Symphony of excellence

© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock

The cattle egret relieves large mammals of their parasites in exchange for its daily bread and the cleaner wrasse patiently waits for the shark to hold open its jaws to provide it with a slap-up meal. Flowers unfold their most dazzling colours to attract insects, which in turn disseminate pollen while feasting on their nectar. Nature provides no shortage of examples of such mutually beneficial interactions. They gradually become established throughout evolution, quite simply because they improve the lives and performance of each beneficiary. Humans are no exception to this rule. The brown rat, which is so partial to household refuse, plays a major role in keeping sewage systems clean. Many more such mutually beneficial relationships are forged between people, in the guise of concepts like collaboration, cooperation or partnership.

In the world of research, collaboration has become a prerequisite for excellence. It is vital to share knowledge and technology, pool resources, develop specialisations and link disciplines if we wish to raise innovation to a high enough level to meet the challenges of the centuries to come. Indeed, this will require far more than the resources of a single laboratory or even an entire country. Researchers shoulder a huge burden of expectations: to understand climate change, resolve the energy crisis, anticipate food shortages and pandemics and preserve biodiversity. Fortunately, the science world is not lacking in virtuosos. Pooling their skills means that these talents are not just accumulated, they are multiplied. And this changes the score entirely.