Perspective: Speed Networking for Scientists

Although speed dating was invented by a Los Angeles, California, rabbi as a way for Jewish singles to meet, speed dating and its cousin, speed networking, were rapidly and widely adopted in New York City. That seems fitting, quips Brian Kelly, director of the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization at Weill Cornell Medical College: New York is a city where “you’re going to know the guy who delivers your Chinese food better than the guy who lives next door.” The same can be said of large research institutions such as Weill Cornell, he says: “People on the fourth floor here don’t know what happens on the fifth floor.”

Kelly was on the team that wrote the grant proposal for Weill Cornell’s Clinical and Translational Science Award, which they received from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in September 2007. At a brainstorming session for the project in the summer of 2006, Kelly and his colleagues were thinking of innovative ways to promote new collaborations among researchers across CTSC’s diverse institutions. Kelly had just read an article on speed dating in New York City, so he suggested it as something they could apply in the context of CTSC. None of the proposals, he says, “hit home in terms of the ability to get to know your neighbor as well as speed networking.” Julianne Imperato-McGinley, principal investigator of the CTSC, picked up on the suggestion and incorporated it into the grant proposal.

Once CTSC had its funding, Weill Cornell hired consultant Louise Holmes, an employment-skills consultant (and the author of the accompanying Perspective), to plan what would be called the Translational Research Bazaar. “There were very few, if any, examples of speed networking with this particular demographic,” she says. So she watched YouTube videos of speed-networking events and attended a Manhattan Chamber of Commerce speed-networking event to get a feel for the setup and flow. But there was one question those events couldn’t answer: Would the scientists buy into it?

Click here to read this story, which I co-authored with Louise Holmes.

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