RCSA is pleased with the proceedings and outcomes of the third-annual Scialog® conference, held October 9-12, 2012 at Biosphere2 north of Tucson. A record number of highly innovative collaborative, cross-disciplinary proposals emerged from conference discussions and are now under review. Awards are expected to be announced in November.
“It was the best Scialog conference yet, with an incredibly high level of engagement,” said Richard Wiener, RCSA’s Scialog Program Director. “The keynote speakers and senior level participants were terrific.
“Folks seemed to love the breakout sessions, and the science dialog was at a very high level,” Wiener observed. “One new thing that we implemented was to break into 12 pre-assigned mini groups of four or five people from different research areas and ask them to try to identify an innovative idea the group could work on together. “
He noted that several proposals emerged directly from these discussions. One group of four people who had never met before -- including a Scialog Fellow, a researcher from the Center for Revolutionary Solar Photoconversion (CRSP), a National Science Foundation (NSF) SOLAR awardee, and a researcher from the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) -- wrote a proposal based on their idea. “It was a result that really tickled me,” Wiener said.
The unique aspect of the Scialog conference is that attendees are encouraged to join forces to propose high-risk/potentially high-reward ideas for RCSA funding. The Scialog review panel quickly evaluates these proposals based on innovation and potentially disruptive results. This year Scialog attendees submitted 14 proposals, compared to eight the first year and six at the second Scialog conference. “Teams were working hard into the late hours Thursday night writing their proposals,” Wiener said. “That was exactly the kind of energy you love to see.”
RCSA Program Director Silvia Ronco noted the presence of Al Bard, generally acclaimed as the“father of modern electrochemistry” by his colleagues. The scanning electrochemical microscope, or SECM, is one of Bard’s major contributions to modern chemistry. “Dr. Bard was inspiring; vigorously participating in all the dialog sessions,” Ronco noted.
She added that Carl Koval, Assistant Director for Science, JCAP, and Joel Ager III, from JCAP, were also very engaged in Scialog discussions. Scialog review panelists Tom Moore, director of the Arizona State University Center for Bioenergy & Photosynthesis; Krishnan Rajeshwar, assistant vice president for research-College of Business and distinguished professor of chemistry & biochemistry at the University of Texas, Arlington; and Richard Powell, professor emeritus of optical sciences and professor emeritus of materials science at the University of Arizona, also provided perspective and expertise during the discussions.
“But the young researchers were the ones who made the conference,” Wiener said, adding their numbers included not only Scialog Fellows, but also researchers funded by the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory and the NSF.
Ronco noted the conference also had some excellent “observers” -- George Maracas, NSF Program Director; Lenny Tinker, AAAS Science & Technology policy fellow as well as a DOE SunShot fellow; Paul Nelson from CRSP; and Kiryn Hoffman from the New York Academy of Sciences.
“Our goal is to make Scialog the ‘go to’ conference for solar energy conversion, “ Wiener said. He noted that a number of Scialog fellows have already received additional funding. For example, 2010 Scialog Fellow Hugh Hillhouse, from the University of Washington, recently received a $1.9 million NSF Sustainable Energy Pathways award based on his Scialog research.
“And there are so many other Scialog Fellows who really stand out,” he said. “Our hope is that Scialog is helping to create tomorrow’s community of solar researchers – collaborative, interdisciplinary scientists who will help us solve the global energy crisis with clean, renewable power.”
The NSF generously sponsors the Scialog conferences.
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