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Intervention by Denise Caruso Read Intervention by Denise Caruso, Executive Director of the Hybrid Vigor Silver Award Winner, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards; Best Business Books 2007, Strategy+Business Magazine


by Denise Caruso ~ December 13, 2006.
Permalink | Filed under: Hybrid Vigor.

Over the past 3.75 years that Intervention was taking its sweet time making its way into the world, I (benignly) neglected the HVNEWS list. In the interim, many of Hybrid Vigor’s advisors and cohorts started, completed, or sometimes (damn their eyes) started and completed several notable projects that dovetail with Hybrid Vigor’s programs and goals. Here are the headlines:

Diana Rhoten, Hybrid Vigor’s co-founder, Hybrid Vigor Fellow and soon to be an author on this blog, is now director of the Knowledge Institutions program at the Social Science Research Council in New York. In September 2006, Nature devoted three pages to covering an experiment that was part of Rhoten’s NSF-funded study of interdisciplinary graduate education. Organized by Rhoten and co-investigator Ed Hackett of Arizona State University, Nature’s coverage of the experiment — a meeting in Utah called the Snowbird Charrette — asked, “Interdisciplinary research is the new buzzword, but does a grounding in different disciplines make you better at solving problems?” A terrific discussion of Snowbird by some of the social scientists who formally observed the charrette is at Critical Lucidity.

• In April 2006, Richard Zare, chair of the chemistry department at Stanford University and a founding advisor to Hybrid Vigor, was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and awarded $1 million to develop new interdisciplinary undergraduate science laboratory courses at Stanford, including one which combines chemistry, physics, and biology to study light, pigments and photosynthesis. Zare has taught an introductory chemistry course every year since 1977; young students are the “secret weapon” that he says enhances his own work.

• At the Molecular Sciences Institute in Berkeley, run by HV advisor Roger Brent, MSI Visiting Fellow Kouichi Takahashi was awarded a Cross-Disciplinary Fellowship from the Human Frontier Science Program. The HFSP emphasizes novel collaborations that bring biologists together with scientists from fields such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, computer science and engineering to focus on problems at the frontier of the life sciences. Since the award’s inception in 1989, 11 HFSP Fellows have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.

• Hybrid Vigor Fellow and acclaimed science writer Oliver Morton is now chief news and features editor at Nature. Morton, who in 2002 wrote a brilliant HV Journal on the role of cloud behavior in climate change, is also the author of Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination and the Birth of the World. His book on photosynthesis, Eating the Sun, will be published in July 2007.

• Hybrid Vigor advisor Margo Somerville, a renowned ethicist and founding director of the McGill (University) Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law in Quebec, delivered the 2006 Massey Lectures that are broadcast to an audience of about 400,000 listeners via CBC Radio’s Ideas program. Her new book, The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit, was published in September 2006 by House of Anansi Press.

Somerville also teamed with microbiologist Ronald Atlas, co-director of the Center for the Deterrence of Biowarfare and Bioterrorism at the University of Louisville, to write a code of ethics for the life sciences. Their article on the subject, “Ethics: A Weapon to Counter Bioterrorism,” was published in Science in September 2006. (Those who don’t subscribe to Science can read an earlier version of the cod, presented at the 2nd Pugwash Workshop on Science, Ethics and Society that was held in Corsica in 2004.

• In 2005, Katherine Fulton, president of the Monitor Institute and a member of the Hybrid Vigor board of directors, and Andrew Blau, a senior scenario practitioner at Global Business Network and a Hybrid Vigor advisor, published a report on the future of philanthropy called Looking out for the Future that, by all accounts, has demonstrably shifted the nature of the dialog in the philanthropic community.

Fulton presented her talk on the subject, “The Deeper News About the New Philanthropy,” to a full house at the Long Now Foundation’s November 2006 seminar. Later, Larry Brilliant of Google.org and Richard Rockefeller, chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, joined Fulton for conversation on the issues raised in her talk. (You can listen, if you’d like.)

• Over the past 3-plus years, various members of the MacArthur Research Network on Socio-Economic Status and Health have been churning out important research toward understanding the mechanisms by which socioeconomic factors affect the health of individuals and their communities. Network chair Nancy Adler, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, is a founding member of HV’s advisory board, as is Bruce McEwen, the pioneering Rockefeller University professor of neuroendocrinology known for his work on the impact of stress and stress hormones on the brain and on immune function.

• In 2005, Tom Kalil, a long-time HV advisor, started and now directs the Big Ideas project, an ongoing $100,000 competition to find the best ideas from UC Berkeley’s student body. It considers creative ideas in a broad range of subjects such as curricular innovation, green cities, neglected diseases, serious games and designing the next X Prize, the $10 million prize that launched the private spaceflight industry. In 2004, Kalil also worked with Berkeley researchers to propose and eventually win a $11.9 NSF award to build a new Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems (COINS) on campus.

Steven Johnson, long-time friend of and early advisor to Hybrid Vigor, has continued his streak of science-meets-society bestsellers with The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, released in October. At almost the same time, a company he co-founded announced the launch of a fascinating new web experience called outside.in that is designed to bridge the online and “real” world, and reconnect people with the events and news in their cities and neighborhoods. When this was written, outside.in was tracking 56 cities and 3301 neighborhoods in the U.S.

• HV editorial advisor Bruce Sterling, originator of the Viridian Design movement and well-known science-fiction author, wrote the introduction to Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century — a roadmap to collaborative problem solving if ever there was one.

• Helen Doyle, HV advisor, is associate director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University. The program, run by Stanford ecologist Gretchen Daily, develops new methodologies based on non-traditional combinations of natural science and engineering with perspectives derived from law, medicine, economics, the social sciences, foreign policy, and business.

What a group!

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