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Cognitive Innovation

Final Report Summary - COGNOVO (Cognitive Innovation)

Executive Summary
CogNovo ( was an Innovative Doctoral Programme, funded by the EU Marie Curie initiative and Plymouth University. CogNovo’s stated objectives were: to establish a new multi-national doctoral training programme aimed at fostering research training in the emerging field of Cognitive Innovation, both as a new field of scientific investigation and as a strategy for conducting innovative multidisciplinary research; to provide research training and hands on experience of research in a diverse range of disciplines, including psychology, computer science, robotics, cognitive neuroscience, the arts and the humanities; to support research students in shaping their individual research programmes and career development through the formation of multi-disciplinary research supervision teams and individual skill development plans; and to provide them with an opportunities to develop their entrepreneurial and public engagement skills.
Work in the CogNovo proceeded according to plan. CogNovo's website and recruitment campaign was launched by the start of the project. The campaign was very successful and we recruited the full complement of 14 Marie Curie and 11 University-funded Fellows by April 2014. All Fellows were registered on the University’s doctoral (MPhil/PhD) programme for the duration of their employment. Please note, in what follows ‘X (Y)’ indicates numbers for Marie Curie Fellows (CogNovo as a whole). There was a good gender and cultural balance across the group; with 8 male and 6 female Marie Curie Fellows (12 male, 13 female) from 12 (15) different countries; a truly international, multi-cultural group. A brochure summarising the CogNovo programme, academic investigators, and the achievements and research profiles of each of the Fellows was published in August 2017.
CogNovo provided a unique platform for the development of doctoral research skills through a training programme based on the novel integration of a range of pedagogical approaches such as structured training (lectures, seminars, discussion groups; including an innovative Humanities-led Topics and Concerns programme which was designed to facilitate interdisciplinary discussion), student-centred learning (skills self-auditing, individual tutoring) and experiential learning (experimentation, collaborative projects, scientific presentations, public engagement and event organisation) and innovative research. All Marie Curie Fellows also went on secondments during the programme in order to broaden their research experience. One Fellow left CogNovo to take up a position at their secondment institution. The remainder all completed the programme.
CogNovo Fellows participated in an extensive series of week-long training workshops, covering all the component disciplines: Research Methods (April 2014), Experimental Methods (June 2014), Computational Modelling (September 2014), Public Outreach and Social Innovation (January 2015), Entrepreneurship (April 2015), Humanities Perspectives (September 2015), Scientific Mythologies (January 2016), Neural Basis for Creativity (April 2016). In addition, they attended numerous smaller workshops, regular seminars from invited speakers, and weekly ‘What’s Up’ research update sessions. These supplementary activities were often organised by CogNovo Fellows, so giving them some experience of event organisation. More experience was provided by the organisation of a highly successful international summer school, Collaboratoire (August 2016); Fellows were responsible for all aspects of the School, from conceptualisation, advertising, budget management and participant selection through to delivery. Their achievements are underlined by a jointly authored paper on their insights into multidisciplinary collaboration, currently under review. They also participated in and helped to organise three further events which involved both international researchers and members of the public: Off the Lip 2015 (an International Conference held in September 2015 with a primarily academic focus), Off the Lip 2016 (Manufactory and Bizarre Bazaar, October 2016; a major public engagement event which included public talks, workshops and an extensive set of interactive exhibits based on CogNovo research held over 3 days), Off the Lip 2017 (Colloquium on Experiences and Applications of Cognitive Innovation, August 2017; an event organised by the Fellows to provide participants with hands on experience of the publishing process. The resulting special issue of selected papers was published by Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies in November 2017; see for news about and links to this publication).
The CogNovo website is an attractive and lively source of information about the project, where details of all events, projects and participants can be found. It is visited by around 500 people per day, primarily weekdays. Key stages and events in CogNovo were documented in a series of short films which were made available on the home page in order to publicise CogNovo activities. Full length films of talks and presentations were also recorded and are available on request. In addition, regular news items on publications, conference appearances, prizes and awards were regularly posted on the website.
To achieve the objective of making CogNovo an open network, we established the Friends of CogNovo mailing list. This is constituted by the CogNovo Fellows, Plymouth and external researchers who have taken part in the training events and seminars, and any others who have expressed an interest in CogNovo, Currently, the list has 175 members; all members were regularly notified of and invited to CogNovo events. CogNovo also runs a twitter account which has 197 followers.
CogNovo’s research training programme has been highly successful; to date 6 (12) Fellows have been awarded their PhDs, and the others are all expected to obtain their awards in 2018. All Fellows who have obtained their PhDs (as well as some who don’t) have positions in academic institutions in the UK(9), Ireland(1), Italy(1) and the Philippines(1 ).
A recent highlight was the award of a $10000 prize to three CogNovo Fellows (Diego Maranan, Agi Haines and Jack Fletcher) to visit DART 17 (a test laboratory in San Francisco, USA) to further develop their innovative product idea, RE/ME. The award was announced at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels during Art, Science & Technology Collaborations in Europe, a symposium on how the arts can be a catalyst for innovations that seek to address today’s challenges. This work is likely to lead to a number of new exploitation and research opportunities, some of which are currently being explored. Dissemination has also featured highly, including 27 (48) journal articles in press or published to date, 20 (34) exhibitions and 75 (144) conference presentations (talks or posters). Prominent dissemination achievements include Tyagi et al (2017) Risky side of creativity, which became the most highly viewed paper in Frontiers in Psychology in 2017, and a paper arising from a spontaneous collaboration between three CogNovo Fellows; Francis et al (2017) Simulating Moral Actions, which appeared recently in Nature Scientific Reports, and became a top 100 read in 2017.
All stated objectives of CogNovo were met. The transdisciplinary approach we applied in developing CogNovo was extremely fruitful, as evidenced by many spontaneous collaborations that emerged within the group. All Fellows were interviewed about their experiences and a book documenting our insights into multidisciplinary research training is in preparation. The impact of CogNovo training will become clearer in the future as the Fellow’s careers unfold, but their ability to engage with other disciplines and the extensive public engagement and event organisation activities in which they were all involve have already opened up employment opportunities they would not have had had their training been more narrow. The growing CogNovo network of collaborators, which includes researchers across Europe and groups in the developing world is likely to leave a strong legacy of creative approaches to societal problems in years to come.
For more details, see:
Coordinator: Professor Susan Denham School of Psychology, University of Plymouth