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Winter/Spring 2004 Vol. 4 No. 1

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Kick-Off Conference a Success

Keck Futures Conference Draws Top Researchers, Announces $825,000 in Grants

More than 100 researchers gathered at the first National Academies Keck Futures Initiative conference. Titled "Signals, Decisions, and Meaning in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering," the conference attracted scientists, engineers, and medical researchers to explore the theme of signaling, its diverse manifestations in a variety of fields, and interdisciplinary connections. To encourage further activity in this direction, the Academies announced the availability of seed grants -- up to $75,000 each -- that will be awarded to nearly a dozen of the researchers who attended the conference.

Attendees of November 2003 Futures conference, photo by Laurel Hungerford Photography
National Academies Communication Award winners Joe Palca, Andrew Revkin, and Carl Safina, photo by Laurel Hungerford Photography
Attendees of November 2003 Futures conference, photo by Laurel Hungerford Photography

"Interdisciplinary collaborations that bring together the perspectives and approaches from different fields of science and engineering will spur new kinds of discoveries," said NAS President Bruce Alberts. "It is at gatherings such as the Futures conference that the barriers between disciplines are broken down, transforming the landscape of future research. The theme for our next conference will be nanotechnology."

The conference, held last November in Irvine, Calif., was the first of a series to address topics where disciplines intersect. In addition to discussions led by expert panels, the conference featured sessions where researchers, along with representatives from funding agencies, universities, and the news media, explored ways to stimulate new interdisciplinary research.

Also, to support signaling research that might not otherwise happen, the newly available $825,000 in grant money will be distributed among up to 11 conference participants. A total of $135,000 is available as well, to support up to three follow-up conferences. Grant recipients will be announced in April 2004.

During the conference, the National Academies held an awards ceremony for the first recipients of the National Academies Communication Awards   -- Eye of the Albatross author Carl Safina, New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin, and National Public Radio correspondent Joe Palca. The awards recognize excellence in communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the public.

The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, which was launched last year, is a 15-year effort to catalyze interdisciplinary inquiry and research, and enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities, and the general public. For more information on the initiative, visit  -- Maureen O'Leary

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Copyright 2005 by the National Academy of Sciences