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F inding new research partners can be a challenge for basic scientists and clinical researchers, as it may require them to step outside of their daily commitments. But it's important: Meeting scientists from other disciplines can spark a new research idea or open the door to a solution to a problem Speed dating for scientists has seemed intractable. It wasn't a Gordon Conference. It was just, 'Let's see if we can make a connection and then take it further if we need to. This process continues until everyone in one group has met everyone in the other group.
The goal, for translational research as for dating, is to find a match. More than 80 people registered for the event, and follow-ups with the attendees suggest it worked as planned: Eighty-five percent of participants said they met at least one potential collaborator, and seven pairs of researchers applied for internal pilot funding. Word has gotten out: Other institutions and organizations have contacted us hoping to learn how to run their own events. This article is intended to provide suggestions for putting together your own speed-networking event, using ours as an example.
It includes some reflections on a few things we'll do differently next time. You will no doubt adapt these instructions to your institution, limitations, audience, and desired outcomes. We hope you find our experience useful. Although speed dating was invented by a Los Angeles, California, rabbi as a way for Jewish singles to meet, speed dating and its cousin, speed networking, were rapidly and widely adopted in New York City. That seems fitting, quips Brian Kelly, director of the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization at Weill Cornell Medical College: New York is a city where "you're going to know the guy who delivers your Chinese food better than the guy who lives next door.
At a brainstorming session for the project in the summer ofKelly and his colleagues were thinking of innovative ways to promote new collaborations among researchers across CTSC's diverse institutions.
Kelly had just read an article on speed dating in New York City, so he suggested it as something they could apply in the context of CTSC. None of the proposals, he says, "hit home in terms of the ability to get to know your neighbor as well as speed networking.
So she watched YouTube videos of speed-networking events and attended a Manhattan Chamber of Commerce speed-networking event to get a feel for the setup and flow. But there was one question those events couldn't answer: Would the scientists buy into it? We had an enthusiastically supportive advisory team that believed in this idea, but a speed-networking event for researchers at Weill Cornell was untried and untested. Would anyone attend?
Would it be successful? We had no idea, but we worked up a plan and sallied forth.
Poster de by Stan Povelikin Click on image for full-size display. Two months before the event, we sent out a "save the date" e-mail broadcast with a subject-line teaser, "Find new research partners. Your funding may depend on it! Budget limitations meant that print Speed dating for scientists was out of the question, though we did invest in one poster. We worried that the Halloween-themed de was too cute for the serious business of science but went ahead anyway and attached it to our e-mail announcements, along with a request that recipients print it and post it in their departments.
It attracted attention, which is what we needed. People were required to register ahead of time by completing a form and sending it in via fax or e-mail. Because the purpose of our event was to help researchers find each other, we decided to gather key intelligence. In addition to the usual contact information, institution, and department, we asked three questions:. One week before and again 2 days before the event, we sent a reminder message with the event time, location, and specific instructions that everyone should bring a single- information sheet about themselves.
No one did. In hindsight, and looking ahead to our next event, I'd recommend requiring that registrants complete an online bio with photo, contact information, and responses to the three questions about their research priorities and needs. Then, immediately following the event, I'd send a "thank you" follow-up with a link to these bios on a Web site. The photos will be a big help to the attendees, who will have met dozens of people in a short time. Taking a cue from online dating, that database would allow researchers--whether or not they attended the event--to peruse other researchers' interests and strengths to look for a match.
Stefano Rivella's research group takes a multidisciplinary approach to finding new drugs and potential gene therapies for Cooley's anemia, an inherited disease in which a mutation in the beta-globin gene prevents patients from making enough hemoglobin, the Speed dating for scientists carrier molecule.
Those afflicted with the disease require lifelong blood transfusions. The laboratory is already fairly heterogeneous, with researchers from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds. But when Rivella's group, based at Weill Cornell Medical College, made an interesting observation about the mutations in the beta-globin gene, the corresponding mutant RNA molecules, and their effect on gene transfer, Rivella realized that he and his lab lacked the expertise to further study RNA's role in the disease.
That was last autumn--about the time Rivella received an e-mail advertising the Translational Research Bazaar. I thought [the bazaar] was a good opportunity to meet someone, and so I embraced it with a positive spirit," says Rivella, an associate professor in genetic medicine in Weill Cornell's Department of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology.
Rivella and Greenbaum continued talking in the weeks after the event, later bringing in computational biologist Alain Laederach of the Wworth Center at the New York State Department of Health. The trio has now submitted an NIH Challenge Grant that will start with the computational biology of these mutant RNAs Laederachtheir structure Greenbaumand their effect on the phenotype and gene transfer of Cooley's anemia Rivella. It's a research project that may have never come together, or at least come together as quickly, if it hadn't been for the speed-networking event. More than 80 people ed up for our free event--but one-third of the registrants didn't show up.
