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Science ‘UnSummit’ 2012 Participant Reflections

Izja Lederhendler, Research Scientist, NIH*


I  discovered Yámana because I spoke about data sharing at a scientific workshop.


A scientist in the audience approached me after the talk to say he thought I  would find this organization sympathetic to my way of thinking.   I  believe he meant that as good  thing.   A little web search, a couple of calls, and I found myself at the 2011 UnSummit; hardly a familiar soul to be found, but before the first evening was over I  met half a dozen  people who couldn’t get my sense of humor, so I knew this was a smart crowd.  I  never met a less cynical group of scientists – particularly when brainstorming about the future of Science.


The keynotes on the first day provided some welcome anonymity, but I  was still floating around searching for a way to connect to fellow UnSummitters.   The bubble burst with my untarnished introduction to the Open  Space process. Forget about anonymity; then, to be given a space to share and test ideas -  that was indeed  a strange experience.   The culture of Scientists I  know is all about ideas competing and pushing each other out of the way to gain traction.   We  want the public to be informed and supportive of Science,  so when the ferment and competition is more visible than the ideas themselves it is no wonder many become disenchanted.  At the UnSummit we were able to talk about such ideas and to consider their impact on the future of Science.


I  recently read that while scientific discoveries occur in the lab one experiment at a time, science itself moves forward based on a series of ongoing conversations.  It is a much richer and rewarding experience to have these conversations together with proponents of many disciplines and the public.   Scientists and their institutions need  to bring these conversations into the public sphere if we want to change the relationships people have with evidence and making decisions that affect our lives. We  must articulate a way to bring out the best Science has to offer.   The meeting left me feeling that there were partners to be had.


*The views expressed are entirely personal, and are not intended to reflect any opinions or policies of the National Institutes of Health.


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