The New ABCs of Research: Achieving Breakthrough Collaborations

new ABC's of Research The New ABC's of Research book cover

Blogs and viewpoints

Times Higher Education Supplement, February 11, 2016
Better than blue skies: blending techniques leads to innovation

Oxford University Press Blog, March 21, 2016
Can design thinking challenge the scientific method?

Inside Higher Ed Website, April 6, 2016
How to Do Team Research

Oxford University Press Blog, July 23, 2016
Beyond Brexit panic: an American perspective

Oxford University Press Blog, July 30, 2016
Teaching teamwork


Times Higher Education, Review by Jeremy Singer, March 17, 2016

NATURE, Rick Rylance, January 20, 2016

Book Review: The New ABCs of Research, Ernest Edmonds, Leonardo, September 2, 2016

Practical Solutions: Basic and Applied Research, Science, Engineering, and Design, Vint Cerf, IEEE Internet Computing, May-June 2016

Breakthrough Products Need Breakthrough Collaboration, Whitney Quesenbery, UX: User Experience Magazine 16 (3), July 2016

Vasant Dhar (NYU Stern School) in BIG DATA 4, 3 (2016), 192-193.

MITRE Corporation Blog, Nahum Gershon, November 7, 2016

MITRE Corporation Blog, Nahum Gershon, November 14, 2016

Judith Torney Purta, What Design Research Offers to Psychologists, PsycCRITIQUES 61, 31, Article 6, American Psychological Association (2016)


Lecture at UC-Irvine, April 1, 2016 (62 minutes)

iSchool Informatics Trends in Society Seminar Series

Lecture at University of Maryland October 2, 2015 (66 minutes)

Institute for Systems Research, Special Seminar

Book Description

The immense problems of the 21st century invite innovative thinking from students, academic researchers, business research managers, and government policy makers. Hopes for raising quality in healthcare delivery, securing community safety, expanding food production, improving environmental sustainability, and much more depend on pervasive application of research solutions.

This book (The New ABCs of Research: Achieving Breakthrough Collaborations, Published in April 2016 by Oxford University Press) recognizes the unbounded nature of human creativity, the multiplicative power of teamwork, and the catalytic effects of innovation. Contemporary research teams get a further boost from fresh ways of using the Web, social media, and visual communications tools that amplify collaborations.

This book reports on the growing number of initiatives to promote more integrated approaches to research so as to promote their expansion. It is meant as a guide to students and a manifesto for policy makers, challenging widely-held beliefs about how applied innovations evolve and how basic breakthroughs are made. The first guiding principle for research is that applied and basic research combined (ABC Principle) produces better research in both.

The second guiding principle is that blending the methods of science, engineering and design (SED Principle) will improve research outcomes. Educational experiences that cover the scientific method, engineering prototyping, and design thinking will enable future researchers to choose whether they conduct controlled experiments, do field studies, or brainstorm with diverse stakeholders. Teamwork is a key theme of this book, but there is always room for the lone technology tinkerers or solitary theorists who passionately pursue their dreams, until they are ready to share with others. However, organizational partnerships and collaborative teamwork appear to accelerate innovation and produce more frequent success stories that reshape education, communities, business, and government. The prevalence of new tools and research strategies means that these higher ambitions can be realized. Web-based libraries, open access publishing, social media engagement, visual communication tools, and other new technologies mean that new opportunities are available to researchers. These technologies, coupled with new research strategies such as citizen science, big data analysis, visual analytics, and rigorous cases studies means that the higher ambitions of research teams can be achieved.

Bold ideas and valuable innovations ultimately come from a single individual, but individuals are more likely to create them when working within a team, a well-organized network, and a supportive community. Therefore this book covers the strategies for nurturing individuals, managing teams, weaving networks, and cultivating communities.

Published in April 2016 by Oxford University Press

Available from Amazon


I absolutely love it all! The New ABCs of Research captures, catalogues and advocates for exactly what we need to be doing in research and scholarship at a major research university. It beautifully describes the combination of basic, interdisciplinary, and translational research with partners that is so powerful and so needed. I want to capture it for our strategic plan.
-- Mary Ann Rankin, Provost, University of Maryland

This is a must-read book for those of us that want to create radical innovations and breakthrough scientific advances to solve the 'wicked' problems surrounding us in the 21st Century. It also provides valuable advice for policy makers and organizations that fund basic research. It is both inspirational and pragmatic with many examples that illustrate how to achieve a productive bridge between applied and basic research - a bridge that creates a "unity of purpose, which promotes the raised ambition of doing both". To do both we need tools and mindsets that advance deep collaboration and that help us jump epistemic borders. This requires deep listening and more importantly, a sense of humility.
-- John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist, Xerox Corporation and director of its Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC).

