Florida started EEEEARLY, getting off the red-eye from Las Vegas at 7am. I picked up a rental car at Fort Lauderdale – got a PT Cruiser because there were no compacts left. It was a much nicer drive than I thought. I drove to the hotel in Boca Raton, checked in and crashed out for a couple of hours. When I woke up I changed and headed out to my first meetings of the day, which were at Scripps Florida, an independent research institute that focuses on biomedical research. Florida, like North Carolina, has been working on becoming a global destination for biotechnology, as part of its economic development goals and the creation of quality jobs (traditionally jobs here have been tourism, services and agriculture, all of which tend to be low-skill, low-pay jobs.) They have some really interesting education and outreach programmes and I was also able to talk to their business development guy. What they are doing differently in Scripps Florida is moving beyond basic research into translational research, which should help companies develop the discovery as they come in later in the process. They got a lot of financial support from Florida and the County to set up the institute, but it seems that most of their operating budget comes from NIH grants won on the basis of excellence. After the meeting, the education VP showed me round some of the labs. LIke the school in St Louis, there is a strong element of architecture in making the centre work – the labs are long and open, and bring together various different disciplines, so there is much more interaction amongst the scientists. Are there any courses on architecture to promote exchange ideas, or theses on how this affects co-operation?
After that meeting I joined Omar and Christian for dinner with Myles Martel about leadership and communication. It was such an interesting session, because it codified and ordered things that I have often instinctively felt about how to do this job. For example, when we have those discussions about whether the Commissioner should do a press conference. Myles said that leaders should persuade, not inform, to move their target audience towards their goal. So if you’re just telling people about something, then someone less “leaderlike” can do it. The Commissioner should come on board to convinve people about something. And if you think about it, the most successful communication experiences we have had have been the ones where there was persuasion to be done.
An early-ish start this morning, though nothing like yesterday! Omar and I drove to Miami and he dropped me at Chuck Cobb’s office. Ambassador Cobb is an Eisenhower trustee and was a political appointee ambassador in Rejkjavik. He met all of us that came to Miami and offered some interesting ideas about people I should talk to. We talked a bit about the challenges of science education, and mused about how the US can address them – there’s a strong state v federal thing here, as you no doubt know.
After a truly yummy Cuban lunch from a wee caff, my only regret being I had to wolf it done to get to the next meeting, I headed over to the University’s Medical School. I had a brief meeting with the VP for Special Programs, then headed over to meet the Provost for Research, Richard Bookman. What a great guy and what a great meeting. I had suggested a few things to talk about -research ethics/integrity and the involvement of private money in research. These are obviously big issues for all universities and theirs is no exception. The Association of American Medical Colleges did a symposium on the science behind influence, which basically found pretty unequivocally that doctors are influenced (one way or another) by gifts, favours and reciprocal relationships (in their words). The question could therefore be less one of eliminating potential conflicts of interest – which is nigh on impossible – and more one of declaring and managing such issues. He is also leading a discussion within the university (and beyond) about open innovation, building on the work of Larry Lessig (I haven’t been able to watch the video on the link because of the bandwidth, but Dr Bookman told me it was marvellous!). What this is looking at is new forms of managing intellectual property, opening up knowledge as far as possible and only locking it in where necessary. There are also moves afoot to link up IP within universities, thereby opening existing ideas to reinterpretation and reworking which might lead to renewed innovation. All totally fascinating. I don’t feel I’ve done it justice here, to be honest, but I hope you get at least a flavour.
Talking of flavour…I’m hungry and not in an area with a lot of life. Hope that there’s some food somewhere in the hotel! I’m managing to get quite a bit of Open University work done today, which is not before time! But at least TMA 08 is done.