May 16, 2024

PostNormal Times: When Old Ways Just Won’t Do

Andrew Vosko and Sandeep Krishnamurthy

PostNormal Times is a podcast for our complex reality and unpredictable world—a world where the stakes are high and innovation is crucial. Andrew Vosko, PhD, associate provost and director of transdisciplinary studies at CGU, and his guests explore ideas that transcend traditional academic boundaries and address our most pressing needs. Get ready to challenge your assumptions.

In the season 2 premiere of PostNormal Times, host Andrew Vosko engages with Sandeep Krishnamurthy, the Singelyn Family Dean of the College of Business Administration and Singelyn Graduate School of Business at Cal Poly Pomona. They delve into the impact of AI, the value of applied knowledge, and the evolving challenges within academia and academic publishing. As they explore a transdisciplinary future, they consider the integration of new forms of knowledge, ranging from blogs and podcasts to generative AI technologies.

Season 2, Episode 1 Transcript

ANDREW: Welcome to PostNormal Times, a podcast for our complex reality and unpredictable world, where stakes are high, and innovation is crucial. In this series, I get to sit down with some of my favorite minds to explore new ideas that transcend traditional academic boundaries and address our most pressing needs. I’m Andrew Vosko, associate provost, and director of transdisciplinary studies at Claremont Graduate University. Welcome to the show. 

Our guest today is Sandeep Krishnamurthy, who is the Singelyn Family Dean of the College of Business Administration and Singelyn Graduate School of Business at Cal Poly Pomonayou’re the inaugural such dean, is that right?  

SANDEEP: I’m an endowed dean, but I’m basically the dean of the College of Business Administration at Cal Poly Pomona.  

ANDREW: It’s really nice to have you in the neighborhood!  

SANDEEP: Thank you!  

ANDREW: Both figuratively and literally—I mean, to have you here in Claremont, to have you across the freeway from us, but also to find somebody with these transdisciplinary inclinations. I joked with some of my folks that we have antennae for these things. You put out feelers and you can see who’s in the tribe. 

So, you’re in the tribe! You immediately reached out when you saw the podcast. We had some great conversations. You’re definitely one of these transdisciplinary folks we find in our neighborhood.  

SANDEEP: Thank you. 

ANDREW: So, I wanted you to tell us how you got into the transdisciplinary tribe because you have an interesting academic background. You were originally a chemical engineer?  


ANDREW: I’m already interested. So, how do you go from that to marketing and business? 

SANDEEP: Let me start by thanking you, Andrew—I think this is very gracious of you. I’m delighted to be here and have a great conversation. So, I grew up in India and ended up in chemical engineering because there’s a competitive engineering exam process there. It’s not what you want, but it’s what’s available. It’s based on how you score on a high-stakes exam. That’s what I got pegged for, basically: I ended up in chemical engineering and I learned that I don’t particularly want to practice chemical engineering. Then I went through some internships. When it came time to graduate, it was clear I didn’t want to be a chemical engineer. 

That surprised my family, of course. I also went to the Indian Institute of Technology, or IIT, which has its own cachet in India. Immediately after that, I got my MBA in India. That was an interesting process because many of my classmates were people with a lot of business experience and I was a fresh graduate. I walked straight in without having work experience and it all became somewhat abstract—it was a real learning experience for me 

Next, I worked for a couple of years in India and decided to apply for a PhD. I went to the University of Arizona and got my PhD, which was very interesting. I was in the business school, but I learned that I was also interested in the analytical world. I was doing work like game theory and economics. I was also into the humanistic side. I saw the marketing literature narratives about consumer behavior, about how we understand why people consume. Things like that were also interesting to me 

I realized I was somewhat of an anomaly because I was interested in so many things. I had broader interests, while the general advocacy was “Look, find a problem, go deep for the first five years until you get tenure, and then add two variables and run one more study.” That pleases the reviewers because then they can be sure. And then when you get tenure, you can start doing the usual conventional thing. But I ended up not doing any of that. 

The job I got was at the University of Washington Bothell. At that point, there was a lot of flexibility. Even as an assistant professor, I wrote a textbook and did some experimentation with open publishing. I was always interested in new phenomena, instead of narrowly going down the path of one problem or construct and just adding small wrinkles to it. I naturally became interdisciplinary and even to this day, in my dean role, I get to meet, for example, faculty finalists from various fields, and I frequently talk to them about their research. Some of them are so shocked because they’re used to just talking to other finance faculty with a finance PhD and they’re surprised I’m interested in their work. I’ve always been interested in how to connect ideas across disciplines.   

