The 2018 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize of $100,000 has been awarded to Mélanie Marcel, founder and CEO of SoScience. Based in France, SoScience brings together scientists and social entrepreneurs around the world to collaborate on research to solve global challenges.
Through her passion for exploring the intersection of science and global impact, Marcel has become a national leader in France and a recognized expert on models for responsible research and innovation. In response to her lobbying efforts, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development reoriented its research development policy to strengthen societal impact. In addition, the European Commission has asked Marcel to evaluate its research policy.
“The Grinnell Prize exemplifies our mission and demonstrates our values and longstanding commitment to social responsibility and action,” said Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington. “We strive to empower all of our students to apply their values and educational experiences to become just and purpose-driven change agents throughout the world.”
Marcel earned her undergraduate degree in physics, engineering, chemistry and biology from ESPCI Paris Tech and her master’s degree in bio-engineering and neuroscience from ESPCI Paris and Paris Descartes University. After graduation, she researched human-machines interfaces at NTT Basic Research Laboratories in Japan and then at the Brain and Spine Institute in France.
In her work as a laboratory scientist, Marcel realized that researchers most often conduct projects for which they can secure corporate or government funding, rather than projects that address community or environmental needs.
Marcel founded SoScience to disrupt this system and create a new model for driving research. SoScience’s mission is to “engage scientists in solving societal challenges across the globe by creating collaborations with social entrepreneurs and advocating a research approach focused on social impact.”
To date, SoScience has worked with more than 800 researchers and led five “Future of” conferences that unite groups of selected scientists and social innovators to collaboratively develop research projects that lead to the creation of innovative solutions to some of the world’s most intractable challenges.
The 2017 conference on the “Future of Soils,” for example, formed research and responsible innovation partnerships to tackle soil issues from different perspectives. The issues included pollution, desertification, food shortages and land grabbing. More than half of the partnerships formed at the conference are still working to devise solutions to complex soil problems that have serious environmental, social and economic consequences.