This wasn't unexpected--everyone is busy and things come up. Fortunately, many new people appeared on the day of the event to register onsite. So be prepared to be flexible. We reserved a room that could accommodate people. In an effort to keep the noise down so people could hear their partner across the table, we put our tables end to end lengthwise in two parallel rows with a wide space between them.
Each line of tables had a row of chairs on each side, with partners facing one another across the table.
We set up a microphone to be sure our al to switch partners every 3 minutes would be heard over the din. I recommend a room with good acoustics and an excellent sound system. We had two large speakers strategically placed in the room, but once the event started, the noise level was very high. Forty-four intense, focused, simultaneous conversations ensured that one voice, even over a microphone, wasn't enough to get people's attention.
Instead, we used a cowbell. The water was vital, as these people were about to spend the next 2 hours talking almost nonstop. The "dance cards" were color-coded to match the side of the table people sat on, and they listed the names and top research interests of each registrant, with a blank line to scribble a quick note.
We escorted clinicians to one side of the table and basic scientists to the other, with the help of six volunteer assistants.
The assistants played a critical role throughout the event; I wouldn't attempt something like this without them. We also instructed the volunteers ahead of time to watch the emcee for cues to switch partners, because they might not hear the cue over the din. Susan Vannucci also had a mission at the Translational Research Bazaar: to find a collaborator for research she's doing on how different interventions help newborns recover from hypoxic—ischemic brain damage that occurs in the womb.
Vannucci's research uses an animal model to study this type of acute injury, and she needed someone who could help her study the effects of different substrates in live, brain-damaged rats. His facility provides magnetic resonance imaging on small animals--just what Vannucci needed to move her project forward.
And in the best of all possible worlds, they found each other," Vannucci says. From the top level if they support cross-institutional efforts, then I think that will make life a lot easier for us. We gave participants explicit instructions about how the speed networking would work--e. We began by giving each pair 2 minutes to speak. After three rounds, the participants insisted on more time, so we acquiesced and gave them 3 minutes to quickly introduce themselves to one another and state their primary research interest and need.
We also encouraged them, when meeting someone with whom they discovered no common interest, to refer the person to a colleague. Monica N. Bonus video clip from the event provided by Louise Holmes. More recommendations: Provide Speed dating for scientists with a complete set of instructions ahead of time. In your instructions, tell the participants what to expect overall, give them explicit guidance on the logistics, tell them how any incentives will work, what specific follow-up evaluation and tracking activities you plan, and why this is important.
Also let them know when they can expect access to the full contact data and photos of their fellow participants. Definitely provide participants with easy-to-carry bags, a dance card, water, and a pencil. Our Translational Research Bazaar was scheduled for midafternoon. After opening remarks and instructions, we planned 90 minutes for the speed-networking activity, followed by an hour for the wine-and-cheese reception.
We had trouble sticking to the plan exactly as envisioned. After more than an hour of rapid-fire conversations, during which each person had already met 25 other people, everyone was exhausted and begging for a break, so we took one minutes. That slowed the momentum and a few people left, leaving us with holes in our seating arrangements and some scrambling to do.
Next time I'd either keep the speed networking to an hour, or perhaps schedule a minute beverage-and-snack break about 45 minutes in, followed by Speed dating for scientists 40 minutes of speed networking, and then by a reception. By the end of the speed networking, the collective energy, adrenaline, and enthusiasm in the room was surging and people had ideas they were anxious to discuss.
The wine-and-cheese hour that followed turned out to be a critical and powerful element of the Research Bazaar. People could unwind and carry on a more relaxed conversation with people they'd identified as potential collaborators.
Organizers and contributors to the planning of the research bazaar were pleased with the event overall. For me it was an eye opener even though I knew how it was planned. Dottin wasn't looking for research collaborators, but he ed the speed-networking rotation anyway, talking with 40 clinicians and suggesting potential collaborators from within his center. Dottin has been something of an ambassador for the speed-networking event, bringing it up during his frequent talks around the country.
Raphael D. Isokpehi was in the audience when Dottin discussed social networking and speed networking at a clinical and translational informatics networking meeting in February. Isokpehi took the idea to organizers of the MidSouth Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Society annual meeting, who had been looking for activities that students could participate in. They decided to integrate a speed-networking session into the program so students could meet with potential employers.
Isokpehi and his colleagues then used the speed-networking format during Bioinformatics Awareness Month in April at Jackson State in an event intended to introduce small-business owners to professionals and faculty members at the university. Isokpehi and the organizers of both events already plan to integrate speed-networking sessions into both meetings next year. We anticipated that most of the people who came would be early-career scientists. Instead, we ended up with scientists from every career stage. We had a nice balance of clinical and basic researchers from all of our five CTSC partner institutions and several affiliated community hospitals, representing many disciplines.
We were gratified by the enthusiasm displayed by the 88 scientists in the room, none of whom had ever participated in such an event. They had no idea what to expect, but they dove right in with a spirit of fun. Conversations were immediate, focused, and intense--and loud.Speed dating for scientists
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Scientist Speed Dating