Collaboration in the NIH Intramural Research Program
Monday, July 27, 2015
When we ran the “I Am Intramural” campaign several years ago we learned that one of the major reasons that scientists are so passionate about what they do here is their ability to collaborate with exceptional researchers. We heard from many that the ability to share ideas and engage experts to brainstorm across disciplines made a difference in their ability to advance their science to the next step.
While that was true, it was also the case that a chance conversation in the hallway would help two long-time scientific neighbors realize that they actually had a common interest. What if they had been better aware of each other’s work earlier?
The NIH Intramural Program is a marvelous environment for seeking out new potential collaborators. There are approximately 1,200 Principal Investigators (PIs) ranging from early career to highly honored for their notable accomplishments. And given the size and the activity of the various NIH campuses, there are lots of places to accidentally run into people at seminars, in corridors, and of course at coffee shops.
Face-to-face interactions are critical for building new scientific relationships and developing an idea into a concrete project plan. Yet, it is not always the case that researchers are bumping into others with similar interests. How can you start to find experts in another discipline to help you with your project, people with whom you could explore the possibility of working to tackle a complex scientific problem?
The NIH Intramural Research Program might be made up of 27 individual Intramural Programs housed in 24 different Institutes and Centers, but profiles for all the PIs are all housed at this site and can be viewed as members of the NIH IRP as a whole. Not only can you easily find a PI if you have the name, but if you know you need an expert in a particular discipline, or scientific focus area, you can search all the experts by category. And of course to really narrow your search you can enter very specific terms into the search box.
While our ability to make matches might not quite be at the level of online dating sites—we can’t promise a mutual love of Thai food and long walks on the beach—this tool does offer a great starting point for scientific collaborations by providing a robust list of individuals whom you can begin contacting to explore new opportunities.