February 21, 2014

CFP: Value Creation in Online Communities

Information Systems Research (one of the two top MIS journals) has issued a call for papers
Special Issue on Collaboration and Value Creation in Online Communities
Special Issue Editors: Samer Faraj, Georg von Krogh, Karim Lakhani, and Eric Monteiro
In the past two decades, a range of new information technologies, broadly characterized as Web 2.0, have fundamentally altered the nature of community building, collaboration, and organizing in economic and social life. Technology-enabled collectives in the form of online communities (OC) bring together large numbers of geographically dispersed individuals in support of an activity, interest, or identity. Starting with Armstrong and Hagel’s early work conceptualizing the value of online communities for firms, and concomitant with the explosion of OCs in number and membership, academic interest in these collectives has accelerated. Researchers have investigated a range of issues in the context of OCs, from organization and governance, to what motivates people to participate and contribute volitionally to relative strangers, to the economic and social value created by these collectives.

The goal of this special issue is to both take stock of and chart new directions for OC research in the information systems (IS) discipline. In particular, it seeks to encourage novel theorizing and research that enriches our understanding of the practices and dynamics at play in OCs. Many important questions related to OCs remain under-studied. …

Research that goes beyond the application of a few select social psychological theories and the routine application of network analysis tools to explain complex online actions and organizing is needed. Consistent with recent advances in the science of networks, new ways of representing action, actors, artifacts, and outcomes are called for. Above all, new theorizing that crosses levels of analysis, does not blackbox technology, and does not conflate OC activities with aspects such as the use of social media tools warrants attention. Central to new modes of theorizing is a stronger, perhaps constitutive, role of technology in the very phenomenon under study. By taking stock of drivers for action, the emergent practices, and the evolving form of OC organizing, the IS field has the potential to advance new views on change and adaptation of organizations, thereby claiming a central position in the discourse on the new realities.

This special issue seeks papers that help the field to understand community dynamics, collaborative practices, and value-creation processes in OCs in order to both improve and move beyond traditional views of the online phenomena. All theoretical and methodological perspectives are welcomed, and novel and original perspectives are especially sought. Topics of interest include but are not limited to the following:

Varieties of multilevel theorizing cutting across individual and aggregate levels
  • Sociomaterial accounts of OCs
  • The technology infrastructures undergirding OCs
  • Roles, governance structure, authority relations, and community boundaries
  • Lessons for organizational collaboration from OCs
  • Psychological tensions between the demands by formal organization and the role expectations expressed by the community
  • Implications for our understanding of how groups share knowledge
  • Characteristics of value-creation processes in OCs
  • Managing the process of innovation with OC boundary fluidity
  • Firm and OCs interaction in innovation and collaboration
  • Social identity building from interactions between organizations and OCs
  • Community-based modes of governance and organizing


  • May 30, 2014: Researchers interested in submitting papers are invited to submit their paper ideas to the Guest Editors for early reactions.
  • November 1, November 15, 2014: Submissions due
  • February 2015: First round of editorial decisions (reviews, desk rejections)
  • May 2015: Special issue workshop
  • August 30, 2015: Resubmissions due
  • November 2015 :Second round of editorial decisions (rejections, second review)
  • January 4, 2016: Final resubmissions due
  • January 30, 2016: Final editorial decision
  • 2016: Publication
See the complete CFP for full details

February 2, 2014

Suzanne Scotchmer, 1950-2014

I was saddened to hear Friday (via my friend Marcel Bogers) of the death of Berkeley economist Suzanne Scotchmer. As far as I can tell, there has not been a newspaper or university obituary, although Joshua Gans and Neil Gandal wrote a brief appreciation on the Digitopoly blog late Friday.

I am always sad to hear of someone dying before their time, thinking of the loss to their family and friends. Wikipedia asserts that she died a week after her 64th birthday, while Gans reports it was due to cancer. An Alaska native and UW Seattle grad, she died a few days before her Seahawks won their first Super Bowl ever.

From a more self-centered perspective, I am sorry to lose the opportunity to read new work, although (as with all in our profession) her prior work will stand as a permanent legacy of her contribution to the field. The appeal of that work wasn’t immediately obvious. I started my career very phenomenon-driven and applied, whereas Scotchmer was more theoretical and abstract. Still, she was very concerned with real world problems, and wrote clearly (usually without greek letters). More importantly, she asked novel, important questions and achieved major success in moving the field forward.

I believe that her work was highly influential on open innovation in two ways: on cumulative innovation and on alternative incentives for innovation.

Innovation Drag and Cumulative Innovation

Reconstructing the trail from my hard disk, I first learned of Scotchmer’s work in November 2005, when I received an early draft of Murray & O'Mahony (2007) — a paper that cited her seminal 2004 book, Innovation and Incentives. That same month, I added citations to her work to a paper that I was writing on 3G cellphone standards, a paper that co-author Rudi Bekkers presented at a workshop four months later.

Both the Murray-O'Mahony and Bekkers-West interest in her work was due to her studies of patent drag. Like the weather, this is something that everyone complains about but nobody does anything about it.

