Photo credit: George Gottlieb

Gemma Milne: Fast-tracking research through cross-fertilisation

Science:Disrupt: the glue to making scientific multi-disciplinary concepts stick

Science’s slow processes, its steep barriers to entry, and its poor external and internal communication is eroding trust people have in science. Science:Disrupt is an initiative, which aims to make science evolve faster by bringing together scientists from across disciplines and geographies. “We are all about hosting discussions and showcasing the innovators iconoclasts and entrepreneurs that are attending in creating change in science,” says Gemma Milne, who, in April 2016, co-founded Science:Disrupt.

Inspired by the fast tracking of ideas taking place in the start-up scene, Gemma and her co-founder, Lawrence Yolland, wanted the same level of energy and creative stimulation to pervade the scientific process. She started asking questions: “Why is science so inefficient compared to tech?” With her background as a writer with experience in the advertising industry, Milne spent a lot of time going to events, conferences and meeting “people that are all about innovating”.

Yolland is familiar with tech circles as a computational biology PhD student at University College London, UK. Milne and Yolland felt that the way that tech industry advanced was through collaborations. She points out: “People don’t openly talk about how to really change science on the same way as it happens with techs, we wanted to create that sort of movement.

Scaling up

Milne and her co-founder also used Slack, discussion on social media using Slack, a social platform that allows people to create channels of discussions. “Anyone can get involved in a slack group,” she explains. “We’ve got one on science disruption, we have a channel on events, we have a channel about personalised health, we have a channel for people who are looking for people,” she says. Essentially, she has created a place for this whole community attending Science:Distrupt events and take part to discussions on how to advance science stimulated by articles and podcasts posted on the site.

She notes jokingly, sometimes “it’s the weirdest collaborations that end up being the most fruitful.” In a nutshell: “what we are trying to do [is] to get these sort of random-ish people in a room, who would never normally meet,” she says, and encourage them to “talk about what [they]’re doing, talk about the stuff that’s been on stage, talk about [their] hopes and dreams, talk about the start-up that [they] are trying to launch.”


Video editing and cover text Charline Pierre and Lena Kim.

Interview by Sabine Louët, EuroScientist Editor.

Featured image credit: George Gottlieb

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Sabine Louët

Sabine Louët

Former editor at EuroScientist
Sabine has a passion for all things related to European research. A physicist by training, she has been covering stories in life science, the physical sciences, technology, policy and innovation for the past 20 years. She was previously the news editor at Nature Biotechnology. She was also involved in the creation of AlphaGalileo. She is the Founder of SciencePOD translating complex science and tech concepts into high-quality articles written in simple language.
Sabine Louët

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One thought on “Gemma Milne: Fast-tracking research through cross-fertilisation”

  1. My work on the logic of language (developing the world’s only natural language reasoner) is multi-disciplinary and really disrupting:

    We only know very little of the logic of language. Actually, for centuries, algebra is limited to support reasoning using verb “is/are” in the present tense form, like in:

    > Given: “John is a father.”
    > Given: “Every father is a man.”

    • Logical conclusion:
    Given: “Paul is a son of John.”

    • Logical conclusion:
    Given: “James was the father of Peter.”

    • Logical conclusions:
    < “Peter has no father anymore.”
    Given: “Every person is a man or a woman.”
    > Given: “Addison is a person.”

    • Logical question:
    < “Is Addison a man or a woman?”

    So, even 60 years after the start of this field, knowledge technology still has a fundamental problem:

    Words like definite article “the”, conjunction “or”, possessive verb “has/have” and past tense verbs “was/were” and “had” have a naturally intelligent function in language. However, their naturally intelligent function is not described in any scientific paper. Apparently, scientists don't understand their naturally intelligent function in language.

    I defy anyone to beat the simplest results of my natural language reasoner in a generic way (=through algorithms): http://mafait.org/challenge/.

    It is open source software. So, everyone is invited to join.