Merging organizations with different cultures and diverse goals into effective teams can be a challenging management task. While many private-sector companies share the desires to advance knowledge and serve society that motivates the best academic and government organizations, they also face the requirement to make a profit that will allow them to sustain operations and produce a return on the investments that established them. Of course, while the profit motive often affects the actions of even “nonprofit” organizations whose staffs and officers may hope to benefit financially from any intellectual property developed, it is often more compelling in a for-profit organization. Thus, while the intertwined issues of proprietary information and intellectual property can complicate relations in any research team, they are more likely to require attention in teams that include private-sector for-profit organizations.
If future atmospheric science activities are to benefit fully from inter-sector collaborations involving private-sector contributions, research team partners will need to develop agreements to define, recognize, and protect the proprietary intellectual property of each team member before the work gets started. Fortunately, many established tools—including proprietary information agreements, teaming agreements, and licensing agreements— have long been used to guide activities among private-sector organizations and can be adapted. In addition, many government organizations have developed tools, such as cooperative research and development agreements, to guide their research collaborations with other, nongovernmental organizations. However, while paper agreements can define rights and obligations, successful collaborations require a culture in which individuals understand, respect, and implement them.
The effective performance of high-level research in the atmospheric sciences and the development and delivery of the range of products that society needs enabled by that research will often require inter-sector teams of scientists and engineers. The challenge of building successful teams involving academic, government, and private-sector contributors will require significant management skills, including recognition and accommodation of cultural and motivational differences. Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services (NRC, 2003b) offers many specific recommendations for how to approach these challenges in the production of weather and climate services. Careful attention to proprietary issues, including intellectual property management, will be required. However, the potential benefits of inter-sector collaborations can greatly exceed the management challenges that will have to be met to make them effective.