Subject: Re: ok, FSBs created schwag; now bet the farm on something better
From: "Jonathan S. Shapiro" <shap@eros-os.org>
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 10:16:30 -0400

Okay. I'll throw another oar in from the academia camp.

> To a first approximation, academic researchers do fundamental
> research, aimed at figuring out what software *can* do....
> Though academics sometimes do practical research (such as when they
> aim to create spin-off corporations or otherwise leave academia), it
> doesn't fit the publish-or-perish culture or the
> advance-human-knowledge charter.  Most practical research
> traditionally takes place in corporate labs.

I sometimes wish that we in academia did more basic research. It's actually
quite hard to do that anywhere -- including academia.

However, the reason I replied is to point out that the charter of American
academia is changing. With the collapse of the great American research labs,
there is more and more incentive in academia to do applied research. This is
true to the degree that creating a successful spinout company is now a
metric for tenure in some places (including, arguably, Hopkins).

Many of us in academia believe that if the research is not ultimately tied
to something realizable then it probably isn't good research. That doesn't
mean to me that you need to go build something concrete. It means that you
need a plausible story for how what you are doing might someday be relevant.

More and more of us in academia have prior business experience. Less and
less of what we do occurs in isolation from business activities. The Systems
Research Lab at Hopkins is intensely involved with industrial collaborations
and trying to be more so -- all, so far, without losing our emphasis on
research.

Finally, I'll add (at the risk of a plug) that collaborations with
Universities in this form are cheaper than doing your own research alone. I
can multiply funds in ways that are difficult for (e.g.) RedHat, and I get
more bang for my research buck. There are other, collateral benefits as
well -- not least hte opportunity to provide well-trained students.

Regards,


Jonathan