As I found out, this was a question that Scotchmer had been thinking about since the early 1990s. She had a series of papers on the allocation of returns between initial and subsequent patenters (e.g. Green and Scotchmer, 1995; Scotchmer, 1996) as well as fine-tuning the right to exclude (Scotchmer 1991, 1999). (Related work has been done by Nancy Gallini of UBC). Chapters 4 and 5 of Innovation and Incentives also bears on this question.

In our paper, Rudi and I were concerned narrowly with patent drag. (In fact, by the time the paper was published, the patent story was narrowed so much as to eliminate this discussion).

However, the focus of Murray & O'Mahony was much broader. As regular readers know, Fiona and Siobhan synthesized the modern conception of cumulative innovation, the idea that many innovations require the cumulative efforts of multiple actors. If IP policies discourage such cumulative efforts, the rate of innovative progress will be slowed.

The paper is obviously heavily influenced by Scotchmer's work, citing four of them. The linkage is particularly direct to Scotchmer (1991), the Journal of Economic Perspectives article entitled “Standing on the shoulders of giants: cumulative research and the patent law.” As Murray & O'Mahony (2007: 1014) wrote
Last, for cumulative innovation to occur, innovators need assurance of some form of reward, encouraging them to disclose their ideas and provide access to others. Such rewards may be intrinsic but can also include remunerative or reciprocal rewards from follow-on innovators. A system that allows for a flow of rewards between first- and second-generation innovators is necessary but without some ease in distributing rewards among different generations, innovators will have difficulty accumulating knowledge (Scotchmer 1991).
Not surprisingly, this message about the negative impact of IP drag also resonates with open source and other advocates of collaborative innovation.

Innovation Contests

While I read the 2004 book for its work on drag, its main focus — and most innovative contribution — was to step back and ask whether patents are the most appropriate incentive to encourage innovation. The fact that she asks the question suggests the answer might be “no.”

Chapter 2, in particular, considers the role of prizes as an alternative to temporary IP monopolies as an incentive, as with the 18th century English example of the Board of Longitude prize. She considers the deadweight loss of the alternative mechanisms, and extends the ideas in the earlier Gallini & Scotchmer (2002) book chapter.

This idea of structuring incentives (particularly in contests) to maximize innovation is an obvious antecedent to current research on Innocentive and other open innovation tournaments and other contests. As such, it clearly informs (and is cited in) the recent work on contests by Karim Lakhani and Kevin Boudreau.

Final Thoughts

Scotchmer's citations in innovation studies are much scarcer than the caliber of her contributions would warrant. I’m guessing that was because her orientation was so strongly towards economics (she served as AE of AER, JEP and JEL) unlike those many innovation economists who attend innovation and business conferences, promoting their work to multiple audiences.

Since I don’t attend the AEA (or NBER) conferences, I guess that’s why we never met. I found out today that one of her last publications — Maurer and Scotchmer 2006 — cites me extensively.

Not knowing her personally, I gained a few insights from the Gans and Gandal obit. I learned even more from her CV, which helpfully begins
Suzanne grew up in Alaska, where her grandparents homesteaded after failing as gold rushers.
(Note to Europeans: the California gold rush was 1848-1850 while the Alaska gold rush was 1896-1899.)

The link goes to a page labelled “Suzanne Anderson: Stories of Alaska,” which says
Suzanne grew up in Pelican on Chicagof Island, and went to high school in Sitka on Baranof Island.
The page includes a picture of her from one of the Alaskan fjords, and links to four autobiographical articles she published in the 1990s in Anchorage and Seattle under her maiden name. One explains how she was the daughter of a fisherman.

In retrospect, the most poignant piece was a 1996 article was about an tea made from devil’s club, a spiny rhubarb-like plant found in Alaska. The story focused on her friend Clarence, who from his Tlingit ancestors believed the tea would cure his cancer. As she wrote:
I wish the end of this story was that the devil’s club tea saved my friend Clarence from his cancer. It didn’t, but neither did the medical profession.
Scotchmer’s death reminds us that cancer still kills more than a half-million Americans every year, a close second to heart disease (and more than the next three causes combined).

Suzanne Scotchmer, Rest in Peace.


Scotchmer, Suzanne. "Standing on the shoulders of giants: cumulative research and the patent law." Journal of Economic Perspectives 5, 1 (1991): 29-41.

Green, Jerry R., and Suzanne Scotchmer. "On the division of profit in sequential innovation." RAND Journal of Economics 26, 1 (1995): 20-33.

Scotchmer, Suzanne. "Protecting early innovators: should second-generation products be patentable?" Rand Journal of Economics 27, 2 (1996): 322-331.

Scotchmer, Suzanne. "On the optimality of the patent renewal system." RAND Journal of Economics 30, 2 (1999): 181-196.

Gallini, Nancy, and Suzanne Scotchmer. "Intellectual Property: when is it the best incentive system?" In Adam Jaffe and Josh Lerner, eds., Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 2, MIT Press, 2002, pp. 51-78.

Scotchmer, Suzanne. Innovation and Incentives. MIT Press, 2004.

Maurer, Stephen M. and and Suzanne Scotchmer. "Open Source Software: The New Intellectual Property Paradigm." In Terrence Hendershott (ed.) Economics and Information Systems, Volume 1. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 2006, pp. 285-322.