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Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research
oped ties with industrial and federal agencies.1 Most of the few studies of nonacademic IDR were published several decades ago, before the recent and substantial changes in many practices, such as the down-sizing of industrial laboratories. This discussion is by necessity largely restricted to anecdotal information and examples that are intended to span a representative array of practices and settings.
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. In 1900, for example, General Electric began funding the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York, to generate and use scientific knowledge. The nation’s adoption of industrial R&D was prompted partly by Americans’ exposure to industrial practices in Germany (the GE laboratory was directed by the German emigré Charles Steinmetz) and elsewhere in Europe (see Box 3-1), which emphasized the value of industrial research and industrial support for university research and graduate training.
The greatest expansion of industrial research came during the years after World War II, when the largest industrial laboratories—notably DuPont’s Experimental Station in Wilmington, Delaware; IBM’s Watson
For a discussion of the effects of recent changes on the “research-university complex,” see Conn, R. “The Research University Complex in a New Era: An Inquiry and Implications for Its Relationship with Industry,” Washington, D.C.: Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable, 1999.
Frosch, R. “Research and development,” Encyclopedia of Applied Physics, Vol 16, Hoboken, N.J.: VCH Publishers, Inc., 1996, p. 419.
COSEPUP (Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy), Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995.