Speed dating brainstorming

07-Feb-2015 03:16

The event was conceived on the fly at last year’s Cosyne meeting by Andrea Giovannucci, a data scientist in the Simons Foundation’s Center for Computational Biology, and Jeff Gauthier, a postdoctoral researcher in David Tank’s lab at Princeton University.

They were brainstorming ways to encourage shy scientists to connect, ideally in a structured format where people would give short elevator pitches about their work to many different individuals.

Giovannucci originally proposed the speed-dating concept in jest, but the idea quickly caught on.

Within 24 hours, the Simons Foundation team had put together the event, hosting 13 experimentalist-theorist pairs. (Because of time constraints, only the first 15 from each group were invited to participate.) Each indicated the type of relationship they were seeking, from the scientific equivalent of a brief affair — “just give me your data” — to those ready to commit to a “long-term, back-and-forth theory/experiment relationship.” Participants certainly had a lot to talk about — at the end of each round, most were reluctant to move on to the next candidate.

He particularly liked the mix of participants — mostly senior postdocs and junior professors.

Indeed, most participants had a hard time limiting themselves to three matches. ” asked Kamal Sen, a theorist from Boston University.

In two hours, a test group of 10 people from six departments produced 45 proposals. So there’s a little bit of getting over the silliness factor of it,” Grossman says.

“Then, as soon as you do it, there’s an energy in the room that’s hard to describe.

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“In a way, that creates a challenge to this Renaissance idea that you can bridge gaps between disciplines. It’s this incredibly important part of creativity and idea-generation that scientists aren’t paying enough attention to.” Others point out that academics and engineers sometimes prefer the solitude of their labs to social situations. They have the same concerns and fears about approaching a new person,” Grossman says. You’d have to ask a psychologist,” says Graham Jones, chair of chemistry at Northeastern University, who attended a speed-dating session at the nearby Tufts-New England Medical Center that resulted in collaborations.

“But the current way science is being funded and promoted really encourages people to stay in their lab and to stay focused on their work and not talk to strangers.” Overcoming that was the point of the event at Tufts, says Karen Freund, associate director for research collaboration at Tufts’ Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

“Part of why we did it this way was to get people out of their labs and their offices and encourage them to meet people who, even though our campus is not huge, they might not know otherwise,” Freund says.

“It’s almost a luxury to take time out to talk to one another,” she says.

“But there’s no substitute for face-to-face conversation.” Academics may be comparatively solitary, Freund says, “but these are individuals who are inquisitive and ultimately interested in these connections, which is why the speed-dating method is successful.” Surprisingly successful, according to an experiment run at a conference at the Royal Society in London, which included two 90-minute speed-dating sessions among 24 biophysicists, mathematicians, biochemists, and experts in bioinformatics paired up for five rounds of 15-minute icebreakers. “The sum is greater than the parts,” says Jones, of Northeastern University.

“In a way, that creates a challenge to this Renaissance idea that you can bridge gaps between disciplines. It’s this incredibly important part of creativity and idea-generation that scientists aren’t paying enough attention to.” Others point out that academics and engineers sometimes prefer the solitude of their labs to social situations. They have the same concerns and fears about approaching a new person,” Grossman says. You’d have to ask a psychologist,” says Graham Jones, chair of chemistry at Northeastern University, who attended a speed-dating session at the nearby Tufts-New England Medical Center that resulted in collaborations.“But the current way science is being funded and promoted really encourages people to stay in their lab and to stay focused on their work and not talk to strangers.” Overcoming that was the point of the event at Tufts, says Karen Freund, associate director for research collaboration at Tufts’ Clinical and Translational Science Institute.“Part of why we did it this way was to get people out of their labs and their offices and encourage them to meet people who, even though our campus is not huge, they might not know otherwise,” Freund says.“It’s almost a luxury to take time out to talk to one another,” she says.“But there’s no substitute for face-to-face conversation.” Academics may be comparatively solitary, Freund says, “but these are individuals who are inquisitive and ultimately interested in these connections, which is why the speed-dating method is successful.” Surprisingly successful, according to an experiment run at a conference at the Royal Society in London, which included two 90-minute speed-dating sessions among 24 biophysicists, mathematicians, biochemists, and experts in bioinformatics paired up for five rounds of 15-minute icebreakers. “The sum is greater than the parts,” says Jones, of Northeastern University.At the end of the event, participants chose three people they wanted to collaborate with.