Building the World's Smartest Network

Building the World's Smartest Network

The Academy's Global STEM Alliance is connecting an intergenerational network of scientists and engineers

Scientists don't have to read the colorful first person accounts by the Sydney Brenners, Frank Wilczeks or Svante Pääbos of our community to know that most—perhaps all—of scientific progress starts with an idea hatched by someone else. Whether novel insights are triggered by reading a scientific paper, attending a conference, or simply exchanging ideas on a social level, networking is the key to progress.

For 199 years, the New York Academy of Sciences has embodied this notion. The doctors who founded the Academy in 1817 opened Membership not merely to New Yorkers but to Europeans, and not merely to already renowned academic scientists but to industry and government leaders, and even to young innovators. The resulting network included not just Bell, Edison and nearly all the renowned American scientists you would expect, but Presidents Jefferson and Monroe; John Jacob Astor and John Roebling, and also Darwin, Pasteur, Von Humboldt, Lord Kelvin, James Joule and over 100 Nobel Laureates worldwide.

But the dream wasn't about gathering names on paper; it was about encouraging the exchange of ideas through cutting-edge conferences and workshops and by disseminating insights through Annals (and today our eBriefings and webcasts) to millions of scientists worldwide.

"Imagine tens of thousands of women scientists and engineers providing advice and inspiration to hundreds of thousands of STEM-loving girls who might otherwise lack the confidence and resources to pursue their dreams."

What if we could build on these traditional methods, and increase by orders of magnitude the opportunities for inspiration? And what if we could expand those opportunities to populations of the gifted that too often have been left on the margins?

Welcome to the special subject of this issue: the Academy's Global STEM Alliance. This landmark initiative invites you to imagine what might arise from an advanced social network that exploits the power of 24/7 online interaction to connect places, institutions, and even age groups at unprecedented scale. Imagine the world's most promising young scientists and engineers mentoring the world's most gifted science-loving children.

And imagine tens of thousands of women scientists and engineers providing advice and inspiration to hundreds of thousands of STEM-loving girls who, because of poor teachers, lack of role models, or families that have never attained higher education, might otherwise lack the confidence and resources to pursue their dreams.

And, finally, imagine what will happen when we can use the ubiquity of smart phones to bring inspiring STEM games, courses and even mentorship to underserved, isolated populations of middle school children.

As you will see in this issue, your Academy is piloting initiatives that can do all this and more. The dream is to build an intergenerational network of scientists and engineers inspiring one another and providing the real-world challenges and soft skills mentoring that will increase the numbers of innovators and the rate of innovation by orders of magnitude.

Does this seem overly idealistic? The model already exists. Junior Achievement, a decades-old worldwide initiative, annually deploys 450,000 professionals—all volunteers—to tens of thousands of schools, providing financial literacy to 10 million children. So why can't we, the scientific community, use the unprecedented power of the Internet to organize a STEM version that scales up online?

This notion is being made real by a fabulous small team at the Academy. It has been led by our Senior Vice President for Education, Dr. Meghan Groome and our Senior Vice President for Digital Learning Solutions, Celina Morgan-Standard. And I am thrilled to introduce you to our newest partner in the dream, Global STEM Alliance CEO Reuben Advani.

You will learn on the following page what Reuben is planning. A graduate of Yale and the Wharton School, he has nearly twenty years of experience in what is called the EdTech industry, where he worked in both finance and business development. In 2001, this Morgan Stanley and Sony financial analyst created an educational technology company called Telestrat Education which pioneered an innovative "blended" (in person and online) approach to MBA-style training. He quickly took it worldwide. And after a decade of growing the company successfully, Reuben sold it to a larger company and has now joined our Academy to replicate his success by scaling up our Academy's enormous STEM education assets.

I hope you will join me in wishing Meghan, Celina and Reuben success in their drive to inspire generations of children to join our community and, later in their careers, offer them the priceless satisfaction of mentoring the generations coming up behind them.

This network—the world's smartest network—will be the core of your Academy in its exciting and invaluable Third Century.

Ellis Rubinstein
President & CEO