Speed-dating: it either strikes terror in your heart or promises a mildly entertaining evening with the prospect of a happy outcome. So what happens if the same format is applied to a roomful of researchers with carbon capture and storage on their minds?
Our SCCS researcher meetings tend to follow a traditional line – a few talks on different research topics, maybe one or two speakers from industry, and the chance to ask questions if people are feeling bold. Last week, we decided to shake things up and get some real conversation going between people from different schools and institutes. The “happy outcome” aimed for being multi-disciplinary research collaborations.
The speed-dating session was run by Sara Brouwer, a University of Edinburgh student, who developed the approach to help fellow students receive feedback on dissertations. With a few adjustments, it proved equally successful for our own purposes. Here’s what four of the participants had to say about their experience:
Research areas: monitoring geological CO₂ storage; petrophysics; static geological models; UK and world mineral resources
I was a bit suspicious of this activity initially, it seemed a bit like “desperate measures”, forcing people to talk to each other, but it had the definite advantage that it made good use of time. I got to have research-focused chat to many more researchers than I typically would in the more usual, room-full-over-a-glass-of-wine setting (although it was nice that we got to experience that later on too!). I got talking to people outside of my usual field and I exchanged contact details with two of the four people I chatted to. By the end, I felt exhausted and gaspingly thirsty, so the drinks afterwards were well timed.
Research areas: experimental investigation of the elastic and plastic behaviour of fractured low permeability sealing rock under in-situ reservoir pressures and temperatures during supercritical CO₂ flow
SCCS meetings are always a good way of being forced out of the relative isolation of the lab, and a chance to catch up with CCS colleagues from across Scotland. It is all too easy to spend time catching up with those you know, however, and not to network with others. Research speed-dating was a way of forcing networking, and I was lucky enough to have 10 minutes with a social scientist working on public perception; an engineer researching photocatalytic production of solar fuels; and an oxyfuel combustion engineer. This really illustrated the diversity of the group, and helped me see the bigger picture out with my own research. I also had a chance to catch up with a colleague who I hadn’t talked to for a while, which was useful! The process was quite entertaining, and a relaxed and yet structured way of meeting other researchers. I would recommend this, or any other interactive group exercises at future meetings, to encourage multi-disciplinary networking – I would also like to see business and other non-research colleagues included, as they are interesting people too!
Research areas: surface chemistry, in-situ spectroscopy and materials characterisation of solid oxides related to CCS technology
Although the “speed-dating” concept may at first have seemed quite daunting, it proved to be a really useful way to speak to many people about their research in a short space of time. It made me aware of the necessity to be able to communicate complex research ideas in a concise manner, and the spread of research topics that SCCS is involved with. By the end it did seem like a whirlwind of ideas and concepts so maybe slightly longer with each person would be good to really understand their research, but providing a casual social event directly afterwards dealt with this minor issue. Definitely recommended!
Research interests: gas geochemistry (noble gas and stable isotopes)
I have to admit, I wasn’t keen on the idea of research speed-dating to start with, but as someone new to the field, and to Scotland, I recognised that it could be useful. And it was useful! We covered so much information that I can’t remember most of what I chatted about with my five “dating partners”, but I came away with a new contact for possibly getting some more samples, and a much better idea of the range of research that goes on in the CCS world. My only complaint is that it was often difficult to hear our “one-minute wrap-up” and change-over cues and so some conversations overran or were cut short. I’d definitely take part again.