KI Blog Archive

Reducing Opioid Deaths

The State of Connecticut sees a disproportionately high number of opioid-related deaths. In response, UConn’s Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy held an Ideas Lab to bring together a diverse group of academics and stakeholders to come up with innovative ways to address the problem.

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Breaking Down Silos to Stop COVID-19

Scientists across the country are focused on stopping, treating and developing a vaccine against COVID-19. For those things to happen, the science must go on. But how can researchers collaborate at a time when labs are shutting down and there are restrictions on meeting face-to-face? Researchers at the University of Utah’s Immunology, Inflammation & Infectious Disease (3i) Initiative decided to go virtual — with surprising results.

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You Too Can Go Virtual

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic seems change daily. It’s clear, however, that life as usual is not an option for anyone, including scientists. Researchers

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Beyond the Skin-Pinch Test for Scleroderma

Researchers blame a low-tech skin-pinch test, in part, for the routine failure of potential scleroderma drugs in clinical trials. Modernizing the evaluation of potential drug therapies was the focus of the three-day Scleroderma Diagnosis Sandpit hosted by Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK February 26-28, 2020 at the Wellcome Collection in London.

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Rescue Your Scientific Meeting By Going Virtual

Scientific meetings and conferences are being cancelled in response to the spread of COVID-19. How might we keep the science going? Go virtual. KI has been facilitating virtual events since 2018. Our upcoming webinar will show you how we do it and give you the tools to rescue your event.

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Plotting the Course for Systematic Biology

Systematic biologists study and classify the diversity of life on earth. What they do is at the heart of evolutionary biology and, some would argue, biology as a whole. The Society of Systematic Biologists met January 3-6, 2020 at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Their conference, SSB 2020: Systematics in the Swamp, included a KI facilitated workshop to plot a course for the field for the coming decade.

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Remodeling the House of Science

Today’s young scientists are under enormous pressure. Setting up new labs, teaching courses for the first time and conducting publication-worthy research all at the same time can take it’s toll. But, some young researchers are learning about — and putting into practice — collective leadership, which they hope will lead to a much-needed institutional makeover for science.

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Resolving the Tree of Life

Scientists have long used physical traits to shed light on evolutionary relationships. Sometimes this has worked, like using lactation to group mammals. And, sometimes, it hasn’t: people once thought bats were featherless birds! Today, evolutionary biologists rely more heavily on molecular-based phylogenies to resolve relatedness. But, what they haven’t been able to do is address big picture questions about how observable traits (phenotypes) evolve across higher taxa. 

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Biology’s Jupitershots

The Reintegrating Biology workshop series uses KI’s methods of deliberate creativity to identify new research questions that could be addressed by combining approaches and perspectives from different subdisciplines of biology, the key challenges and scientific gaps that must be addressed to answer these questions, and the physical infrastructure and workforce training needed.

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Managing Shifting Marine Species

Our love affair with the ocean runs deep. Humans love to live next to the sea, honeymoon on islands and dream about summer road trips to the beach while tapping away at our keyboards. During lobster and crab season, we enjoy the food, community and culture of the Northeast U.S. Likewise, we celebrate shrimp and red snapper seasons on the Gulf Coast and halibut and salmon seasons in the Pacific Northwest. But, what if those seasons change or don’t come at all?

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How to Catch a Glimpse of Dark Matter

Scientists think that about 25 percent of our universe is made up of stuff you can’t see or feel. They’ve named this non-luminescent mystery material dark matter. Some think dark matter is hot (HDM) while others think its cold (CDM). And, yes, some say – you guessed it – warm (WDM). The cold theory has the most support to date. But, even within camp CDM, physicists don’t agree on what it’s made of. It could be made of WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles). Or, appropriately enough, MACHOs. (We’re not making this up!)

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Predicting Human Performance

Scientists have been grappling with the problem of predicting human performance for years. They know that a better understanding of human performance would allow us to do everything from improving the well-being of medical students to changing the way athletes train, perform and recover.  Now, a wealth of new technology is promising to fundamentally change our basic understanding of human performance and pave the way for a variety of applications that will increase our health, safety, and productivity.

