Dr. Kathryn S. Plaisance is an Associate Professor in the Department of Knowledge Integration at the University of Waterloo (cross-appointed to the Department of Philosophy). Her research interests are: engaged philosophy of science, interactional expertise, and interdisciplinary collaboration. She is a recipient of the University of Waterloo's Distinguished Teacher Award and currently holds a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant on "Engaging Science with Philosophy: Best Practices for Fostering Effective Collaboration" (2020-25).
Dr. Plaisance earned her B.Sc. in molecular biology and philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madson (2000). After taking a year off to travel, she completed a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Minnesota (2006), where she studied with Ken Waters (her advisor), Helen Longino, Ron Giere, Evelyn Fox Keller, and several psychologists. Dr. Plaisance wrote her dissertation on key concepts in human behavioral genetics and on the ways that behavioral genetic research has been misinterpreted as a result of conceptual confusion. After her PhD, she held a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Centre for Philosophy and Ethics of Science at Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany (2007-09). While in Hannover, she worked with Carla Fehr to organize a conference on "Making Philosophy of Science More Socially Relevant," which laid the groundwork for a special issue of Synthese by the same name. She has continued to build a network of philosophers dedicated to social and scientific engagement and co-founded the International Network for Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering (SRPoiSE).
Dr. Plaisance came to Waterloo in 2009 to join Knowledge Integration. She continues to pursue her research on engaged philosophy of science, using mixed methods approaches to collect and analyze empirical data on the state of the discipline. She also studies the nature of interdisciplinary collaboration and expertise. Her work has been published in several prominent philosophy journals, including Philosophy of Science, Synthese, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, and Philosophical Psychology; she has also co-authored papers with sociologists and psychologists in Scientometrics and Behavior Genetics.
Dr. Plaisance has played a pivotal role in helping to establish the Knowledge Integration (KI) program at UW, an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree that teaches students how to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries and in diverse teams. In 2016, she partnered with several KI students to design a university-wide course, INTEG 210: Making Collaboration Work, which offers students the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams to address a real-world design challenge. She is studying the effectiveness of INTEG 210 with respect to improving students' collaborative skills and their attitudes towards teamwork with funding from a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) grant. Dr. Plaisance has also partnered with Scott Anderson from UW's Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) to develop a Community of Practice on Collaboration and Teamwork at UW, through which she offers workshops and resources for instructors to improve students' collaborative experiences.