Ben Shneiderman's powerful and important new book makes the strong case that we must integrate studies of practical problems with the development of theory: each supports and drives the other. This strong, highly readable book presents well-reasoned arguments combined with powerful case studies. The book especially resonates with me, for as I have made the transition from academia to industry and back again (several times), I have seen how theory can be used for practical problems while practice reveals the gaps and deficiencies in those theories, My current rebirth as a designer is specifically so that i can follow Shneiderman's prescription. Academia has gone too far with its emphasis on theoretical abstraction and discipline silos: It is time to blend engineering, science, social sciences, business, and the arts.
-- Don Norman, Prof. and Director, The Design Lab, University of California, San Diego, former Vice President of Apple, and Author of "The Design of Everyday Things"

"The New ABCs of Research" celebrates the way the Web has changed research methods and goals. It's about teamwork, community, and sharing. It's about making a better society and better lives for everyone. It's about passion, hard work, and hope. It's what we need for the next hundred years.
-- Dame Wendy Hall, Univ of Southampton & Web Science Trust

Increasingly, the breakthroughs in research that contribute to solving the hardest problems in our world rely on collaborations among teams of experts from different disciplines. Shneiderman's new book examines how to make such collaborative research ventures productive. He builds on two key foundational principles: the importance of combining applied and basic research and the role of science, engineering and design as a tools and methodologies. Building on these two principles, he illustrates the approach with further elaboration and a host of case studies from industrial research to academia to government. This book will be compelling reading for anyone thinking about building an effective research organization for the 21st century.
-- John Hennessy, President, Stanford University

It's excellent... a critically important research manifesto in the spirit of Vannevar Bush's 1945 Science: The Endless Frontier.
-- Rita Colwell, Director, U. S. National Science Foundation (1998-2004)

Ben Shneiderman's New ABCs of Research presents a compelling, evenhanded argument for a new paradigm for interdisciplinary collaboration that puts engineering and design on an equal footing with basic science. This well-written book is full of sound observations and sage advice for students and young researchers alike, while at the same time providing plenty of food for thought for established researchers and policy makers.
-- Henry Petroski, Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History, Duke University; author of The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems and The Road Taken: The History and Future of America's Infrastructure

Innovation powers economic growth. But how to achieve true breakthrough innovations? Ben Shneiderman's The New ABCs of Research explodes the myth that innovation is the product of lone inventors and shows how the key lies in collaboration and conducting applied and basic research together. It's a must read for those who are looking to spur innovation in the academic, corporate, startup and urban innovation communities.
-- Richard Florida, University of Toronto, author Rise of the Creative Class

I am in complete harmony with the theme presented. I have no doubt about the accelerated progress gained by connecting the most fundamental thinking to potential applications. Very often the big hit applications turn out to be something not initially considered but the back and forth between utility and understanding stimulates the expanding visions that fuel all avenues.
-- Dan Mote, President, National Academy of Engineering

Shneiderman's message distills key learnings from the last three decades of academic research and commercial innovation. His prescription for integrated and iterative applied and basic research should be read by every student, faculty member, university president, and funding agency lead.
-- Deborah Estrin, Professor, Computer Science and Founder of Health Tech Hub, Cornell Tech

Real breakthroughs come when applied and basic research resonate and collide. Then science, engineering, and design team up to speed the flow of innovation. Shneiderman's new book shows how.
-- Vint Cerf, VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google

The New ABC's of Research is a brilliant synthesis about the creation of knowledge that matters. It does for Applied/Basic Research & for Science/Engineering/Design what CP Snow did for Science/Humanities in The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. The content is rich and thoughtful, the writing is crystalline in its clarity, and the chapters on Science, Engineering, and Design are each one worth the price of admission. By using captivating case vignettes to illustrate, the book expresses its own message of working in both theory and practice. I love this book.
-- Mark Smith, Chief Innovation Officer, MedStar Health, Director, MedStar Institute for Innovation

Table of Contents

    Part I: Guiding Principles
  1. Combining Applied and Basic Research: The ABC Principle
  2. Blending Science, Engineering, and Design: The SED Principle

  3. Part II: Science, Engineering, & Design
  4. What Science Contributes: Persistence in Understanding the World
  5. What Engineering Contributes: Devotion to Focused Innovations
  6. What Design Contributes: Fresh Thinking to Serve Human Needs

  7. Part III: Research Life Cycle Strategies
  8. Choose Actionable Problems that Address Civic, Business & Global Priorities
  9. Apply Observation, Intervention, and Controlled Experiments
  10. Form Teams with Diverse Individuals & Organizations
  11. Test Ideas and Prototypes with Realistic Interventions
  12. Promote Adoption & Assess Impact

  13. Part IV: Making it Happen
  14. Recommendations for Action
  15. Change Is Hard, but Possible

SideBars: Case Studies of New Research Strategies
   Section 1.3: Rita Colwell: Stopping Cholera with Science, Satellites, and Saris
   Section 1.4: Google Research: A Hybrid Approach
   Section 2.3: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft: Applied Research in Public Service
   Section 2.5: Shirley Ann Jackson: Leader of The New Polytechnic
   Section 3.4: CITRIS-UCalifornia: Multi-Campus Center in Public Service
   Section 3.6: Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute: University of Utah's Innovation Engine
   Section 4.3: Bell Labs: Designed to Ensure Applied Research Inspired Basic Research
   Section 5.5: Sebastian Seung: A Researcher's Transformational Story
   Section 6.2: Nathan Eagle: A Role Model for the ABC Principle
   Section 7.4: Michael Crow: President of Arizona State University
   Section 8.3: Evidenced-based Research for Social Programs
   Section 9.4: VRVis: A Viennese Version of Blending Disciplines
   Section 10.5: Web Science Trust: Thought Leaders for Blended Research
   Section 11.4: Teaching Teamwork with Real Users: Relate-Create-Donate

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