On August 20, 2020, iScience (Cell Press) published an article authored by a group of early-career scientists, connected through a shared experience in the 2019 CAS Future Leaders program, on the future of science leadership. The importance of collaboration, not only within a field of research but also across disciplines, emerged as the article’s central theme:
One of the defining pillars of this scientific era is the ever-growing spirit of collaboration. Monumental research is accomplished by bringing together a team of scientists from multiple disciplines each leveraging their expertise to solve long-standing challenges in science. (Dr. Sean Natoli)
It's no mistake that the CAS Future Leaders program offers training on how to facilitate productive collaborations—or that the participants vary greatly in discipline and geography. We agree that global, interdisciplinary collaboration is essential to scientific progress, and successful leaders are those who recognize its value and inspire the best performance from their teams:
A staple of this program is not only the breadth of countries that are represented but also the many facets of chemistry that are represented... a leader in the sciences will need to be open to innovations across discipline and geographical boundaries, something that we explored a lot during our time together. (2019 CAS Future Leaders)
For many participants, the program is their first experience in a group with such a diverse mix of expertise and ideas. Within a few days of meeting one another, the 2019 CAS Future Leaders began discussing ideas for a collective work, wasting no time in exploring what an interdisciplinary collaboration can deliver.
A training opportunity for emerging leaders
In 2010, we launched the CAS Future Leaders program as a way to support the global research community. The two-week immersive program offers Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars an all-expense paid trip to CAS headquarters in Columbus, Ohio and to the ACS National Meeting & Exposition. (Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we postponed the 2020 CAS Future Leaders program until 2021.)
Through the years, we have learned from our participants that leadership training is often difficult to access in academia—but these skills are vital to their career advancement and success. Addressing that important skill gap, including in-depth training on how to lead productive collaborations, is now a primary focus of our program.
The CAS Future Leaders program attracts some of the most accomplished young scientists and emerging leaders from around the world. Each year, we review hundreds of applications to identify the best of the best. A testament to this effort is the 2019 class of CAS Future Leaders, who collaborated to bring their views on science leadership to the broader scientific community.
Taking an idea from pitch to publication
With contributions from 29 authors, whose expertise spans numerous scientific disciplines, the iScience article is a remarkable example of collaboration. According to scientific editor for iScience, Dr. Michelle Muzzio, who worked directly with the 2019 CAS Future Leaders:
The initial pitch was focused primarily on the program, which is of course very interesting and important, but Dr. Stefano Tonzani, lead editor at iScience, and I were even more interested in the people! It is kind of weird to think about how much collaboration went into this article that is at its core, about the importance of collaboration. But there was! The authors were receptive to ideas that resulted in a piece that was quite different than their original thoughts and they gave feedback along the way to make sure each contributor was clearly represented—all while honoring the core aspects of collaboration and interdisciplinarity that are within iScience's DNA.
Of course, the publication process does not begin and end with authors and editors. It involves collaboration that extends to other groups within a publishing organization. Muzzio goes on to say:
We spent time on our side collaborating with all members of our own team at iScience: production, marketing and editorial, all of which came together to make sure that this piece would make a splash outside of just the chemistry community, as well as highlight the message that the cohort wanted to pass along. CAS Future Leaders attracts the very best chemists in their related disciplines, but also chemists with insight beyond their research areas who look globally as well as to the future. Such insight is so important!
The result of these efforts is a thought-provoking article published on the 1-year anniversary of the group's arrival at CAS headquarters for the 2019 CAS Future Leaders program.
Unfiltered perspectives on cross-disciplinary collaboration
In recent years, many CAS Future Leaders have taken to social media to publicly discuss some of the most pressing issues facing early-career scientists. As a supplement to the iScience article, several authors were asked to answer questions and engage in real-time with the chemistry community on Twitter.
During the live chat, participants expanded on the views shared in the article, and about the key scientific challenges in the next decade, they discussed their role as leaders in facilitating cross-talk between disciplines.
Well... I think here is where you need to be humble. Acknowledge what you don't know and look for someone in another discipline to collaborate. More than facilitate crosswalk I think we need to first start talking with one another and respect each other's expertise— Dr. Paulette Vincent-Ruz #BLM (@STEMxicanEd) August 21, 2020
Major problems require major solutions! We must leave behind the cliché of the mad scientist in the basement doing investigations all alone, and understand that science is about tackling a challenge from a lot of different angles.— Jesus Sanjosé-Orduna (@JSanjor) August 21, 2020
Many of the global challenges we face are not one dimensional so we all need to get comfortable with working at the boundaries of different disciplines and be okay with not knowing all the answers and be open to working with others.— Mahlet Garedew (@mahletgaredew) August 21, 2020
Such thoughtful, global perspectives on the value of collaboration are inspiring, and should give us hope for the future of science. For even more insights from the CAS Future Leaders, be sure to explore the entire conversation on Twitter.
If you're a Ph.D. student or postdoctoral scholar who would like to blaze a trail toward science leadership, learn more about the CAS Future Leaders program at www.cas.org/futureleaders.