As I go through life I always find myself doing things I thought I would never do. Blogging now takes the number one position on that list of things I thought I would never do. It has now displaced living in East Texas, having children, working with wastewater, and getting married. Future of Technology Development
My personal opinion is that blogging was created by relatively insignificant people who had the desire to feel relevant in the world. Individuals whose lives are so pathetic, that they feel obliged to spread their misery to feel better about themselves. By putting their myopic little opinions out into the public domain,
they somehow begin to feel relevant and that they are “doing something” to make the world a better place by pointing out some aspect that they would like to change. Needless to say, it is rather ironic that I now find myself blogging. However, unlike other bloggers,
I can at least acknowledge that there will probably be two people that will ever read my blog (my wife and my boss) and that what I say will not change the world. That is not my objective. The world has persisted regardless of people and it will continue to exist no matter what we do; that is because life and the world are dynamic, it is always changing, it is supposed to change.
Now that I have spread my little bit of misery regarding bloggers, let’s continue to spread more misery related to technology development.
Through the next few postings I will discuss my personal opinions when it comes to technology development and how the system should be restructured to allow RESEARCHERS to develop the future technologies; because if we continue down this path of relying on faculty at academic institutions to be the trailblazers Future of Technology Development, we are doomed as a nation.
A little about myself that can hopefully make you understand why my opinions on the future of technology development are the way they are:
I thought that after my education I would be working for the “evil ” pharmaceutical industry, or end up teaching or researching at some “reputable and trustworthy” university. Needless to say, this didn’t happen, although I did work at a university for 9 years, and served as the principal investigator for a project that leads to a technology that obtained 3 patents,
and is currently in the process of being commercialized with six units already sold. I also served as the director of research and development at the same university for 7 years. Hopefully, you get the inference that it wasn’t a “reputable and trustworthy” institution. Honestly, I wouldn’t send my worst enemy to that place.
Coming out of graduate school I was offered a position at an environmental institute at a university in Texas. Being trained in molecular genetics, carbohydrate chemistry, and microbial biofilm formation; I took the job and quoted Homer Simpson to myself,
“How hard can it be?”. In the hierarchy of biology, my discipline is near the top and environmental science was at the bottom. I was fresh out of school and carrying a certain amount of arrogance and ignorance. So I thought I could handle anything that came my way because I had received an advanced degree!
By my second year at the environmental institute, I was asked to lead a project to develop a water treatment system for the military. The associate vice-president for research and sponsored programs came to my office and said, “You’re a microbiologist, the military wants to make a water treatment system,
figure something out”, he then turned around and walked out the door. That was my start in the Future of Technology Development. No planning, no strategy, no engineering experience, no senior scientist to help guide me, just here’s a problem try and fix it. The blessings and curses of working at a small university.
This is how I thought research was supposed to work. A problem was presented and it was my responsibility to find a solution and I was extremely excited about the opportunity. My ignorance of how the world worked and how people behave resulted in a rude awakening. If you think that faculty at universities are altruistic and always want to do the right thing, you would be wrong.
Faculty are essentially a bunch of children that may have physically grown up, but still, act like a bunch of three-year-olds playing in a sandbox with only one shovel between them. Administrators aren’t much better. The one saving grace for the faculty is that they are just acting out of a greedy impulse, but the administrators are maliciously calculating how they can make money from various departmental budgets to fund their own little pet projects.
Needless to say, many universities have accumulated an inordinate amount of narcissistic personalities that can be found throughout the administration as well as faculty. The truly exceptional researchers, that are stigmatized with having to be called faculty, are most often pushed down to the bottom because they are the ones not interested in playing the political games
They are only interested in their work and as a result of not being willing to play the political games, the active researchers are simply relegated to the basement and receive little to no support from the university of their academic department.
In today’s academic world, publications are the yardstick by which they are evaluated. The problem with the publications of today is that faculty know the games, and instead of producing one paper that discusses their research, they break it up into sections that results in three or four publications. Essentially however many they are required to publish per year.
Universities are no longer interested in the quality of publications, just the quantity. Most universities don’t value applied science and technology development, and as a result pursuit of these areas usually works against faculty pursuing tenure. Universities have become bloated bureaucracies that prefer the appearance of productivity as compared to actual substance.
The only university that I am currently aware of that has changed its policies to allow patents and technology development count toward tenure is Texas A&M. There might be others following suit, but as of today, I am not aware of them.
The problems universities are facing related to technology development are almost identical to what occurs at larger corporations. Universities have become like many corporations, too big to be effective at carrying out research. The university system we know will become obsolete unless there are rapid changes in the administration and the faculty mentality.
Like so many of our corporations that have sent manufacturing to India and China, technology development and applied research will eventually follow and America will lose its ability to be the technological leaders of the world. The failure to commercialize technologies is evident in schools in Texas.
According to the Governor’s office, the track record for the commercialization of technologies from universities in Texas is dismal. From my own experience, the primary culprit is the greed of the administration in the commercialization of technologies.
There are many other issues facing America’s universities, outside of what has been mentioned. The behavior of the administration and the faculty are the primary issue that must be addressed, and I currently don’t see a solution available. Any recommendation of change from someone outside of academia will be scoffed at,
and viewed as an idea from an individual incapable of understanding the complex matters of how a university works. This is why I think America is doomed if technology development is not transitioned away from America’s universities and to entities that will be more efficient at developing the next generation of technologies. The future of technology development in America is with the American small business owner.
Individuals that are willing to take the risk, and those who must perform because their livelihood depends on success, which is not the case with faculty at universities. Even with the American small business, there are limitations that must be overcome; but since they are small operations they have the flexibility to rapidly adapt to any new trends.
So that is a brief introduction as to who I am, and how my experiences have shaped my views on technology development.
Until my next post, think of these two questions when undertaking any task:
- How hard can it be?
- Should we do this?
These are questions I ask myself all the time. Something that appears difficult may not really be that hard if you just look for an unconventional solution. The second question should serve as a moral compass, which is traditionally non-existent with faculty at universities. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
Frequently these questions are overlooked in science and technology, and it results in nothing more than a waste of time and money. The reasons for overlooking these simple questions can be directly attributed to a surplus of arrogance, narcissism, and self-worth, which is then combined with a belief of moral superiority that results from getting an extensive education. Future of Technology Development
Until next time.