One way, two way, overlap, blended

I found this post today through Doc Searls blog.  It’s by Nellie Lide at Newpersuasion and talks about "A blended future", where it’s hard to tell where company/customer boundaries are and the two work together as one. Interesting stuff, and it was a surprising coincidence.

While writing an introduction for myself, I described my past work as an extension specialist:

I trained formally as a biologist and after a few years of research, started specializing in science extension. If you’ve never heard of extension, think marketing and communication with a twist. Rather than the typical one-way push of messages in marketing, the point of extension is to develop two-way conversations between the producers and consumers of information; the activities of one driving the other.

In science and elsewhere (JOE), an extension specialist provides guidance and resources to help start and maintain those conversations. The great thing about extension is that it gets the science research out of the science publications and into the hands of those that can use it to do better work. Extension also helps clarify where research has missed the boat. Client feedback is like that.

In a sense, our goal was to blend the science with operations. However, we always struggled to get past step 2, "The conversation". Just like business, science still communicates mostly outwards. That’s logical, I guess. Scientists are paid for being experts, and the way they become experts and get more pay is to publish. Until that happens, they usually remain in ‘stealth mode’ with their information. Old news doesn’t rate publication.

Still, there’s lots of room for collaboration and sharing. ‘Someone important’ once said that they didn’t mind sharing last years technology with the competition. I think there is lots to be said for that. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people suggesting something for research, and the answer from researchers has been ‘it’s been done’.

Sure it’s been done, but it’s squirreled away in a science journal somewhere, not in a place or form that ordinary people can find and use. Science needs to spend more time re-crafting their information for a wider audience. Hopefully some of the funding agencies will stand up to the task and demand it as one of the ‘deliverables’.

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