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Narrative in the Natural Sciences and Humanities

February 28, 2019 to March 01, 2019
8:30 am - 4:00 pm


Faculty House, Columbia University, New York

Event Type: 


While all disciplines employ narrative in their work to summarize and communicate their theories, methods, and results, the realm of narrating (more colloquially known as storytelling) has traditionally been considered a literary or historical endeavor under the purview of the humanities and social sciences. This is no longer the case. As evidenced by the burgeoning fields of narrative medicine and science communication, narratives and narrating are also important tools for the natural sciences. Neuroscientists have even recently proposed that “narrative” may be a better way of theorizing about the processes by which the brain represents the context used to sort and order memories in order to create a timeline of events. In light of this development, the conference seeks to explore the following topics:

  • What “narrative” means, and the role it plays, in the humanities, social sciences, journalism, law, the natural sciences, and medicine.
  • Why humans create narratives--perspectives from anthropology to neuroscience.
  • Narrating with “qualitative” and with “quantitative” data.
  • Communicating to the public through narratives and storytelling.

​This symposium follows on the conference, Evidence: An Interdisciplinary Conversation about Knowing and Certainty, held at Columbia University on April 21-22, 2017 and The Success of Failure: Perspectives from the Arts, Sciences, Humanities, Education, and Law, held at Columbia University on December 7-8, 2017. Similar in format, speakers from different disciplines are invited to share their perspective and then engage in a moderated discussion. The conference also includes a public keynote lecture and a workshop for students on science communication that will allow participants to put what they have learned from the conference into practice.

  • Thursday, February 28 8:30am-7:00pm at Faculty House, Columbia University
  • Friday, March 1 8:30am-4:30pm at Faculty House, Columbia University

An opening event, "Narrating Community Power (Narrative in the Arts)" is scheduled at Caveat on February 27, 2019. Registration for this event is separate; please see the Narrating Community Power (Narrative in the Arts) event webpage for details. 

This conference is free and open to the public, but registration is required via Eventbrite. Please email Project Manager Roshana Nabi ( with any questions. 

Please visit the Faculty House website for directions.

Find out more on the conference event page here.


This conference is co-sponsored by ISERP, The Center for Science and Society, The Heyman Center for the Humanities, The Department of History, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, The Narrative Medicine program, the School of Professional Studies, Caveat, and the John Templeton Foundation


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