Hacking Attribution [1 of 3]
Hacking Working Together [3 of 3]
My experience around the academic world, which uses a system of attribution based on a hierarchy of authors and emphasizes the individual, was in sharp contrast to my experience in product design/innovation, which was flat (no hierarchy), team-based collaboration and best idea driven. The academic approach emphasizes individual recognition, which translates into a 'reputation' currency. This reputation currency operates on name recognition, number of papers as well-ranked author (first, second and last), and "peer review" which necessitates referencing well known names in papers and grant applications to associate oneself with 'reputable' and accepted work. Reputation based upon these traditional methods of attribution seems to mask the inherently collaborative nature of idea development in the academic context and limits radically new ideas, in part because acceptance depends upon building upon the already established and because if they do not gain traction it lessens one's reputation. Since people's livelihoods depend upon their reputation currency, they become competitive rather than collaborative or they pursue incremental rather than innovative ideas in order to preserve their reputation. New tools of technology such as number of times an article is referenced, reader feedback/ranking on merit and open access to publications may crack open the reputation paradigm.
I have wondered, if we could hack academia, how would we build it? The first step would be to make the foundation collaborative and structured to nurture radical innovation and the best ideas. Last June after Gathering '11, Edward Harran and I began a collaboration to brainstorm what a research lab for the 21st Century would look like, how it would operate and what it would do. One element of what we discussed was how attribution would work for people participating in the research lab. Details of ideas and findings from that project, Macroscope Labs, will be included in future posts.
My experience in product design/innovation demonstrated the value and radical potential of collaborative idea development. The factors that I see as different: all participants perspectives are valued equally (everyone has a seat at the table), the focus is on ideas (not egos), the unit of attribution is team (people put their energy toward building the larger unit). I have wondered whether attribution for papers and grant awards at the department level might remedy some of the challenges of the current academic approach though it would likely stifle inter-institutional and inter-departmental collaboration. Solve one problem, create another. It was only while playing the Breakthrough to Cures game sponsored by the Myelin Repair Foundation (MRF) using the Institute for the Future's Foresight Engine Game in the fall of 2010 that I realized how strongly I felt that the current paradigm for research, both corporate and academic, fails innovation in medical research. During the MRF game round I, I won an award for innovative ideas related to collaboration and wrote a post that highlighted the design thinking approach in round II when I was a game guide. Have a peek inside the game.
What ideas do you have for hacking academia? Strategies for bridging the academic and corporate sectors to advance radical innovation?
Thought Contributors** Michel Bauwens, Eli Gothill, Edward Harran, Alban Leveau-Vallier, Jay Standish, Jerry Michaelski, Arthur Brock , Eric Harris Braun, Jean Russell, Seb Paquet, Simon Huber, Elleke Landeweer, Graham Leicester, Dominik Wind, Shard Jain, Helene Finidori, Mark Frazier, Mushin Schilling, Daniel Hires, Bobby Fishkin, Lauren Higgins, David Hodgson, Jessica Margolin, participants of the MetaCurrency Collab session, participants of the Breakthrough to Cures game, and I am missing a few people, so pls ping me if I missed you! This topic jumped to the front of the loopback queue due to a tag on a FB thread that semi-relates to this topic.
*March blogging sprint: #b03 Day 4: I am participating in a pledge to blog daily during March initiated by Steve Hopkins of the Squiggly Line blog. Follow the daily work of all participants on twitter under #b03
**Thought Contributors have participated in the evolution of the ideas expressed in this post. I am prototyping a new method of attributing collectively crafted ideas. To learn more, see the post on Hacking Attribution: Thought Contributors.