Adrian Percy

Accelerating Collaboration

Looking back on my days in graduate school, I remember reading some classic research publications written by well-respected scientists from the early 20th century. What struck me then – and remains with me now – is the breadth of their manuscripts and the years it took to complete their research.

In today’s “publish or perish” environment, the work of these masters may seem like an anachronism, but then again, where would we be today without their ground-breaking accomplishments? One of the world’s greatest scientists, Sir Isaac Newton, recognized the importance of those who came before him when he modestly noted “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

In Newton’s time (and continuing through much of the next three centuries), scientific research was a painfully slow process. Extracting information needed for basic research wasn’t easy and was limited to the very few scholars who had the time, inclination and resources to properly conduct studies. And communication about their discoveries could take years to fall upon the ears of an aspiring scientist, who only then could build upon the previous work. My how things have changed!

Today, in the age of the Internet, research publications are often posted immediately online before they can be viewed in print publications. Many scientists working from different countries may co-author the same research paper and some publications are made available to almost anyone through “open access journals,” further increasing the flow of scientific communication. The rapid transmission of information may not have the depth of the research publications of yesteryear, but it does allow for the cascading acceleration of knowledge that would have been unthinkable just a few generations ago.

Adrian Percy
Adrian Percy
Adrian Percy
is the Global Head of Research and Development for Crop Science, a Division of Bayer.

But it’s not just in publications where the surge in scientific research is getting a boost. R&D-based companies are reaching out to collaborate with others in a way that is just as impressive. At Bayer, we have always collaborated with numerous universities, research institutes, public-private partnerships and members all along the agriculture value chain. Below are just a few of the many partners Bayer is working with to find sustainable solutions to the key issues facing modern agriculture:

  • Embrapa, working with this government ag research corporation in Brazil, to sequence the genome of the pathogen responsible for the destructive Asian Soybean Rust fungus
  • Respect the Rotation Advisory Board, sponsoring 50 independent university scientists and ag specialists to provide guidance and oversight to overcome the severe issue of weed resistance
  • Phenotyping for Products, a 5-year collaboration with the Jülich Research Center in Germany to study the impact of traits, improved germplasm and biologicals on plant form and performance
  • Centre for Crop Health and Protection, joining efforts with this international center for innovation in the UK to advance long-term solutions for improving crop health
  • Project Apis m, working with this non-profit on a multi-year $1 million effort (Healthy Hives 2020), to fund independent research projects to improve honey bee colony health

The list of partnerships and collaborations goes on and on, but the key driver behind all of these projects is the same: that our collective knowledge is more powerful than that of any single entity. And while I’m proud of the incredible cutting-edge research that takes place in our Bayer laboratories and facilities all over the world, I’m just as proud of our efforts to collaborate with others in our constant pursuit of greater agricultural sustainability. Considering that we must produce more food on less farmland over the next 30 years than has been produced in all of our previous human history, I believe that working together is the only we can truly succeed.

Recently, I was able to talk about this and other subjects at Bayer’s AgVocacy Forum, a decade-long tradition of bringing together a broad cross-section of people, expertise, experience and viewpoints in an open and fertile exchange of ideas, insights and perspectives that will shape the future of agriculture. During that event, I witnessed first-hand the power of communication and partnership. In an age of accelerated and unprecedented technological change, it’s comforting to know that one-on-one human interactions remain our best hope of addressing the key challenges of our time.

I think Sir Isaac Newton would be proud.

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