At the conference, participants were divided into interdisciplinary teams (IDR Teams) and remained in that group for the entire conference. Each team spent the majority of the conference developing a possible scientific plan to solve an outstanding challenge posed to it. The composition of the groups was intentionally diverse, including researchers from science, engineering and medicine, as well as representatives from public and private funding organizations, university and government leadership and science journals.
The goals of the IDR Teams are to spur new thinking, to have people from different disciplines interact, and to forge new scientific contacts across disciplines. The groups are not expected to solve the particular challenges posed to them, but rather to come up with a consensus method of attack and a thoughtful plan for getting there.
On the second day of the conference, the IDR Teams gave a short report (5-6 minutes each group) to share their progress. A more extensive report was provided on the last day (about 12 minutes including Q&A), during which time each group:
- Provided a concise statement of the challenge;
- outlined a structure for its solution;
- identified the most important gaps in science and technology and recommended research areas needed to attack the challenge;
- indicated the benefits to society if the challenge could be achieved.
Each IDR Team included a graduate student in a university science writing program. Based on the group interaction and the final briefings, the students wrote a group summary, which was reviewed by the team members. The summaries are available through the links below and as a publication Ecosystem Services: Charting a Path to Sustainability through National Academies Press.
Nine challenges were explored during this conference, including:
IDR Team Challenge 1: How do ecosystem services affect infectious and chronic diseases?