Sunday, June 28, 2009

Transformative Research

I am just about to head home after a packed — and wonderful — five days in Puerto Rico, where I attended a PCMA Town Hall in San Juan on June 25, followed by the PCMA Partnership Summit at the breathtaking El Conquistador Resort and Conference Center. 

I was scanning the resort's New York Times digest over coffee this morning and was struck by an article titled "Playing It Safe in Funding Cancer Research." The article describes how the National Cancer Institute has spent $105 billion since President Richard M. Nixon "declared war on the disease in 1971," yet many of its grants involve biological research unlikely to break new ground. Why? Because of the grant system itself. "It has become a sort of jobs program," New York Times reporter Gina Kolata writes, "a way to keep research laboratories going year after year with the understanding that the focus will be on small projects unlikely to take significant steps toward curing cancer."

It got me thinking that, just as we as an industry are undertaking major research initiatives to demonstrate our value, we can't be focused only on how we benefit the economy. It's something PCMA Chairman of the Board John Folks and I have talked about a few times. Yes, our economic value is critical, but we have to dig up research that gets to the psychological benefit of face-to-face meetings. We shared the same key takeaway after we attended the Partnership Summit's Friday General Session, presented by Michael McCauley, ProActive's vice president, creative development. We spend 2/3 less time in face-to-face interactions than we did 20 years ago, he said. And during that time, the incidence of depression and heart disease has risen.

We need to prove the correlation: that face-to-face interactions make for healthier people. That is truly the kind of research that would be transformative. 

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