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Doing science communication right

keck logoIn mid-November, the National Academy of Sciences hosted its latest Keck Futures Initiative conference—a periodic meeting of scholars from across the science spectrum (with funding support from the WM Keck Foundation). The purpose of these meetings is to break down barriers, create an impetus for greater collaboration, and stimulate discovery through the pursuit of bold, new ideas.

This is science communication done right. I was privileged to take part in the most recently installment of this effort, whose grand challenge was to find links between how groups of cells behave and how groups of humans behave—from cells to society. For three days, a structured environment combined team debates between biologists, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, medical researchers (and others) with presentations of group findings. This format (in addition to having the right amount of free time for socializing) produced amazing interactions—far more effective and inspiring than simply “collaborating” by co-authoring a paper or contributing separately to different aspects of a project.

At the conclusion of this event, teams were encouraged to continue their collaboration via NAS grants.

Team science scholars should take note of the format used by NAS. In an ideal world where researchers are encouraged to collaborate across departments and also have good reason to do so (like funding support), the potential of this approach is truly remarkable.

Click here to read more about the NAS/Keck Futures Initiative conferences.

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