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Startup University (matt-welsh.blogspot.com)
22 points by woodrow on June 18, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 5 comments

The main problem with academic research process, I think, is the notion that a publication is the end goal of research. This is true only for theory and math research. In systems research, a working system should always be the end goal of research; a publication merely serves as documentation of the working system.

Scientific publishing is important. Hadoop was possible largely because Google published SOSP papers on map-reduce and google file system. Many of the current NoSQL stores are based on ideas from the SOSP paper on Dynamo key-value store from Amazon. However, it is important to realize that Dynamo, Google File System, Map Reduce were all working systems first and publications later.

Unfortunately, there is no incentive built into the academic research process today for building working systems. It is not necessary for promotion/tenure/awards. The incentive structure for systems research is what really needs to change.

I think it's more correct to say that in almost all cases, the purpose of academic research is to advance human knowledge, not produce a commercial product. Academia is not industry, nor should it be. What drives an academic scientist is the pursuit of knowledge, the recognition from peers that he/she was the one who formulated the new theorem, found the new approach. Going from proof of concept to polished product is not academically interesting and, as pointed out, not valuable to the degree granting or tenure process.

Many universities realize that there may be valuable technologies that need to be extracted and developed. Business schools try to match MBA students with Engineering students, offices of tech transfer try to offer some support in this area as well. Schools are offering specific advanced programs in commercialization of academic research (e.g. Notre Dame's ESTEEM program http://esteem.nd.edu/). Even some companies are trying to help this process, like TandemLaunch (http://www.tandemlaunchtech.com/).

This could work well in countries which have dual university system (Germany, Finland etc.), with the side focusing on vocational skills (Fachhochschule-model). These Universities of Applied Sciences / Polytechnics do already have such incubators. Only a few though. They are also unconnected from people doing academic research. If undergraduates can make it work, maybe doctorate students etc. could be next.

Never going to happen. Need to completely disrupt the system.

Why? This comment on its own is unhelpful.

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