Practical Research

A good friend, Chris Christensen (Twitter: @minenet) responded to one of my tweets concerning innovation education with a link to a blog post which discusses the great divide between university research and industry application.  It is definitely a good read and brings up some interesting questions.  While I know that research should be on the cutting edge of the cutting edge, it should in some way have some applicability, too, right?   

With respect to computer science research, Todd Hoff, author of of the article, makes a good point that there really isn't any impetus for a researcher to take a good idea to a full robust implementation.  I've heard of this notion referred to as "research code", code in which an scientific-paper author implements a novel algorithm, gathers some results, writes the paper, then moves on.  On some level, this is how the system is structured, though.  Tenure and promotion with respect to research is very much judged on the number of publications, not the quality of a robust algorithm implementation that is posted on sourceforge or github.  

Perhaps though, there is an opportunity here.  There's a huge push to get undergraduates involved in research as early as possible.  A great first experience might be to become involved with fleshing out implementation of cool things that can be posted for others to review.  I've seen positive results of undergrad students who had the opportunity to work in a research lab, so I'm all for getting them in the labs. 

One other thing, Hoff brings up the idea of some way to increase collaboration between university research and industry applications.  There is an National Science Foundation program that supports this idea.  More info on the Industry & University Cooperative Research Program (I/UCRC) can be found at their website.  Here is some background on the program: 

The National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC) Program is influencing positive change in the performance capacity of the U.S. industrial enterprise. Over the past two decades, the I/UCRCs have led the way to a new era of partnership between universities and industry, featuring high-quality,industrially relevant fundamental research, strong industrial support of and collaboration in research and education, and direct transfer of universitydeveloped ideas, research results, and technology to U.S. industry to improve its competitive posture in world markets. Through innovative education of talented graduate and undergraduate students, the I/UCRCs are providing the next generation of scientists and engineers with a broad, industrially oriented perspective on engineering research and practice.

Lots of interesting things to think about…

Caveat:  I'm not a research faculty member; I'm a teaching faculty member.  So I probably don't know everything about research, funding, publications, etc. that someone who's been a research faculty member for many years would know.  

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