Feel any chemistry between us two?

February 18, 2005

Sipping wine to the strains of Barry White in a room bedecked with heart-shaped balloons, about 50 scientists gathered at Manchester University on Valentine's Day in search of the perfect partner, writes Tony Tysome.

There was little time for first-meeting nerves as each person was allotted a series of three-minute sessions with others seeking the right match. But this was not university lonely hearts on a speed-dating trial - academic collaboration, not cohabitation, was the aim.

Manchester's first "speed-collaborating" exercise was organised by Simon Merrywest, a research business manager in the university's faculty of life sciences. He said it was a fun way to get academics together to chat about their research and find areas where they could collaborate.

He said: "We thought just throwing people together in a room might not work, so we adopted the speed-dating idea, giving them lots of three-minute sessions with people they might otherwise not have spoken to.

"People were a bit apprehensive to begin with. But once they started bumping into people who had an interest in their research, they got into the swing of things."

A straw poll taken after the meeting found that almost everyone had found someone with whom they could build a collaborative relationship. Whether any other kind of relationships blossomed is unknown.

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