Idea Cafe

Idea cafeJust as The Commons is invested in and driven by the possibilities of a robust interdisciplinary work between the sciences, arts and humanities, we are equally convinced that such interdisciplinary work requires bold, unconventional ideas, as well as experiments with alternative models of engagement between scholars, and between scholars and the broader community.

The Idea Café is one effort to foster those challenging ideas and innovative forms of engagement. In this series we will strive to bring you ideas that provoke; ones that challenge one or another tenet of your disciplined thinking. Because we are so formed by our disciplines, we expect that what a historian finds provocative may barely rattle a biologist. But through this ongoing series we hope to unsettle most of you at some point in time.

We also want to get people talking to each other. We are all familiar with the standard lecture format. An expert on a particular topic speaks for 45-50 minutes, or longer, followed by another 30 minutes or so of question and answer. At best audience members, and they are indeed an audience, have asked a question and gotten a response. What they have not typically done is engaged in a conversation like the kind we might find among a group of close colleagues around a dinner table. That dinner table is closer to what we hope for with the Idea Café.


The speaker will talk for about 15 minutes, at which point we will open it up to conversation. You are free to ask questions or make comments. We do ask that you observe a few ground rules.

  • Whether it's a question or a comment, please be concise. We'd like as many people as possible to have a chance to join the conversation.
  • After each question, we will ask for further comments from the audience related to that question. Q&As tend to consist of one question after another, often with little connection between them. We want, as much as possible, to build conversations around each question.



Idea Café
12:00pm Friday, February 20, 2015 The Commons
with Science and Environment Writer Andrew Revkin
Data & Democracy, Idea Café
12:00pm Tuesday, November 18, 2014 The Commons
Data & Democracy, Idea Café
12:00pm-1:00pm Tuesday, November 18, 2014 The Commons
with Maximilian Schich, University of Texas
Idea Café
Monday, May 5, 2014 The Commons
with Dr. Harry Greene, Cornell University
Idea Café
Friday, December 6, 2013 The Commons
with Jorge Soberon, Senior Research Scientist, KU Biodiversity Institute
Data & Democracy, Idea Café
10:00am Friday, November 22, 2013 The Commons
with Nicco Mele
Data & Democracy, Idea Café
12:00pm Wednesday, April 17, 2013 The Commons
Nancy Baym, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research New England
Artist in Residence, Data & Democracy, Idea Café
12:00pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013 The Commons
with Emilio Chapela Pérez
Idea Café
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 The Commons
with Rob Nixon, Rachel Carson Professor of English, University of Wisconsin
Data & Democracy, Idea Café
12:00pm Tuesday, September 4, 2012 The Commons
William Staples, KU Professor of Sociology