After the summer school had to be postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were delighted to host the fourth summer school in digital form from the 23rd-25th of June 2021. Additional to the two founding institutions of the doctoral program the Universities of Bern and Tübingen, we were pleased to welcome the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology as well as the Technical University of Munich for the funding period of 2021-2024. After the summer school had to be postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were delighted to host the fourth summer school in digital form from the 23rd-25th of June 2021. Additional to the two founding institutions of the doctoral program the Universities of Bern and Tübingen, we were pleased to welcome the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology as well as the Technical University of Munich for the funding period of 2021-2024.
The revised doctoral program from "Interdisciplinary Sport Science" to "Problem-oriented Sport Science" demonstrates the ongoing commitment to enable PhD students to conduct sport science research with both scientific value as well as societal impact. On the one hand, the prerequisite for high scientific impact is a high-quality theoretical and methodological foundation. On the other hand, the socetial impact is thought to be achieved by orienting research towards concrete phenomena and problems derived from the system of sport. This approach aims to make significant contributions to the body of knowledge which as a result influences tangible problems (e.g., athletic practice, sport performance or physical activity behavior change). The adjustments to the philosophy of the program was a recurring theme during the discussions throughout the three days. A conclusive agreement of all institutions to the revision of the program and thus a common understanding of scientific practice within sport science has been achieved.
In total, 104 participants (20 professors, 7 Postdocs, and 77 PhD students) were able to attend a wide variety of topics from all disciplines of sport science during 24 parallel sessions. Presentations about research findings, methodology, or theoretical frameworks were held in either German or English and were followed up with in-depth discussions moderated by domain experts. Moreover, speed networking events facilitating future collaborations, a social event in which young investigators could meet senior researchers as well as movement breaks for physical and mental recharge complemented the schedule.
The summer school started with the first key note by Prof. Dr. Thomas Stocker about climate change. The talk covered climate developments of the past, the current challenges researchers face within climate science, the resulting societal and policy issues, as well as future aspects that need to be addressed. On the first glimpse, climate change has minimal overlap with sport science. However as demonstrated in this key note, climate science is a prototype of problem-oriented and interdisciplinary research balancing the intrinsic interest of augmenting scientific knowledge and having a relevant and potentially transformative social impact. It became evident, that not a single discipline is able to solve such a complex and intertwined problem and that collaboration of experts from varying disciplines (like biology, sociology, epidemiology, and medicine) is necessary. In our understanding of sport science, this is exactly what research should aim for. Therefore, the audience benefited from getting to know how scientists deriving from different disciplines try to solve socially relevant problems by means of interdisciplinary collaboration.
Prof. Dr. Adam Evans presented his reflections on different perspectives (disciplinary as well as methodological) that can be taken to view a problem. He showed how a single perspective cannot target all of the world’s problems and how it affects the world we see. Just as a physiologist will not interpret a problem in the same way as a psychologist, a researcher with a qualitative approach will look at a problem in a different way than a quantitative researcher. For that reason, knowledge should not always be considered as something objective and universal waiting out there to be discovered, but rather as something, that resembles, to some extent, the shadows of a crystal, i.e., shifting, and malleable depending on the angle from which it is viewed. Common dichotomies (e.g., qualitative vs. quantitative, psychology vs. physiology, purist vs. pragmatic) are therefore not necessarily concurrent, but complementary. Accordingly, even though using this complementarity may be time-consuming, hard to publish, and may require (language) knowledge that go beyond our own comfort zone, his inspiring speech reminds us that it is a crucial path toward a better understanding of the world’s problems.
The final key note by Dr. Noora Ronkainen focused on the process of becoming an intellectual crafts(wo)man. Craftsmanship is defined as having no ulterior motive in one's work other than the product being made and the processes of its creation. Moreover, the individual is expected to learn from their work and constantly develop their capacities and skills while their actions remain autonomous. Lastly, there is no clear distinction of work and play, the crafts(wo)man dedicates their passion purely towards their craft. There are several parallels between craftsmanship and scientific research. Both need tacit knowledge and informal learning, practice and honing of skills, a holistic approach to understand the task and intrinsic motivation in order to be persistent and successful. The entire process is critically reflected and potentially adapted in order to create an outstanding product. This inspiring and thought-provoking talk on what is required to succeed within academia was refreshing to listen to as well as motivating for the PhD students, who are at starting point of their academic career.
Overall, the fourth summer school gave the opportunity to young academics to present their ideas, connect with like-minded researchers and plan future collaborations. We are looking forward to next year's summer school, which will hopefully take place in person.
Merlin Örenkic & Bryan Charbonnet