9.647 corporate sponsorship

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Fri, 22 Mar 1996 19:25:01 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 647.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: John Unsworth <jmu2m@virginia.edu> (46)
Subject: Re: 9.644 corporate support?


The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University
of Virginia has had some success in attracting corporate partners and
sponsors for our humanities research projects: IBM, AT&T, Sprint, Sun,
Virtus. If we have been corrupted, then I may be the wrong person to
address this question: others might want to judge for themselves by
taking a look at http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/.

But my response, based on three years of experience, is that corruption
is really not the right way to frame the issue. Most of the time,
corporations aren't interested in changing what we do--the problem is that
they often simply aren't interested at all. I mean this seriously: in
the current corporate climate, most companies link their giving (of
equipment, money, software, people) to the development of a marketable
product or service, and they are reluctant to provide resources in
support of basic research--in the sciences, in the humanities, or
elsewhere. In the humanities computing area, the kind of basic research
one would like corporations to help fund might be research into tools and
methods initially of interest to limited scholarly communities, but
potentially of interest to much larger groups.

There is plenty of work to be done in the areas of digital imaging,
character-encoding and display for non-Roman alphabets (e.g., unicode),
developing facilities for collaborative work, the application of SGML,
hypertext systems, and other areas: if you further specify that
you'd like to do this work in an open-systems, standards-based, internet-
based context, many of the existing software (and hardware) solutions
come up short. Each of these problems, though it may be more important
to humanists than to anyone else, certainly affects larger communities
(or, in corporate terms, markets) and if it were solved, those solutions
would certainly be of interest outside the academy. Nonetheless, it is a
rare corporation these days that can see beyond the next six months and
an even rarer one that is willing and able to invest in research that
won't bear fruit in the current fiscal year, or quarter.

If I could offer any advice in this area, it would be that it is
important to have a clear sense of your own goals when you enter
into any partnership, and an academic/corporate partnership is no
different in that respect. It's better, I think, to expend your effort
on trying to make corporate partners see the value in what you want to
do, both from your point of view and from theirs, than to try to
second-guess their needs and desires and redescribe or redesign your
research agenda to fit. If you do the former, you will fail many times
but when you succeed you will have the partner or sponsor you want; if
you do the latter, you may succeed more often in attracting corporate
sponsorship, but those partnerships are not likely to advance your goals
or theirs.

John Unsworth
http://www.village.virginia.edu/~jmu2m/ jmu2m@virginia.edu