May 8–13, 2022
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Andreas Roepstorff and Paul Verschure, Chairpersons
Program Advisory Committee
Goals of the Forum
Integrating diverse perspectives, the Forum will work to develop a comprehensive framework to support future work.
The stability of social systems depends critically on realizing sustainable methods of “collaboration,” yet how and by which means collaboration is achieved is not clearly understood; neither are the conditions or processes that lead to its breakdown or failure. [For context, collaboration is understood as cooperation between agents toward mutually constructed goals.] Part of the reason for our lack of understanding is that the phenomenon of collaboration is, by nature, a highly multidisciplinary problem, and effective research into its complexities has been difficult to achieve across the broad range of scientific and technical disciplines involved.
The need for a fundamental understanding of collaboration, however, has become increasingly important. Not only does humankind demand answers as it attempts to address critical challenges at multiple scales (e.g., climate change, migration, enhanced automation, social and economic inequality), but ever-increasing technological and economical means of interconnecting people and societies are disrupting long-established, familiar patterns of how we interact. Radical technological changes that are ongoing have the potential to reshape collaboration in ways that are currently hard to predict or influence (e.g., by altering configurations in interaction, information creation, and modes of communication). On one hand, such changes could disrupt hitherto stable forms of collaboration by affecting critical communication channels and traditional roles, as can be observed in the rapidly changing patterns in governance, commerce, and social interaction. On the other, technology could lead to the emergence of novel, successful forms of collaboration that deviate from traditional “hierarchical” architectures. Evidence of this can be seen in areas as diverse as highly automated manufacturing plants, the open science movement, collaborative software repositories, user-centered services, and the sharing of economy-based modes of organization. Without a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms, processes, and boundary conditions of collaboration, it is not possible to evaluate or predict which of these possible scenarios are sustainable or even plausible.
To remedy this knowledge gap requires a comprehensive research program. At its core, a theoretical framework must link pertinent aspects of collaboration across spatiotemporal scales and contexts. This task is a tall order, yet given current pressures on human–human, human–machine, and future machine–machine collaboration, we believe that an attempt must be made for a first survey.
Group 1: What is collaboration good for?
Collaboration unfolds in specific networks and substrates where it draws upon and builds interdependent physical, social, and cultural resources or commons. Commons, in turn, define tasks, problems, and opportunities that shape the specific dynamics of collaboration. This working group will address questions such as:
Group 2: How do we collaborate?
This working group will address the core components of collaborative systems that comprise the architecture of collaboration; that is, how the exchange of information and resources is structured. It will look at a number of questions including:
Group 3: Why do agents collaborate?
Collaborations are intrinsically goal oriented and require agents to create and be guided by goals and commons. As such, collaboration may implicitly and explicitly come to follow norms of conduct. This group will focus on issues such as:
Group 4: When does collaboration break down?
A discussion of boundary conditions addresses the issue of whether there are distinct, limiting factors and trade-offs in realizing collaboration. Human forms of collaboration require analysis, including the putative importance of embodied interaction, abstract representations, and organizational structures. This group will explore the following questions:
Noted for her work in comparative political economy, labor politics, and democratic theory, notably on the origins and effects of trustworthy government, Margaret shares her insight on how people who often have countering interests manage to find a way to work together and develop a cooperative strategy or collaborative strategy.
By framing development as the interface between biology and culture, Heidi’s research explores culturally specific solutions to universal developmental pathways. In this conversation, she elucidates how the conception of collaboration varies among cultures and which human traits help people with different world views work together.
Larry discusses the importance of collaboration among funders and grantees. Before joining the foundation, he served from 2004 to 2012 as Dean of Stanford Law School, where he spearheaded significant educational reforms and pioneered a new model of multidisciplinary legal studies.
An expert on elementary particle and astroparticle physics, Sijbrand is primarily interested in the origin, composition, and physics of the highest energy particles in the universe. Having conducted high-energy experiments at large accelerator laboratories such as CERN, Fermilab, and the Pierre Auger Observatory, he considers how large-scale scientific collaboration is carried out.
From his engagement in social, educational, and spiritual activities around the world, Swami Puri shares his perspectives on collaboration: how it differs from cooperation, the elements and “intangibles” that are involved, and how it is interwoven in most aspects of life.
From his early work as a parish minister in Puerto Rico to his involvement as Bishop of the Caribbean Synod and Director of Global Missions, Rafael has worked in over 70 countries with different groups of people on programs that address development work, advocacy, as well as ethnic and racial ministries programs. Here he provides a framework to understand collaboration that emerges out of a sense of shared humanity.
Meg leads a global team working to create jobs and generate income for women by connecting women-owned enterprises with corporate and government buyers. Prior to this she held positions at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Australian delegation to the United Nations. She shares her experience of how the UN works collaboratively to achieve its goals of peace and prosperity for people and the planet.
Deepa has accumulated over 25 years of experience working at the World Bank, the UN, and NGOs on poverty, gender, and inequality in development. Having lived for many years in village communities, she focuses on local, community-driven approaches nested in social and political processes. In this interview Deepa reflects on the role of power and the role of love in collaborative efforts.
Ted is an expert on early Chinese thought, comparative religion and cognitive science of religion, big data approaches to cultural analysis, cognitive linguistics, digital humanities and humanities-science integration. He elaborates on his latest research into the role alcohol has played in engendering collaboration throughout history; see also “Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization”.
After beginning his career as an attorney, Ernst received his first judicial appointment in 1983 to the Rechtbank Den Haag and was appointed in 2000 to the Dutch Supreme Court where he remained until his recent retirement. From his extensive experience on the bench, he discusses the role of collaboration within the judicial system in achieving fair outcomes in accordance with the law.
After a Ph.D. in biochemistry and post-doc work on in vivo NMR spectroscopic studies of brain metabolism/function, Susan pursued a wide array of activities dedicated to the communication of science. She has worked at the James S. McDonnell Foundation since 1993 and discusses here the importance of collaboration between a private philanthropic foundation and the scientific community.
In her role as the managing director in the investment banking department, responsible for the execution of mergers and acquisition, Eva Maria discusses the importance of teamwork within Goldman Sachs and the challenges that must be met in managing large-scales transactions.
A neurophysiologist by training, Sten discusses the complexities of fostering collaboration within science, drawing on his experience as a member of the Nobel Committee for Medicine and Physiology and involvement in different international scientific initiatives (e.g., Global Science Forum, the Human Genome Project, International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility).
After his work in Groningen as professor and head of the Department of Human Movement Sciences, Theo’s career took a completely different direction when he assumed the role of director for scientific research of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. This and subsequent activities inform his perspectives on the challenges that face multiple, large-scale scientific organizations as they attempt to collaborate.