I came across one of your podcasts and it was very inspiring. So, I contacted you and it’s been wonderful. 

ANDREW: It’s been fun for me, too. I often tell students early on, when I get to know them at a graduate level, that there’s this identity formation thing going on, with a lot of pressure to become something. … 

In the traditional model of graduate school, you’re going there to find someone like a mentor who’s going to be the person who shapes you to become their progeny. We even have these academic progenies: “I was so-and-so’s—.” It’s almost biblical. … I’ve thrown those cards on the table. It’s a cool shortcut, to make people believe they should listen to me based on my academic progeny. 

But it’s not based on anything more than reputation or face value. A lot of us, that’s how we’re’ trained to think about graduate school. When you get to graduate school, and you realize “I might be right but I’m not sure because there’s something I feel like I’m giving up”—I tell students that the voice that says that is very honest.  

You find in life that you can’t not be who you are. You can’t, it doesn’t work. So, if you need to learn outside the box, you can’t pretend that you’re suddenly going to be a unidisciplinary thinker for the rest of your life. … You’re going to transgress. You’re going to annoy people. But you should because there’s no way around it—that’s who you are. We need those people in the world to embrace it now. That’s what you want to do.   

SANDEEP: Where were you 24 years ago, Andrew?  

ANDREW: I had to learn this the hard way, too. I kept ending up in different situations. I don’t think anybody was particularly discouraging to me. I had good mentors for the most part. But … nobody told me it was possible to be in my own lane. Nobody explained that to me. What you were saying immediately inspired me to think “OK, here’s somebody who couldn’t be who they weren’t.” You’re going to be who you are.   

SANDEEP: Exactly. 

ANDREW: … A lot of people who come into the transdisciplinary world traditionally—and we’re trying to push it differently here at CGU—are very senior and very tenured. They’ve had their time in their discipline but they’re like “I want to do something different now.” It’s like “I can become an administrator, or I can learn something different in a disciplinary way.” And that’s an OK model.  

But it means that only the people learning how to do those boundary-crossing things, which integrate knowledge and get further rewarded, don’t have that much time left in their careers. You’re not getting the new blood who can see things in different ways and integrate … differently. There’s nothing wrong with people being senior full professors saying “I want to be transdisciplinary.” I love that. But why isn’t the younger person allowed to do that, traditionally?  

SANDEEP: Absolutely. In my case, I was fortunate that I was able to try different things. Also, one of the things I’ve always thought is important in business schools is how we pay attention to the intellectual capital of practice.   

You meet practitioners and leaders, and they’re very insightful. They share some things with you based on the benefit of their experience. But in business schools across the country, there’s a sort of poo-pooing of practice as beneath them. One of the things that I’ve been very influenced by is the idea of how we interact with practitioners and benefit from the insights that they’ve gleaned from their experience. … 

Another idea is that if the world around us changes, we can’t pretend that we’re going on with business as usual. Now there might be a new field, there might be some advances. We might initially find it threatening and so we put it down and say “That’s something we don’t do,” or “Who cares,” or things of that nature. But then there’s a real advantage to aligning with changes faster than others do.  

And then, over time, as a dean, I found that in my leadership practice, I was encouraging other faculty to be this way, whereby you don’t have a static view of what it means to be a faculty member. The idea is that the faculty member has to be curious, adaptable, and willing to bring new experiences into the classroom. As it turns out, that inspires students as well. 

ANDREW: Very much. Also, this generation of students—we’ve talked a lot in our conversations about generations—I think it’s harder for them to pretend that the world is unidisciplinary. Their version of the world isn’t just framed on knowledge being sacred in the halls of higher ed, and their forms of knowledge are very different. …  

I think COVID-19 is still a very salient example for so many things, but it doesn’t have to be COVID-19 per se. You’d have someone like Anthony Fauci saying what to do about COVID-19, someone who represents something about higher knowledge. He should’ve been the most informed person making these claims, according to all the cognitive shortcuts we were using to figure out what he was saying. But he was wrong on a number of things because COVID-19 was an emergent thing.  

If you study immunology or parasitology, there’s this thing called coevolution. We can change, and so does a virus, with us—we change together. But the whole world didn’t know that. So, if we were looking for someone like Fauci to tell us how to predict the future based on what he’d been given at that moment, at that snapshot in time, and he’s wrong, what else were we listening to at the time? The president telling us that we should put UV lights under our beds, that they will kill…? 

I was in Arizona, and there was a woman who told me she didn’t have any COVID-19 in her shop by taking out a UV wand and waving it around. I felt very uncomfortable in that shop. 

