Foreword: The ISSCR is concerned about the global health issues surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19 and acknowledges that travel at this time, and potentially into the future, may be challenging. We understand that each member of our community needs to determine how or if they will travel to attend an array of scientific meetings around the world, including ISSCR 2020 this June in Boston. Our commitment to our members and our meeting attendees is to host world-class events that drive new discoveries forward in the stem cell field, and to make decisions about those events that are in the best interests of our community of scientists and public health.
Three years ago, seven science Nobel laureates teamed up to write a New York Times opinion piece that underscores just how valuable it is to collaborate to achieve scientific breakthroughs. They wrote:
“As Nobel laureates, we know better than most that these landmark achievements are rarely the work of one individual. Collaboration, across disciplines and borders, lies at the heart of scientific discovery, and without it we may never have received our individual accolades.”
As science progresses and our knowledge rapidly expands, the scientific community is faced with the next wave of challenges to solve. Today, stem cell scientists are tackling exceptionally complex biological problems. Unraveling these mysteries requires collaborative efforts from teams of scientists working together, across the world, towards a common goal.
The ISSCR remains committed to its mission to develop opportunities for worldwide scientific collaboration through our meetings and international symposia. Nowhere do you see this mission in greater focus than at our annual meeting, the global event for stem cell science that brings together researchers in academia and industry, students, and leading innovators to discuss, debate, and build new relationships that are essential to propel the field forward.
Science crosses all borders
To address the monumental challenges of biology, we must find collaborators with complimentary expertise and overlapping interests. These partnerships are formed through professional and personal relationships and often span borders. Collaborations not only are growing in importance and frequency, they increasingly are international. Take scientific publishing for example. Peer-reviewed papers with contributors from two or more countries tripled from 2000 to 2015 (Ribeiro et al. 2018. Scientometric 114, 159-179).
One new relationship can define your career
There is no better way to build new connections, review and exchange scientific data, or strengthen ongoing collaborations than meeting in person. Email, text, and even conference calls pale in comparison to the relationship-building power of participating in critical scientific discussions face-to-face. It is in the glow of freshly presented data that scientists are at their most engaged and interactive. Brainstorming leads to new experiments that address puzzling data, and creative solutions to lingering challenges emerge when scientists get together. Consequently, international conferences remain the fundamental hot bed of nascent scientific collaborations.
In response to the critical importance of personal and scientific relationships, the ISSCR invests significant resources and efforts to provide our meetings with an abundance of opportunities to forge new scientific collaborations. Networking luncheons including Meet The Experts, Early Career Group Leader, Career Panel, and Women in Science all provide opportunities to make new connections and reinforce existing relationships. The Meet-up Hubs and Junior Investigator Social Night offer social opportunities to connect in a more casual setting with fellow scientists. However, the paramount networking opportunities still occur deep within poster sessions, next to the speaker podiums after talks, and throughout the halls of the conference. The diversity of scientific topics at ISSCR meetings serves as a distinct advantage, gathering gene editors, cell biologists, molecular biochemists, bioinformaticians, developmental biologists, and clinicians from all over the world all under one roof. “That’s a great question,” and “we would love to investigate that” are phrases overheard throughout meetings and often signal the beginnings of new collaborations. This certainly has been the case for discoveries from my own lab, many of which would not have occurred had it not been for serendipitous conversations at international conferences.
Make ISSCR 2020 the start of your next journey
Presenting and sharing exciting data is what draws scientists together. Coming to meetings with a story to share, however, is not the end of a journey, but rather the beginning of the next chapter. I encourage you to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities at our annual meeting this June in Boston, US, to learn from your fellow scientists from around the world, to refine your research approaches, and expand your thinking. These relationships not only offer researchers new perspectives but rekindle scientific enthusiasm and ultimately will pave the way for our field’s next pivotal breakthroughs.
ISSCR President, 2019-2020