Synchronicity is Not Just an Album by The Police. Nor is Serendipity Just a John Cusack movie.


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being examined by others. A random suggestion with Curt Malloy, the head of IDRI, led me to Lisa Cohen at the Washington Global Health Alliance in June. WGHA works to expand the impact of the global health institutions here in Washington, in part, by connecting them and providing opportunities to share information. In an instance of synchronicity, WGHA was working on a mapping project to gather up-to-date information on the very subject I mentioned in my article—the financial and scientific reach of biomedical research institutions in this state.

They recently unveiled the results of this project. It demonstrates that not only are there a lot of people in this state working on global health but that the reach of their collaborations is immense—480 projects in 93 countries. Over 4,000 people are involved in these projects. The global reach of the Pacific Northwest research labs is astounding—even greater than I postulated in my article.

An interesting aspect of the process WGHA used to create this map was actually convening decision-makers from these institutions. During discussions, they discovered that sharing some of their core facilities, ranging from scientific equipment to animal facilities, would result in more efficient use. Not only would this save money and redundant effort but would also foster greater collaborations between groups dedicated to finding therapies for human disease. An unexpected result all because they simply happened to be in the same room, talking.

The combination of synchronicity and serendipity produced a result that was not expected. This happens all the time in science. In fact. scientists depend on these sorts of ‘random’ meetings in order to exchange information quickly, find ways to help one another and produce important scientific results. We have even gone so far as to create processes for combining synchronicity and serendipity to foster innovative research. We call them scientific conferences.

Researchers know the unheralded secret of these meetings—the conversations in the hallways or around tables at dinner are often the most significant reasons to attend, and lead to the most exciting collaborations. But why should we have to travel outside the state or the country to get together when we have such a rich array of talent within a few miles of each other?

This notion of informal conversations between scientists was on my mind when I met Lisa in June. We talked a lot about the huge amount of research being done in the Pacific Northwest. And about the barriers separating the scientists. These researchers were working on critical questions, yet few of them had the opportunity to exchange knowledge with other scientists here in Seattle. They would travel across the globe to talk in front of others but they had no place to connect in Seattle.

I suggested that we try to recreate … Next Page »

Richard Gayle is the founder and president of SpreadingScience. Follow @

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  • Rob MacGregor

    Interesting article. I thought you might like to read this post from our synchronicity blog on scientific synchronicities. – Rob MacGregor

  • Krassen Dimitrov

    The Lisa Cohen you mention will be here (Brisbane) on Thursday. After reading your article I am signing for a breakfast with her. Thanks!

  • Bill Neil


    Great stuff!f See you at the next ISB event.


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