IBM Research in the News: IBM and Universities Plan Collaboration

Today’s New York Times Business Section has an article, I.B.M. and Universities Plan Collaboration, about an amibitious program involving joint research by IBM Research and universities:


I.B.M. and seven universities have agreed to embark on a series of collaborative software research projects and to make the results of the work in fields like privacy, security and medical decision-making freely available.

The initiative, which I.B.M. is expected to announce today, is a break with the usual pattern of corporate-sponsored research at universities that typically involves lengthy negotiations over intellectual property rights.

The projects are also evidence that American companies and universities are searching for ways to work together more easily and less hampered by legal wrangling about who holds the patents to research. Those negotiations, according to specialists, can take a year or more — slowing the pace of innovation and prompting companies to team with researchers in foreign countries.

The projects announced today are being done under the guidelines of the Open Collaborative Research program, which began last year with several universities and four technology companies, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Cisco, as well as I.B.M.

I.B.M. and seven universities have agreed to embark on a series of collaborative software research projects and to make the results of the work in fields like privacy, security and medical decision-making freely available.

The initiative, which I.B.M. is expected to announce today, is a break with the usual pattern of corporate-sponsored research at universities that typically involves lengthy negotiations over intellectual property rights.

The projects are also evidence that American companies and universities are searching for ways to work together more easily and less hampered by legal wrangling about who holds the patents to research. Those negotiations, according to specialists, can take a year or more — slowing the pace of innovation and prompting companies to team with researchers in foreign countries.

The projects announced today are being done under the guidelines of the Open Collaborative Research program, which began last year with several universities and four technology companies, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Cisco, as well as I.B.M.

Purdue and Carnegie Mellon University have agreed to work with I.B.M. researchers on a long-term project on privacy and security-policy management. The appeal, Ms. Bertino said, is that I.B.M. has a strong research team in security, and that working with a corporation ensures that university researchers get to work on real-world problems rather than academic theory.

In addition to security and privacy, the joint projects will be in software quality, mathematical optimization software and clinical decision support software. Besides Purdue and Carnegie Mellon, the universities are the University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis; Columbia University; Georgia Institute of Technology; and Rutgers University.


I first learned about the Open Collaborative Research (OCR) program well over a year ago. It is a very ambitious program to do fundamental research looking far into the future, on work that might lead to products several years into the future. A key part of the program is that any code produced by the joint efforts is to be made available in open-source form.

By the way, Stu Feldman, who has been at IBM for several years, is the Stu Feldman, known to Unix programmers everywhere as the author of “make,” one of the neatest programs ever written. (As such, he as a programmer for whom the tab character has a special meaning — but we all live to rue some of the errors of our youth.)

I envy the researchers at Purdue and Carnegie-Mellon University who will be working with IBM Research on projects about “privacy and security-policy management,” as they will have the great good fortune to work with one of IBM’s best teams, “Security and Policy,” ably led by Charles Palmer for many years. They are truly as good as it gets at what they do, and are a great group of folks. Among them is Wietse Zweitze Venema, who is mentioned in my post Yogi Yarns – On being lucky. First is not always best. The team includes a group of “ethical hackers,” folks who will test your corporation’s security in ways few people know how to do, but only at your request. As one of them said, “It’s hard for IBM to hire people in this area. Most of the really good hackers have criminal records.” (See for example DUDley Snideley on Software – shutdown shot down, and look for mention of “Cap’n Crunch.”)

I see also, among other groups, mentions of “mathematical optimization,” another area where the IBM team is world-class. Some of their work can be found in open-source form at www.coin-or.org: “The Computational Infrastructure for Operations Research (COIN-OR**, or simply COIN) project is an initiative to spur the development of open-source software for the operations research community.”

During my recent meetings with educators engaged in open-source in Indianapolis in mid-October, and more recently at the Sixth Sakai Conference in Atlanta, there have been several discussions about the difficulties universities face in struggling with the desire to be as open as possible while also trying to monetize some of the intellectual property, notably in the area of biochemistry and pharmaceuticals, that results from their research. This will be the subject of an ongoing debate and discussion for some time, as all engaged in these areas try to find the right balance.

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One Trackback

  1. By links for 2006-12-16 « The Wayward Word Press on December 16, 2006 at 01:28

    […] IBM, schools pursue open-source research – USATODAY.com USA Today on IBM Research’s Open Collaborative Research program, the subject of a recent post in my blog, https://daveshields.wordpress.com/2006/12/14/ibm-research-in-the-news-ibm-and-universities-plan-collaboration/ (tags: open-source open-education) […]

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