“Innovation Calls For I-Shaped People”

An essay  by Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research:

It has become almost a cliché to say that cross-disciplinary teams are a key component for successful innovation. If certain problems are beyond the scope of any individual—and most of them are—the way to address them is with a team with complementary skills and a common language in which they can all communicate. So far so good.

via Innovation Calls For I-Shaped People – BusinessWeek.

Someone correct me on this but … it seems that our current Spokane focus on health care and bio-tech is going to be a big mono-culture. Its all in health science and not much else. As I documented elsewhere on this blog, there is only a single technical graduate degree, an M.S. in computer science at Eastern – all the other technical graduate programs were ended at Gonzaga, WSU-Spokane and so on.

I am not seeing the creative, cross disciplinary mix of skills that Buxton talks about forming around the future health focus in Spokane.

But how we might get there is coming in the next few weeks …


2 Responses to “Innovation Calls For I-Shaped People”

  1. I’m not sure why you felt it necessary to put quotation marks around health “science.” Our faculty conduct scientific research that receives competitive funding from sources such as the National Institutes of Health, Office of Naval Research, Department of Justice, Life Science Discovery Fund, and many other prestigious sources.

    The fact that they compete successfully against researchers from across the nation is a mark of the quality of the work. It is no less “science” than any other discipline, and certainly contributes to the regional and state economy.

    Just two examples: One of our medical faculty recently discovered a way to make cancer cells more mortal (http://bit.ly/hFbbXU), which could eventually lead to therapeutic approaches. In 2004 spending on cancer treatment approached $75 billion/year.

    Another professor in our Sleep and Performance Research Center (http://bit.ly/WSUSleep) discovered the mechanism by which the brain switches from waking to sleeping–this can lead to everything from sleeping aids to treatments for brain injuries (http://bit.ly/grggKb). Sleep disorders affect 50-70 million Americans; motor vehicle accidents involving tired drivers cost at least $48 billion/year; and the cost of lost productivity and fatigue-related mishaps cost businesses roughly $150 billion/year (stats from Institute of Medicine of the National Academies).

    With numbers like this it’s no wonder that a recent analysis of the economic impact of our buildout of a research-intensive, comprehensive academic health science center found an annual impact of over $2 billion per year at full scale, with over $1.6 billion of that impact in eastern Washington. (PDF link: http://bit.ly/T-U2010ImpactStudy)

    As for creative interdisciplinary work, there are a number of other programs headquartered at WSU Spokane. Our Interdisciplinary Design Institute (http://bit.ly/WSUSIDI) offers graduate degrees including a Doctor of Design (http://bit.ly/DesignDr). Looking at the intersection of the built environment and human behavior and health, they explore concepts that can change how we shape our structures, landscapes and communities to contribute to better health. They also work directly with the health professions, which is not the norm in either the design disciplines or the health professions at more siloed institutions.

    Our Integrated Design Lab (http://bit.ly/WSUSIDL) works with design professionals to evaluate building sites and designs for energy efficiency, effective use of daylighting and other elements that can save energy and make buildings healthier for their occupants. This contributes to everything from higher test scores for students to reduced sick days for employees to higher sales in retail settings.

    Our criminal justice program (http://bit.ly/WSUSCrimJ) probably isn’t one you would define as “technical” (not a term we use to describe our programs, since usually applied/technical degrees are offered at the community college level). But we have master’s and PhD students doing research on fatigue risk management in law enforcement in a state-of-the-art critical job task laboratory staffed around the clock by polysomnographers. We also study fatigue in airline pilots, long-haul truck drivers, members of the military and others. We all have an interest in the job performance of a sleepy cop, pilot or driver; findings from our research absolutely contribute to science as well as to community safety.

    I might also point out the WSU Applied Sciences Lab headquartered in the Sirti Tech Center (www.asl.wsu.edu). We are currently hiring researchers in computational chemistry, optical and analytical spectroscopy, corrosion science and electrochemistry, computational mechanics, and process engineering. As a specialized problem-solving applied research organization, ASL is conducting research in energy, advanced materials development, and national security. Their work, too, crosses over into health sciences: One of the applications of the bulk metallic glass discovered by our researcher Atakan Peker might be knee replacements with greater durability, strength and biocompatability (Campus Bulletin article http://bit.ly/e4LytM).

    As I’ve noted before in comments on this blog, WSU Spokane offers a number of graduate and professional degrees. Our students are roughly 50/50 undergraduate/graduate & professional. The full list is available at http://bit.ly/WSUSDegrees.

