01 – The IDEMS Principle Podcast Series

The IDEMS Principle
The IDEMS Principle
01 – The IDEMS Principle Podcast Series


IDEMS directors Kate, David and Danny introduce the podcast series and how it came about.

[00:00:00] David: Hi and welcome to the IDEMS Principle. I’m David Stern, a founding director of IDEMS, and I’m here with my two co directors, Danny Parsons and Kate Fleming. It’s great to be introducing this exciting series which is so important for us. Kate, do you want to take us away?

[00:00:25] Kate: Sure, I mean I think we decided we are not going to get into the principles here because there’s a whole series where we’re going to do that so I had some questions for you since I’m coming in.

We’re actually recording this, I will admit, after the rest of the series has been recorded. So we’re doing this retroactively, which I think is worth noting because I think it does give us a bit of perspective. So I have already listened to it and I came away with some framing questions, which I think will be helpful as people head into it.

So my first question for both of you, because you’re the origin points of this is why did you want to record the series?

[00:00:59] David: Maybe Danny, you should start because I’ve always got too much to say on this.

[00:01:04] Danny: Sure. Well, I think it, it’s a way for us to put a bit more depth onto the principles in terms of our description of them. We have them all written up on our website and we’ve discussed them and shared them with people, but there’s real depth to them. And you know, we’ve communicated this so far to mainly the people in our team. But of course also useful for people externally who are interested in IDEMS.

So I think, for me, that’s one of the main reasons.

[00:01:38] David: Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. In our first full team meeting, we discussed the principles. A year later, we discussed them again, and people realised that there were just so much more depth than they’d recognised previously. And that’s what we need to get out there. We can’t have just a one line statement. These aren’t one line ideas.

The principles approach, and this is, this is an established approach, if you want to monitoring and evaluation, and it’s really powerful for us in terms of guiding our decision making. But that only works if other people actually understand what the guiding principles are, and that requires to understand them not just the surface level, but the depth.

A good principle is not obvious. If a principle reads as something, yes, that’s obviously good, then you haven’t understood it in depth. A good principle should help you in the decision of both what it is and what it’s not. And what it’s not should also be good and attractive, but you’re making a conscious choice to guide towards one thing rather than another.

[00:02:50] Kate: And I think actually in that response, you kind of have answered my next question, which is, what do you hope people will gain from listening? And I guess I would expand because you’ve a bit touched on what you would hope for from the team. But do you think of a broader audience? And we’re onboarding an advisory board right now. Are there things that you would want them, for example, to take away from this that you think is really important?

[00:03:13] David: I think so, I think, we don’t know, we didn’t do this for people outside, we did this because we felt it would be useful for us, that’s where these recordings came from. Once they existed, as you say, you’ve listened to them, others have listened to them, and they found them useful, and so these are now something which we’re happy to share, and we would love it if people engaged, at different levels.

I’d be happy if people engaged just at a sort of trivial level to learn about us and what we do and why we work the way we work. I’d also be interested for people to listen to them and engage us in discussion on them. You know, actually challenge us on them, why are you doing that? Is that the right? And actually have that as a point for discussion with collaborators, with people we work with, with maybe future collaborators, you know, we love collaboration, and this is maybe a point to help us build those meaningful collaborations.

But the one I’d love is, most of these, I think, are worthy of research. And I would love people to then come and study it and say, are you living up to your principles? You know, if there were doctoral students who were interested in topics of how you do this, in the long run, that’s something I could imagine, where these actually become elements of study. They’re not set in stone. They are there to help guide us. Are they providing good guidance? Are they aligned with what we’re trying to do more generally? Can we actually turn them into research? That would be my dream on this.

[00:04:45] Kate: Danny, do you have any additions to that? I mean, that was a great response.

[00:04:50] Danny: Yeah, I mean, also, I guess on just a practical level, understanding us more in terms of, maybe better understanding decisions we’ve made and why. And that relates to, as David said, then people can sort of challenge us and hold us account to our principles. Did this really align with your principles? But hopefully, you know, also, to better really understand where we’re coming from and why we’re making decisions, and especially if there are decisions which might be non-traditional or maybe a bit unconventional. In some cases, then hopefully they align, they do make sense in alignment with the principles.

