From Cells to Societies
INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH TEAM SUMMARIES
Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center
November 13-15, 2014
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) team summaries in this publication are based on IDR team discussions during the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative Conference on Collective Behavior: From Cells to Society held at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, California, November 13-15, 2014. The discussions in these groups were summarized by the authors and reviewed by the members of each IDR team. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the IDR teams and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project. For more information on the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative visit www.keckfutures.org.
Funding for the activity that led to this publication was provided by the W. M. Keck Foundation. Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. In recent years, the Foundation has focused on Science and Engineering Research; Medical Research; Undergraduate Education; and Southern California. Each grant program invests in people and programs that are making a difference in the quality of life, now and for the future. For more information visit www.wmkeck.org.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr.Victor J. Dzau is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES KECK FUTURES INITIATIVE
COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR: FROM CELLS TO
SOCIETIES STEERING COMMITTEE
GENE E. ROBINSON, Chair (NAS), Director, Institute for Genomic Biology and Swanlund Chair of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
NANCY ADLER (IOM), Professor of Medical Psychology; Director, Center for Health and Community Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco
MINA J. BISSELL (NAS/IOM), Distinguished Scientist, Life Sciences Division, E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
TODD P. COLEMAN, Associate Professor, Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego
KAREN S. COOK (NAS), Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Stanford University
FRANS B.M. DE WAAL (NAS), C.H. Chandler Professor of Primate Behavior, Psychology Department, Emory University
JAMES FOWLER, Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science, Political Science Department, University of California, San Diego
CHRISTINA M. GROZINGER, Professor, Director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Entomology Department, Pennsylvania State University
JAMES C. LIAO (NAE), Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Professor and Chair, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department, University of California, Los Angeles
YAHYA RAHMAT-SAMII (NAE), Northrop Grumman Professor, Electrical Engineering Department, University of California, Los Angeles
JOAN E. STRASSMANN (NAS), Professor, Department of Biology, Washington University
KENNETH R. FULTON, Executive Director
KIMBERLY A. SUDA-BLAKE, Senior Program Director
ANNE HEBERGER MARINO, Program Officer
CRISTEN A. KELLY, Associate Program Officer
RACHEL LESINSKI, Program Associate
BARBARA J. CULLITON, Director, NAKFI Science Writing Scholar Program
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The National Academies
Keck Futures Initiative
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES KECK FUTURES INITIATIVE
The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) was launched in 2003 with generous support from the W. M. Keck Foundation. It is a 15-year experiment to catalyze interdisciplinary research across fields of science, engineering, and medicine. NAKFI creates opportunities to cross both disciplinary and professional boundaries, which is of paramount importance in making scientific progress today. Together, the Academies and the W. M. Keck Foundation believed that advancing this common goal included catalyzing successful communication among the “best and brightest” who otherwise live in different worlds and speak different languages; conducting meetings that surface the best questions; and providing seed grants to bridge the gap between new ideas and sustained funding.
The Futures Initiative is designed to enable scientists from different disciplines to focus on new questions, upon which they can base entirely new research, and to encourage and reward outstanding communication between scientists as well as between the scientific enterprise and the public. The Futures Initiative includes three main components:
NAKFI accomplishes its mission by harnessing the intellectual horsepower of the brightest minds from diverse backgrounds who attend an annual “think-tank”-style conference to contemplate the real-world challenges of our day, having been prepared for deep conversations though pre-
conference tutorials. NAKFI conferences are intentionally crafted to allow multiple ways for attendees to interact. Some of the conference components are familiar, such as poster sessions and plenary sessions, but the expected gives way to the unconventional at a NAKFI conference. The format of Futures conferences evolved from a traditional program of lectures and panel discussions to a meeting focused on providing a variety of venues for conversation. The foundation of this approach is the appointment of conference participants to Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) Teams charged with finding solutions to real-world problems. In addition to working in these concurrent groups—each of which reports on its work midway through the conference—participants have many opportunities for informal conversations and collaboration during “free” times and meals.
NAKFI has inspired its diverse network to “think big” at the frontiers of science, engineering, and medicine. And this is just the first step in its role as conversation shifter, idea incubator, career changer, and venture science funder.
Futures grants are awarded to conference participants to enable further pursuit of new ideas and inspirations generated at the conference, conceptualized as “venture science,” similar to startup capital in the business world.
