31 December 2010

Happy Holidays & thanks to friends of wordup!

wordup wishes you the very best for 2011!

And to the friends of wordup research: thanks for an amazing 2010!! Through these friends I have enjoyed a front row seat on the research and development at:
Centre for the Mind
Institute of Neuroinformatics
Stimmt AG
Universal Postal Union

Thanks very much, also, to the many individuals who have discussed ideas and research with me in 2010!

When I wrote in March 2009 that I was organizing interviews with "researchers and research policy opinion leaders about their response to the changed global conditions in research funding," I simply could not have imagined the way things have developed since. The response of Universities and innovative businesses to the aftermath of the global financial crisis has been dramatic. But much more diverse than I predicted back then.

I'm re-doubling my efforts to help innovators prepare themselves for the changed economic conditions. During the next few months I will distribute some interviews I have made, posted on Youtube, about how people are re-drawing their plans and keeping their eyes on the prize: being innovative, seizing opportunities.

And of course I am already planning the wordup research Asia 2011 tour! Stay tuned.

04 November 2010

Hello from Interact @wordupresearch

I'm currently taking a holiday from this blog. That is not to say I won't make further posts.

Most of my blog attention now resides here on my new 'interact' blog:

Interact does not replace this blog. It is just a different concept for blogging and one that suits me better right now. And don't forget that my tweets get published here, on this site (top left hand side), so I would still encourage you to stop by now and then.

Thanks for reading!

26 July 2010

Unblogged: visit to Singapore and Sydney

I know I should get out more, so next week I will begin a journey to Singapore and Sydney for some face time with the people I usually only blog about.

High on my meetings list are students, recent graduates and entrepreneurs. I'll be heading along to a youth event jointly organized by the University of Sydney and the National University of Singapore, called What Makes a Young Champion. And I will also be speaking with graduates and faculty of the Singapore Management University.

With the financial crisis starting to have a direct impact on many research institutions around the world, it is interesting to see how universities are reshaping themselves as a result. For example, Singapore Management University is expanding its Social Sciences and Humanities faculty. In the UK, the Humanities/Arts faculties face the greatest funding pressure.

More than anything else I am simply keen to learn from people who are living in these exciting Asia-Pacific centers.

Read the full announcement here. I welcome you to follow my journey here (for Facebook fans) or here (for those that aren't...).

18 March 2010

Scientific culture and war in Britain

Is the pen mightier than the sword? Not in hand-to-hand combat, according to new research by Univ. Maastricht Professor Geert Somsen about British war propaganda in 1941.

Raining down on France that year were more than 22 million pamphlets, dropped from bomber aircraft, containing stories penned by Britain's top secret Political Warfare Executive.

The so called Forth Fighting Army of Britain, its propaganda campaign, was no less active on the Home front. Former Nature editor Sir Richard Gregory made rousing remarks about the importance of scientific culture at the Science and World Order conference held at London's Royal Institution. Diplomats, politicians, and significantly, famous scientists and science journalists heard Gregory argue that science is a "true democracy and a great democracy".

Professor Somsen noted that many of the assembled luminaries, including Gregory, had openly questioned Western democracy during the decade before. In short, they rallied for the Allied cause and sent a clear message about the democratic, democratizing effects of science and international research culture.

Thanks to the host of Professor Somsen's seminar, the ETH History of Knowledge Centre.

19 January 2010

Risks Report narrows awareness gap about runaway risks

I've now had a chance to digest last night's stimulating panel on the WEF Global Risks Report, hosted at the Centre for Global Dialogue.

Collapsing asset prices, indebtedness and fiscal crises have featured prominently in each of the Reports since 2006. This year, editor and lead author Sheana Tambourgi points to what she calls an 'awareness gap' about the implications of underinvestment in infrastructure, rising costs of chronic disease and, more cryptically, a deficit in global governance.

Why the attention towards such apparently vague risks?

The panel discussion focused on the impact of interconnections between individual global risks. A central theme of the Global Risks Report, the complex interconnections between risks are examined graphically in the Risks Interconnection Map (RIM, pictured).

For example, the Map shows how connections between the degraded state of global infrastructure, weak climate/energy policies and China's slowing growth rate can explain why chronic disease, food price volatility and biodiversity loss could combine to produce a disproportionately large economic cost.

What can such an analysis offer? To answer this question I am reminded of a recent piece in Nature suggesting that “science should focus more on understanding the present and less on predicting the future”. A focus on the apparently vague and relatively modest hazards of the here and now may help to avoid a calamity of far greater proportions.

31 December 2009

Happier New Predictions from wordup!

We're all brimming with predictions about 2010 at this time of year. We know that a year is a long time in politics, yet for some reason there is a collective over confidence, peaking in the New Year, that we have a handle on the most important events that will take place in the next 12 months.

I'd like to lead a retreat from over extended predictions and it seems I am in good company. With Japan.

Japan's official weather agency has ceased making its traditional prediction about the start of the cherry-blossom season. "The agency has given out such information in early March every year but we will no longer do so from next year," said agency official Yoshitoshi Sakai. I also salute their courtesy for providing almost 3 months notice of the policy change.

This is a serious issue for me. Not the start of the blossom season, although a precise prediction is great for making advance travel arrangements to see Japan in bloom.

Good models help us peer through the fog of observation and reveal the best interpretation of what is going on. We like to know what the future will bring, but dislike the fact that some of it is fundamentally unknowable to us.

Consider that a good visionary may not be someone claiming to see furthest, but rather someone that sees the 'here and now' differently. Arguably, it is from this that we might learn the most.

Happy New Year!

06 November 2009

Online collaboration in finance

Is it likely that the finance industry will embrace social media? I found myself back at the Centre for Global Dialogue this week to hear what banks and insurance companies really think about enabling employees, as well as a firm’s extended client community, to interact and share information using corporate online platforms.

First of all, there seems to be a lot of interest in corporate social media. Many separate motivations appear to explain this interest ranging from recruitment, to product marketing, to the simple goal of answering employees’ wishes.

Social media might also be a way to access tacit knowledge within a company. Under the right conditions, a social media platform could record valuable exchanges between employees that might otherwise never leave the water cooler.

There lies the rub.

Under the wrong conditions, the risk with corporate social media is that it functions as an all-watching big brother. Who would want to collaborate online if there were ambiguities about how the information was used and no protection of privacy?

A presentation by Marilyn Pratt was informative in this regard. Pratt co-runs a corporate social media initiative at business systems software firm SAP involving almost 2 million people. Posts appearing on the platform are moderated, but that doesn’t mean that a group of company spooks go around erasing anything that hints at criticism of the firm.

Indeed, even the really irritable posts go online in a section called the ‘Coffee Corner’. As for the moderation process, 700 of the moderators have been recruited from outside SAP. These and other comments from her presentation suggested a sophisticated online culture has developed.

So there are certainly some conditions where a corporate platform can work in practical terms. Reading a little into this area I recently came across a book called ‘Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age’ by public policy academic Viktor Mayer-Shoenberger.

Based in Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Mayer-Shoenberger believes that even the most sophisticated attempts at corporate best practice will fall short protecting your digital privacy. Ultimately, he argues, the solution is to place a limit on the duration that digital information is stored.

To delete periodically.

I have plenty more to report about the conference, but that might have to wait for subsequent posts.