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On EU’s ICT research agenda September 16, 2008

Posted by CK in IT, Research.
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Diomidis Spinellis is an associate professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business, and a globally respected hacker. His blog is always interesting to read, and today’s post deserves to be mentioned. Diomidis argues that the central planning of ICT research in the European space delivers sub-optimal results, as the researchers participating in FP ICT efforts chase delivery dates for “micromanaged research projects planned to address yesterday’s needs in a 24 month timeframe” (sic). In contrast, he refers to Bell Labs and the unrestricted work carried out there in past decades, effectively resulting in six Nobel prizes. A short post worth your time.

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Comments»

1. Diomidis Spinellis - September 16, 2008

Thank you for your kind words!

2. Thanos - September 23, 2008

From my 6-month tenure at a european (greek) research institute that was 100% dependent on ICT funding, I would say that the FP-model is totally broken, for the reasons already stated above. I would also add:

* Insane micromanagement (as stated) which results in a MASSIVE overhead cost, in terms of time.

* Decentralization. It is done for political reasons (every EU country needs to participate), but the end result is that you have 5 partners from all over Europe. It is IMPOSSIBLE to manage a research project with 5 institutions spread around the entire continent. The end result is that you have 5x the overhead and 1/5th of the results, as each “partner” basically does its own thing with no coordination (and for good reason—coordination in such a system is an impossible task). Decentralization is good for fighting corruption, NOT for managing research projects.

One thing you have to keep in mind about the european research system though is that it is NOT really meant to promote research. Instead, it is meant to keep people with PhDs (there are way too many of them) employed and paid. If you look at it this way, everything makes sense, even the micromanagement.

As for the Bell Labs model, even though it worked very well, it was the result of an unnatural situation: a monopoly. No such monopolies exist in this brave new world, and in fact BL has actually shut down—its model was totally unsustainable when the monopoly disappeared. I agree though that the loss of BL is a great one indeed.


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