Ideas to Innovation - Season Two
Neville Hobson: In this episode, we showcase nine stories in 2022 that illustrate the driving that stimulates innovation and discovery in so many different areas.
Intro: Ideas to Innovation from Clarivate.
Neville Hobson: Since the first episode of Season 2 of our Ideas to Innovation podcast in May 2022, we’ve taken listeners to places around the globe to hear compelling stories our guests have told, in their own authentic and passionate voices. Each episode has given us an inside look at how they’ve helped to drive change, find creative solutions to the toughest of challenges, and sometimes, even change the world.
Hello, and welcome to this year-end episode of Ideas to Innovation Season 2. I’m Neville Hobson.
Through the lens of this podcast, we’ll share with you glimpses of the personal, and sometimes emotional, stories of the paths to innovation our guests have walked to improve lives and outcomes every day, all over the world.
In our first episode in May, the Russian war in Ukraine had been underway for less than three months. The effects of this war have been devastating, and continue to be, for the whole of Ukraine and its people.
In science and research innovation, Ukraine has a long history going back to the 18th century. Gali Halevi, Director at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate based in New York, told us that this Russian war has profoundly impacted the pace of science and research as well as the people working in that field.
Gali Halevi: Prior to the war, we were able to track thousands of articles, papers per year produced by scientists in Ukraine. When we looked at 2022, we noticed that there’s hardly maybe a dozen or so. Obviously, science has stopped. They’re not publishing, probably not doing research anymore.
If I may, Neville, I have my best friends are American Ukrainian and they have many friends and family still in Ukraine. All talented people working in high tech, they’re working in science. I speak to my friends quite often and it’s pretty scary.
It gets really real when my friends tell me, ”We get phone calls every day from people that we know that say, “Look, if I don’t make it, take care of my daughter,” or, “take care of my parents,” or, “Can you help us.” It becomes really real, right – these pleas for help. I trust and hope that the country will rebuild and that it will be able to rebuild its science, but at the moment, everything just stops, people fight for their lives, that’s all they do.
Neville: In June, Dr Grace Lomax, the Clinical Director at Patient Connect, a part of Clarivate, told us that nearly 41 million people worldwide die prematurely from non-communicable diseases. Yet 80% of premature deaths could be avoided if patients and healthcare professionals alike had the right information at the right time to make better decisions.
Dr Lomax’ experience as a physician highlights numerous unmet needs beyond clinical issues, especially around healthcare literacy and education at the point of care. She has ambitious plans.
Dr Grace Lomax: The aim with Clarivate is we’re going to support 100 million patients in our first year. That is meaningfully supporting patients and helping prevent premature death. Our ambition, from experience in what we’ve achieved to date across hundreds of campaigns, our aim here is to prevent 200,000 premature deaths. That is walking the walk of sustainability.
We’re working with the largest pharmaceuticals who want to champion better outcomes for their patients across each therapy area. We’re doing this in tandem with the pharmaceuticals who focus on cardiovascular disease or focus on respiratory disease so that we can benefit from their expert knowledge and we can bring our expert knowledge at addressing the unmet needs of patients. Together we will do great things here.
Neville: The summer of 2022 produced a massive heat wave with record-breaking temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius across much of Europe. We also saw huge and destructive wildfires in many parts of the world.
While some experts say such natural disasters are man-made and are the new normal, others point the way to man-made solutions that can help us take care of our environment through innovative efforts like reducing traffic pollution, and the emissions that contribute to climate extremes.
Someone who is passionate about such man-made solutions is Ingrid Gogl, the vice president of marketing and communications at Yunex Traffic, headquartered in Munich, Germany. In August, she shared her big ideas about making cities greener, safer, and ultimately more liveable: ideas already in action.
Ingrid Gogl: If we look at how cities are built, many cities are built around the needs of cars. Now is the time to win back the streets, and orchestrate traffic around everyone’s needs: cars, public transport, bicyclists, pedestrian, and so on. This is where we come in because it’s about rethinking mobility so that everyone wins; the people, the communities, and the environment.
I believe the future of sustainability is one that is shared, electric, to some part autonomous, and above all, connected, because really, it’s about connecting all the individual dots. As I said in the beginning, it’s about giving the cities back to the people, and giving them the freedom to really choose their own door-to-door mobility mix. This is really the future I see, that is the future of more freedom for people to- when it comes to their mobility.
Neville: Also in August, we discussed the democratization of start-ups in the healthcare space, where new approaches to investment connect financial and human capital to healthcare start-ups as a community that shares knowledge, interest, and passion for healthcare innovation.
Our guest was Jerry Harrison, an entrepreneurial rockstar turned rockstar entrepreneur in the healthcare business. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 as a member of Talking Heads, the New Wave rock band that’s been described as one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the 1980s.
Jerry shared his views and experiences on how innovation is bringing some startling ideas to life in healthcare, and gave us a compelling look at what’s coming in the immediate future.
