Prof heads national network effort
to bridge gaps between science, art


Carol LaFayette, associate professor of visualization at Texas A&M, is heading a 3-year, $190,000 National Science Foundation-funded effort to form a pilot national network intended to become a focal point for innovation by bridging the gap between scientists, artists and engineers.

The Network for Science, Engineering, Arts and Design would also promote the idea that the scope of federally funded “STEM” subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — should be widened to include art: the “STEM” to “STEAM” movement.

The movement’s champion, John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, said that too stark a distinction is drawn between science and the arts. He believes scientists need art and artists in their professional lives to invent and innovate successfully.

“We seem to forget that innovation doesn't just come from equations or new kinds of chemicals,” Maeda told the Guardian, a British national newspaper.

Innovation in the sciences, he said, is always linked in some way, either directly or indirectly, to a human experience. And human experiences, he added, happen through engaging with the arts — listening to music or seeing a piece of art, for example.

In a series of previous meetings, LaFayette and fellow organizers established a vision of NSEAD as facilitating the formation of a national, pilot network of institutions to provide a platform that could:

  • Build bridges to connect institutions and individuals engaged in transdisciplinary art, science, technology research and practice;
  • Catalyze proposals, support and collaborations for large-scale projects that maximize inter-institutional efforts;
  • Foster collaboration and project matchmaking;
  • Provide a forum to share best practices in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics learning in formal and informal settings for people of all ages;
  • Provide philanthropic opportunities for public and private funding organizations;
  • Establish a focal point for resource pooling and cross-pollination to support transformative initiatives that combine expertise from diverse knowledge domains.
  • Promote diversity of perspectives, approaches, and people in the creative economy.

“NSEAD is really about helping to make connections between different disciplines and researching a combination of fiscal models to support learners of all age ranges,” said LaFayette.

In addition to traditional educational institutions, she said organizers are hoping NSEAD can serve members of the do-it-yourself community exemplified by organizations such as Dorkbot, a group of affiliated organizations worldwide that sponsor grassroots meetings of artists, engineers, designers, scientists, inventors, and anyone else working under the very broad umbrella of electronic art.  

The group, with LaFayette as its principal investigator, is scheduled to meet twice this fall.


- Posted: Aug. 4, 2011 -

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Contact:   Phillip Rollfing, or 979.458.0442.


Carol LaFayette

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