Forum: Boundary Conditions; May 2012; Scientific American Magazine; by ÿAlice P. Gast; 1 Page(s)
Nations are rivals in soccer and international relations, but science is a unifying force. Many of our biggest achievements seem to come from international collaborations. A team from 11 laboratories in nine countries identified the SARS coronavirus in 2003 with unprecedented speed. Scientists come from all over to chase the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva. Centers of excellence dot the globe. The world of science is getting flatter.
What has gone underappreciated in this trend is the effect on science itself and how science is actually done. It has become a cliché that great discoveries come from interdisciplinary thinking—a chemist bringing insight to a discussion of a materials problem, a physicist sharing an intuition about a problem in biology, a biologist helping an engineer see how nature comes up with optimal solutions. Few realize how much science is energized when team members have different cultural approaches to problem solving. International diversity is just as important as diversity of discipline.