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CRA Committee on Industry/Academia Interactions Releases Report


Recent trends such as increasing industry demands for technical talent from academia, as well as changes in the academic environment with increased industry interactions have prompted the need for a fresh look at the relationships between academia and industry. In late 2019, a CRA ad hoc committee on Industry/Academia Interactions was created to study these trends and determine how CRA can have an impact. The committee was formed as a follow up activity from the CCC white paper on “Evolving Academia/Industry Relations in Computing Research” to better understand the scope of industry engagements across CRA member institutions. This initiative fits with CRA’s mission to enhance innovation by joining with industry, government and academia to strengthen research and advanced education in computing and aligns with goals identified in the CRA Strategic Planning effort. The committee conducted a survey of computing department chairs in January 2020, and used the information gathered to recommend opportunities to CRA to engage further. The committee report is available here, and a summary and link to video presentation is below.

Summary of Survey Results

  • In January 2020, a survey was sent to 221 computing department chairs.
    • 105 responses — indicates strong interest by CRA member organizations.
    • Over 60% also said that they were open to engaging further on this topic.
  • Findings show that significant industry engagement is under way between faculty and industry, with an increasing trend.
  • There was a mix of positive and negative aspects of industry/academia engagements, with the positives outweighing the negatives.
  • There are also correlations between industry interactions and department size, as well as between department size and proximity to a “tech hub” geographic region.
  • A wealth of information from the survey can help guide future CRA activities related to industry-academia engagements.
  • It is important to note that these findings pre-date the recent worldwide impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next Steps

Based on the findings thus far, the committee’s recommendations include the following:

  1. Conduct additional surveys to get a more complete picture of current opportunities and challenges related to industry-academia interactions:
  2. Create a follow-on report on best practices for departments and companies in industry/academia engagements related to computing research.
  3. Consider forming a new CRA programmatic committee focused on fostering, amplifying, and sustaining industry’s contributions to the broad landscape of computing research.

The CRA Board approved the formation of this programmatic committee at the July Board meeting.

Sarkar VideoWatch CRA Board Member Vivek Sarkar, chair of the CRA Industry/Academia Committee, share the survey results and recommendations from the committee in this video.

Click here to view the full committee report and here to view slides from the video presentation.

CRA Industry/Academia Committee

Vivek Sarkar (Chair, Georgia Institute of Technology)
Nancy Amato (University of Illinois)
Susan Davidson (University of Pennsylvania)
Eric de Sturler (Virginia Tech)
David Ebert (Purdue University)
Mark D. Hill (University of Wisconsin)
Charles Isbell (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Shwetak Patel (University of Washington)
Chris Ramming (VMware)
Divesh Srivastava (AT&T Labs-Research)
Marvin Theimer (Amazon)
Benjamin Zorn (Microsoft)