A Project-Based Institute

Our unique combination of goals is made possible through the project-based approach of the Work Science Institute (WSI). Rather than working through a traditional structure of members and fellows, in which those are requested to bring grant funding for research projects only to and through a center, in the project-based approach, for both practical and research projects, each individual project stands autonomously.

The sole criteria for a project being part of WSI is whether the expertise and experience of the Institute can help the members of the project, and the workers and managers in organizations participating in the project. In turn, this makes the Institute an ideal setting for incubating and developing new projects, ideas, and solutions and for workers in organizations and researchers to work together across disciplinary boundaries or levels of organization.

Our approach is particularly well suited to incubating and developing early-stage research projects, cross-disciplinary collaborations, and practical solutions where traditional approaches have failed.

Our approach to the work in these groups is not based on the pleasant assumption that collaborative work is more exciting and more productive. Instead it is based on more than thirty years of experience that all work is hard, that collaborative work is likewise hard, if not harder, and that applying research-based practices about work (in the colloquial sense), performance of experts, and the biological foundations of complex cognitive work can yield a satisfactory approach—and one that participants can then take to future projects.

Project Teams and Project Affiliates

Individual members of project teams, from any unit of a participating organization, or any part of the broader Work in Living Systems research community, are designated as Project Affiliates of the Work Science Institute during the duration of the project. WSI project affiliates are welcome to maintain their connection with WSI after the project concludes. Or even better, continue the project!

Research and academic units of participating research organizations that join with WSI in organizing or funding a specific project are designated as WSI Project Partners during the duration of the project.

WSI's programming is formally governed by a group of Fellows who maintain continuity and guidance. In practice, though, each project is governed by its Project Affiliates, in cooperation with its Project Partners and WSI.

Past and present Project Affiliates are in a wide range of disciplines, including molecular and cellular biology, mathematics, neuroscience, cognitive science, electrical and computer engineering, and operations research.

International Members, Fellows, and Opportunities

The Institute also maintains an active program of international collaboration. In particular, the Work Meets Life project has been an ongoing cooperative project between researchers involved with the Work Science Institute and the University of Cambridge since 2003, including the publication of a volume in 2011 by the MIT Press on understanding work processes in biological systems at different levels of organization and from the perspective of various disciplines.

From these projects, a system of International Fellows and Members, and seven current International Fellows and Members actively contribute to the WSI’s activities: International Fellows and Members of WSI are currently at the University of Cambridge and University of St. Andrews, and have been drawn from universities in France, Finland, and Japan.