And so I think there’s also a very practical, and, and that I’m especially thinking of our team, of course, for that because I think this is what will help people within our team, grow into those roles where they are the ones making the decisions because they can understand how the principles can support the decision-making.

[00:05:48] Kate: So to set the stage for the podcast that follow, who is involved? Who interviewed? I know it wasn’t just you and Danny talking on every one. So how did you get the team involved? Did you invite people? Did they put themselves forward? How did the process take shape to record these and even be interviewed by particular people?

[00:06:06] David: We discussed the idea with the team in advance of one of our full team meetings and a number of people put themselves forward and the three key people who were driving this forward were Lily, Lucie, and Santiago. And, I suppose, they were just keen, not just to engage in the process, but to understand the principles more deeply, you know, as others in our team are. But they were willing to put themselves forward as the sounding board, as the people who had questions, who wanted that genuine discussion to go deeper, and were willing to just say, okay, well let’s have the discussion and then we can share it with the rest of the team. And now with the world. Sorry guys.

But that was really how the process came about. That they, each one of the principles, we decided would start with 20 episodes, we’d do one for each of our 20 principles. A lot of principles.

[00:07:07] Kate: Yeah, and I would say even just to comment on them a bit more, I think you hear them relating to the principles as scientists. You can feel that they’re doing research, but also there’s a real curiosity and learning that’s quite the employee perspective, where they are living through this, they are actually applying it to things in their head that are day to day decisions.

And I think so to see them relating to the principles is very helpful. So yes, just to give everyone something to look forward to.

[00:07:38] David: And just very quickly, Santiago is IDEMS employee number one. And so he’s somebody who’s engaged when it was just literally me, Danny and him. Then you’ve got Lily, who’s a data scientist and who’s coming really from the idea of actually thinking about data, looking at data, and that’s where she works. She’s been instrumental in the responsible AI series in our podcast. And Lucie, who’s also got deeply engaged in the podcast in general, is an anthropologist. So it’s a fantastic set of people thinking from different angles and different perspectives.

And jumping in on the different topics, some which they were comfortable with, we deliberately tried to have a balance of comfort zone and out of your comfort zone in terms of principles that they were given, and we discussed, or I discussed one on one with each of them.

But then Danny, we then did a whole other set of principles discussions on top of that.

[00:08:34] Danny: Yeah, we discussed, not 20 again, but the groupings of them. So we discussed each set of principles, which form a group. And rather than the very details of each one, why they’re in a group and how they interact with each other and what that sort of group means as a whole.

And also a bit how the different sets of groups also interact with each other because they’re all very related in many ways. And so that was, that was fun to think of them from a slightly higher perspective.

[00:09:07] David: Absolutely. And that also brought us actually discussing back to where we came from, because these have been with us pre IDEMS, and so we brought some of that into the discussion.

[00:09:19] Kate: Yeah, and you can hear, one can hear that facility in the way you both talk about it, where you, I would say it’s not twin speak exactly, but there’s definitely that common shared perspective where when you two are discussing, there’s an ease because you just can follow the logic of them quite easily.

Whereas you see in the other interviews, there’s definitely more of a discovery, there’s more challenging, there’s more questioning, to really come to a more nuanced understanding of the principle.

So great, with that, I’d say let’s send people off to listen to the series.

[00:09:52] David: Well, we should at least mention that then we didn’t stop with those 25.

We then had three other introductory ones where myself and Santiago and Lily and Lucie did discuss what it was for us going through in certain ways, we took different aspects of this. And we then did three more conclusion episodes. And we’re going off to now actually do the final conclusion episode where we’re going to wrap it all up.

So it’s become a massive set of episodes from what was a very simple idea. I wonder whether anyone would listen to it?

[00:10:32] Kate: We’ll find out!

[00:10:33] David: I hope you do. If you’re listening now, be brave. It’ll take a while, but you could make your way through it.

[00:10:39] Kate: Great.

[00:10:41] David: Thank you.