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3 Interdisciplinarity in Industrial and National Laboratories
Pages 41-60

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From page 41...
... Experimental work in a genetics laboratory is likely to involve biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, flow physics structures to hold pieces together, electric circuits and electrochemistry computation, etc. Top-down management structures allow for easy horizontal movement of researchers in response to skill needs.
From page 42...
... Faculty members in many universities are increasingly involved in outside consulting, research partnerships, or entrepreneurial efforts of their own, and thorough knowledge of nonacademic practices can add value to their own careers.2 In addition, most graduate students who acquire PhDs in science and engineering will find career opportunities in nonacademic research settings, where most of the new research positions are likely to be created over the next few decades.3 For today's students -- who may eventually work not only with researchers in different science and engineering fields but also in development, marketing, law, economics, ethics, or other non-research activities -- it is doubly important to hone their skills in communicating with people in other fields and to gain exposure to IDR in nonacademic settings through cooperative programs, summer jobs, and other opportunities. RESEARCH STRATEGIES AT INDUSTRIAL LABORATORIES The first formal industrial R&D programs in the United States were organized just over a century ago.
From page 43...
... He promoted a laboratory culture in which both academic excel lence and industrial excellence were stimulated, and corporate leadership acknowl edged the industrial laboratories as indispensable in product diversification and new business activities. Among Holst's laboratory-management principles were the following: · Hire young, intelligent researchers who have some experience in scientific research.
From page 44...
... Industrial Research at the End of an Era, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1996, pp.
From page 45...
... Smith and Alexander's Fumbling the Future (1988) recounts Xerox PARC's invention of the paradigm that led to personal computing, client-server architecture, graphical user interfaces, local area networks, laser printing, bit maps, and other advances but brought Xerox almost no economic benefit.
From page 46...
... At IBM a physical sciences "coffee" has been held for 50 years to encourage talk across disciplinary boundaries. · Form teams that include diverse skill sets.
From page 47...
... The production line then became a seamless extension of the research laboratory; this allowed researchers to see perturbations, introduce bypasses, add steps, and explore variations in existing technologies with great efficiency. The company tries not to change production processes dramatically, but when a promising direction appears, it can set up a separate organization to explore it.
From page 48...
... Notable skunkworks successes have included the U-2 and WR-71 Blackbird high-altitude spy planes, IBM's first personal computer, and Steve Jobs's breakthrough Macintosh computer at Apple. In one account of a successful skunkworks program, management researchers reported delivery of multiple related projects in a coordinated sequence that minimized the material and person-year costs, met new-product time-to-market deadlines by constructing production facilities in record time, met or exceeded company industrial standards, and created and documented new procedures for future projects.8 The concept of removing a small group with special autonomy has been criticized for lowering morale among those who are left behind and perceived to be "less than special."9 But such resentment is less likely to form when a learning history of the project is carefully documented and provides for the transfer of new system tools to the main research facility.10 An apparent lesson is that the skunkworks IDR model needs to be carefully adapted to each new setting.11 A New Degree of Interdisciplinarity?
From page 49...
... The ultimate aim of these internships should be to provide technical work experience that is as unlike academic experience as possible. So, for some careers, internships in manufacturing are preferable to internships in a corporate research lab.
From page 50...
... Universities are not generally as well equipped to assemble teams to conduct closely coordinated, interdisciplinary research over an extended period."13 Because many graduate students will eventually work on solving big problems with large teams, internships and other work experiences in government laboratories can add valuable career experience. Roughly 26,000 12 Frosch, ibid.
From page 51...
... It became part of NASA in 1958 and now manages the Mars Rover mission, Cassini Saturn mission, and other efforts to explore the Solar System and Earth. 14Thomas Wilbanks, corporate fellow, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Edward Stone, former director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Norman Burkhard, acting associate director, Energy and Environment Science Directorate, LLNL.
From page 52...
... Former ORNL Director Alvin Weinberg compared the role of the national laboratories with research in other sectors as follows: Universities set their research priorities by the perspectives of academic disciplines; industrial organizations set R&D priorities according to marketing and profitability goals; and national laboratories set their priorities according to global, national, and social needs. These needs must often be addressed by R&D that is both multidisciplinary and too long term or risky to produce near-term results or profits.
From page 53...
... Estimating such an effect requires diverse experts who can collaborate on a chain of linked questions: atmospheric scientists to set up global-climate models, computer experts to run the models, statisticians to do output analyses of precipitation, surface hydrologists to study river flow, groundwater hydrologists to study subsurface movement, aerosol physicists to study cloud structure, and so on. "We couldn't begin to address this topic without interdisciplinary collaboration," said Norm Burkhard, the project manager, "and even when we need specialists to bore down deep in a specific problem, they are usually successful only if they can talk about their work with the people around them." When IDR Is Less Successful The commonest cause of underperformance of IDR is the failure of a team to gel or function collaboratively.
From page 54...
... If a department or institution rewards only work that produces publications for journals in a narrow disciplinary field, academic researchers will respond accordingly. One strategy that universities may adopt is to follow the practice of national-laboratory directors in setting aside funding to use as IDR seed money.
From page 55...
... · In allocating discretionary research support, give priority to proposals that include and represent IDR. · Encourage influential senior R&D staff to appreciate, participate in, and serve as role models for IDR, in part by making it an element in annual performance reviews.
From page 56...
... . Each of these projects brings numerous disciplines together to solve specific cutting-edge problems of current interest.
From page 57...
... · Infrastructure-related impediments to interdisciplinary and interdepartmental research. Structuring and managing partnerships that produce gains for all partners take experience, careful planning, and continuing attention if universities, in particular, are not to risk compromising their educational focus.20 Effective practices for surmounting such barriers include building trust between partners, efforts to understand the culture of the partner organization, attention to the misuse of students as "employees" of research sponsors, fair sharing of indirect costs, disposition of intellectual-property and patent rights to encourage the widest possible use of research tools, and 17Roessner, J
From page 58...
... The critical dimensions -- the head-to-disk spacing, the thickness of the recording layer, and the spacing of data on the disk -- are all in the range of nanometers, so it has become necessary for advances in one of these aspects to involve all the others. That requires the cooperation of materials scientists, mechanical engi neers, chemical engineers, signal-processing engineers, and magnetism special ists.
From page 59...
... For example, they can observe how people behave when they are put together with others in teams, how researchers communicate across the barriers of knowledge domains, how large projects can be created and managed, and how projects can be disbanded when their usefulness comes to an end. They may also make wider use of other successful practices, for example, to · Explore flexible organizational structures that permit shifting of resources and personnel to research subjects of highest promise.
From page 60...
... FINDINGS Although research management in industrial and government settings tends to be more "top-down" than it is in academe, universities may benefit by incorporating many IDR strategies used by industrial and national laboratories, which have long experience in supporting IDR. Collaborative interdisciplinary research partnerships among universi ties, industry, and government have increased and diversified rapidly.


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