Jerry Harrison: I think the recent pandemic has given us a look into the future about what can be accomplished without going to the doctors or going to the hospital. It also has shown when it really is required for you to go. I think that everything has been accelerated by we need to have home testing, we need to have a way for you to then talk to a physician and then him or her to feel confident in prescribing either a test or even perhaps a drug for you.
I think if we look ahead, I think we’re going to have more and more sophisticated testing that can be done, perhaps connecting to a smartphone or your computer. I think we’re going to have a combination of televisits and real visits to your physicians and I think we’re going to be able to bring in experts from perhaps even all over the world.
The addition of artificial intelligence to that will be– at best, it will be a combination of artificial intelligence giving its best guess and then helping experienced radiologists with what they’re seeing there. I think that it’s we will want to always have humans as somewhat of a gatekeeper of when artificial intelligence is making decisions that are so crucial to our health.
Neville: Verification of information – who created it and who shared it – has become part of standard operating procedures in many enterprises to create a climate of trust surrounding information that can be used and acted upon. Nowhere is this truer than in the field of scientific research and reporting.
In September, Nandita Quaderi, editor-in-chief for the Web of Science at Clarivate, spoke about the importance of conducting and presenting research in a way that allows others to have trust and confidence in the methods used.
And she warned of the dangers that occur in instances when the scholarly record cannot be trusted.
Nandita Quaderi: We are only as strong as our weakest link. Luckily, in general, the research community respects and upholds the values of honesty, rigor and transparency that underpin research integrity. Sometimes these values are undermined by lack of awareness or insufficient training in research and publication ethics and so better training and awareness of best practice would definitely help.
I think we can already see some moves in place that are addressing the problems we have now. Some of these, for example, lie with research assessment exercises there is in regions that are still relying too much on bibliometric indicators to balance things out again. There is a move now to use more qualitative narrative expert opinion to balance out just using numbers. Again, that will help reduce these perverse incentives.
Neville: Each year, Clarivate recognizes individuals whose research publications are highly cited and whose contributions to their fields have been extremely influential, even transformative. These world-class researchers are known as Citation Laureates.
In October, we heard from two of this year’s honorees – Mary-Claire King, Professor of Medicine and of Genome Sciences, School of Medicine, at the University of Washington in Seattle; and Zhenan Bao, the K.K. Lee Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Director, Stanford Wearable Electronics Initiative, at Stanford University.
Mary-Claire King spoke of how the focus of her research evolved over the course of her career, and how a shift in thinking influenced her approaches and methods.
Mary-Claire King: Geneticists are in a very privileged position because we have the opportunity to work on so many different conditions across the entire range of evolution. So, I began working in evolutionary genetics, and then my focus has gradually shifted to human genetics. But they’re so closely related, it’s the same way of thinking throughout. What has changed most radically, of course, is the available technology.
Genetics is a way of thinking, and that way of thinking has been with us for 150 years now. Genomics is a set of tools, and those tools change weekly. So the capacity to answer the questions that people have been asking, as long as people have been asking questions: Why are we human? Why do we get sick? Why do we stay well?
The capacity to address those questions has changed remarkably. I’m so lucky to be working in genetics now.
Neville: For Zhenan Bao, some deep thinking about an innovation that would help people live normal lives was the spark that drew her deeper into research.
Zhenan Bao: I’d been working with flexible electronics, so I was looking for problems where electronics with this unique form factor can play an important role that other existing electronics could not fulfill.
In a coincidence, through talking to other colleagues in Stanford, I learned that the current prosthetic hands still lacked the sense of touch and could not give patients the feedback necessary for them to live a normal life. So that made me start thinking about, ‘How can we make sensors using flexible electronic devices and the materials to help such patients to regain their sense of touch?’ And from there we started thinking we don’t have to limit ourselves to just making these electronics flexible.
We started to learn about how skin works – why skin could sense different forces or be able to differentiate objects upon touch. That inspired us to think, ‘What if we can make all the electronics just like skin?’ This can potentially completely change how humans interface with electronics or interface with our surroundings. And then further, this could be a new generation of medical devices that can allow us to measure information in a much more non-invasive way and allow us to inform about our health.
Neville: The topic of civil rights in America is one fraught with emotion and passion, and has been at the forefront of public discourse for decades.
It’s a topic that Dr Hasan Jeffries, associate professor of history at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and our guest in October, has embraced with equal passion throughout his life and as one of today’s foremost educators and teachers on civil rights and the Black Power movement in the United States.
He is a great advocate for innovation in education, something he puts into practice that is focused on opening his students’ minds to new ways of understanding the past and the present.
Hasan Kwame Jeffries: I’m really motivated by a desire to understand the past. Not simply for the sake of retrieving knowledge but for the purpose of making better sense of the present. I see history as serving a purpose. That purpose is to prepare us to solve not only the problems of today but also to prepare young people, students, and future generations to solve the problems of tomorrow.
