Besides tapping the expertise and facilities available in their own departments, the researchers jointly used a cryotunneling electron microscopy facility at the Weitzman Institute in Israel, a scanning electron microscope in Minnesota, and laser scanning imaging facilities in the Biology Department of the Technion. This collaboration in diagnostic techniques elevated the quality of the research and its anticipated results. As was pointed out by a referee for the project, ''The structural determination techniques are all at the absolute cutting edge of current research." These techniques would not have been possible without the multinational collaboration and the collaboratory.
Another example entailed cooperation among three groups studying phase transitions in layered and random systems. The experimental work was performed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while the complementary theoretical work was divided between the University of Pennsylvania and Tel Aviv University. An intensive electronic communication between these teams generated 15 joint publications in four years, 13 of which appeared in Physics Review and Physics Review Letters—testimony to the synergistic outcome of research involving complementary disciplines and to the viability of the collaboratory concept. Without daily interaction among the three laboratories, I doubt if they could have been so productive.
A final example concerns a cooperative project between Haifa University in Israel and the State University of New York at Stony Brook to investigate the morphology of sign languages used in the United States and Israel. Sign languages are of special interest to cognitive psychology because they provide a natural laboratory for studying the organization and structure of language. The collaboratory concept can provide a new dimension to this endeavor by expanding the program to other sign languages practiced in many different countries. Ultimately, this multinational research could provide a better understanding of linguistic similarities and differences that could elucidate the well-known difficulties that deaf people experience in acquiring spoken language and perhaps also produce a blueprint for an international sign language.
So collaboratories are indeed an important vehicle for providing new opportunities and opening new frontiers in research. However, key impediments threaten to hamper such efforts. For example, the growing commercial interest in biotechnology and its applications has focused awareness of intellectual property rights in the scientific community worldwide.
Protection of intellectual property rights has a chilling effect on the free exchange of information and research findings and may prevent the fluent operation of collaboratories. In fact, intellectual property restrictions might take an even stricter form in cases of international collaboration. This trend will undermine everyone's results because cutting-edge accomplishments in both basic and applied research have repeatedly been shown to be crucial to the success of high-tech industries, especially for biotechnology and chemical industries.
In a recent study titled The Increasing Linkage Between U.S. Technology and Public