Why do we need the “driver’s license”?

When I was a trainee in neuroscience, there were plenty of examples of physicists who decided that figuring out the brain was to be their next big idea. They did just fine. You’ve probably heard of them.

Growing up with two parents who had both received their doctoral degrees in philosophy (!) but were, in actuality, running a neurophysiology lab, further inured me to the notion of being scientifically siloed by our degree title.

These days I lead two teams that aren’t doing neuroscience at all. One works on the future of AI, the other at the intersection of ecology and microbiology. At the Institute I led for sixteen years, my closest colleague was a biophysicist whose scientific passion was astrobiology. At the end of his life he was deeply involved in thinking about d-orbital catalysis in chemistry.

So increasingly, I’m coming to the conclusion that excellent science can be done by anyone with sufficient creativity and a willingness to team up with like-minded collaborators. But: with the caveat that the team as a whole has the requisite methodological skills.

This I think has implications for the future of team science–which I’ve spoken about at length.