Faculty Leader Profile: Jean Goodwin

SP@ISU Faculty Leaders serve as role models and support networking initiatives among faculty and staff to build a culture of broader impacts at Iowa State.

March 12, 2014

By Sarah L. Wiley

Jean Goodwin, a professor in the English department, served as a SP@ISU Faculty Leader from 2011-2013.Jean Goodwin

Goodwin has an eclectic background. She studied mathematics, holds a JD from the University of Chicago Law School, and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in rhetoric. She now works at the intersection of these areas, focusing on argumentation and civic controversy. Her research is rooted in studying how people can make good arguments, even in the midst of heated civic controversies. Importantly, “if we can create situations where people can reason better together then progress can be made,” says Goodwin.

Goodwin came to Iowa State because she appreciated the University’s commitment to scholarship that makes a difference in people’s lives. She has taken this to heart and expanded her research to have local impact. Now she studies argumentation and science communication at the science/policy interface. “I look at how scientists and arguments based on science can be incorporated in our democratic system,” explains Goodwin. Today many civic controversies involve science and scientists, with climate science perhaps being the most visible. Considering the large science and technology community here at Iowa State, Goodwin extended her research into these issues.

Goodwin works to develop methods that help STEM colleagues navigate the increasingly complex issues and civic controversies involving science and scientists. She also applies her skills to helping scientists achieve their broader impacts. “It’s a great synergy; it’s really a win-win,” she explains. “I get to apply my research skills and help scientists develop meaningful research-based broader impacts. It is rewarding for everyone.”

According to Goodwin, SP@ISU fosters participation from a variety of fields, creating great networking opportunities. “Being a SP@ISU Faculty Leader has allowed me to come into contact with many interesting colleagues across the campus.” That collaboration across disciplines can be invaluable. “Scientists are really smart colleagues. They ask really interesting questions which throw a whole new light on your own research.”

Her latest project, The Humanities Consortium, is aimed at fostering these collaborative ties. The consortium is a loose group of humanities faculty interested in working with their counterparts in the science fields. “It is very rewarding for Humanities faculty to work with scientists to further research interests. We take our broader impacts very seriously!” She also is Principal Investigator on an NSF-funded project that is developing teaching materials aimed at STEM students to better prepare them for communicating on controversial topics.

Goodwin also envisions a program allowing for the sharing of graduate students between humanities/social science faculty and their STEM counterparts. Goodwin recommends that the central administration support science communication through a Graduate Student Science Communication Fellowship program, which would involve embedding students in STEM labs and supporting STEM graduates to learn about effective communication. Ideally, the program would support social science and humanities graduate students’ work in the lab and support STEM students to give them an opportunity to learn and develop major communication projects with non-STEM faculty. This program could help equip scientists and non-scientists alike with the range of tools needed for strong science communication.

Goodwin has advice for faculty who are incorporating broader impacts activities into their research. First, she recommends selecting a specialty and pursuing it over multiple grants. “Work to make it your specialty,” she says. Next, make sure to budget for broader impacts activities. Finally, “tap into the great resources we have here on campus, like SP@ISU. There are people who are more than happy to help if you seek them out.”