SANDEEP: You remember bleach?  

ANDREW: People got hurt from this stuff, too. But these other forms of knowledge—and those are some negative ones—became just as relevant as the more hallowed forms of knowledge that we’d protected. And then there’s other forms of this. … I don’t want to go to one of my professors, like an engineering professor, to ask them how to fix my dishwasher. I want to go to YouTube or TikTok. I want a life hack. …
That’s knowledge, too. … Whether we call them digital natives, Gen Z, Gen Alpha, or whatever generation, there’s more of a recognition of knowledge that isn’t so formalized into relevant and irrelevant. … We have different issues now and need to help people select the appropriate knowledge for the appropriate situation, rather than say “No, just listen to my knowledge because that’s the one that’s from the formal structure and that’s right.” So, they’re already in this sludge of knowledge that they’re trying to wade through and figure out.  

SANDEEP: Going back to the YouTube example, it’s … learning that you can only get from other practitioners, in this case, plumbers, carpenters, general contractors, and so on. You’re saving a lot of money because many of those people charge a lot to come out, especially for small repairs. You tend to lose a lot of money because there’s a minimum that they charge.  

 … Also, if you remember, many decades ago, there was a daily newspaper, five channels on the TV, and only a few radio stations. You probably had the news station, the classical station, the popular music station, and so on. The amount of information we were exposed to daily was limited. Everybody in the classroom had similar access to information. The place of the university was very sacred because we occupied a place of high-quality information in the lives of students. 

But now, in the first hour that one of our students wakes up, they’re watching videos, they’re reading things, they’re getting messages, and they’re getting so much information. So, the place of the university is now expressed in terms of helping them navigate through that information and say “How do I make sense of this information, what do I include, what do I not include, how do I not react when my buttons get pushed?” And then they have to step back and reflect on if something is true. So, there’s that thing going on as well, in terms of how the university’s place in society works.  

And then on the Fauci thing: What is the place of expertise in society? This is a big question. For example, you want a competent accountant. If a person does your taxes and you get audited, it’s not fun. So, you need competence in some areas, but in some other areas where you can quickly learn some things, you may not need experts. There are shifting contours in terms of the place of expertise in society.  

So, universities have to figure out, first of all, that they’re giving the gift of critical examination and an examined life. I think that that remains important because too much information leads to ridiculous information, for example, The Flat Earth Society. People come across memes about how The Flat Earth Society thinks the world is a disk, not a sphere  

ANDREW: The Flat Earthers? 

SANDEEP: Yeah. So, these things come up and you must help students understand “Look, you have empirical examinations that allow us to discount this, don’t fall for the charlatans.” Critical examination is a great contribution of universities. 

At the same time, paying attention to valuable nuggets is important: You can watch someone cook a recipe and they’ll teach you some fine cooking techniques. You can improve quite a bit now, even without the university’s help in some areas.  

ANDREW: … I have this concept that I learned in biology (everything goes back to biology for me) called tensegrity. It is integrity because of tension, like the surface tension of water. In a cell, if the cell doesn’t have an appropriate amount of tension on it, pulling it in different directions, then it doesn’t have stability, either. It’s like a tent: If you don’t work with the tension from the poles in the tent, you have no structure to that tent anymore. 

It’s a nice way of saying generative conflict. But it also means that a tent can’t exist without tension. A cell can’t exist without tension. A lot of things need tension. And a university needs tension. The thing I’m noticing, though, is that the way we often understand and handle tension is through the idea that it’s not always good for us. Sometimes, we understand it as a toxic thing. I can see it as well. I can understand when it’s not good for us. My interest is in how to turn it into something good.  

So, as you’re saying, we do offer this criticality of things.  


ANDREW: But we also see competition for resources at universities as well. Okay, well, we’ll put it out there: the crisis of the humanities. I don’t like that term. I think the humanities have just as much necessity in a university as anything else. Sure, the specialization of humanities may need to be reconfigured a little bit so it becomes more applied than it has been traditionally.  

But that doesn’t mean you don’t still need specialists who do pure … there should be tension between humanities and maybe an applied engineering group. You need both. It doesn’t have to become an all-out war, a victimization incident, or, at the administrative level, a space wherein you’re saying “Well, we’re going to give more to you.” A lot of times, administrators get rid of tension by favoring one of the two sides … and they represent both. The process forces its own integration in a way.  

So, there’s a sweet spot. We don’t know where it is. We’re always dancing around it. Some of these things you’re talking about with specialization and other kinds of knowledge, we’re seeing them pop up. We’re seeing that some parts of the university are still holding on to the expertise model, and we don’t want to get rid of them. And we see other parts of the university going in a direction that makes us say “What, stop it!” 

