The participants sorted themselves into groups, settled on eight different projects, and got to work. They kept at it for 54 hours; shockingly, no one quit. Many of their studies will soon be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. One team, made up of epidemiologists and computer programmers, decided to perform a meta-analysis of clinical and epidemiological parameters associated with Covid-19, then develop an interactive online interface to visualize their results. A tool like this can help public health decisionmakers predict where the disease will go next, and it makes the same knowledge accessible to the general public.
This kind of cross-institutional, almost cross-cultural, work is very much at odds with academia’s usual way of doing things. Prior to the pandemic, it was rare that any of us ventured outside the bubble of our own universities and hospitals. Over the decades, this siloed approach to research has shaped the way science gets done—and who gets to do it. The system tends to favor the career advancement of those who belong to a select few institutions over all others, irrespective of the depth of their skills or training. A growing body of literature suggests that underrepresented minorities are less likely to attend prestigious universities, even when they are equally qualified to do so. As a result, scientific research suffers from a lack of diversity—despite the fact that deeply diverse teams appear to produce better solutions to problems.