In our first installment of our “Where Are They Now?” series, KI checks in with Rice University’s Chris Tunnell four months after May 2019’s Harnessing the Data Revolution NSF Ideas Lab. The astroparticle physicist talks about the team science that promises to go beyond aiding his search for dark matter.
It turns out we humans are fairly bad at predicting our own physical and mental performance. Researchers gathered for the 2019 Predicting Human Performance Ideas Lab at the University of Michigan hope to change that by creating interdisciplinary teams focused on innovative solutions that leverage the latest technology.
Feeding the planet in the 21st century means doubling production of food, feed, fuel and energy while at the same time making food systems sustainable, inclusive and more efficient. It’s a food-health-ecosystem trilemma. CSU researchers are forming interdisciplinary teams in order to come up with innovative ways of meeting the challenge.
In the back of our minds was this question: how might our Sandpit (aka Ideas Lab) methodology work for a development problem? Instead of different scientific disciplines, could you invite a diverse line-up of stakeholders, aide organizations, NGOs, local partners and businesses and people – why not include the people for whom the solution is meant to impact – to use our process to get to uniquely novel ideas?
Funding agencies issuing large grants are favoring bidders who can demonstrate their ability to work as a team. Except scientists aren’t really trained to work in teams. If anything, scientific training is becoming hyper-specialized. It’s not that individual scientists can’t solve important challenges, but they may not recognize how their skillset could address other challenges outside of their own domains.
In our workshops, we’ve interacted with participants of all sorts of behaviors. Though we encounter our fair share of personality traits and quirks, it is important to recognize that many of the behaviors we come across are simply human nature – and yet not at all conducive to deliberate innovative thinking. We like to test the assumptions about the “best practices” that human beings have learned to employ and demonstrate how they can actually be bettered by workshop facilitators, mentors, and organizers.