SANDEEP: Exactly.  

ANDREW: … I’m curious where we find that sweet spot. Whether or not there’s tensegrity in the university is the first assumption. … Where do you think that sweet spot might be? Or how might we find it?  

SANDEEP: Oh, my goodness, this is a great question because it is very real for me. The first thing I would say is that we’ve organized the modern university along tribes for the most part, with this agglomeration of people with similar ideas within colleges, then within departments, and so on. It’s very hierarchical. But problems don’t necessarily map to those hierarchies. For example, take the simple issue of poverty. Why does poverty exist in society, number one? Number two, what might be some effective ways of helping society understand how to get people out of poverty, sustainably? 

Now, economists would have views for us on this, and you’d have people in the business school with views on this, wanting to talk about financial literacy and entrepreneurship as being very important. You’d have people in ethics and … people in literature who’d want to talk about the stories that inspired people to move forward. As a dean, I’ve tried to go back to the way I approach my research. Rather than become either a method expert or an expert in one sub-sub-sub-sub field, I’ve always been interested in new phenomena and getting people from different spheres to engage.  

Now, I think within the university, you need personal relationships at the dean level across other colleges, plus a similar commitment, for this to work. Ultimately, taking on the issue of the humanities, I think the humanities—my wife is a singer, so this is part of my lived experience—can be vital for our students. For example, we don’t want them to become so analytical that all they can do is turn the crank on some numbers. But they need to be able to weave a story, to tell others why this is important. …  

If you’re an entrepreneur, you see the Shark Tank genre of getting a group of potential investors to become captivated by what you’re doing. That has to do with storytelling, passion, and teamwork. So, I hope that there can be those intersections. But unfortunately, people do view it as win/lose—that if you bring someone from “the outside,” that means somebody from our team is not getting that opportunity. And why, as a dean, would I favor that? We should continue to aspire toward intersections. 

I’m inspired by new examples we all know, such as the Stanford and the ripple effects it’s had nationally and internationally. Now we have schools of AI forming that are intrinsically interdisciplinary. They’re not computer science schools they’re schools of AI. You have computer scientists, economists, ethicists, and people who understand narrative. Can we create new schools and organizational structures that map to the big effects we see in society?  

ANDREW: We’ve been talking about AI for as long as we’ve been talking, essentially. … You had a recent conference on it at your campus that was a great conversation. And as we’re speaking now, I’m thinking “OK, AI is going to quickly become a part of our everyday lives. Universities are going to have to adapt very quickly. We have to look a little bit beyond how this affects plagiarism fears in the classroom.” … There will be quick adaptations to that, I believe. I think many of us will realize sooner rather than later that that’s probably not the best use of our time. The better use of our time will be asking questions about learning and the integration of AI.   

If we believe—and I know that I do,  and I’m pretty sure you do, but I’ll let you speak to this—that the university is in a moment of transformation, then it has to do that.  

SANDEEP: Absolutely. 

ANDREW: If we suddenly want AI to be integrated, we also have to think structurally about what a university needs for the appropriate tensions to be creative rather than destructive. There have to be things that are capacity-building that we build into this transformative space, such that all the cues, stimuli, and all the things that should help this university (or any university) transform are received and integrated into them and can be built upon, rather than leaving us knocking on a locked door. And that’s something we don’t talk a lot about.  

There’s an assumption with any new technology that comes in, any new social movement that comes in, that we’re ready for it because we’re the university. We don’t ask whether the capacity is there to be ready for that. What capacities do we need to have for this transformation to be more creative than disruptive (in a bad way)? …  

SANDEEP: It’s a big question. First of all, you have different faculty who examine AI from their own vantage points. We need them to keep pace with the rate of change in the world. Let’s say they’ve spent half an hour experimenting only with the original ChatGPT. They formed some impressions and they left. I don’t think we’re going to get very far there.  

One of the things I’m looking into is how to make faculty aware of all the new advances. How do we make sure people understand that this isn’t just the introduction of ChatGPT? … The first set of AI was focused on classification. For example, because you come from neuroscience, we’re helping radiologists understand whether there are precancerous or cancerous cells just based on image detection. We are using computer vision to classify potential precancerous cells versus not. AI was starting to outperform radiologists. There was a discriminatory or classification function that AI was playing.  

We’ve moved from that to a generative AI world of producing plausible content, a word soup that looks like it contains meaning based on the instructions of the person who provided it. But since its introduction into our world, there’s this sense that knowledge work itself is changing dramatically.  

