Here's how a recent Wall Street Journal article describes Johnson's approach of mandatory collaboration (truly radical in the cutthroat world of basic research):
Very cool! Though Hagel refers to this as a "process network," I encourage those of you intrigued by this approach to look up "production network" as well. The Barr Foundation in particular is doing a lot of great work under that name, which is quite similar to MRF. You can find more community-minded production network ideas here, which includes a reference to the relevant Center for Advancement of Collaborative Strategies in Health (CACSH). Perhaps we could get the folks working on health information liquidity to introduce these two foundations to each other? Imagine accelerating medical research not just by coordinating labs but also by providing those labs with huge archives of (properly secured) health records.
"In February 2002 [Mr. Johnson] attended a research conference in Ventura, Calif., on myelin. While Mr. Johnson found the studies presented in formal sessions interesting, he hit paydirt chatting up the scientists in hallways and at the bar of the Ventura Beach Hotel. If you had to choose just a handful of scientists to receive funding for research on MS, he asked about 30 of them, whom would you pick? The names of the same five scientists came up again and again.
"Mr. Johnson invited the quintet to a meeting over Memorial Day weekend 2002. In the boardroom of Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, Calif., he presented his vision. Repairing myelin, he said, is a "finite and definable" goal for MS therapy. He was prepared to raise significant sums for such research, but there was one condition.
"Mr. Johnson had come to realize that scientists typically keep their discoveries secret for years, the time it takes to methodically repeat an experiment to make sure the results are sound, write up a description of the methods and results, submit the manuscript to a scientific journal, wait for it to be critiqued, make the requested revisions, resubmit it, and wait some more until the journal publishes it. In the kind of research he was prepared to bankroll, the scientists had to agree to work as a team to develop and execute a coordinated research plan. Anyone who made a discovery had to share it with the other four labs right away."