ASIS Midyear '98 Proceedings

Collaboration Across Boundaries:
Theories, Strategies, and Technology

Corporate and University
Collaborative Partnerships:
Report from the Field


Increasingly corporations and universities are establishing collaborative partners that, ideally, build on each other's strengths and help create innovative products and processes for the corporation, and provide funding to support research and education at the university. In these collaborative projects, diverse corporate employees and university faculty must interact to come to a working understanding about the project outcomes and how the collaborative process will proceed. In this panel, benefits and challenges in collaborations between academia and industry will be discussed.

Collaboration as Strategic Policy
Skip Bollenbacher, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

With the arrival of the next millennium comes a profound transformation of society: the exponential growth of knowledge, the complexity of issues requiring multi-disciplinary expertise to resolve, and the advent of the information technology age. To keep pace with these changes in an innovative way, professionals in education, research and business must embrace collaboration as an essential element for their success. For many, collaboration is not part of their culture, and for others the definition of collaboration needs to be refined and even expanded. For the past eight years, we have been conducting action research on "effective" collaboration in both education and research settings involving multiples of institutions and disciplines. The findings are beginning to provide insight into organizational, epistemological and personal issues that confound collaborations and how they can be negotiated to effect higher performing collaborations; collaborations that can yield together what individually could not have been accomplished or even envisioned. Information and communication technologies provide considerable :unique" opportunities to bolster the creativity embodied in quality collaborations and to increase tangible outcomes. However, integration of these technologies and their tools present additional challenges that need to be met. Findings from this action research will be presented in a case study format and will stress both factual and philosophical perspectives on collaboration and how skill at this human behavior is critical for individual and collective success in the future.

Collaboration Management: Elements of Effectiveness
Mike Jaffe, Hoechst Celanese

While measurement of success in industry-university collaborations has proven elusive, essential elements of an effective collaboration can be identified. These elements include accurate problem definition, willingness to experiment and risk failure, a shared mission and vision, the retention of each organization's cultural strengths, responsive and sustained support by management, trust between the participants and mutually beneficial outcomes. It is the different perception of "benefit" by industry and academe ("business value" versus scholarship) that confounds the definition of success. Other confounding issues include ownership of intellectual property, "unintentional" technology transfer, and the ever present difficulty of effective communication of results (internally and externally.) In an environment of shrinking technical assists in industry, changing funding patterns in the university, and a shifting of government science goals from defense to commercial, it is critical to all sectors that these issues are understood and effective strategies for collaboration be established.

From Hand Out to Handshake to Hands On: A New Concept of Partnership
José-Marie Griffiths, University of Michigan

The global information revolution, including an integral relationship with and dependence on technology, is propelling organizations to develop new models of partnership. Higher education especially is reexamining its models of relationships with industry. The old models of hand outs - gifts given and then left to the recipients to use as they saw fit; to handshakes - initial partnership agreements with some level of commitment on either side for a certain limited investment of involvement; are both no longer adequate to meet institutional needs that are long-term, complex, global and ever changing.

This new concept of partnership creates a framework whereby organizations can create long term, hands-on shared endeavors. Large diverse organizations, like universities, can use this model to federate their internal interests to leverage shared resources to meet common needs. These federated entities can then assemble a correlating consortium of industry organizations that have resources to match their needs and needs to match the university's resources. The key is the establishment of a long-term new model of partnership, where strategic directions as well as actual project creation, implementation and success continue to have the "hands on" involvement of all of the partners.

A Case Study of Collaboration between Industry and Academia: A Kaleidoscope of Perspectives
Diane H. Sonnenwald, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

From 1993-1997, a major corporation and a Carnegie Class I research university established a collaborative partnership. The corporation provided over $1 million to support collaborative projects involving faculty and students from a variety of departments at the university and scientists in the corporation. In 1997, a high-level corporate decision was made to not continue the partnership. Nineteen participants in the partnership at the university and corporation were interviewed to learn participants' perceptions of the partnership, including their perspectives on collaborative activities, legal issues, expectations, and organizational culture as related to the partnership, and to identify barriers to successful collaboration.

Early analyses indicate that participants in both the corporation and university had different expectations with respect to the partnership. Some expected the partnership to produce at least one project whose results brought a major breakthrough (that would be recognizable broadly in the organization). Others expected it to confirm their scientific results and intuitions. Still others expected it to inspire and train scientists and students, and others envisioned the partnership has an experiment to establish collaborative relationships that would encourage serendipity and projects in new research areas. Another early, surprising result focuses on the concept of time. Participants expressed that colleagues in other institutions perceived time differently. For example, university faculty perceived time was more important to industrial scientists; industrial scientists could do work more quickly than they could or hire consultants who could do the work more quickly. In contrast, industrial scientists expressed that university faculty could do work more quickly than they could because they were required to get multiple approvals before they could begin a project. These results, and others, will be presented.

Moderator: Diane H. Sonnenwald, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Panel presented at the 1998 midyear meeting of the Association for Information Science, May 17-20, 1998, Orlando, Florida.

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Last updated 5/14/98

Proceedings edited by Barbara M. Wildemuth.
Conference web pages maintained by Jan White.