We motivate faculty to keep learning and adapting because there will be new capabilities coming that we can only imagine now. For example, if you’re used to doing something in Microsoft PowerPoint, you may have a world in which Microsoft integrates AI into PowerPoint design, you provide some broad guidelines, and then the PowerPoint presentation is created for you from that outline. This is going to be very helpful. People need to understand that these capabilities exist. …  

Within the university, we need to find change agents and make sure that they have space. A lot of the time, change agents feel isolated because they see something and they have a vision. … Sometimes they get isolated if the academic leaders don’t encourage that disruption. We need to think of the tip of the arrow and make sure that we encourage the few who are eager to bring these capabilities into the university.  

Finally, I’m a believer in connection to practice. We need to understand that our students will become part of various communities of practice. How are those communities understanding the changes due to AI in their labor markets, like the way work is organized in a particular sphere? Let’s bring them in. Whether you’re a nonprofit organization, a government, or a company, let’s understand how they’re starting to imagine the changes in their workspaces and create structures in which their conversations and ways of exchanging information benefit from the communities of practice. Those are some initial ideas.  

ANDREW: If I take us out of the theoretical and into the pragmatic space and think of you as a college or university that might be hiring some of our graduates one day … in your ideal world—I said we’re being pragmatic, but I asked you ideally—for the next five faculty for whom you have a say in their hiring, what skills should they be bringing to the table that allows for this transformative moment, for some capacity building in your faculty related to AI, but not necessarily specifically about AI? What are the skills that you’d be looking for in new faculty members in this transformative moment?  

SANDEEP: The first thing is that the world of research is changing. We’re now seeing that we have AI- and machine learning-driven methodologies being used to do data analysis, find data, scrape data, and so on. We’re very interested in people who are starting to do AI-informed research, which I’ll just describe as a broad category. We want people who are in touch with their disciplines and understand that AI is moving the research forward. It’s not just the teaching. 

The second thing is that we’re very interested in faculty who are starting to integrate AI in interesting ways in the classroom, where there are assignments forcing students to try different things using AI, and then mapping those outputs in ways that are useful in a classroom. They tend to be very pragmatic. Or you might have a situation in which, in a marketing class, we want to teach the concept of recombinant value.  

So, if you just stay in the world of, let’s say, ChatGPT, you might think AI is only about text. Well, now we have AI systems to which you can provide instructions and they will create original images for you. Midjourney is one of those. Others can produce videos. For example, you can get Mark Zuckerberg to state something and it looks like Mark Zuckerberg is saying it. So now you have video, audio, text, and images.  

We can help students understand that by saying “OK, take all of this, and take a prominent brand: Why don’t we create an ad for them using all of this and a social media campaign, and talk about how you use AI—all these different systems—to create something very compelling?” Now you’re teaching them. First of all, you’re connecting to the world of practice because this is what’s happening in marketing departments right now. For the large companies, this is how they’re using it. The second thing is that you’re letting students understand that AI isn’t a small thing, it’s actually this much bigger thing. So, make sure you’re connecting to the bigger phenomenon, rather than a smaller phenomenon.  

Finally, you’re helping them create output for a portfolio that, if they end up in an interview, they can talk about. So, now we have, in a very pragmatic way, helped them rather than made them sit in a class in which we’d have given them a theoretical framework and talked about the five ways of creating a great ad and so on. We’re learning by doing: “Let’s do it. Do you know how to do these things?” 

Now we can tell the external world that we have very competent graduates who can produce things that are relevant and extract value from AI in a way that makes them relevant to labor markets. This is the approach we want faculty members to be taking. I just used the example in the context of marketing but you might have somebody in, let’s say, finance or accounting. In accounting, I know it’s a little away from your daily life—  

ANDREW: I’ll try to be interested!  

SANDEEP: It used to be that in accounting, the way audits were done by large accounting firms was they would look at a small sample of transactions. But now, they can look at the entire set of transactions. They use anomaly detection to flag only questionable transactions. So, students simply have to pay attention to those. That alone is shifting how we teach auditing and accounting in a big way.   

We want people to be aware that these shifts are taking place. Ultimately, we want people who understand that a PhD is not a terminal degree in the traditional sense. That term, terminal degree, always bothered me, that idea that you got the degree and then you’re done, you don’t have to learn anything else. No, you have to constantly … we want people who have this learning mentality that they’re adapting. They’re always thinking “Hey, what’s interesting?” and they have this attitude that they’re going to scan the world and integrate all these different things that they’re seeing on a daily basis.  

