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Entrevista a César Hidalgo en el The New York Times

    Una entrevista a César Hidalgo, uno de nuestros académicos que visitará el Instituto de Sistemas Complejos de Valparaíso durante la próxima Escuela de Verano en Complejidad Social, apareció publicada el día 9 de enero en el The New York Times.

    A continuación le reproducimos el texto de la entrevista.

    Scientist’s Online Interviews Draw His Peers Out of Lecture Mode

    In October, with support from two Media Laboratory videographers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Paula Aguilera and Jonathan Williams, Dr. Hidalgo began posting online a series of video interviews with local scientists. He began with Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, a physicist and network scientist who was Dr. Hidalgo’s faculty graduate adviser at Notre Dame, and then quickly added seven more interviews crossing back and forth between the natural and the social sciences.

    The series, “Cambridge Nights: Conversations About a Life in Science,” is intended to allow scientists to open up about their lives, their work and their views of the world. In one episode, for instance, Marc Vidal of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School talks about systems biology. In another, Ricardo Hausmann of the Center for International Development at Harvard discusses economic development.

    So far, the project has been underwritten with Dr. Hidalgo’s faculty funds, and it has a relatively tiny audience, numbering in the thousands. But the project has been well enough received that Dr. Hidalgo is about to produce a second season including the experimental psychologist Steven Pinker, the internist and social scientist Nicholas Christakis, and the biologist and mathematician Martin Nowak.

    For Dr. Hidalgo, who researches the interplay of physics, network science and economic development, “Cambridge Nights” is a vehicle for celebrating the intensely intellectual world he discovered when he arrived in Boston in 2008. In 2010, he joined the faculty of the M.I.T. Media Laboratory and found it conducive both to his interdisciplinary research interests and to his ideas for sharing the intellectual hothouse he had encountered with a broader audience.

    “My goal is to create content for a relatively highly educated audience who appreciate material that is not dumbed down and has some technical depth as well,” he said. “The second goal is to document these scientists. There is little video documentation of many scientists.”

    Admittedly a niche market, it is a growing one, Dr. Hidalgo asserted. Indeed, the success of the TED video lectures and — a Web site that John Brockman, an author and a book agent, created in 1996 and that has published dozens of video and text “conversations” with scientists — is evidence that the Internet has made it possible to gather small audiences intensely interested in subjects frequently ignored by the general news media.

    “The nice thing about this is that he can try it and see what sticks,” said Richard Sergay, a veteran science and technology television producer who develops programs for Discovery’s Web site. “The more accessible he makes it, the better chance of survival it has.”

    Dr. Hidalgo acknowledged that he was making it up as he went along. He starts the interviews, which have ranged in length from 20 to 45 minutes, by asking questions that draw out what the scientists have been working on and thinking about. He concludes by spending 10 minutes trying to capture each scientist’s “personal trajectory,” including the scientist’s decisions to pursue the research he is passionate about.

    Dr. Barabasi, now the director of the Northeastern University Center for Complex Network Research, was a pioneer in network science. In his interview, he recalls how he came to the subject. As a young postdoctoral researcher at I.B.M., Dr. Barabasi realized that he needed to understand the company better. He began to explore its businesses and quickly stumbled upon the idea of computer networks. That led him to explore the informal networks that shape every sphere of human interaction.

    Dr. Hidalgo said he had been struck by a convergence of language in the physical and social sciences.

    “A lot of the explanations used to explain development of countries are the same as those used to explain systems biology,” he said. Many researchers, he said, “start to share a common language.”

    Perhaps not coincidentally, Dr. Hidalgo’s own research focuses on human economies and draws parallels in the evolution of industrial economies and biological ecosystems.

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