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Research Roundup

03 August 2005

UC Berkeley, Yahoo team up to research new Internet technologies

In a first-of-its-kind partnership between a top public university and a leading Internet company, UC Berkeley is teaming up with Yahoo Research Labs to launch a new laboratory to explore innovations in areas such as Internet search technology, "social media," and mobile media.

The partnership offers Yahoo access to Berkeley's intellectual capital, leadership, and innovation, and provides the campus with the ability to do new kinds of research with Yahoo and its hundreds of millions of users on a massive scale generally unavailable in academic settings, said Marc Davis, who will serve as founding director of Yahoo Research Labs-Berkeley when it opens at a location near campus in August. Davis, an assistant professor in the School of Information Management and Systems (SIMS), directs the school's cutting-edge "Garage Cinema Research" group (which focuses on creating the technology and applications that will enable daily media consumers to become daily media producers), and is also a co-founder of Berkeley's interdisciplinary Center for New Media.

Yahoo Research Labs–Berkeley will conduct research and explore new technologies that will support and reinforce key areas of Internet growth. One area will be search technology. Another will be social media, such as photos, video, music, audio, and text, that are obtained from personal, public, or community sources and then shared, referenced, or remixed in ways that help foster social relations. Yet another area will be mobile media, involving mobile devices such as camera phones.

An advisory committee of Yahoo and UC Berkeley representatives will oversee the partnership, initially set to operate for five years. The UC Berkeley Industry Alliances Office will oversee the administrative components of the agreement for faculty, students, and staff.

The framework of the Berkeley-Yahoo pact gives all parties certain rights to intellectual property developed in the lab and "provides an exclusive, time-limited option so that Yahoo will have first crack at what is developed in the new research facility," according to Dana Bostrom, associate director of the Industry Alliances Office. Most intellectual property developed at the lab will be shared jointly between Berkeley and Yahoo, she adds.

— Kathleen Maclay

Study shows promise of entry-level IT jobs for low-wage workers

An increasing simplification of information-technology skills, the integration of the IT function into virtually every business in America, and an increase in training services are vastly increasing opportunities and rewards for jobseekers with minimal education, says Karen Chapple, an assistant professor of city and regional planning who teaches courses on economic development, poverty, and metropolitan planning.

"The major finding of my research," says Chapple, "is that if you can get in the IT door, you're going to have incredible wage gains — up to a 56-percent increase in wages over just three years."

Training-program graduates Chapple talked to found their wages increase from about $13 an hour in retail, service, and construction jobs to $20 an hour in IT. Those who moved into IT with only a high-school diploma or general equivalency degree (GED) saw wages increase by 74 percent, Chapple said, while those with a college degree reported salary boosts averaging 60 percent. (Those with an associate's degree experienced wage gains of 36 percent.) This suggests, she said, that if someone can't earn a four-year college degree, they would be better off attending a short training program than going to community college.

With more than one million entry-level IT jobs currently in the U.S. and a predicted growth of more than five percent per year for the next eight years, employers cannot fill all their new positions with workers from four-year colleges or from abroad, Chapple has concluded. That is, in part, because the moderate-skill jobs pay less than college-educated workers are willing to accept: about $15 an hour for an entry-level position.

Training program graduates may initially be able to fix printers, but on-the-job learning can teach them more and more about software and networking, increasing their earning and advancement abilities, Chapple says. Once they get their foot in the door of the IT industry through a training program, they can also return to school to advance further, she adds.

"This is a field where there's tremendous opportunity to move up," Chapple says.

The full report, "Promising Futures: Workforce Development and Upward Mobility in Information Technology," is online at www-iurd.ced.berkeley.edu/pub/abstract_mg200501.htm. The report was prepared for Berkeley's Institute for Urban and Regional Development and funded by the National Science Foundation and the UC Institute for Labor and Employment.

— K.M.