The Future of Research

The research world at the beginning of the 21st century is not much like it was even in the early 1990s. Due to speed and volume, information flow has crossed a phase boundary that contracts the globe to the size of a computer screen. The fall of the Soviet Bloc, the rise of India as an IT (Information Technology) powerhouse, the emergence of China as an international player in commerce, and the newfound vitality of the Southern Hemisphere have effected a flurry of changes in business conduct and product conception and manufacturing. The vast scale of IT-related business systems has brought about a new set of challenges. Changes in the degree of and desire for user-centeredness, changes in how software is produced, the increased modularization of products creating new industrial ecosystems, and the rush toward openness, community building, and social networks as a means of creating wealth have put a different set of forces in play in the research world, a world that has largely remained in the same form since long before these changes. Ironically, the most forward-looking parts of the commercial world would be among the last to change.

In late 2006, the IBM Academy of Technology undertook a consultancy to understand the future of research at IBM and in the IT industry. While the original purpose of the consultancy was to advise management regarding the future of IBM Research, the study group learned a lot about the future of industrial research in general, especially in IT-related fields. This paper is a summary of the results of the consultancy.

By: Richard P. Gabriel; Laura Haas; Brent Hailpern; Michael Rosenfield; Edie Stern; Jacquelyn Martino; Rosario Uceda-Sosa

Published in: RC24921 in 2009


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