Prof. Annamaria Carusi (Medical Humanities, University of Sheffield) and the Joint Research Center of the European Commission co-organised a workshop entitled ‘Bridging across methods in biosciences (BEAMS)’ on 19 - 20 June 2018.
The aim of the BEAMS meeting was to discuss the utility and feasibility of establishing a knowledge sharing forum specifically designed for bridging across scientific methods in the biosciences.
Advances in science go hand in hand with technological innovation. In the biosciences, new methods employing 'omics, stem cells, tissue-on-chip devices, and computational modelling are emerging alongside novel animal models and techniques to refine animal experiments. Progress in understanding biological systems and disease, developing new drugs and advancing toxicology are just some areas that depend on how scientific methods develop, integrate and compete.
However, methods can become compartmentalised into silos, scientists using different methods do not often enter into dialogue with each other, and knowledge that could strengthen each one is not always shared. This leads to missed opportunities for scientists, and also delays the effective translation and application of new scientific methods for addressing societal challenges. The reasons for the compartmentalisation of knowledge are many and can lie in the nature of scientific communities and institutions, where barriers to sharing can stem from aspects of governance, legislation, mind-set, funding, publishing, dissemination or education. Even in those cases where scientific laboratories are successful at integrating different methods, they often face practical challenges that might be addressed through better knowledge sharing.
The meeting was set-up to start off a conversation among a small group representing key organisations, including e.g. the Welcome Trust, the European Commission and the Virtual Physiological Human institute, which have an interest in advancing basic, applied and translational bioscience research by championing the best scientific methods available.
We addressed three inter-related questions:
Discussion ranged from the very philosophical on the first day to the very practical on the second day, where even concrete suggestions were discussed to bridge the gaps between different societies and organisations that essentially have very similar agendas. A solid foundation was laid to explore together the utility and feasibility of establishing a knowledge sharing forum (BEAMS).