Archive | April 2011

ORION Summit 2011: Selected Takeaways

In no specific order, or attempt to be comprehensive, the following are my selected takeaways from the ORION Summit 2011:

  • 100G network boasts a series of firsts for ORION – ORION is the first R&E network anywhere in the world, and the first network of any kind in Canada, to provide a bandwidth of 100 Gb/s. At the moment, a 100G segment stretches from St. Catharines to London. However, by the end of June 2011, it is projected that the bulk of ORION will be enabled for the 100G capacity. Membership has its privileges.
  • IP is not a businessCFI CEO Gilles Patry stated (and I’m paraphrasing here) that an idea is not an invention, an invention is not a product, and a product is not a business. (I didn’t capture his source, sorry.) Patry’s remarks resonated well with author Peter Nowak‘s suggestion of tracking innovation by the licensing of patents – as opposed to tracking the patents themselves. In other words, both presenters effectively made the point that Intellectual Property (IP) does not a product or business make. For a strikingly compelling illustration, see “Biomedical research has a Long Tail … and it ain’t pretty!” below.
  • Purdue is filling in the gaps – Purdue is enabling teaching and learning via mobile technologies. Their sensible approach is to leverage apps students are already using on their mobile devices, and then focus their attention on better enabling teachers and learners for creating, locating, communicating and connecting via handhelds. Their impressive and growing Studio is worth exploring.
  • The five differentiators of GenY – 10-30 year olds comprise GenY. According to author Daneal Charney, this generation is characterized by the following five differentiators: GenYs are digitally savvy; GenYs are non-hierarchical; GenYs are super-collaborative; GenYs are 24/7; and finally, GenYs are highly educated. Based on teaching over 200 GenYs for the past academic year at York, living with a few GenYs, and working with a few GenYs, I believe I can state numerous examples to substantiate Charney’s characterization.
  • Pencasts deserve attention – Teacher Zoe Branigan-Pipe illustrated just how powerful a pencast could be. Her example was based on use of a smartpen from LiveScribe. I can easily see ways I can leverage this simple technology in powerful ways in many contexts.
  • CANARIE is DAIRing to drive innovation – In their words: “DAIR is an advanced R & D environment — a `digital sandbox’ — where high-tech innovators can design, validate, prototype and demonstrate new technologies.” DAIR targets tech-oriented SMEs.
  • Is a Top 40 billing of any value? – CFI CEO Gilles Patry stated that UofT, McGill, UBC and UWaterloo made a global Top 40 ranking of the best undergraduate programs in computer science. Later in the day, Queens Ph.D. student Rob Horgan reminded us that such rankings may comprise hollow praise. For example, if your programme produces excellent graduates, does it really matter what its ranking against some contrived set of metrics actually is? I tend to agree.
  • P2PU – The acronym is self-expressive. In about a week’s time, OISE Ph.D. student Stian Haklev will start an introductory course on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Both the course, and the teaching/learning model, are worth investigating.
  • Biomedical research has a Long Tail … and it ain’t pretty! – Dr. Aled Edwards described the systemic realities of biomedical research as it stands today: Biomedical researchers are driven towards extremely conservative investigations that focus on known targets that are most likely to produce results – extremely incremental results. (Reminder from tompeters!: Incrementalism spells death for innovation.) Considering that the Human Genome Project mapped some 20,000 genes, this emphasis on a relatively small subset of the same (i.e., the meaty part of the Long Tail) is especially concerning – especially concerning to anyone who cares about research that should ultimately lead to drug discovery. So, what’s Edwards’ solution: Share results, as soon as they become available, in public – without restriction! That means that academics, behemoth pharmas and other partners, start together on a level playing field. In other words, use coopetition to drive innovation. (IP is not a business!) And that’s precisely what his Structural Genomics Consortium does. By placing attention on the 17K genes that would be otherwise neglected, perhaps SGC will help to make that tail of biomedical research a little less long … a little less meaty at its base … and therefore a little less ugly.

If you attended the Summit and have your own takeaways to share, or have comments on this post, please feel free to add your $0.02 via a comment.