A lot of time, students are all over the place. There’s a lot of myths and misconceptions and stereotypes about the American past and present. We got to deconstruct those in order to get to some accurate history but I can’t get to the accurate stuff because they’ll dismiss it unless I understand where they are. Really drawing on that organizing experience or organizing lessons of being effective at grassroots organizer works really well in the classroom because it’s centering the students and empowering them in their own educational journey.
I think, in this era, there are two things that are really important that should really drive educational instruction, especially in something like the humanities and history in particular. That is, we ought not be confined by the four walls. We ought to think expansively about ways to transport our students outside of the confines of the classroom, both physically as well as temporally.
I think that that’s so critically important because place is so important, and I really believe in the power of place. That place, you can learn something more about the past and even the present if you are present in a different place.
Neville: If the fate of the earth is tied inextricably to our oceans, the need for detailed scientific scrutiny of ocean basins has never been more acute. The significance of this is well recognized in a number of United Nations programs.
Recently, the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate published a new report on ocean science sustainability concerns that highlights the growing body of research in this area, including topics such as microplastics in the ocean.
We were fortunate to have the report’s two authors with us in November – Ross Potter and Brodie Pearson. Ross is a senior data scientist at the Institute for Scientific Information, while Brodie is an assistant professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon.
Ross and Brodie set the scene for our conversation when they explained why this research and the report are so important now.
Ross Potter: Ocean science can cover lots of different areas of science from engineering to chemistry to physics, even more, social and political aspects as well. Choosing a suitable data set to be able to fully represent ocean science was a bit of a challenge.
To be able to have a broader look, we decided to look more at doing searches for particular words within article titles and abstracts. This is where Brodie’s experience with ocean science came in to be able to provide me with a super collection of terms that cover in the broad assessments possible, the content that would be related to ocean science.
Brodie Pearson: One of the most exciting things about this report was that we could use the enormous amounts of data that Ross collected to ask questions about vastly different topics. We looked at really large-scale metrics and found the global connectedness of ocean research.
We looked at which countries are studying which regions of the ocean and which nations those countries are collaborating within the studies.
Neville: The scale of their work and its compelling value is clear from Brodie’s take on what drives his passion for this topic.
Brodie Pearson: I was drawn to the mystery of the ocean. It’s really hard to go and observe what’s actually happening in the ocean, especially below the surface.
I’m intrigued by developing a better understanding of the processes that are happening in the ocean, and the impacts that those processes could have on the climate system. Everything, the ocean, the atmosphere, the land surface, they’re all connected in this complex system.
Understanding the processes of that system is really important for understanding how the Earth system is going to evolve in the future.
Neville: We conclude this look-back over 2022 with thoughts from two more Citation Laureates in December – Daniel Nocera, Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, at Harvard University; and Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick.
The energy crisis of the late 1970s was the catalyst that kicked off Daniel Nocera’s career in energy research, as he explains.
Daniel Nocera: I started my career worrying about the energy problem. Nobody else was – it was always depressing, there were no meetings to go to, everybody was doing organometallic catalysis, and I never could find a home for a meeting.
But finally, the world came around – I knew it would, it was obvious to me. I just kept on my track of doing science for energy and now it’s become popular.
People started realizing how fragile the energy game was, and then people started realizing, maybe we should get off of a fossil fuel-based infrastructure. It’s really only a 20-year-old problem right now. Of course, it’s growing, growing, growing. It is the problem in my mind for humanity right now, which is climate change. But it’s a recent problem. This growth that you’re watching is going to just keep increasing in the field.
Neville: For Andrew Oswald, he isn’t quite sure what actually sparked his interest in his research area – economics – although he’s very clear on the subject that drew him into it.
Andrew Oswald: As a young PhD student, I was heavily discouraged from studying human feelings. I know that might sound strange to a regular citizen, and I’ve come to believe that was a great mistake. But at Oxford in the PhD program, and much more generally around the world, economists didn’t approve of thinking about human feelings.
It took me a while to shake that off, but eventually, I decided – and I should stress, this was early work done with my colleagues, Andrew Clark, now in Paris, and David Blanchflower now in Dartmouth in the US – we were drawn in by the centrality of what could be more interesting and important than understanding, as economists, what are the economic forces and other forces that shape human happiness?
Neville: Nine episodes – ten if you count this one – in eight months that illustrate the driving forces that stimulate innovation and discovery in so many different areas.
From the severe challenges of doing scientific research in a war zone to financing healthcare start-ups, to new ways of understanding the past and the present through education outside the box, to reporting on ocean science sustainability, and more stories in between, this podcast has explored the broad meaning of innovation that knows no boundaries.
Ideas to Innovation continues in 2023, with our first episode of the New Year in a few weeks’ time.
We’ll have more human stories, more examples of people whose passion and commitment drive change and who find creative solutions to the toughest of challenges. Sometimes, they will change the world.
Visit clarivate.com/podcasts for information.
We wish all our listeners a safe, innovative, and happy New Year.
Thanks for listening.
Voiceover: Ideas to Innovation from Clarivate.