PROGRAM AREAS

The Hybrid Vigor Institute's project portfolio focuses on topics or problems in four, often interrelated program areas. Publications and resources related to these areas can be found on our news and research site, hybridvigor.net.

Earth Systems brings a fresh outlook to environmental topics, ranging from the effects of transgenic organisms to climate change and sustainability, as well as other global concerns. Although interdisciplinary work has found far greater acceptance in the study of earth systems than anywhere else, the density and complexity of these problems present many opportunities to use a collaborative approach even within the environmental research community's more tolerant purview.

Topics this program area could explore would include how artifacts of modern industrial culture (such as auto emissions, or garbage) affect the global environment; others will explore a single natural phenomenon (such as cloud behavior) from the perspective of the several disciplines which study it.

Health Determinants moves beyond the narrow boundaries of traditional medical practice and biological research in order to connect and interweave the physical, psychological and social determinants of health from a broad range of fields ranging from genetics to psychology and public policy.

Some of the questions to be addressed within this program area will be related to such topical and multi-disciplinary subjects as the potential risks of transgenic organisms to human and animal health, as well as addiction, infertility, obesity, and poverty.

Another important aspect of Health Determinants will be the growing body of research in several disciplines in the area of mind-body interactions, which explores several important open questions, including the study of the effects of emotions on health, the placebo effect, sleep research and the mechanisms which influence human learning.

Positive popular response to biomedical research and development has made it clear that there is great interest in augmenting or replacing human capabilities and perception by artificial and/or technological means. Human Perception will explore the wide range of creative, rigorous and potentially lucrative research being done by many disciplines on virtually all the senses — vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste — as well as other ways of knowing. This program will also investigate subjects which are influenced by human perceptive capabilities, such as intelligence, memory, time and our ability to process information.

This area of inquiry encompasses biology, neurology, physiology, experimental and cognitive psychology, sociology, psychophysics and others, including as well important work done by artists and gifted amateurs — most of whom, to date, do not communicate with each other.

Interdisciplinary Practice. The goal of the Interdisciplinary Practice program area is to develop and/or make explicit what methods are most useful for collaborative projects, including the social and technical conditions under which they’re conducted.

Commitment to this program area springs from the knowledge that new methods of both research and analysis are critical in an era where the complexity of problems has overwhelmed traditional, disciplinary methods for solving them. While the potential of collaborative projects is enormous, the reality is that few experts have the knowledge or the tools to approach a problem using these methods—even given the ubiquity of global networks which now allow them to connect, rather than protect, the knowledge they produce.