You will no doubt adapt these instructions to your institution, limitations, audience, and desired outcomes. Although speed dating was invented by a Los Angeles, California, rabbi as a way for Jewish singles to meet, speed dating and its cousin, speed networking, were rapidly and widely adopted in New York City.That seems fitting, quips Brian Kelly, director of the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization at Weill Cornell Medical College: New York is a city where "you're going to know the guy who delivers your Chinese food better than the guy who lives next door." The same can be said of large research institutions such as Weill Cornell, he says: "People on the fourth floor here don't know what happens on the fifth floor." Kelly was on the team that wrote the grant proposal for Weill Cornell's Clinical and Translational Science Award, which they received from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in September 2007.We had an enthusiastically supportive advisory team that believed in this idea, but a speed-networking event for researchers at Weill Cornell was untried and untested. Two months before the event, we sent out a "save the date" e-mail broadcast with a subject-line teaser, "Find new research partners. " We were encouraged by an immediate flurry of "sign me up" responses and continued the e-mail campaign once a week until the final 3 weeks, when we accelerated our campaign.
In addition to the usual contact information, institution, and department, we asked three questions: One week before and again 2 days before the event, we sent a reminder message with the event time, location, and specific instructions that everyone should bring a single-page information sheet about themselves. In hindsight, and looking ahead to our next event, I'd recommend requiring that registrants complete an online bio with photo, contact information, and responses to the three questions about their research priorities and needs.
Then, immediately following the event, I'd send a "thank you" follow-up with a link to these bios on a Web site.
But there was one question those events couldn't answer: Would the scientists buy into it?
"We didn't know what to expect," says Imperato-Mc Ginley, CTSC's principal investigator. We had no idea, but we worked up a plan and sallied forth.
It's a research project that may have never come together, or at least come together as quickly, if it hadn't been for the speed-networking event.
"The bottom line is, if you don't meet people, you will never find someone who can find you new information and a new vision," Rivella says.
This process continues until everyone in one group has met everyone in the other group.
The goal, for translational research as for dating, is to find a match.
The photos will be a big help to the attendees, who will have met dozens of people in a short time.
Taking a cue from online dating, that database would allow researchers--whether or not they attended the event--to peruse other researchers' interests and strengths to look for a match.
We worried that the Halloween-themed design was too cute for the serious business of science but went ahead anyway and attached it to our e-mail announcements, along with a request that recipients print it and post it in their departments. People were required to register ahead of time by completing a form and sending it in via fax or e-mail.