Incentivizing Innovation

Question: How can we stop the concealing of research in \r\nacademia? 

Krisztina Holly: It is an interesting \r\nchallenge that in order to motivate people to excel and do things, it’s \r\npart of human nature that there needs to be some sort of incentive. So \r\nin the market economy it’s very much based on financial rewards. In \r\nacademia it is very much based on reputation and so either way there is \r\ncompetition. I do think in academia it’s much more collaborative, so I \r\nthink that although people can criticize academics at times for holding \r\nback certain research results—and it’s not ideal, it’s not optimal—at \r\nthe same time I do think that there is a real sense of collaboration and\r\n the desire to create great results together. But I do think that we do \r\nhave to be collaborating more and we are collaborating more. A perfect \r\nexample is the Human Genome project. That would not have come together \r\nunless you had many universities and researchers that came together to \r\nwork for the greater good on this project and ultimately it was clear \r\nwho the big contributors were. It’s really a part of the whole ethic is \r\nto try to be able to track that, but there are challenges because if \r\nyou’re starting to bring together lots of other people you know you want\r\n to make sure that we maintain that ethic for providing acknowledgment \r\nto the people who contribute. 

We have lots of big challenges \r\nahead of us, whether it is trying to reduce the cost of solar energy or \r\ntrying to deliver clean water to the whole world or renewable energy in \r\ngeneral and global warming. All of these things are going to really need\r\n to have large collaborations and I don’t know that we’ve completely \r\nfigured that out yet. It’s just a prediction that it will cause some \r\npressure and some challenges for universities because right now, \r\nespecially the larger elite universities they have large research \r\nenterprises that they can build on and they can build on their \r\nreputation by bringing more research or dollars, and to be doing more \r\nexciting research. At the same time if universities are collaborating \r\nmore on programs then the universities will maybe be asking themselves: \r\n"How do we preserve our brand?" Because brand is important in that \r\ncollaboration. So individual universities need to have a value \r\nproposition so that it is not just a place where faculty sit and get a \r\npaycheck. Faculty can take their research and they can move to another \r\nplace, so it will put more pressure on universities to ensure that \r\nthey’re doing their jobs and creating that innovative environment that \r\nenables people to collaborate and work together. That is really one of \r\nthe huge values of universities and a place like USC, we’ve been around \r\nfor almost 130 years... absolutely integral to the local community and \r\nalso within our own we’ve built up this faculty over the years. And that\r\n enables us to get the absolute best students to come through. So it’s \r\nbased on a real foundation and as an example we just need to make sure \r\nthat we maintain that and we keep growing and we keep increasing that or\r\n else we’re not going to be relevant.

Recorded\r\n on May 6, 2010

In order to solve problems like global warming, collaboration is key.

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