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The laboratory is already fairly heterogeneous, with researchers from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds.

But when Rivella's group, based at Weill Cornell Medical College, made an interesting observation about the mutations in the beta-globin gene, the corresponding mutant RNA molecules, and their effect on gene transfer, Rivella realized that he and his lab lacked the expertise to further study RNA's role in the disease.

In addition to the usual contact information, institution, and department, we asked three questions: One week before and again 2 days before the event, we sent a reminder message with the event time, location, and specific instructions that everyone should bring a single-page information sheet about themselves. In hindsight, and looking ahead to our next event, I'd recommend requiring that registrants complete an online bio with photo, contact information, and responses to the three questions about their research priorities and needs.

Then, immediately following the event, I'd send a "thank you" follow-up with a link to these bios on a Web site.

We worried that the Halloween-themed design was too cute for the serious business of science but went ahead anyway and attached it to our e-mail announcements, along with a request that recipients print it and post it in their departments. People were required to register ahead of time by completing a form and sending it in via fax or e-mail.

Because the purpose of our event was to help researchers find each other, we decided to gather key intelligence.

But there was one question those events couldn't answer: Would the scientists buy into it?

Kelly had just read an article on speed dating in New York City, so he suggested it as something they could apply in the context of CTSC.

We had an enthusiastically supportive advisory team that believed in this idea, but a speed-networking event for researchers at Weill Cornell was untried and untested. Two months before the event, we sent out a "save the date" e-mail broadcast with a subject-line teaser, "Find new research partners. " We were encouraged by an immediate flurry of "sign me up" responses and continued the e-mail campaign once a week until the final 3 weeks, when we accelerated our campaign.

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