it requires integrating behavioral science and engineering in a context of product design and development. It will be important to establish good communication between the relevant engineering and behavioral science communities so that technological applications can be designed in tandem with improved understanding of cognitive processes. It will also be important to make prototypes of proposed devices available to researchers espousing various theoretical outlooks to provide good tests both of the devices and of the behavioral theories they apply. Moreover, a successful research program will require viable working relationships between the private-sector organizations that may produce the new technologies and cognitive and behavioral researchers, many of them in universities.
We believe that innovative funding mechanisms will be necessary to encourage basic research in support of technology to extend the adaptivity of older adults. Existing programs have not yet integrated all the necessary elements. For instance, the NIA's Roybal center grants have not thoroughly integrated engineering or focused on building theory for broad application. The National Science Foundation's initiative on Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence has these capabilities but does not focus on aging. We recommend that the NIA consider joint funding of research on adaptive technology with other agencies, such as the NSF, that regularly draw on expertise in technology and engineering.
We also recommend that the NIA explore possibilities to support research by matching industrial support in an appropriate proportion with governmental funding. With this mechanism, industry could benefit from behavioral research that it would not usually conduct, and older adults might see useful adaptive technologies sooner. Also, university researchers would be able to perform basic research in the context of more realistic technological environments than they can usually afford. We recommend that the NIA hold an open meeting with appropriate members of the research and business communities to arrive at a joint plan to fund the needed research on technology for adaptivity and to address related issues of patenting, licensing, protection of proprietary information, and access to scientific results.