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The Informed Brain in a Digital World
Interdisciplinary Research Team Challenges

The NAKFI conference emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach.  Attendees who have not participated in this type of symposium are often surprised to find that they are not being asked to lead a plenary session or deliver an address.  Instead attendees have been selected to attend to share their extensive knowledge and experience – as well as their understanding of the issues in their own disciplines – to the challenges with “the informed brain in a digital world.”

This is a unique setting and method of interdisciplinary exploration.  Attendees spent the majority of the conference in their Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) Teams developing a plan to solve the challenge posed to the team, or to a reframed challenge identified by the team.  At a midpoint and at the conclusion of the conference, each team provided a short report to all attendees to share the group’s progress.

Attendees were asked to indicate their top three IDR team preferences. Team assignments were made to ensure the composition of each group was diverse enough to encourage different types of contributions and the generation of new ideas and approaches.  The goals of the IDR Teams are to:
     • Forge new scientific contacts to counterbalance specialization and isolation.
     • Support communication beyond the barriers of language, culture, habits, and institutions.
     • Spur new thinking and encourage attendees to ask new questions.
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 provided 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 will draft a group summary, which were reviewed by the team members. The summaries are available below and as a publication of the National Academies Press.

Seven IDR Team Challenges were explored this year, including:

IDR Team Challenge 1 (Groups A and B): Develop innovative curricula that will help students develop expertise in dealing with the information overload they will encounter during and after their schooling.

IDR Team Challenge 2: Develop methods to efficiently design and measure the efficacy of Internet teaching technologies.

IDR Team Challenge 3: Define the trajectory, value, and risk of extreme lifelogging when nearly everything about a person is in Cyberspace.

IDR Team Challenge 4 (Groups A and B): Identify the ways in which the Internet positively and negatively impacts social behavior.

IDR Team Challenge 5 (Groups A, B, and C): Develop a new approach to assess the differences in cognitive and brain function between the brains of digital natives and digital immigrants.

IDR Team Challenge 6 (Groups A and B): Determine how the effects of the digital age will improve health and wellness.

IDR Team Challenge 7 (Groups A, B, and C): What are the limits of the Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) and how can we create reliable systems based on this connection?

Overall Conference Summary