Being in the company of like-minded people can be a great source of energy and inspiration. Open concept lab spaces, research and equipment hubs, and conferences and meetings serve to bring people together. Taking the spirit of these collaborative events and spaces one step further, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) brings together the best minds to tackle problems together, across multiple disciplines, no matter where they are in the world, and all year round.
Lisa Saksida is a neuroscientist, but early on in her collaborations at CIFAR, she met a meta-philosopher, and it turned out that they had developed very similar theoretical frameworks for looking at the brain, but had come at it from very different angles. Not only did this validate their results, but it also helped them look at their research from different perspectives.
Fellow neuroscientist Adrian Owen notes that to find the best team to work with, researchers need to look outside the boundaries of their own universities – not only because it would be limiting to do so, but also because viewpoints from different parts of the world are important to consider.
Colleague Philippe Aghion is an economist, but he too notes that working at the intersection of economics and culture requires diversity of perspective. Through CIFAR, he has connected with sociologists, biologists, and political scientists. These interactions provide opportunities for more well-rounded views on complex topics in economics.
Fellow economists Matilde Bombardini, Daron Acemoglu, and Daniel Trefler note that their CIFAR network is world-class, allowing them to tackle problems that never would have been possible otherwise. Having internal discussions before major presentations also helps them think through their work on a routine basis, and helps them make their research bulletproof.
From inspiration, to synergy, to validation, fostering more collaborations in research is a catalyst for robust science.