World-class science happens every day on Mount Desert Island. It can be found in the efforts of researchers at The Jackson Laboratory and the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, in classrooms at College of the Atlantic, in the wilds of Acadia National Park and in the waters of Frenchman Bay. None of this, of course, can happen without the dedicated support and talents of hundreds of support personnel and the network of donors and grants that makes it all possible.
Success in science now requires more than just making incremental discoveries and hoping someone notices when the results are published in the pages of respected journals. Scientists also must be extraordinarily creative in their approaches to problem solving and pragmatic in converting the fruits of their experiments into drugs, therapies and techniques that ultimately help people live better and longer lives.
Last Friday in Bar Harbor, two major scientific conferences were held on the same day. Most remarkable was the fact that these meetings were not about “the science,” but rather about making bold advances in approaches to science in general.
More than 300 scientists, students and government officials gathered at the Bar Harbor Club for the Northeast Regional IDeA Conference. Participants celebrated the success of that federal program to increase competitiveness in rural states. Officials at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory estimate the program has brought more than $200 million into Maine and helped created more than 200 jobs.
The highlight of that meeting was a panel discussion on how scientists can convert their discoveries to commercial applications.
That same day, at the The Jackson Laboratory, the lab and the Maine Center for Creativity and other partner organizations and companies celebrated the blending of science and art at a daylong meeting focusing on “Creating a Culture of Innovation.” Discussions among leaders of dynamic organizations and companies from across Maine included how to create a culture of innovation, how to nurture creativity inside organizations and communities and how to foster creative partnerships and collaborations to make positive impacts for Maine. An evening program featured Lab President and CEO Edison Liu, who as a scientist, administrator and talented musician, epitomizes the blend of logic, artistry and business acumen the day’s program sought to celebrate.
What both of those meetings represent is a paradigm shift in how science is approached. Gone are the days of a lone-wolf researcher laboring away in a remote lab, searching for an elusive cure to some obscure disease. Today’s successful science requires teamwork, creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit with the ability to comprehend the big picture, while remaining focused on the specific problem being explored.
While the actual scientific work done daily on Mount Desert Island certainly can be considered world-class, new ways of thinking, represented by discussion in those meetings last week, clearly demonstrate that the results here are at the vanguard of human achievement. Through holistic and innovative approaches, conscious integration with other disciplines and a better understanding of the business world, the pursuit of rapid improvements in human health, through science, are in very good hands.