Is STEM an idea whose time has passed ?

Is STEM an idea whose time has passed ? Do we need to rethink the cultural embedding of science?

here is a new item

another recent rethinking about whether we are going about it wrong on STEM\

,,,And yet, alongside such dire projections, you’ll also find reports suggesting just the opposite—that there are more STEM workers than suitable jobs.

what there is, is a shortage of is STEAM workforce !


YASMIN discussion


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[Yasmin_discussions] how does art science collaboration practice contribute to scientific research

Roger Malina

Roger Malina

Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities and Professor of Physics at University of Texas at Dallas

I ask the question because of the work of Salzman who questions whether this country has a STEM shortage

Hal Salzman

What Shortages? The Real Evidence About the STEM Workforce
Despite naysayers, the nation is producing more than enough quality workers in scientific and engineering fields—and policymakers and industry leaders should proceed accordingly.

see his article available on line

he states:

For every two students that U.S. colleges graduate with STEM degrees, only one is hired into a STEM job.

In computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50 percent more students than are hired into those fields each year; of the computer science graduates not entering the IT workforce, 32 percent say it is because IT jobs are unavailable, and 53 percent say they found better job opportunities outside of IT occupations.

These responses suggest that the supply of graduates is substantially larger than the demand for them in industry.

is he right ?


 danny bronac and colleaguesI agree that the way that I have phrased the yasmin discussion as “how does art science practice contribute to scientific research; sets up the very dichotomy I am arguing againstbut I also have a deep problem as does with Danny with the ‘third space’ discourse- brockman etl al’s third culture , E O wilson’sconsilience- i am just not convinced this approach is interestingly generative- i am less concerned about its positivist heritage but that I think it contextualises our activities in a world that doesnt exist any moreI personally think there are very good reasons to have disciplines and that we train discplinary experts – i would be hard pressed to explai to a nano technologist working on how to build space elevators how the  history of film would really help find the new approaches needed-  except in some very vague theory of creativity- its a lot of work bringing different disciplines together and you have to be really convinced its worth the efforton the other hand there are some hard problems ( science of consciousness ?) where connections between the sciences and the humanities are generative. I am just reading Randall Collins’ book ” The sociology of philosophies; a global theory of intellectual change” which concretely hows how communities of practice bring together disparate approacheto tackle hard problems- and the cognitive sciences today are rightfully engaging the art science community ( the new european network on Cognitive Innovation- COGNOVO has just been launched).

When we were working on the SEAD white papers final report (
we very very naturally found ourselves tying our thinking to prior
movements in systems theory, cybernetics, complexity and emergence and
we titled
our report very deliberately:
Steps to an Ecology of Networked Knowledge and Innovation:
Enabling new forms of collaboration among sciences, engineering, arts,
and design
in hommage to bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind but also drawing
ongoldberg and davidsen’s future of learning institutions in the
digital age

we had somewhat of a gestalt switch when we moved from thinking of a
Tree of Knowledge ( one of whose branches in STEM)
to  a Network of Knowledge- you make connections beween branches in a
tree in a different way that between nodes in a network,
tree structures grow topologically in different ways than networks,
and information flows through trees in different ways than through
to cut down a tree you do it in a different way than to destroy a network

in a dynamic evolving network of knowledge the separation between
nodes evolves as hard problems bring researchers from
different communities together- in our community the art and
technology movement brought into proximity researchers that
20 years before would barely have met at cocktail parties-and we now
have industries based on computer arts= but bringing
together the art and technology communities around the steam engine
would not have been very generative and to my knowledge
theromodynamic art never happened

today the art and biology community of practice is thriving around
deep issues of the nature of life etc- and we now see hybrid practices
in a way that would have made little sense in the age of Pasteur

in some cases forrmerly separate disciplines merge ( in my case
astronomy became so joined with physics that astrophysics resulted)

anyway- i dont like the Third Culture discourse any more than the Two
Cultures Discourse- and feel we need to develop networked knowledge
metaphors and language and think in terms of disciplines within an
evolving dynamic network

this line of reason is one of the reasons that perhaps the concept of
“STEM’ is one that is no longer useful because it is so firmly
perched in a tree of knowledge metaphor

and why the way I phrased this yasmin discussion perhaps sets us on
the wrong track


Hi all

It is indeed old ground but always fruitful precisely because so
intractable. The limitations of the third space discourse from my
point of view are mostly that it carries the positivist legacy that it
is possible or desirable to define new spaces for practice, rather
than pursuing better descriptions of the incommensurability of
practices and discourses. Critical art practices of the avant-garde
have traditionally worked in a more negative direction of departure,
so many artists would find the question of how their collaborative
practices contribute to scientific research pointless or even
offensive (it is also true that many would find it similarly unhappy
to be asked how their practice contributes to art history).

