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DP4: Informatics Project

Introduction

 

Motivation

Despite the relatively small number of RERC's and NIDRR's emphasis on collaboration, there are few structured opportunities for inter-RERC communication, aside from the annual Project Director's meeting. Increased communication is desirable given the amount of overlap in subject technologies. Among the active RERC's in 2002, four involve prosthetics & orthotics, five refine tele-rehabilitation technologies, seven address functional attributes of wheelchairs, and eight RERC's apply telecommunications technologies. This pilot project expects to demonstrate a structured system which facilitates communication between RERC's and a selected sub-set of their critical stakeholders. These stakeholders will include representatives from the academic, Federal laboratory, clinical practice, consumer, and corporate sectors.

Background

Technology transfer's success depends on the barriers encountered and the carriers used to overcome them. Many barriers arise from inadequate information about technical, market, and customer issues. The absence of current and comprehensive information generates uncertainty in decision-makers. Unless dispelled by reliable information, this uncertainly leads to rejected opportunities.

Many carriers rely on the interpersonal exchanges of information regarding transfer opportunities; hence its colloquial description as a "contact sport." Scholarship on transfer and diffusion emphasized the importance of communication.[1] Since transfer by definition involves communication across organizational, cultural and linguistic boundaries, development teams are especially challenged to effectively communicate transfer activities.[2] Information the sender intends to convey must be available to the potential recipient, at a time they are ready to receive it and in a manner they can readily access and understand.

The T2RERC's State-of-the-Science conference noted the growing importance of knowledge management tools to advancing the emerging field of technology transfer as a discipline, and essential to reaching a broader range of stakeholders with potential contributions to the field of A/T. These tools cannot yet support active collaborations, including guiding information searches; assurance that information is current and exhaustive, an ability to filter irrelevant and prioritize less relevant information, integrate seemingly disparate information, and support decision-making. However, the emerging field of informatics offers an opportunity to combine these tools into the needed capabilities.[3]

Informatics melds the traditional disciplines of communication, library and information sciences, and information technology, to explore how information is organized, used, and shared and how to maximize its generation, availability, and distribution.[4] Such a system - applying the full range of available technologies -could offer knowledge management in a form capable of approximating the interactive elements of communication critical to technology transfer.

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