Futures grants serve as an incentive for attendees to collaborate after the conference and provide resources for startup research projects. Grants can also be awarded for meetings that explore a facet of Futures conferences in more depth or with a different audience. The grant application process is straightforward and reporting requirements are kept to a minimum. Principal investigators have already been vetted by the conference steering committee for attendance at the conference, and the grant selection committee looks for projects with the greatest potential to succeed. NAKFI encourages grantees to learn as they go and to make changes to their research plans as appropriate. Projects that experience unexpected delays or need more time can request a no-cost extension with a simple email explanation. Final reports cover a few key areas of interest to the program and encourage investigators to reflect on what worked, what didn’t work, and why.
The Communication Awards are designed to recognize, promote, and encourage effective communication of science, engineering, medicine, and/or interdisciplinary work within and beyond the scientific community. Each year the Futures Initiative awards $20,000 prizes to those who have advanced the public’s understanding and appreciation of science, engineering, and/or medicine. The awards are given in four categories: books, film/radio/TV, magazine/newspaper, and online. The winners are honored during a ceremony in the fall in Washington, DC.
NAKFI cultivates science writers of the future by inviting graduate students from science writing programs across the country to attend the conference and develop IDR team discussion summaries and a conference overview for publication in this book. Students are nominated by the department director or designee and selected by program staff. They prepare for the conference by reviewing the preconference tutorials and suggested reading, and selecting an IDR team in which they would like to participate. Students then work with NAKFI’s science writing consultant to finalize their reports following the conferences.
Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research Study
During the first 18 months of the Keck Futures Initiative, the Academies undertook a study on facilitating interdisciplinary research. The study examined the current scope of interdisciplinary efforts and provided recommendations as to how such research can be facilitated by funding organizations and academic institutions. Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research (2005) is available from the National Academies Press (www.nap.edu) in print and free PDF versions.
About the National Academies
The National Academies comprise the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, which perform an unparalleled public service by bringing together experts in all areas of science and technology, who serve as volunteers to address critical national issues and offer unbiased advice to the federal government and the public. For more information, visit www.nationalacademies.org.
About the W. M. Keck Foundation
Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of Science and Engineering Research; Medical Research; Undergraduate Education; and Southern California. Each grant program invests in people and programs that are making a difference in the quality of life, now and in the future. For more information visit www.wmkeck.org.
National Academies Keck Futures Initiative
100 Academy, 2nd Floor
Irvine, CA 92617
At the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative Conference on Collective Behavior: From Cells to Societies, participants were divided into fourteen interdisciplinary research teams. The teams spent nine hours over two days exploring diverse challenges at the interface of science, engineering, and medicine. The composition of the teams was intentionally diverse, to encourage the generation of new approaches by combining a range of different types of contributions. The teams included researchers from science, engineering, and medicine, as well as representatives from private and public funding agencies, universities, businesses, journals, and the science media. Researchers represented a wide range of experience—from postdoc to those well established in their careers—from a variety of disciplines that included science and engineering, medicine, physics, biology, economics, and behavioral science.
The teams needed to address the challenge of communicating and working together from a diversity of expertise and perspectives as they attempted to solve a complicated, interdisciplinary problem in a relatively short time. Each team decided on its own structure and approach to tackle the problem. Some teams decided to refine or redefine their problems based on their experience.
Each team presented two brief reports to all participants: (1) an interim report on Friday to debrief on how things were going, along with any special requests, and (2) a final briefing on Saturday, when each team
Provided a concise statement of the problem;
Outlined a structure for its solution;
Identified the most important gaps in science and technology and recommended research areas needed to attack the problem; and
Indicated the benefits to society if the problem could be solved.
Each IDR team included a graduate student in a university science writing program. Based on the team interaction and the final briefings, the students wrote the following summaries, which were reviewed by the team members. These summaries describe the problem and outline the approach taken, including what research needs to be done to understand the fundamental science behind the challenge, the proposed plan for engineering the application, the reasoning that went into it, and the benefits to society of the problem solution. Due to the popularity of some topics, two or three teams were assigned to explore the subjects.
A series of tutorials was launched prior to the conference to help bridge the gaps in terminology used by the various disciplines. Participants were encouraged to view all of the tutorials prior to the November conference.
IDR TEAM SUMMARIES
To listen to the podcasts or view the conference presentations, please visit our website at www.keckfutures.org.