By David Hunter
For the last month I have been staying with 14 other academics on the shores of lake Geneva in Switzerland, free of charge thanks to the Brocher Foundation. I thought a review of the stay would potentially be of interest to others working in the field of medical ethics generally as it is an interesting opportunity that is available.
“The mission of the Brocher Foundation is to host researchers from all over the world who dedicate their work to ethical, legal and social aspects of medical development and public health policies.”
It is an excellent environment to work in and in particular to focus on a project as you only have to take care of relatively few of the standard cares of life, and so have a considerable amount of time to think, concentrate and work – in my time I completed innumerate little tasks (such as writing this blog post…) but also three papers which I have submitted to various journals. In contrast in the entirety of 2014 I completed two papers (to be fair to me – it was also a year where the roof of my house blew off, we moved house, the program I teach into was re-accredited by the Australian Medical Council while I was in charge of a significant segment of the course with the admin burden that entailed.) Still I think the general ability to focus here on the task at hand hugely helped progress those papers (as did the talks I gave en route to Switzerland – some very helpful feedback was garnered).
The location is very pleasant, although air conditioning would have been nice in the sweltering first week, the lake was always available to cool you down, and while the food for vegetarians could certainly be better – it is rare that that is not the case at organised meetings.
The genius for me was the people, while there was a genuine mix of disciplinary backgrounds, approaches, nationalities and academic levels (ranging from PhD students to superstar founders of their fields) people were also willing to engage and consider other approaches, thoughtfully and reflectively. While of course the mix of people could have been as disastrous as it was fruitful – combining STSers and Philosophers is risky… being cooped up together for dinner and the evenings naturally inclined us to socialisation and cultural exchange (I shared the wondrous Australian web series The Katering Show ) as well as exploring Geneva and the surrounds together and as a result I am leaving Brocher with some new friends, and a new appreciation and understanding of certain approaches.
Bottomline – if you have the chance and need to go to Brocher to focus on a project, I highly recommend it.