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Creativity in science

On the heels of reading Creativity Inc, penned by Ed Catmull, I wondered if scientists are really creative. Researchers are trained observers that ascribe to the scientific method, gather data, and analyze their data using statistics.  Statistics is an imagination snuffer.

Great discoveries sprang from scientists that showed imagination and out-of-the-box thinking.   Are the greatest scientists artists, as suggested by Albert Einstein? Can you teach creativity?  The book suggests an environment that fosters creativity is possible, but can that be done in the laboratory? Add a few cats to lounge around?

The four stages of creativity are preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.  Where does creativity live?  It is said the step between incubation and illumination is where the mind-magic happens. Mind-magic is an internal process, perhaps day dreaming. The verification is the analytical process and is a different neural circuit. When one is taught by rote, and SOP’s, creativity declines. There is a place for repetition, and that’s churning out data.  The creativity we are discussing here is a leap of faith to grasp a paradigm-shifting novel concept.

Each persons creativity is honed by tools they stumble upon for themselves.  It may be mediation, exercise, whatever tool will turn down the noise of the conscious mind to let ideas flow. Scientific creativity is a process. A path to finding an answer. That is a linear and logical process. Built upon ideas that came before. We agree with Ed Catmull, that success in solving a big problem doesn’t come from a brilliant idea, it comes from a great team. Part of the team is the past, researchers that paved the way using technology to leap into the future.

We have undertaken the problem of identifying and treating ALS by forming a team.

Our team is a group of nineteen scientists and reaches from British Columbia across the US and on to Brazil.  Our topics are secretome, the elixir of stem cells that may normalize a corrupted system.  We look at nucleic acids (DNA, RNA, miRNA), antibodies and peptides. Some team members harnessed fat mesenchymal cells to assay for toxic properties and seek chemicals to reverse the damage. We are borrowing ideas from our EPM and PNE work, from pathology to curative molecules.

What we’ve discovered is that removing information silos and blurring the lines between disciplines is fostering progress.  We anticipate sharing our discoveries with a platform available to all.  Keep listening, I’ll let you know when we launch!

As Buzz Lightyear said: "To infinity and beyond!"