December 2, 2010

Using open science to disseminate open innovation

With the new website, both Henry and I decided to build an academic steering committee for the “Researchers” section. The goal of creating such a committee is both to do a better job of updating the existing content and to add new content.

In addition, rather than being the opinion of one researcher (as it was for the first half-decade of this website), the academic content will be curated following policies set by a group of scholars. In other words, we would use more of an open science process to collect and disseminate scientific research on open innovation.

The content we anticipate providing would include:
  • Teaching materials, including cases
  • Conferences
  • Summary of new research
  • A bibliography of published OI research
One of the thorny issues we face is coming up with a clear definition of what is “open innovation”? If we are going to offer a comprehensive catalog of "open innovation” research and teaching materials, we need a clear (and easy to operationalize) definition that allows us to consistently decide what is or is not appropriate.

This was an issue I faced several times sinceI started the original website in 2005. It came up when deciding what to include in my old, ad hoc bibliography of published open innovation research, particularly when people sent me a paper and said “here, please list this.”

It’s also something that many of us wrestle with when doing a literature review or overview of the subject. For the website, we want to have a relatively broad definition — but at the same time one that remains consonant with the work of Chesbrough and others in this tradition.

Personally, I think the definition should be a little tighter for theoretical work — something either or is not “open innovation” — than for teaching cases that might illustrate points related to the use of inbound or outbound OI. For example, I find that user innovation cases can often be used to illustrate OI points, and to change the students’ orientation to look outside the firm. Another teaching example would be to look at IP licensing business models, which certainly existed prior to Henry’s 2003 book, but nonetheless can be used to illustrate the principles of open innovation.

We expect to have more to announce early next year. In the meantime, we would appreciate any suggestions from our academic readers as to content or other useful features we should add to the website.


Brian Lassen said...

Interesting you wish to use "Open Science" to coin the meaning of "Open Innovation" as suggested in the title.

One of my professional interests is to define the meaning of "Open Science" as a evolution of our current science community (I am a researcher). This concept was first used by open source software for science, but (in my opinion) taken the body of the idea behind the words as in the Open Drug Discovery project (OSDD) and others. I can understand your concern, as written on the website, that this concept easily can be abused as "innovation" is/has been. I see "Open Access" (AKA "Open Science") as a good example of that. It is supposed to be open, but only for those who can pay a lot extra to publish articles (not for everybody scientifically qualified to publish and thus not "open").

Since I can not immediately make out the differences between "Open Science" and "Open Innovation" I will give my own contribution from my humble understanding. Innovation as implication of science or an idea to a practical purpose. If the idea is to truly to be "open", meaning "accessible" then I suggest efforts are taken to A) not discriminating access by any means (economy, location, education), B) fully open or quality controlled channels to contribute to the process (innovation), C) transparency who contributes and how. As seen for other similar platforms, credit should be ensured to the original authors/innovators, and they should not be restricted themselves from use of the idea (such as forced signing over of intellectual rights as seen in some universities or taken). One consideration I have about the open platforms are how easy it might be to loose track of the development process as it branches. Some kind of recording or historical keeping of the process would be useful.

I hope my comment has been useful.

If further interested I explain some of these point in more detail in my blog.

Joel West said...


The idea of "open science" long predates "open source." In fact, some of the ideals of open science look a lot more like Free Software than commercial open source.

I assume you've found the long literature on open science. The grandaddy of them all is Merton’s Sociology of Science, and Google Scholar can be used to find forward references.

Economists would tend to look at the recent work by Paul David of Stanford.


Brian Lassen said...

Hello Joel, thanks for the feedback. I wrote a piece on Paul Davids work on the blog and in our university paper. But Merton I will look more into. Good luck!