What is an Ideas Lab?
Ideas Labs are multi-day workshops held by institutions (and sometimes federal agencies) to help develop creative solutions to complex problems by harnessing the collective creative energy of an interdisciplinary team. InCHIP works with creativity experts from KnowInnovation (KI) to help implement Ideas Labs here at UConn.
Ideas Labs were developed in the UK by KI with funders as a means of disrupting the normal flow of research from the traditional mono-disciplinary, incremental science by utilizing theory from creativity research and harnessing the impact of placing experts from as many different fields as possible in a room together for a long period of time.
InCHIP values interdisciplinary research as a pivotal step toward addressing public health problems, which are inherently complex and involve everything from biology to individual behavior to culture and policy. Ideas Labs are an excellent mechanism for InCHIP to invest in the future of interdisciplinary research at UConn, to cross-pollinate the expertise of UConn faculty, and to bring pivotal problems to the forefront UConn research efforts.
Ideas Lab Goal
InCHIP Ideas Labs build the capacity of UConn researchers so that they are ready to work collaboratively on large multi-disciplinary projects.
By hosting Ideas Labs, InCHIP facilitates the development of multidisciplinary networks whereby researchers with expertise including but not limited to: behavioral, social, biomedical, and environmental sciences; engineering and mathematics; policy and law; business; education; the arts and humanities; and beyond can connect around important topics.
Ideas labs: The Process
Below we describe (in broad terms) the stages of Ideas Labs as they exist at InCHIP.
Before the Ideas Lab
On-Ramping Events— In the months leading up to an Ideas Lab, InCHIP will host some talks examining the topic of focus from a number of disciplinary and analytic perspectives. The goal of this onboarding process is to pull in a diverse group of participants and to spark campus-wide conversations about the wicked problem or topic of interest.
MicroLab— Before the application is due, InCHIP will hold a small webinar that describes how the wicked problem/topic is framed for the Ideas Lab and the process of the Ideas Lab itself.
Applications Due — Applications will be due about a month before the Ideas Lab. In addition to practical things like one’s ability to attend, applications emphasize personal philosophy around team work and individual views on the ideas lab topic as a means of assessing fit.
Randomized Coffee Talks (RCTs)— Applicants (and others) will be encouraged to sign up for an RCT prior to the Ideas Lab. In essence, RCTs are conversations where two (or three) researchers from highly disparate disciplinary backgrounds will be assigned to meet. The pair is posed the question that if they had to plan a project together, what research questions would they find most interesting. These questions will inform the initial questions discussed during the Ideas Lab.
During the Ideas Lab
The ideas Lab is an intensive, interactive, and free-thinking environment, where a diverse group of 25-30 participants from a range of disciplines and backgrounds get together for a few days- away from their everyday work worlds. Participants will immerse themselves in a collaborative thinking process in order to construct innovative interdisciplinary approaches. There will be a highly multidisciplinary mix of participants to drive lateral thinking and radical approaches to address research challenges.
The Ideas Lab is an intensive process; however, opportunities for reflection and networking will be built into the agenda. The Ideas Lab will be directed by an esteemed researcher with support from research mentors and the InCHIP’s Ideas Labs Planning Committee. Several subject matter experts will participate in the Ideas Lab to provide different perspectives that may help participants develop new questions or novel approaches for potential pilot studies. More information about the Ideas Lab will be emailed to selected participants a few weeks ahead of each Ideas Lab kickoff date.
After the Ideas Lab
Team Development and Internal Funding— Having emerged from the Ideas Lab with teams, participants will meet to further develop and form their project ideas and topics. InCHIP typical offers competitive internal funding opportunities to participating teams.
Upcoming InCHIP Ideas Labs:
Check back soon!
Past InCHIP Ideas Labs
The Challenge: How do we design a safe return to campus in the midst of a global pandemic?
COVID-19 poses significant challenges for a university campus. With thousands of students, staff, and faculty working in close proximity to each other, how do we test, trace, and monitor the spread of the virus? How do we encourage individuals to engage in preventive behaviors like mask wearing and physical distancing that may benefit others more than themselves? How do we minimize social shaming? How do we support mental health and emotional well-being in the face of prolonged stress and disruption? How do we maximize educational and social engagement at UConn in online environments? Ultimately, how do we become leaders in COVID-19 prevention and management to protect our students, staff, faculty and surrounding communities?
Preventing Opioid-Related Deaths
The U.S. is facing an unprecedented opioid crisis, and the state of Connecticut is not immune from its effects. Nationally, 130 adults die every day in the U.S. from opioid overdose; in Connecticut alone, there were over 1,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2017 and 2018. In fact, Connecticut ranks 11th out of 50 states in terms of highest overall overdose deaths with a drug overdose death rate of over 30 per 100,000 residents. Despite major efforts to reduce opioid prescription rates, the fallout from the overdose crisis persists; mortality and morbidity associated with opiate use and overdose remain at record levels inflicting great personal, financial, and societal harm to individuals and their families. InCHIP is conducting an Ideas Lab in the fall of 2019 to tackle the wicked problem of how to prevent opioid-related deaths.
June 4-5th, 2019
InCHIP Ideas Lab: Harnessing the Potential of Our Data-Rich Lives to Improve Health and Well-Being
Description: InCHIP’s Ideas Lab is designed to engage teams of interdisciplinary researchers in tackling “wicked problems” by exploring new ways of thinking about, studying, and generating novel solutions to these complex issues. The focus of this Ideas Lab is to generate and examine questions such as: How can we better utilize wearable, mobile-based, and other data-rich technology to promote health and well-being and ultimately prevent and manage chronic disease in an ethical and legally sound fashion? We invite experts from a broad range of disciplines to join us in this work, including but not limited to: behavioral, social, biomedical, and environmental sciences; engineering and mathematics; policy and law; business; education; the arts and humanities; or any other discipline that can provide new insights and perspectives on this topic.