As 2015 draws to a close, we take a look back at some of the news and commentary related to innovation management, technology transfer, intellectual property protection, entrepreneurship, and the future of STEM education that held our attention this past year. Plus a few of our favorite tweets!
Laura Schoppe’s Top Picks
Washington Post Series on Patent Reform
Part of the Post‘s “In Theory” blog, this weeklong series focusing on patent reform ran in mid-November. Featuring “a big idea in the news and explores it from a range of perspectives,” the series launched with Patent Trolls: A Primer with links to all of the articles in the series, including my favorites:
- Abraham Lincoln Loved Our Patent System: Let’s Not Tear It Down by consultant Joe Allen, who helped enact the Bayh-Dole Act
- Patent Infringement Is Theft, Plain and Simple by John Wiley, former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison
- Don’t Let Hedge Funds Undermine Public Health by David Pyott, who headed up Allergan from 1998 to 2015
I appreciated that the Post went on to publish a Reading the Comments follow-up, which included a link to George Mason University law professor Adam Mossoff’s Repetition of Junk Science & Epithets Does Not Make Them True response to the piece by economists James Beeson and Michael Meurer of Boston University’s School of Law that The Post had run.
Other stories that caught my attention this year were…
- The Future for Women in Science: Thoughts on Leadership and Tech Transfer – This series presents not only the insights of but, more importantly, practical suggestions for action from San Francisco State University Provost Sue Rosser. She is right on all counts, including her implication that technology transfer offices are biased against women, per a study I discussed here.
- Silicon Valley Struggles to Hack Its Diversity Problem – This is a pipeline and a prejudice problem. There are more than enough candidates available today to shift these numbers. Once the corporate demographics start shifting — especially in the C-suite — more underrepresented people will gravitate towards those disciplines. Even if we accept that it is human nature to hire “people that look like us,” it has now been well documented and clearly recognized as wrong, so a concerted effort to change behavior is needed. Sure, acknowledgment is the first step to redemption, but plenty of time has passed, so there is really no good excuse for not having modified behavior by now. Does this mean that we as a society have to find a new way of expressing our displeasure? Or have the companies figured out that we’ll keep buying their products no matter what they do? If that’s the case, is it shame on them or us?
- ‘LEGO’ Documentary Directors On The Gender Imbalance Of Toys – I will be watching Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary as soon as I finish building my Millennium Falcon! I love Legos for myself as well as for gifts. I wish some of the best “girl” sets were still available: Olivia’s Invention Workshop was not available for long and, according to Lego, the Research Institute set “was overwhelmingly popular and is no longer available for purchase.” (Huh!?) I appreciate — and share — the director’s perspective that the company’s efforts to get girls building and accessing this “gateway to engineering and to science and to art” are worthwhile. But I would like to see more sets like the forthcoming Olivia’s Exploration Car that has a robot and telescope and fewer Pop Star sets. (They have 7!)
Danielle McCulloch’s Top Picks
My choices for the top posts in 2015 focus on the great work I see happening at various universities and government labs. For example:
- Engaging the “Sea of Goodwill”: Improving Service to Veterans through Partnerships talks about the great approach that the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation (VACI) is taking to forming partnerships that will “pull in new, interesting, and groundbreaking ideas to VA.” One example is VACI’s VA Innovation Creation Series, which launched a make-a-thon event in 10 short weeks. Innovative products, such as a stabilizing glove technology for a veteran who suffers from Essential Tremor, were built on 3D printers by partner Stratasys.
- Best Practices: Getting Faculty Engaged with Trade Associations presents an effort led by the Washington State University Office of Economic Development to connect with faculty whose research and activities align with initiatives to advance the state’s economy.
- Global Access: Guiding Principles focuses on the Global Access Partnership, which is working to make technologies developed at Emory University equally available around the world.
- MSU Leads $7 Million Effort to Improve Science Teaching announces that a National Science Foundation grant is making available a Michigan State University professor’s successful model for teaching carbon cycling to middle and high school students. Check out the Carbon TIME website here.
- Georgia Tech Celebrates Diversity in Computing at Grace Hopper ’15 Conference notes that one-third of the 60 Georgia Tech students attending the event — the largest global gathering of women in computing — are from the online master’s program and receiving scholarships to attend GHC from around the world.
I look forward to seeing how these and other inspiring efforts progress in 2016.
Becky Stoughton’s Top Picks
In the “Amen!” department, we have Don’t Be Afraid to Be a Lifestyle Business by Tom “TK” Kuegler of Wasabi Ventures. His excellent point in a nutshell: “At the fundamental level, we are building companies that solve a need in the marketplace that people actually want to pay for. In solving this need, you create value and in theory a profit. None of this has a lot do with getting an exit…. we (the entire startup ecosystem) would be better served to allow some focus on businesses that grow more slowly and organically.” (Technically, this should be in the “Better Late than Never” department, since it was posted in 2014. I saw it last month!)
In the “This Applies to Tech Transfer, Too!” department, there is Talking Merrily About Your Research by the University of Pennsylvania’s Joseph Barber. Consider these bits of advice from Barber, with my additions in bold-italics:
- “If you are talking to family and friends [or potential licensees, partners, or investors], then you probably don’t need to cover the specifics of any aspect of your research.”
- “I have tried to respond to one of the possible questions you can still get even after crafting a meaningful research statement: “Why?” It can sometimes help to explain the reason you are doing what you do [and why it is important to the potential licensee, etc.]“
- “balance talking about your research with asking other people you meet about their work… you might be surprised at the amount of overlap between the skills others use… and the skills that you have been developing [identifying opportunities for collaboration]“
In the “Shattering Stereotypes” department, we have Female Engineers Are Tearing Down Sexist Stereotypes With #iLookLikeAnEngineer. This social media explosion was sparked by Isis Anchalee’s post You May Have Seen My Face on BART about the response to her appearance in her employer’s ad campaign. You don’t have to be on Twitter to see the great tweets that this campaign has generated. I love the fact that this story broke way back(!) in August, yet it is still trending today.
And finally, in the “It’s About Time!” department: Updated: Budget Agreement Boosts U.S. Science. Interestingly, several agencies received funding increases in excess of expectations. For example, the National Institutes of Health’s 6.6% increase was double what President Obama had requested earlier this year. And according to SpaceNews, NASA’s $19.3 billion allocation was higher than what had been working its way through each chamber of Congress over the summer. Furthermore, language that was poised to set discipline-specific allocations on spending by the National Science Foundation was left out of the final bill.
And here are some of our favorite tweets of the year…
— Fuentek (@fuentek) November 17, 2015
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 31, 2015
— IEEE Spectrum (@IEEESpectrum) September 27, 2015
How NASA and ‘The Martian’ Teamed Up to Inspire Students About Mars http://t.co/YB379rfxUY
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) October 12, 2015
— Fuentek (@fuentek) November 16, 2015
— Dorie Clark (@dorieclark) October 11, 2015