Many of us think of invention as something that springs from an individual mind. It's a romantic view, but it bears little relation to the creative process behind the technologies that are shaping our world. That process is increasingly collaborative—not so much a single lightbulb going off in someone's head as many lightbulbs in a social network of diverse minds. The growing connectedness of the world and the rising contribution of scientists and engineers from all continents have broadened the possibilities for human creativity. This special section celebrates these developments and reports on some of the challenges they present.

State of the World's Science 2013

How to Unlock Life-Changing Technologies Now Waiting in the Labs
Miniature robots, personalized drugs and other potentially life-changing technologies lie waiting in the laboratory, lacking support. Here's how to fix the problem

To Tap the Vast and Growing Potential for New Ideas, We Need New Rules
To tap the world's vast and growing potential for new ideas, we need new rules

The Truth about China’s Patent Boom
Why China's surge in international patents marks the emergence of a new, international form of research and development

How 142 Nations Capitalize on Science
How well do mature and emerging nations capitalize on science?

Why Mexico Struggles to Make Science Pay Off
The nation is poised to explode into the information economy—and yet stubbornly refuses to do so