5 Questions with Dan Penny from Nature Publishing Group

Posted by Connie French on Jun 2, 2009 5:33:34 PM

We recently announced that we would be partnering with Nature Publishing Group (NPG) to offer InnoCentive Challenges to NPG readers and clients.  Today we announced a significant milestone in this partnership, the creation of the nature.com Open Innovation pavilion.  I asked Dan Penny, Head of Business Development for NPG to talk to us about the significance of this relationship.

Hi Dan - thanks for being with us today. We're very excited about partnering with Nature Publishing Group (NPG).  Can you tell us a bit of the history of NPG?

Nature has a long and illustrious history - it was launched in 1869, just ten years after Darwin's Origin of Species was published - and indeed the first Nature article was written by a strong advocate of Darwin's theories, Thomas Huxley. It's great to work somewhere that has that historical context, and although the world has changed a lot in 140 years, we try to make sure that Nature still maintains its important role in drawing attention to the research that shows us how the world works.
Nature Publishing Group - we know it as NPG - now publishes over 70 journals and also offers online databases and services to our scientist community, including daily news and features from Nature News and our careers service NatureJobs. We're very excited that just this year, Scientific American became the heart of NPG's newly-formed consumer media division, meeting the needs of the general public.

Can you tell us why NPG was interested in a partnership with InnoCentive?

NPG is recognised as a company which believes very strongly in being innovative in its own right. I used to work for a consultancy which frequently made mention of NPG's innovative character, but you have to work here to really see how much innovation is going on. It goes back a long way though - NPG's original, 140-year-old mission statement talks about providing scientists with the opportunity of discussing "the various Scientific questions which arise from time to time", and so we've developed several innovative services to help our readers do that - including Nature Network, our online networking platform for scientists and Connotea, a file sharing resource which won an award for publishing innovation. So I guess our interest in InnoCentive starts with its potential to nurture innovation.

What do you think is the benefit of the partnership to both the Nature user community and the InnoCentive Solver base?

The NPG partnership with InnoCentive will give our user community the opportunity to exercise their knowledge and expertise in solving problems which are out there, but which have stayed private until now. All scientists would like to see practical uses for their research - InnoCentive provides a greater opportunity for that to happen. We see provision of Challenge information to our readers in the same way as our jobs board - providing our readers with opportunities to develop themselves and, who knows, maybe their careers. The existing InnoCentive Solver base should benefit too - I think NPG's increased involvement with open innovation will encourage others to accept it as a valid way to do research. We all know that traditional culture can be deeply embedded at large corporations - but hopefully Nature's activities here will make some companies take notice.

What types of Challenges would you like to see posted in the Nature pavilion and how will they be different from Challenges currently available to Solvers?

I wouldn't expect the types of Challenges that are available on the nature.com Pavilion to be very different from what is currently available more widely across InnoCentive. Nature Publishing Group serves scientists right across the spectrum of life, physical and chemical sciences, as well as medical research, so the variety of challenges on InnoCentive should only increase. I'm eager to see what kinds of Challenges start to appear - my guess is that we may start to see more requests for partnerships, as the current economic climate bites and makes partnering a good way to develop business. I'd also like to see plenty of not-for-profit Challenges, because I'd hope that the strength of Nature's reputation would attract plenty of attention to important causes such as neglected diseases and climate change.

What message would you like to give to current InnoCentive Solvers about working on Challenges in the Nature pavilion?

Solvers who answer Challenges posted in the nature.com Open Innovation Pavilion will form a link to the great researchers published in Nature over the past 140 years. Nature's tradition of highlighting the best scientific knowledge continues, and we expect our commercial partners to understand that nature.com is a very good way of reaching individuals who hold this knowledge. So we're all looking forward to seeing a diverse set of challenges over the coming months and the innovative approaches that solve scientific problems.

Thanks Dan - we're looking forward to seeing lots of new Challenges in the new Pavilion!

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