The Academic Funding Dilemma: Is There an Upside to a Down Economy?
In my last blog, I talked about how improved global collaboration in the Cloud is not only improving Neglected Diseases research but also the "exuberance quotient" of science. Today our current economic woes tied to the sovereign debt crisis have got me thinking about the darker cloud hovering over researchers today, one that may very well threaten "exuberant" science in the months ahead, especially in university labs.There"s no way you can look at today"s economic situation and postulate that government funding of scientific research in academic labs is going anywhere but down. It stands to reason that this will drive changes in behavior and requirements for Academia to find funding alternatives for their research.First, university labs will need new ways to collaborate externally, not only with colleagues at other institutions but with those at the many commercial companies that will likely end up funding more and more academic research as government sources dry up. Second, they will need viable channels for commercializing the technology they develop, so that new applications, protocols and processes emerging from university labs become readily available to the wider scientific community (while also providing a return revenue stream supporting university research). Last but not least, with university researchers under increasing pressure to publish results, secure patents and acquire grants in the face of shrinking budgets and resources, they need simplified access to affordable software and services -- and we just took steps towards that end with our recently announced academic program.This new academic paradigm and resulting wish list become much more achievable when university researchers deploy their technology on a scientific informatics platform that"s already widely used in the commercial world. This provides a built-in installed base and ready market for workflows and protocols. A widely deployed platform with the ability to capture a protocol as a set of XML definitions enables scientists working in the same environment to replicate an experiment or calculation with drag-and-drop simplicity and precision. If you start with the same data set, you end with the same results. Experiments are more reproducible, academic papers more credible and, most importantly, non-experts can advance their research using robust, expert workflows.Academic researchers drive innovation that impacts the larger scientific community, but getting the innovation out there is still a challenge. In this regard, an industry-standard platform can also serve as the basis for an innovative new marketplace, a kind of scientific application exchange, where academics and their partners can expose their breakthrough technologies to a wider audience"and even charge a fee for using them. In the present economy, this new channel could provide much needed additional funding and a feedback loop for academic groups, enabling them to continue their vital research.What are your thoughts on surviving"and perhaps even thriving"in today"s down economy?