News of the WeekNational Science Foundation

Digging for Fresh Ideas in the Sandpit

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Science  29 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5931, pp. 1128-1129
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1128b

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This spring, 30 scientists met for 5 days of intense discussion about synthetic biology under the auspices of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The scientists—equally split between the United States and the United Kingdom and drawn from several disciplines—assembled into 10 teams and came up with specific research proposals. Each team presented its idea to the larger group, received instant feedback, made revisions, and presented it again—six times in all. By the end of the week, officials from the two government agencies—each of which had agreed to put up $5 million to fund the best ideas—verbally signed off on five of the 10 proposals.