ANDREW: There was a lot that you just said, and I was trying to think of my own synthesis of where it was going and how it related to some other concepts that have been on my mind that are traditional within the transdisciplinary canon. 

One of the people we don’t talk enough about in the transdisciplinary world is Ernest L. Boyer, and his models of scholarship. I think it’s very relevant to our conversation about running universities. … 

Traditionally, as you said, with a terminal degree, there’s a knowledge of discovery that we use in our idea of the PhD especially, that you need to know a lot about a little. You need to contribute to new knowledge and make a major contribution to the field. … It’s an opaque set of rules, but it’s one that everybody repeats. We generally have an idea of what a major contribution to the field is because we can get inside our dissertation committee’s minds to figure out what they consider a major contribution to the field. We’re acculturated. We get used to the journals. We get used to the conferences. The field asks this of us … and that’s what we do.  

But there’s other kinds of scholarship and knowledge. One of them that you keep touching on is integration. How do you integrate AI into everything else you’ve done? How does AI integrate into everything else? There’s the need to understand some big questions about how you take from Column A, Column B, Column C, and Column D, and synthesize something new, discover something new, or even rediscover it if it’s old. Then the other piece of that is the scholarship of application. It’s not just that you contributed something new to the field or integrated across fields or within different paradigms of the field, but you’ve also put it back out there. There’s some digestion that happened, and you produced another product—hopefully, one that we’d be interested in. 

Those things together are more important to an emerging scholar than any one of them by itself. We’ve traditionally weighted heavily toward the scholarship of discovery. That was the thing and then everything else that happened after that was “magical.” Like, there are people who do that. We have some new degree programs, these professional doctorates that speak to that scholarship of application. We’re trying. We have a lot of people who do that kind of work.  

The scholarship of integration is trickier. Because at least in the interdisciplinary world, the integration idea is considered a black box. It’s something that just happens and people will argue “No, we’ve written on it.” Yeah, you’ve written on it, but all you’ve said is that there’s a black box. The best you’ve got is that we find a common ground and that’s where our integration happens.  

I’m curious about if integration is teachable, if you’ve seen it to be teachable, or if it’s a personality that you find in integrators. I have some ideas of what integration may look like cognitively, but I don’t really know. It isn’t my area of expertise. But you seem like you’re an integrator, as a person. If you were to take yourself and unpack that a little bit, or if you look at other people whom you’re looking to have as part of your school or your program, what are some of those characteristics that are inherent, and what are those that are teachable, of integration, which could feed into a possible program in which we train for it in a more structured way?  

SANDEEP: The first thing is that—and I’ve seen this with you as well, Andrew—you need an openness to reading across literatures. I think many times in PhD programs, we’re training people to focus just on their “literature.”  So, there’s a narrow set of journals, and you’re in a small learning community. But there may be things happening in other disciplines that may be fascinating, and you may be the person who takes something happening in a different field and brings that to your field.  

I’ll give an example. Right now, there are some psychologists already talking about AI anxiety. This is a psychological concept. But within the business school, nobody’s talking about it. Why? Because they’re still focused on how AI will change markets and economic structures. But anxiety is an idea that lives in psychology for now because they’re saying “Look, this is more than regular technology anxiety because people have this kind of existential view that they themselves are being made irrelevant. Entire societies are being reshaped.” So, some people go down rabbit holes of great fear.  

ANDREW: I volunteer as having AI anxiety. I’m an AI-anxious person.   

SANDEEP: … Maybe there’s somebody in education who sees that psychology paper and says “Oh my God, this might be something my students are going through. This might be happening in K-12. How do we explore this?” So, there’s an interest in applying or bringing knowledge from other literatures and I think some of these things are more discoverable. You can get inputs from a sophisticated search or even some social media platforms—there are these Facebook groups on psychological methods in which you can find interesting things.  

You need a willingness to explore ideas across literatures and understand that they have their own contexts. What you’re finding may have a great impact on what you’re doing. That’s one thing I would emphasize.  

The second thing is, can we get people to think not just about scholarly or bibliometric impact? I’ll have people tell me they’re in the top 2 percent of scholars cited in this sub-sub-sub field. It’s great for you, I’m happy for you. You have 5,000 citations, 20,000 citations—lovely, you know, you’re very influential, but that’s just bibliometric impact. Can we encourage some other impact on the world? Meaning, are you studying something that is a big part of the world we all occupy and interested in the contours of that phenomenon? You should be seeing that as something you want to study rather than saying “In my field, the last 20 papers published in this journal looked at this topic, I’m going to add two variables into another study.” I know that the reviewers will like me because I’ll cite them and make them look good. It’ll be a smooth process and safe for the dissertation committee. I’ll get approved. … There might be some incremental contribution there—very safe. And we understand that tenure causes anxiety—there’s tenure anxiety as well.  

