Dr Aga Gambus

Chromosomal replication laboratory, Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, University of Birmingham

Guest blogger for FCDO Editorial

Part of FCDO Outreach

3rd February 2017 London, UK

Science knows no borders

On World Cancer day, Polish cancer researcher Dr Aga Gambus tells us about the importance of international collaboration in her research

An Italian, a German, a Spanish, a British and a Polish scientist walk into a bar, and have a great time discussing science over a few beers! This is my usual “after work drink” scenario and it is great. This is what science is about!

Staying at the cutting edge of research, creative thinking and scientific breakthroughs do not happen when you work in isolation – they don’t usually ‘come to you in a dream’ or even during meditation. Scientific innovations come through the sharing of ideas and discussions (or arguments) from different viewpoints. These different perspectives can often arise in scientists from different backgrounds and experiences, which allows you to explore novel concepts and alternative ways of thinking, which are at the root of scientific discovery. If you interact with people that are just like you, then all you’ll come up with is the same idea again!

Importantly, science knows no borders in very literal way too. Many of the most important scientific reports come as a result of collaboration between groups from all over the world. Just have a look at the international biomedical repository of hosted by the National Institute of Health in the USA, and do a search for something like “cancer” – you’ll find that many of the papers you find are the product of ‘science without borders’.

So it does not matter where your laboratory is located. What matters is your expertise. Email takes as long to reach my colleague in the next door office as the one in Denmark or Germany. Sending samples to Switzerland is as simple as to Dundee. And this is so important. It is key that we discuss and work with the best available experts around the world to further the research we are doing to beat cancer. We all have the same goal and we are in it together.

In today’s international age, we are increasingly combining our efforts and analysing samples more thoroughly and in more informative ways, carrying out new tests, accessing newly discovered reagents to push our knowledge of cancer development and cancer biology. It comes down to this – doing science without borders means better future therapies, faster. It’s as simple as that. So we’ll keep sending emails all over the world, meeting up at conferences in Europe, having drinks together in the bar – this is what creates momentum, and with this, we can do anything!