Do we need to take a step back and rethink IT research ? Services Sciences may be part of the answer…

Interesting comments from Tim Berners-Lee reported in the Financial Times today about how the IT industry is dangerously engaged in short-term views and is consequently missing out on major potential risks and opportunities in our increasingly networked society and economies. Particularly emphasized is “the [current] lack of support for long-term research” which prevailed in the past in labs of major technology companies (such as AT&T, Xerox, IBM, etc.) and contributed to significant advances in the field. Nowadays, the tendency appears to be product driven over a period of 18 months rather than, as quoted : “here are some really big problems, go away and think about them, take some risks, come back with some ideas we don’t believe – the sort of things that triggered big advances in the past.

Also noted is the necessity for research on the future of the Web to “draw on experts from a mix of backgrounds, including technologists, economists, psychologists and sociologists.” in order to rethink Web interaction, organizing society and maybe replace existing forms of democracy.

I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion this goes far beyond industry research. This is also valid in the academic environment where some IT related disciplines such as MIS and IS are facing growing concerns with dramatic drop in enrolment. We need to take a step back and rethink our disciplines in ways that integrate the ever increasing dimensions of our societies. Of particular interest here, is the emergence of Services Sciences as a discipline drawing form disciplines too often isolated such as computer science, operations research, industrial engineering, business strategy, management sciences, social and cognitive sciences, and legal sciences. IBM has been instrumental in this direction which they now brand under the title of : Services Sciences, Management and Engineering (SSME).

Predictions are hard to make. However my “gut feeling” definitely includes evolution towards interdisciplinary research in our field to address the challenging issues of our networked economies and the growing pervasiveness of our “read-write” societies (borrowed from Lawrence Lessig, great talk at Linuxworld 2006 and TED Talk March 2007), but this is another story…

Source :, Dec. 6, 2007, Web founder warns of short-termism, Richard Waters and Kevin Allison,