How do we get people to understand the big effects in the world around us? And then how do you start to study those big effects, even though the literatures you’re studying may not have papers on them because they’re so new? But in that newness, there is opportunity.  

ANDREW: There’s something I’m going to lift from my colleague, Shamini Dias, whom you’ve also met. The first episode of this podcast was actually with Shamini. She talks about—and I see it more applied from what you’re saying—pattern recognition—  


ANDREW: That’s when you see things and see deep structures or patterns in them. That itself is probably a teachable skill, rather than looking at it as just a personality trait or an emergent property of one’s upbringing and cultural context. …  

But if … we emphasize or reward pattern recognition, rather than this face value of reality by which what you’re doing fits into … that nano contribution that you’re adding to another field or filling the gap in the literature—“gap in the literature” and “major contribution” are, if we go back to Boyer, a form of scholarship of discovery. But maybe a scholarship of integration is when you’ve applied patterns in a way that was a major contribution to another level, or you have the capacity to do that.  

Because with different literatures, I’ve been brought back to understanding the structures of the stories in those literatures. For those comfortable going between fields, you start to notice a pattern in what an academic manuscript looks like. You’re like “OK, here’s the stuff that you’re doing because you have to, here’s the stuff you’re doing … here’s your synthesis, here’s your description of why it fits into something more important.” You can identify the same core components of every version of that kind of literature.  

The thing that struck me is I had a really great mentor who’s since passed, who published very little, and he was a very tenured professor and very important at the University of Michigan. He was part of the group that came out of Dewey and that kind of teaching and was friends with Don Schön. His reflections in and out of action really shaped the fields of education and scholarship of application.  

But he was always one of these people who said “Knowledge doesn’t have to come in the form of a peer-reviewed article in a journal.” Part of why I enjoy podcasting is very similar … I’m not telling you that what I’m saying is a factoid: I’d emphasize the “oid” in what we’re talking about, rather than the fact. It’s observation. It’s a dialectic. We’re trying to create thoughts and patterns and see how they apply to our world. But there’s knowledge we’re unearthing, practicing, and pattern-making through what we’re trying to apply to different—sometimes theoretical, sometimes experiential—spaces. We all know students listen to podcasts. I listen to podcasts. When people say things like “Well, you know, it’s just a TED Talk.” Sometimes, yeah, that TED Talk changed my life. … Some of the skills that we’re talking about for the future academy may or may not lie in a peer-reviewed article. 

SANDEEP: Absolutely. One of the things I tell journal editors I run into is “Help the authors tell a broader story than just the abstract.” Because the abstract is going to go into a database, it’s going to get archived there, and some PhD students will find it and read it. Some journals have now started doing video abstracts. Basically, you let the authors talk a little bit about why they studied this, what they found, and why it’s important. That can have a broader impact because you can show that to a group of leaders you’re engaging with in the classroom, who need to understand the big idea and why it’s important.  

We also have to take it upon ourselves to make ideas accessible. Because the genres we’re used to—the scientific paper, the university press book—aren’t accessible. The podcast is a great way to reach a whole generation and it’s wonderful that we have a chance to share this kind of dialogue, which I think can be very valuable for others. … 

I also have seen, for example, some blogs, and some public scholars who have—they tend to focus on more topical things, things that are newer—done academic analysis that’s very substantive. Increasingly, it’s possible for us to leave the confines of the academic journal or the university press book.   

And by the way, the economics behind the academic journal are horrible. You have some publisher, Elsevier, making a lot of money on the intellectual capital of faculty. Not only do the faculty members not benefit from their intellectual capital economically, but their institutions are also paying massive contracts to gain access to work that’s partly written by their own faculty. … 

ANDREW: The access issue is huge. … I can be idealistic again and talk about how great these different forms of knowledge are and the paywall that Elsevier and other companies may be putting up. … There’s also something that we have to teach better than we do, and that’s understanding hierarchies of knowledge processing and how they relate to this.  

You may find something truer in a blog than in a peer-reviewed paper and vice-versa. … Right now, one of the problems is—and we’re evolving, I’m not saying that this is a doomsday thing—people have a lot of trouble figuring out the knowledge that’s relevant versus the knowledge that’s dis- or misinformation. We have all these other things coming up.  

