WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Old-fashioned networking

I met recently Kay Breen, she is the executive director of the Ballston Science and Technology Alliance. The group currently is under the wing of the Arlington, Va., economic development office, but plans are underway to create a separate organization.

Their mission is to bring a wide range of science and technology folks together to talk, exchange ideas and learn from each other. And they want to do it face-to-face.

One thing they are doing is getting people together after work for drinks and some dinner. A speaker comes in to talk about a particular topic, but it isn't designed to be a lecture series. What they want to do is spark some discussion. Some of the upcoming topics cover issues such as the impact of dying languages, lessons from learning from apes and reducing the use of electrical power.

The Ballston area of Arlington is a good spot for such gatherings, Breen said, because it is home to the National Science Foundation, DARPA, the Office of Naval Research and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research among other groups.

The alliance wants to break down the barriers that separate various research areas to broaden people's perspective. "It is important that government contractors know what is happening with government R&D folks," Breen said.

On the alliance's board are executives from companies such as CACI International Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.

But the group also is reaching out to the general public. The more the public knows and understands about basic and applied research, the more they will support it, she said.

The alliance is hoping to develop space on the first floor of a new building going up in Ballston. The space will be used for exhibits as well as being a place where anyone interested in science and research can come and hang out, have a beer or a glass of wine.

"It is all about getting people to meet and exchange ideas," she said.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 18, 2008 at 7:22 PM


Reader Comments

Sun, Jan 20, 2008 Justin Porto VA

Nick, I have found similar experiences with a gathering of experts or professionals in a particular field, be it a soccer convention, or a communications conference. And as you point out, it is not so much the lecture topics, but the informal discussions over drinks or dinner that generate that synergistic dynamics to create new ideas and build on existing ones that only multiple minds can craft.Thanks,Justin

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