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The Trilemma Challenge: Food, Health & Ecosystem

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.

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Getting Smart in the Sandpit

After facilitating many a Sandpit (aka Ideas Lab) for academic researchers, we wondered if our methodology might work for a development problem? Inclusive Innovation was born to find out. Here’s what we learned.

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The Language of Creativity

Every type of science has a robust language of its own, rife with acronyms and jargon that make for efficient communication amongst peers within the field but can be confusing, misleading or off-putting to people from other disciplines. This raises our attention to the fact of how much we rely on language to convey meaning, and that if we don’t have a shared understanding, it’s harder to work together and collaborate creatively.

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Connect and Catalyze

The team of mentors – there can between three to five at an Ideas Lab – usually represents a range of different academic perspectives that have some bearing on the question that’s central to the event. Their expertise is essential, but an equally important attribute for a mentor is to be ambitious about the science, intensely curious about the topic of the workshop, and adept at giving feedback, without being directive. This is the critical bit: they have to stay neutral and avoid getting tangled up in the ideas or too engaged in the participant groups.

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Talk to Strangers

People from other disciplines, other departments, other universities. They are interested in a domain that is not exactly your science. It may be a neighboring branch of science with obvious parallels or overlaps but still with an approach that is different from yours, or it might be from a very different universe, a science that is 180 degrees away, with subject matter and methodology foreign to you. These are the people we want you to be talking with.

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Tolerating Ambiguity

It‘s usually in a moment of feeling blocked or stalled that there’s a fierce temptation to seize the nearest reasonable solution. This is when we need a tolerance for ambiguity. It means staying in uncertainty, or staying with the question, despite the discomfort of not knowing the answer, or not knowing where we’re headed. It requires relinquishing control – even though a solution isn’t always guaranteed – to make room for new and emerging connections to crystalize into a clear direction.

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Frugal Innovation

Scarcity can be a major driver for innovation. A bleak economy can thrust companies, organizations, universities – and entire countries – into an austerity mode. In the context of a changing economy when it seems everything has to be faster, better and cheaper, there’s a type of innovator who’s thriving: the jugaad innovator. Jugaad is a Hindi word that translates not only to a noun – it’s a fix, a work-around, an innovative solution – but it also encompasses an entire spirit of resourcefulness and resilience.

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Make Room

Where you meet sets the mood for your meeting, which is why the space matters. Put people in the same old meeting room and the chances of getting the same old output are pretty good. If it’s a big open room with an inviting seating plan around round tables, with long walls of white paper ready to receive hundreds of ideas, it sets an entirely different tone. If you want to make room for innovation, you have to make the room the kind of place that will invite it.

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Size Matters

Group work can be clunky and cumbersome. You have to spend longer clarifying the objectives, aligning resources and getting people on board. Sometimes, it can seem nearly impossible to achieve the consensus necessary to advance within a task. Groups are a powerful mechanism to produce innovative solutions, but getting to that product can be arduous, particularly if it’s not well facilitated.

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The Productive Dissident

Deviance has an important place in the innovative process. We don’t challenge norms without a little (or a lot) of deviant thinking. And the single best way to discourage inventive, out-of-the-box deviance is to prohibit disagreement and probing questions. We need a little clarifying, critical judgment now and then. The trick is to cultivate a culture of occasional and appropriate contrariness that is productive.

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Brains and Soul in Equal Measure

So much depends on getting the right people in the room. A workshop designed to produce innovative outcome can fail – even with the perfect agenda design and the most astute facilitators – if the people who’ve been assembled don’t have the right spirit and motivation to help it succeed.  But how do you get the right minds in the right place?

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Right People in the Workshop

The alchemy that results in a successful workshop depends on starting with the right ingredients. We have found that one of the most important of these elements is the people who are invited to attend. Here’s are a few tips on recognizing the best — and less-than-ideal candidates for a creative team science workshop.

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