By Marino Petracco, Senior Research Scientist, illycaffè
We humans are social animals. Actually, our ability to participate in teamwork is one of the main factors that allow humans to command the planet. A primordial example of joining forces to achieve greater purpose might be had by visualizing prehistoric hunters gathering to surround and capture a mammoth, a precious food reserve. In present times, much more sophisticated ways of working together to achieve goals are in place, not excluding the science world. Scientists are often pictured as solitary geniuses, lost in their lofty conjectures, and discoveries are seen as the outcome of personal brilliance. Nothing could be more wrong. Scientific development is often the result of a complex effort performed by a well-coordinated group of brains.
Food science is no exception. People active in this field benefit from getting together, sharing information and discussing leading-edge research avenues. Keeping in mind that our beloved product, coffee, helps millions of families make a living, every instrument to enhance the success of our domain is worth pursuing. This philosophy was the basis of the founding in 1966 of a global organization serving coffee knowledge: the Association for Science and Information on Coffee, or ASIC (formerly known as Association Scientifique Internationale du Café).
ASIC has a long history; it was created more than forty years ago under the aegis of the great French tropical agronomist René Coste and the visionary Italian espresso guru Ernesto Illy. The latter used to express his joy for encouraging so many specialists of various topics as disparate as plant genetics, roasting technology, aroma chemistry, and human nutrition to share a full week of intense interaction: an operation he labeled “intellectual cross-fertilization”. Such interplay is even more likely when happening in remote and secluded venues where jet lag plays a role in making sleepless people hang around in hotel lobbies during the dawning hours, providing an occasion for casual conversations in front of some otherwise unnoticed scientific poster hanging from the wall. This may result in real scientific discoveries, thanks to spontaneous escape from the “official” academic channels.