Last week President Alice Gast attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland with three Imperial academics, who spoke at the IdeasLab session. Below is an excerpt from her WEF blog post on the benefits of talent mobility, which you can read in full here. See attached for a fact sheet on Imperial College London’s relationship with Europe.
“During the holidays I read The Undoing Project, the compelling new book by Michael Lewis. He describes the incredible relationship and amazing journey taken by Israeli psychologists Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman. Among the many inspiring parts of their story is a serendipitous meeting with the Canadian Don Redelmeier and the incredibly fruitful collaboration he subsequently had with Kahneman. Their brainstorming sessions challenged cognitive biases and medical orthodoxy in areas as diverse as minimizing antibiotic prescriptions and debunking the myth that arthritic pain is connected to the weather.
In 1993 Redelmeier and Kahneman published a groundbreaking study that proved the “peak-end rule”: people’s memories of painful experiences are more positive if the painful activity ends in a mildly less painful manner, even if the overall discomfort is prolonged.
In the following years, Redelmeier and Kahneman applied this crucial insight to uncomfortable medical procedures, like colonoscopies, which, when modified to end in a less painful manner, made patients more willing to undergo further examinations. Other scholars seized on their exceptional insights and the medical profession is still finding new applications to this day.
One of the most important facts about these innovations is that they came from migrants. While Redelmeier’s moves between the US and Canada are typical among North American academics, Kahneman’s journey was different. Born in Tel Aviv, Kahneman had Lithuanian parents and grew up in Paris. Much of his childhood was spent on the run in occupied France, before he settled in Israel in 1948, moving to the US decades later.
Something happens when brilliant people move and cultures collide and collaborate. Eric Weiner points out that we see it in Einstein’s “miracle year” of 1905 when he published four seminal papers right after moving from Switzerland to Germany.
We also find it closer to home when the Hungarian-born Dennis Gabor fled Germany for Britain, where he pioneered holography at Imperial College London – an achievement recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physics. Indeed, a remarkable number of the greatest scholars were once foreign students or postdocs. Among the Nobel Prize recipients in physics and chemistry since 1980, almost 40% were working in a foreign country; in 2016, this was true for all of the six winners….”