30 April 2007

Fail Fast, Learn Quickly

An interesting article by Daniel Muzyka <How you deal with failure is the secret to success> from today's Globe discusses the culture of research and innovation, and provides some useful context to our work in College applied research. At first glance it is perhaps more applicable to industrial applied research, but there are distinct parallels with academic research that focuses on teaching and learning as well.

Encouraging innovation and experimentation is inherently risky, but potentially profitable, in the sense that these can lead to the application of new knowledge in new ways. Contingent knowledge, the cornerstone of science, requires that we find ways to apply our knowledge, be this in industrial settings or the classroom. And here is the linkage that we can draw from Muzyka's piece: where he speaks of designing for the future generations of products and services (itself a worthy goal of applied research), we should also seek new ways of involving our students in the research endeavour, and of encouraging and experimenting with new ways of teaching and fostering inquiry in the classroom.

The last decade has seen of lot of this emerge with theories of distributed learning. We now hear a lot about M-Learning, used to discuss the application of ubiquitous technology within teaching and learning contexts. These forms of learning have in common with applied research "a very delicate balance between the operating imperative to maintain output and efficiency (favouring that which exists) and the innovation imperative to be more open, creative and willing to renew (favouring the new and disruptive)."

27 April 2007

Idea push, problem pull

Research takes many forms – from academic to industrial. Colleges are building capacity to engage in applied research that has knowledge transfer into industrial and teaching and learning contexts.

One view of college applied research capacity is based on market pull. Applied research can address problems faced by industry – industry pulls research results from the applied research capacity. This is in contrast to basic research ideas that push their way into the market. This bifurcation offers us a useful way to understand how applied research is situated, but we should also remember that innovation is almost always incremental.

Innovation always has a history – there are preconditions and precursors to any invention that give context to the “new” work formed. This issue has been nicely framed by Langdon Winner in his article “Do artifacts have politics?”. Winner’s field of study is the Social Construction of Technology, itself a fertile area of research that examines the social impacts of technology. This is another avenue down which college applied research might move; what are the implications of the innovations we produce?

25 April 2007

Applied Research 101

The following announcement is being broadcast today for interested faculty:

The George Brown Office of Applied Research and Innovation is pleased to invite you to an event showcasing applied research at the college:

May 15, from 10AM-1PM

Come and learn what the Office of Applied Research and Innovation can do for faculty who are interested in conducting research.

Poster presentations of faculty applied research projects will showcase some of the innovative work being done around the College.
A light luncheon will be served, during which we will have a keynote presentation by Roger Fisher of Fanshawe College. Roger has recently completed a national scan of applied research at Canadian Colleges and Institutes. He will be presenting results from the GBC surveys set against the context of national results. George Brown had the highest number of respondents of all other institutions who participated in the survey.

Come and join your colleagues as we learn more about:
  • Finding funding
  • Proposal Writing
  • Conducting research
  • Navigating processes, policies and procedures
  • Publishing and presenting
  • Integrating results in teaching and learning
Space is limited. Sign up now through the staff development calendar.

24 April 2007

…and innovation

GBC is part of CONII – Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation – which is a consortium of 10 Colleges who are collaborating on a research cluster (* * *). Research clusters are models of research networks that leverage institutional networks in support of research, innovation and diffusion of knowledge.

An article in today’s Globe and Mail has an interesting take on the cluster model of research. Under the headline of Innovation, this piece outlines how the Internet has enabled people to collaborate on fixing problems for industry. One site that is discussed is InnoCentive.com – “a website that posts research challenges by companies willing to pay outsiders for answers.” This is the same model that CONII uses to match industrial needs with College applied research.

CONII can make use of social networking tools to match industrial needs and partners with College applied research centres and faculty. Creating the Facebook for researchers is a challenge we will return to in the months ahead. CONII has already established a database of researchers to form a community of interest/practice. What is needed now is a more robust use of social networking technology (like RSS feeds, del.icio.us-style network effects) in order to leverage the potential of web n+1.

20 April 2007

World House in the news

A story in today’s Globe and Mail highlights the work being done at the Institute Without Boundaries. The World House Project exemplifies the integration of applied research and teaching & learning. The project is giving students at IwB the chance to learn about sustainable housing while conducting research on everything from materials science to participatory design.

16 April 2007

Welcome to the Applied Research blog

What is Applied Research @ George Brown College? This space will facilitate discussion on this issue.

Our goal is to foster research and innovation at George Brown College. We will use this blog as one facet of our communication plan. Please feel free to comment, and be sure to watch this space for updates.

In the meantime, you can view some related links we have begun compiling from the links on the sidebar.