So, with a blog, we know that the potential for completely false statements or completely one-sided presentations is greater than in a peer-reviewed space. That doesn’t mean the blog isn’t true, it just means it had a different level of analysis and filtering before it got through. But just because the filter was different doesn’t make the blog lesser knowledge. The peer review may have a filter the missed information got through.   

Now, as a university, we have the capacity to teach people the differences there, so that they don’t just heuristically assume that the only thing that counts is peer review. That is a heuristic approach that tells other people that the expertise is there because “Trust us, we manage ourselves.” That has limitations.  

The real gift is helping people learn how to have the appropriate tension of humility and generalizability for the knowledge they’re looking at, so they can find the space where this might apply. Because we’re seeing the mis- and disinformation everywhere. We’re seeing this emotional thing happen where a lot of us are—and I’ve seen this for years, back when the internet was just exploding with blogs and students were using this way of framing things—overwhelmed. Students would gravitate to the thing that already aligned with their preconceived notions and their gut instincts and feelings, rather than like “How can I be critical about this in a way that allows me to prioritize or deprioritize this form of knowledge versus another?” 

So far, we haven’t done a good job of this in a world in which we’re presented with so much knowledge. … It’s an escalatory process, rather than one of  “Hey, what do we know? And what do we not know? Where’s our humility coming in? Where’s our humanity coming in?” Those questions, I’m just starting to hear them. We’re doing a very, very insufficient job of this. So, I’m curious if you think that this is also teachable or not. I keep asking you this question as if you know all the answers.  

SANDEEP: It’s tricky. What I’ve found is that some public knowledge systems are very good for things like “so what” questions. For example, sometimes people write about how these three papers all came up with these findings. … But what does it mean? How do we go beyond the vacuous headline in a news article and say “Let’s dig deeper and understand the implications of this?” 

The translation, the “so what,” and also taking these ideas and applying them in a different context—I think the public systems are good at all that. I think that you, similarly, have some sources through which you could have some … very good conceptual and original contributions. Occasionally, I find good data presented as insightful analysis meant to provoke, such that most journals won’t publish it because of the sociology around journal publishing. Is it really knowledge? The reviewers get upset.     

So, sometimes you have to uncover some pattern, insight, or data analysis that’s very provoking. This also allows us to see that the journal publication process has this aura of objectivity, which … breaks down in so many ways. You certainly have closed networks leading to … knowledge production, which means that there’s a likelihood of an echo chamber kicking in, whereby, if you have the right theory of the director, it’s going to get published. But is that justified in light of empirical observation? Could there be other ways of examining the same information?  

Sometimes these things are completely lost. And then finally, you have this open publishing movement that believes that everything should be open, including the data that was used, and all reviewer comments should be public so people can examine your honesty.  

ANDREW: Some of them are so brutal sometimes. 

SANDEEP: Some are very brutal. There are many put-downs saying “Insufficient contribution,” and all that stuff. Overall, I think there is a place for public knowledge systems and they add value, especially after people form a reputation and go to some sources knowing that they will get some insight or unique analysis there. 

And … some people may even do that infrequently, once every three months or twice a year. But that’s still very interesting for people to analyze things in ways that will simply not be of interest to a full-fledged publication.  

ANDREW: I have to say, I always learn something when I talk with you, it inspires my mind.  

SANDEEP: Me as well, by the way, from you.  

ANDREW: After this morning’s conversation, I can’t stop thinking about this scholarship of integration, this scholarship of application. Maybe it’s because I’m trapped in my own scaffolded framework. But I do more and more believe that as our times are post-normal and as our world is changing rapidly, we need to make a shift toward a knowledge of integration, where the knowledges of integration and application become centers that permit people to do those things and expand their capacities … just as much as discovery does, if not more. 

Our world is forcing us to integrate across a blog post and a peer-reviewed manuscript and apply that knowledge toward policy and advocacy. Those are the real needs that our world is asking of us at this very moment and probably more so in the future. So, I’m excited to see what happens with your career at Cal Poly and the College of Business Administration there. Thank you for your time and thank you for the chat this morning. It was a pleasure.  

SANDEEP: I appreciate it, Andrew, it’s just a delight. I think you’re doing unique and important work. I don’t think I see this kind of podcast anywhere else. So, it’s my pleasure. Thank you. 

ANDREW: Thanks for listening to this episode of PostNormal Times. Thanks to our guests, and thanks to our support from Claremont Graduate University. If you enjoyed boundary crossing with us and want to hear more, make sure you follow us, spread the word, and tune in to our next episode.