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Stanford professor to discuss the ups and downs of 'team science'

The most complex quandaries of science cannot be answered by pure disciplinary research, according to Richard Zare, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University. Zare is a champion of interdisciplinary research, which will be the subject of his presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at 3:45 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, in San Francisco.

A veteran of collaborative research who has helped Stanford and other institutions implement interdisciplinary initiatives, Zare will give a talk titled ''Perspectives on Team Science: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.''

Stanford is at the forefront of interdisciplinary work, he said, pointing to several collaborative campus-wide programs that bridge traditional departmental lines, such as the Woods Institute for the Environment, the Initiative on Human Health and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. But crossing those disciplinary divides is not always easy, he added.

''Traditional scientific research rewards the rugged individualist, who often triumphs by beating someone else,'' Zare said. For example, at most universities, tenure is awarded largely on an individual's contributions to a particular field, and many honors in science reward individual work, he noted. Collaborative research, on the other hand, requires a willingness to share credit.

Zare practices what he preaches. Since joining the Stanford faculty in 1977, he has collaborated with numerous research partners, including NASA, the Stanford School of Medicine and the Carnegie Institution. One of his current collaborations involves analyzing the chemical content of stardust from a comet retrieved from a NASA satellite. The results of this research already have provided insights into the early history of the solar system, according to NASA scientists.

''It is possible in collaborative research for the whole to be much greater than the
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
17-Feb-2007


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