Bentley University's Research Agenda
The process of assembling Bentley’s Annual Research Report affords a unique opportunity to celebrate the faculty’s accomplishments and to reaffirm its commitment to scholarship that makes a difference for business and society. As chair of Bentley’s Research Council, I am pleased to present the research ambitions and achievements of Bentley University faculty and students. This is also a good time to reflect on developments that are affecting university-based research. One of the most prominent of those developments is “Big Data,” which was the subject of the Bentley Research Council’s 2014 Research Colloquium, chaired by Professor Heikki Topi, in November 2014.
Big Data represents both an approach to doing academic research and a subject of academic research. In fact, there are at least three categories of research related to Big Data: application research, infrastructures research, and implications research, all of which were featured at the 2014 colloquium.
In Big Data application research, scholars in the sciences, humanities, and business disciplines use Big Data tools and techniques to answer theoretical and practical questions in their areas of interest. Examples of such research questions presented at the colloquium include: How well does technology maturity explain the development of therapeutic drugs for treating cancer? What factors promote effective e-government, that is, more effective citizen-to-government contact? What are the consequences of cross-country differences in executive compensation? Individual scholars presented very interesting findings: for example, Fred Ledley of the Natural Sciences Department and his colleagues found that new drugs are successfully developed almost exclusively from established technologies; this finding has important implications for investment in research and development. David Yates in the Computer Information Systems Department and his colleagues found that some authoritarian governments are using e-government to maintain the status quo rather than to enhance democratic participation; this finding cautions against overly optimistic views of the democratizing potential of the Internet and social media. Kristina Minnick of the Finance Department and her co-authors found a relationship between executive compensation schemes and the value of firms, showing that these pay plans matter and the mechanisms for their impact.
A second category of Big Data-related research is infrastructures research. In this type of research, scholars develop and evaluate the tools, techniques, platforms, standards, and educational or legal arrangements that support or affect Big Data application research. Examples of Big Data infrastructures research presented at the Colloquium include analyzing legal privacy rights related to the collection of data from wearable devices and sensors (Elizabeth Brown, Law, Taxation and Financial Planning Department), building a database of US patents (Michael Walsh, Natural Sciences Department), developing approaches for collecting (and cleaning) product and price data from electronic commerce websites (Patrick Scholten, Economics Department), and devising strategies for introducing Big Data concepts and technologies into the business classroom (Mark Frydenberg, Computer Information Systems Department).
A third category of Big Data research is implications research, which explores the effects of Big Data applications on business and society. During the Colloquium, Bentley scholars discussed a wide range of Big Data consequences, including the benefits of track-and-track technologies (e.g., RFID tagging) in health care (Alina Chircu, Information Process Management Department), the outcomes of India’s massive project to uniquely identify all its citizens (Samir Dayal, English and Media Studies Department), and the potential for stereotyping and discrimination resulting from research that analyzes public health data (Ben Aslinger, English and Media Studies Department).
In all, faculty members and doctoral students from 14 Bentley departments and research centers were represented on the program, in addition to two outside keynote speakers: Christopher Lynch MBA ‘91 (Partner, Atlas Venture) and Theresa Pardo (director of the Center for Technology in Government at the University of Albany, State University of New York). The colloquium was an impressive demonstration of the breadth, impact, and relevance of research by members of the Bentley community.
Big Data also raises challenges for academic research that will undoubtedly be the focus of much discussion and soul searching in the decades ahead. Among those challenges are:
- How will universities be able to afford the technology infrastructure and data resources required for Big Data research? How well will universities be able to compete for research talent with giant social media corporations? How will corporate sponsorship of university-based research affect the research questions asked and the findings reported?
- How will universities cope with the value conflicts surrounding Big Data research? How can scholars provide open access to data and models (needed to ensure scientific integrity), while simultaneously protecting corporations’ intellectual property rights in data and the public’s expectations of privacy, in an era where technology permits the “re-identification” of individuals in “anonymized” datasets.
- How well will universities and academic disciplines continue to value traditional forms of scholarship in the face of overwhelming enthusiasm and increased public support for Big Data methods?
Despite challenges like these, Bentley remains committed to excellence in scholarship of all types. As chair of Bentley’s Research Council, I think you will find ample evidence of Bentley’s goals for, and achievements in, high-quality scholarship that makes a difference for business and society.
M. Lynne Markus
The John W. Poduska Senior Professor of Information and Process Management
Bentley Research Council Members
M. Lynne Markus
John W. Poduska Senior Professor of Information and Process Management,
Chair of the Bentley Research Council
Professor William Wiggins, Research Council Coordinator, Department of Law, Tax and Financial Planning
Jean Bedard, Timothy B. Harbert Professor of Accountancy
Pierre Berthon, Clifford F. Youse Chair of Marketing & Strategy
Marcia Cornett, Robert & Julia Dorn Professor of Finance
Professor Dhaval Dave, Stanton Research Professor of Economics
Beverley Earle, Gregory H. Adamian Professor of Law
Robert Galliers, Bentley University Distinguished Professor
Professor Jennifer Gillan, Department of English and Media Studies
Professor Fred Ledley, Natural and Applied Sciences, Director, Center for ISI
Associate Professor Tatiana Manolova, Department of Management
Professor Victoria Steblovskaya, Department of Mathematical Science
Professor Cyrus Richard Veeser, Department of History
Professor Christine Williams, Department of Global Studies
Professor Daniel Everett, Dean of Arts & Sciences
Professor Vicki Lafarge, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Professor Michael Quinn, Interim Director PhD Program, Department of Economics
Laurie A. Sutch, Director, Library and Academic Technology Center
Professor Roy (Chip) Wiggins III, Dean of Business