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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research
academic environment for telecommunications research that can be factored into the design and management of both government- and industry-supported research programs.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COLLABORATION ACROSSACADEMIA AND INDUSTRY
Researchers outside industry can be disadvantaged for some types of research by a lack of specifically necessary information or access to facilities that are crucial to a quality and relevant outcome. An example is a researcher leveraging network traffic statistics to define a superior protocol (what are realistic traffic models?), or a researcher defining superior mechanisms to manage network recovery from disaster (what are realistic assumptions about the scope of damage to the network?). In fact, as research becomes more immediately relevant it inevitably becomes more dependent on “inside” information and facilities. It is thus essential that industry seek to inform the research sponsors and performers as to their more critical long-term issues and opportunities that are amenable to research. Concerns about intellectual property in such collaboration can be addressed by having faculty researchers sign nondisclosure agreements that let them work with and understand the industrial context in depth but that also protect a company’s intellectual property unless permission is granted by the company.1
Researchers themselves are also motivated to make an impact, and in most cases welcome and appreciate visibility into what the ultimate customers of the research—both industry and end users—see as their greatest need. Armed with that understanding, they can pursue their own ideas, some with more near-term and direct application and others more radical and speculative. This is not to imply that industry should define and direct both the research projects and the approaches that are pursued. Nor does it imply that all telecommunications-related research should tackle issues defined by industry. Researchers are more enthusiastic and ultimately more effective if they pursue their own ideas, and industry itself often fails to encourage or even recognize radical new innovations.
THE IMPORTANCE OF VISION
Past U.S. leadership in telecommunications has benefited from the creation and pursuit of a well-defined vision for managing investments. However, in today’s telecommunications environment, which includes a broad array of service providers and equipment vendors, such a clearly defined and broad vision is much more difficult to achieve.
In the predivestiture Bell System, the development of a vision and associated roadmapping activities for the telephone system were carried out largely by AT&T (together with a small number of overseas telephone companies that were also vertically integrated monopoly providers). AT&T and its peers were successful in developing and realizing a series of major new visions—such as direct long-distance dialing, electronic switching, digital transmission and switching, and out-of-band signaling and intelligent network services (which separated service logic from switching equipment).
There are also other ideas emerging regarding new means for collaboration; see, for example, Raymond E. Miles, Grant Miles, and Charles C. Snow, Collaborative Entrepreneurship: How Communities of Networked Firms UseContinuous Innovation to Create Economic Wealth, Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif., 2005.