[Author Susan] Cain’s findings raise interesting questions about collaborative work in chemical and pharmaceutical research, where scientists who resisted sharing data on electronic notebooks 10 years ago now swear by the tool and research-sharing strategy. The idea of groupthink would also seem essential to collaborative research in the drug industry, where competing companies now share laboratories in search of breakthroughs.
But Lowe makes a distinction. “I like electronic notebooks very much and would never want to go back to paper. My spectra are attached, pdfs of the relevant papers can be attached, other experiments are automatically cross-referenced, the whole thing is searchable by structure and six dozen other fields,” he says. “There are just so many obvious enhancements that most chemists in my experience are eager to make the switch. Open offices, not so much. And the benefits there can be a bit fuzzy and hard to quantify.”I don't think that resistance to electronic notebooks was about a desire not to share or collaborate. I suspect that resistance to electronic notebooks is about the horrendously terrible software that is foisted on bench chemists by their managers. But I digress...
Bill Odell is the director of the science and technology group for design and architecture firm HOK and has been creating open-plan science buildings for three decades. He sees evidence that open-space research is better at meeting the needs of scientists as science becomes ever more complex and multidisciplinary.
HOK recently designed an open-plan research building in the U.S. that Odell says has enabled a leading pharma company’s scientists to reduce lab size and increase office space by moving temporary walls just as a drug candidate goes from the lab development phase into administration-heavy clinical trials.Maybe I'm crazy, but there's something VERY wrong about this sentence. If a pharma company's lab space needs to be reduced in order to accommodate more clinical research staff, then this company is a hell of a lot smaller than they're letting on with that "leading" bit. It smells like baloney.
Besides, which clinical research staffers would be comfortable with such a shift? "This office used to be our animal lab/bench chemistry area, but don't worry, we cleaned up really well."
Any dislike of open-plan science buildings is something that Odell predicts will fade over time because it is the older generation of scientists accustomed to closed environments who oppose open-plan buildings. “That is because people in their 30s and 20s work in a completely different way than anyone older. Putting them in a cell is just anathema,” he says, citing examples of how the younger generation prefer to use headphones and work on mobile electronic devices in open spaces.You know, I'm in my 30s, and I would love my own office. But no, instead I've lived most of my life with "open-plan" buildings because businesses are cheap, they can't quantify the negative costs of open-plan buildings and because people like Bill Odell keep patting them on the back and telling them what a good idea it is. No thanks.