April 10, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra
As a scientist, I’m also a student of science – the science of science, you might say. Even as we continue to push forward, beyond even our own expectations of discovery and innovation, the process of science – from the way it’s supported, to the way it’s pursued, to the way it’s communicated – leaves much to be desired. From only a few years behind the lab bench, I’ve witnessed tremendous barriers to scientific exploration and it’s left me frustrated and a little disillusioned. As a kid with a chemistry set and a microscope, it’s easy to be optimistic, open-minded and hopeful. It was easier back then to believe that the whole universe is there to be explored, and that research is something noble, admirable, important and valuable to all of us – PhD or not. Those are the childish dreams I wish came true. Today’s project shares those dreams with my younger self and I, as well as hundreds of other idealistic scientists and is bringing them (us) together to discuss how we might start working towards living that dream.
The Science ‘UnSummit’ of 2012 will be the third annual meeting of scientists and engineers seeking to identify and overcome the obstacles to innovation and discovery. In an open atmosphere, ideas will cross-pollinate – migrating over barriers between different disciplines of science, math, engineering and technology, between and throughout minds that might otherwise pass like two ships in the night.
We have convened around the topic of innovation because we are in a time of fast-moving changes in society and in the world…and yet slipping on all innovation indicators. We are creating an opportunity to build on current approaches to innovation, generating completely new ideas and recognizing current successful approaches. We think stakeholders and institutions are searching for a fundamental change in our approach to innovation and the systems of science.
Examining the issues that challenge our ability to identify, explore, solve and understand all that remains mysterious to us in the universe is an immense challenge in itself, but it’s necessarily the first step in addressing the obstacles to progress, innovation and solutions. Science is important, and should be acknowledged as such. The world should look attentively upon the UnSummit and its participants, who jump continuously through hoop after hoop to advance our understanding of life, the universe and everything. We must go to work not merely as scientists pursuing our respective fields, but also a better way of pursuing science. The conference is taking place later this month in Washington, D.C. (sadly, I won’t be in attendance because I’ll [happily] be at the GET Conference in Boston for DNA Day), and whether or not you understand the issues that face our ability to pursue knowledge, I hope you’ll join me in at least understanding the importance of that pursuit and help this conference take flight and reach millions of others by backing it on Kickstarter before April 19