are the existing and potential mechanisms for public–private collaboration in these research areas? Participating scientists identified four research areas with significant gaps in knowledge: (1) the microbiome; (2) biomarkers (in all forms); (3) food composition and dietary intake surveillance data; and (4) consumer behavior. Most of the dialogue focused on the process of generating knowledge (e.g., how to design a research study). There was very little discussion around particular disease conditions, except obesity. With respect to mechanisms for collaboration, Toner remarked that the workshop “really just scratched the surface” on barriers to collaboration and other factors that must be considered to maximize the potential for success. Some of the barriers to collaboration identified by participants as being important were lack of trust, divergent goals, and difficulties in detecting and interpreting subtle and complex effects. NCI and USDA are currently convening working groups around the four research areas as well as an additional working group on the collaborative process. The groups are being asked to develop reports to share at a follow-up meeting in 2012.
At another recent meeting, the Building Bridges Dialogue, participants from academia, industry, government, and public-interest NGOs were brought together, as Sylvia Rowe, president of SR Strategy, LLC, put it, to “move from conflict to convergence” around the issue of obesity. The meeting was organized in response to a series of previous meetings that were, according to Rowe, “quite negative in their tonality” and “lacking in a constructive dialogue.” In Rowe’s opinion, obesity is an especially contentious issue because of the lack of a common understanding of both its causes and its solutions, including the roles of key player groups. The goal of the Building Bridges Dialogue was to achieve a greater mutual understanding of the different sectors’ perspectives and priorities. The entire first half of the day was spent on discussing barriers to trust, including differences in opinion about consumer and market realities, cynicism about corporate motives, lack of candor at public meetings, and resistance to the use of new food technologies. The key outcomes of the meeting were suggestions for capitalizing on the momentum from the discussion and pursuing next steps to-ward collaboration and future coalition development. Meeting participants identified areas for potential collaboration, such as the use of calories as a common agenda that may allow for multiple partners in multiple sectors to employ a variety of complementary actions consistent with each partner’s individual goals, and discussed needs, such as openly addressing the role of friction in the debate, building mutual trust, and defining achievable goals. However, no specific action steps were identified.
As a final example of other work on which this IOM workshop built, Eric Hentges, executive director of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), described ILSI’s public–private partnership initiative. The initiative has three phases: (1) produce a scholarly paper on good partnership practice;