With the insertion of artistic research into the techno-scientific
university there are indeed new modes of practical collaboration and
interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary practices being
institutionalised, for myself the most interesting collaborations have
had a kind of indisciplined quality where both artist and scientist
are in a state of departure from their very different modes of

Of course some people are better working across the two cultures (or
more than two) than others but it’s hard to believe we are really at
any state of departure from that paradigm when the question can still
be asked “How Can History of Science Matter to Scientists?”
Maienschein et al, Isis, 2008, 99:341-349. My preferred conversation
is “how can art-science collaboration contribute to discourses of
artistic autonomy and interrogation of form”? Yes there have been a
few interesting interventions made there but the hyphen in art-science
is far from disappearing and there’s nothing wrong with that IMO.



Brianyour email triggered a nerve-when we surveyed the STEAM field in
US high schools for the SEAD white papers we found dozens
of STEAM programs- including STEAM with the A for Agriculture-
so yes all for Activism !!my colleague tom linehan has been asking provocatively whether
the very concept of STEM is a concept that is now no longer usefulie the very ontology of STEM forces you into a way of thinking
that blocks the most interesting ideas and projectsJohnathan Zillberg in his SEAD white paper meta analysis
started a frontal attack on the very concept of the two cultures
as one that is no longer useful and critiques how in spite of
ourselves we draw on the two culture mythology even though
C P snow himself disagreed with the way his ideas had been
distortedhow would the art science community begin to think if we
banished the two cultures and CP Snow (yeah aristotle is fun
to read too) and the very concept of dividing knowledge and
education into STEM fields and non STEM Fields= so maybe
this STEM to STEAM discussion is fundamentally misguided

i remember 20 years ago roy ascott when we were working
on the Leonardo Special Issue on Art and Interactive Telecommunications
(with the late and regretted Carl Loeffler) agitating to find a way
to replace the work Art because it carried too much unuseful baggage

so no for STEAM STEAAM SHTEAM yes for ?


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Brian Degger <>
Date: Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 7:24 AM
Subject: Re: [Yasmin: Fwd: What about that ?

I thought we were all about STEAM now 😉
Can’t wait until Science, techology,engineering, arts, maths becomes STEAAM
Science, technology,engineering, arts, activism, math.

On Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 4:28 PM, rbuiani <> wrote:

> yup, thanks Annick for bringing this up….except that this STEM obsession
> has brought some admins to believe that we no longer need the arts and
> humanities.
> rb
> On Aug 19, 2013, at 9:01 PM, roger malina wrote:
> > ———- Forwarded message ———-
> > From: Annick Bureaud <>
> > Date: Mon, Aug 19, 2013 at 3:53 PM
> > Subject: What about that ?
> > To: malina <>
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > I don’t exactly know how it fits into your art-science discussion but
> > after the “first” steack grown by a scientist, may be it would be nice
> > to have an “art and humanities” curiculum for scientists ;-)))
> >
> > Can’t send it to Yasmin, as I can’t use my registered email address
> > where I currently am.
> >
> > Annick
> > —


  1. I agree with you Roger, that the word (not ‘work’) Art carries ‘too much unuseful baggage’. Unlike science, which may be identified by its method, art defies definition. From my reading of The Master and His Emissary (2010) by psychiatrist Ian McGilchrist, we may consciously shape our minds through our senses, to reconnect mind and body knowledge in order to navigate our way towards a sustainable future.

  2. Ways of reconnecting through the senses are practised in what we currently call Art and Science: walking, drawing, writing, making, which are primal ways of relating to each other and our environments. This approach is holistic and dynamic. It aligns with Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. In its elemental form, this knowledge is available to everyone. in Vision in Motion (1921) Maholy-Nagy identifies this world view as ‘Biological’.

    If we are to reconnect with our primal natures, another word must be used to merge what we now call Science and Art. Could it be Biology?

  3. Your lack of HTML awareness/proficiency (in formatting this blog post) distracted me so much I didn’t even make it through all of your arguments. At least remove the line breaks!

    I applaud Arts and STEM integration, but it must go way beyond the superficial efforts I’ve seen. I want to see music students building their own instruments, and measuring the differences between chords, or decibel levels, wavelength, frequency and amplitude of the sound waves their instruments produce. The AAAS “Dance your PhD” is great, and efforts in the visual arts to convey things difficult or impossible to witness otherwise (e.g., medical drawings or graphic demonstrations of relationships within systems) are also good examples. Unfortunately most are these are generated by the STEM teacher and almost never by the Arts instructors. I think STEAM leaders could accomplish a lot more by demonstrating these special capacities rather than the more common refrain of “We experiment and design things, so we’re STEM too!!”

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