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Putting NYAS Webinars to Work for NYC

Putting NYAS Webinars to Work for NYC

An innovative grant from the Manhattan Borough President will lead to new programming at the Academy.

When the New York Academy of Sciences applied to the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for funding to optimize its webinar broadcasting capabilities, it could hardly have expected a more enthusiastic response. Stringer has a strong vision about how to bridge New York's science and business communities to promote new industry and stimulate job growth. Seeing how NYAS uses new media to extend the reach of its activities, he recognized the potential for a dynamic collaboration.

The Academy's proposal calls for an overhaul of its webinar production and networking equipment—including upgraded HD cameras, recorders, routers, switches, server storage, and a new fiber-based internet connection—in order to enhance online broadcasts that reach its membership base of 25,000 scientists and students, and beyond. Existing NYAS web-based outreach includes Science & the City's programs for the general public; conferences, symposia, and discussion groups for the scientific community; career counseling and networking opportunities for science students through the Science Alliance program; and the Academy's newly launched New York City Science Education Initiative. While acknowledging the value of enhancing the Academy's educational mission, Stringer's approval of a $265,000 grant also comes with a counter-proposal. He wants to see the Academy expand the purview of its webinar series to promote economic development in New York by nurturing science entrepreneurs and connecting scientists to the business community.

With the equipment upgrade and expansion, the Academy will launch a new a series of interactive online webinars focused on giving scientists access to available resources that will help them create more science- and technology-based jobs in New York City. Through live programming, the Academy currently strives to help science and technology entrepreneurs turn their ideas and discoveries into businesses and jobs. The new webinar offerings will enhance these programs, supplying an accessible and flexible forum where scientists can gain an understanding of all the facets involved in an early stage venture.

Stringer's support of NYAS dates to 2006, when he advocated for an $800,000 grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to outfit the Academy's new space at 7 World Trade Center. He says he appreciates the unique potential of science and technology as catalysts for job creation. Too often, science and business are "two ships passing in the night," he says. "There are smart people with great ideas in the science community," he notes, "but they miss greater opportunities because they are isolated from the business side."

Stimulus from local government is just one of the instruments that can foster a strong connection between science and business, and Stringer's faith in this model is rooted in a vision of how the city might look in 20 years. "Look at where the Academy is located," he says, gesturing towards the view from his Centre St. office. "It's right next to Wall Street." Stringer sees this proximity as favorable for the emergence of a new Silicon Alley, with NYAS's webinar capabilities functioning as a tool to stimulate business investment in science and technology initiatives throughout the city.

Stringer would like to see "the next Google in Manhattan, the next Apple in Queens, the next food-production idea in the Bronx," and he knows that the push to capitalize and market scientific innovation has to come from both public and private sources. A plugged-in Wall Street will generate corporate investment in new technology, but the city and the state have to promote an atmosphere in which scientists and businesspeople stay connected, he says.

Stringer's vision for the cross-pollination of New York's science and business communities is part of a larger plan to address the economic slowdown, as well as state- and citywide budget shortfalls. "Taxing Ring Dings and cutting jobs is not a long-term solution," he says. Having the wherewithal to exploit innovation in science and technology, Stringer believes, offers the best hope for economic revitalization, and he is optimistic about the city's future. "We've always gotten there," he says. "New York is a magnet city. How do we keep people coming? We grow the economy. Science and technology creates those jobs."

When it comes to boosting the Academy's role in the city's future by supporting the webinar program, Stringer's attitude is refreshingly transparent. "I'm very excited," he says of the partnership.

Adam Ludwig is a writer in New York City.