co-PIs are Sara Giordano, Sarah McCullough, and Kalindi Vora.

Changing research questions and research agendas will change who is in STEM and the knowledge we produce.

Asking Different Questions seeks to provide STEM scholars with a commitment to justice with the intellectual tools to follow through on their values. The project was inspired by decades of research in the fields of feminist science & technology studies and critical race studies. These fields reveal how historical precedents, cultural norms and systems of power continue to bias scientific research and technological innovation. We owe particular credit to Deboleena Roy, who coined the term, “Asking Different Questions.”


History of the program

In Fall 2019, the Asking Different Questions working group met to develop a curriculum to explore different research challenges, and the feminist and social justice-driven approaches to addressing those challenges. The goals of the working group were to:

  • identify challenges in STEM graduate training that feminist training may help address
  • document how STEM scholars are already bringing values based in feminism and justice into their labs
  • create a community space for those invested in changing research culture through graduate education
  • establish shared values and build an institutional foundation for the success of a feminist training graduate program in STEM education

In the following quarters, this group developed visions and challenges to feminist science. Read more about their work in the 2019 project report.

This work guided the creation of the Asking Different Questions Research Training Series, which launched in Fall 2020 with a virtual workshop attracting nearly 200 people from across the campus and country. 


Research training series

The Asking Different Questions Research Training Series applies feminist science studies and ethnic studies research to a STEM context, and is designed for experts, cholars and researchers who want to use their talents to create a more just and sustainable world. 

The Series is:

·   Modular: Pick and choose what is most applicable to your field

·   Scalable: Can be done with groups from 10-200+

·   Customizable: Adjustable to the specific challenges of a research area

·   Adaptable: Audiences can range from K-12, to undergraduate, to graduate, to faculty

People across industries, discipline and experience levels can benefit from these experiences. At the conclusion of the training, 89% planned to take action based on what they learned and would recommend the training to a colleague. 

The Series is particularly unique because it can be arranged to fit the needs of the venue, audience, and research field. We can customize the Series for application in areas like:

·   Climate sciences. Helps recognize and address the inequitable burdens of climate change-related disaster, mitigation and adaptation strategies.

·   Transportation futures: Address infrastructural racism through creating a sustainable and equitable transportation system.

·   Academic medicine: Guides clinical faculty in how to adapt communication and leadership style to better train the next generation of clinicians.

·   Lab science. Offers instruction in how to create an anti-racist lab.

·   Human subject research: Supports studying race, sex, and gender as social constructs to produce greater accuracy in results.

·   Mentoring: Trains mentors and mentees in how to build professional networks around shared values and address power dynamics.


Explore the inaugural training

The first Asking Different Questions Research Training Series videos, which launched in Fall 2020, are available to the public, free of charge, on FRI’s YouTube channel. 


Also available is documentation of the “Anti-Blackness in Research Culture” virtual training, which aimed at supporting scholars in understanding the essential work of anti-racism. This particular training led to a follow-up series sharing reflections from attendees, which you can read on FRI’s blog.


What’s next?

Would you like to bring Asking Different Questions to your research community? Contact us to receive a free facilitator’s guide and discuss potential partnership.

We will be launching a new live series in April. Sign up for our email list to learn more.