    Readers can decide for themselves whether a master’s in exercise science focusing on cellular physiology (http://bit.ly/MSExSci) or a master’s in engineering/technology management (http://bit.ly/WSUMETM) or any of our other master’s and doctoral programs count as “technical” graduate degrees.

    Barb Chamberlain
    Director of Communications and Public Affairs
    Washington State University Spokane
    @WSU Spokane

  2. inlandnw says:

    Was a typo. Its been fixed.

    I was trying to emphasize that the Spokane campus’ major focus area is health care and health science, as described in WSU-Spokane’s own press release at http://www.wsunews.wsu.edu/pages/publications.asp?Action=Detail&PublicationID=21395&PageID=94&ReferrerCode=%2Fcntrf%2Fchoyvpngvbaf.nfc%3FNpgvba%3DNepuvir%26CntrVQ%3D94%26QvfcynlLrne%3D2010%26PnzchfVQ%3D4

    The proclamation establishes the campus’ direction: “…with a focus and commitment to grow graduate and professional education in the biomedical and health sciences, discover new knowledge through fundamental and translational research, and engage with people and communities throughout the region and the state to improve health in order to create a full-fledged research-intensive enterprise that will become America’s next great health science center in Spokane.”

    “WSU has been building the Spokane campus with a focus on health sciences for some time,” said Bryan Slinker, WSU’s Vice Provost for Health Sciences. “This designation provides a clear commitment from the university’s administration and governing board to accelerate development of a comprehensive academic health science center in Spokane, building on the excellent basic science and health-related research that will continue to take place at WSU Pullman.”

    And also:

    Biomedical and health sciences facilities have been identified by WSU and EWU as the top capital priority to support the need for current and future expansion of health sciences research and teaching programs, the primary focus for the Riverpoint Campus.

    Read more: http://spokane.wsu.edu/aboutWSUSpokane/development/plan.html#ixzz163LqhJi2

    While the press releases mention cross disciplinary research, it seems to be within the health science “cluster”. At the UW I see the med school working with the computer science department, the oceanography department working with mechanical engineering, and so on. That’s what I think of when Bill Buxton talks about multi-disciplinary approaches.

    Your press releases say the focus in health care and health science – am I missing something? Will there be other fields too to a significant extent? Could someone in Spokane pursue a graduate degree in engineering or computer science or chemistry or physics?

    As noted several times on this blog, the only technology graduate degree in Spokane is an MS in computer science at Eastern. There are currently two MS degrees in science, one in biology at Eastern and one in exercise science at WSU-Spokane. In 2008, EWU graduated 1 Masters in computer science and 3 in biology. I did not have numbers for WSU-Spokane because they are rolled up into the Pullman numbers. The graduate degrees in engineering were ended at Gonzaga and WSU-Spokane. More here: https://inlandnw.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/college-degrees-awarded-by-spokane-area-colleges-and-universities/ The data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, a U.S. government agency. Is this data wrong? A professor at Eastern told me the #s have gone up “a little” since 2008.

    The demand for educated workers remains low according to EWU – see https://inlandnw.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/spokane-county-job-vacancies-by-requirements/

    People are delusional if they think the Spokane area can compete on a national or global level in high tech and science with limited resources this area now has for advanced education and research. Yes, we need an expanded WSU-Spokane.

    My efforts are intended to support a FAR stronger university education system in Spokane. Without it, the likelihood of an innovative leading edge culture here is zero. Without a leading edge culture, Spokane’s future slidse, as I have documented in the steady erosion of local pay scales over 30 years, relative to the State and the nation. Shaun O.L. Higgins of the SR noted this. EWU noted this. Former CCS Chancellor Gary Livingston noted the increasing poverty rate in his retirement speech.

    Watching this steady decline, does anyone actually care?
    Am I only one who is frustrated by this?
    Are people suggesting this data is wrong and salaries in Spokane are going up relative to the rest of the State and the nation?

    You’ll see what I am leading up to on Dec 1st – the root problem is Spokane has lagged infrastructure, culture, arts by around 5 years. The region as a whole will not be a leading innovator when so much is always 5 years behind the times. More examples on Dec 1st.

    Unlike you, I am not paid to do this research. It comes out when it comes out and when I feel like it. I also recognize, as EWU documented in a study previously on this blog, that asking hard questions is not tolerated in Spokane. I’m leaning towards a conclusion that few people here actually care.

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