We have met Laura L. Namy during the SRCD-Jacobs Foundation Workshop “Developmental Science in the Digital Age” in Newport Beach, California, to talk about her new position, SRCD’s priorities for the years to come, and about the collaboration with the Jacobs Foundation.
Laura, you have joined SRCD as its new Executive Director almost a year ago. What has been the most exciting experience you have made?
Laura L. Namy: The most exciting part has been observing all the potential. SRCD has been steady and strong with respect to its meetings and its journals, but I think that there is considerably more opportunity for the organization. There is so much engagement and interest, and we can leverage that membership engagement to come up with innovative ideas. This workshop is one example of that.
What was the most difficult challenge you have faced?
Laura L. Namy: SRCD has undergone a significant reorganization. To think through new and modern ways to organize things requires dividing my attention in a lot of diverse ways. I’m multitasking in a way that I’ve never experienced before, and there’s this constant real-time, perpetual adjusting of the priorities based on what new information is coming in at any given time.
What are your key priorities for SRCD in the years to come?
Priority number one is to provide more innovative support for developmental science and developmental scientists. We have key priorities associated with fostering diversity in all its forms, which include ethic and racial diversity, country of origin, career stage, topic area, and discipline or methodological approach. Trying to further the science in ways that are cutting-edge is my primary goal.
You have worked as a professor and as a Program Director for the National Science Foundation, so you know both sides of the funding game. How does this experience help you in your new position?
Laura L. Namy: Being a career-long developmental scientist myself gives me an opportunity for insight into the issues that researchers are experiencing and what kind of support might be most helpful. The National Science Foundation gave me a bird’s eye view of the field. Getting to know the breadth of different disciplines and who the big players in the field are, has helped me to conceptualize what’s possible with the potential opportunities for growth in a way that I wouldn’t have had I just focused on my own research and teaching.
We are interested in your opinion about the role private research funding can and should play. How can smaller funders make a difference?
Laura L. Namy: This is something that is a growth experience for me not having had a lot of experience with private funders before. I am learning a lot very quickly about how exciting and diverse the opportunities for engagement with smaller private foundations can be. One of the things that I find most exciting and novel is the degree of partnership that’s involved. There is a collaborative process and a shared identification of priorities and of ways to move missions forward that makes me confident that we’re going to be doing things as a society that are better than they would have been without that partnership.
SRCD and Jacobs Foundation are launching a three-year workshop series with today’s workshop here in Irvine. What is this series about?
Laura L. Namy: Together with the Jacobs Foundation, we aim to innovate and move the field forward in some new and exciting ways by bringing together people from different disciplines and various career stages to focus on problems that are ripe for exploration. The objective is to come up with cutting-edge ways of formulating research agendas and facilitating emergence of new disciplines and areas of study.
What do you miss most when you think about your time on the faculty of Emory University – do you wish yourself back from time-to-time?
Laura L. Namy: That feels like the right place for me right now but I do have pieces of it that I miss. I think I miss most the opportunity to mentor students on an individual level. I know that the work that I’m doing is going to have a much broader impact on many more students in the long run, but having that one-on-one relationship, cultivating the development of someone’s research career was an incredibly rewarding aspect of my life as a faculty member, and it is the thing that I miss and treasure the most.