Bridging the Gap Between Research and Standardization

In the fourth research result of the month, we report a joint work between the UH NODES group and the Cambridge NetOS group, lead by Prof. Sasu Tarkoma and Prof. Jon Crowcroft, respectively. Their work recently received the best paper award "Best of CCR" from ACM SIGCOMM.

Research result of the month: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Standardization

In the fourth research result of the month, we report a joint work between the UH NODES group and the Cambridge NetOS group, lead by Professor Sasu Tarkoma and Professor Jon Crowcroft, respectively. Their work [1] recently received the best paper award “Best of CCR” from ACM SIGCOMM and is featured on the ACM Computing Review [2], the review including the following commentary “The authors then share their lessons and suggestions to bridge the gap. These are honest and useful to both academia and industry. Readers will see the potential for comprehensive collaboration between networking research and Internet standardization.”

Supported by the Nokia Foundation, NODES researcher Aaron Yi Ding presented their work in the top-tier conference ACM SIGCOMM 2014 in Chicago, with over 700 leading scholars participating this year from the networking and data communications area. Next, we interview Aaron how this work started and evolved into the final article.

Tell a bit about the background of the work?

This work originates from the Wireless Broadband Access (WiBrA) project starting in May 2010. It is a joint effort led by Principal Investigator Markku Kojo at University of Helsinki, in collaboration with leading industrial companies including Nokia, Nokia Networks and TeliaSonera. The goal of this project was to achieve both scientific publications and industrial standards. The WiBrA project resulted in 8 scientific publications and 7 standard contributions [3].

Figure 1: WiBrA team members in Summer Palace during IETF-79 in Beijing, China.

What got you started in this research topic?

For this award winning paper [1], it starts mainly from a research visit to the University of Cambridge made by Professor Sasu Tarkoma and me in 2013, hosted by Professor Jon Crowcroft.

Figure 2: Prof. Sasu Tarkoma and Aaron in Cambridge Computer Lab.

In the same period, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) was planning a workshop on Internet Technology Adoption and Transition (ITAT) hosted by the Cambridge Computer Laboratory. Because one of the key targets is to improve the research-technology transfer, we submit our first draft to the workshop in which we summarize the WiBrA project through case studies. Since Professor Jörg Ott (Aalto) was also visiting Cambridge, after several lively discussions with Jörg, Jon and our industrial partners, we decided to submit the final version to ACM Computer Communication Review, which won the ACM SIGCOMM Best of CCR award.

Figure 3: Christmas dinner after ITAT workshop in Cambridge.

Can you outline the key insights in the article?

For academia, there are several misunderstandings toward standardization. The problem is complex as it extends beyond pure technical concerns. To shed light on how to bridge the gap, we generalize suggestions based on our experience across networking research and standardization for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) over the past 20 years.

1. Identifying Proper Targets

Many research proposals presented at the standardization forums receive negative feedback mainly because the work items do not match the standardization scope. It is hence important to identify which part of research fits to the agenda of the standard community. This also indicates that researchers need to invest time and effort to understand the process of standardization. It is highly recommended to attend standardization meetings in person to create opportunities to exchange directly with industrial professionals and consult them for advice.

Figure 4: Aaron presents the paper at SIGCOMM 2014.

2. Understanding the Difference

If a problem is well defined, being real in existing environments and relatively easy to fix, the standardization goes smoothly. However, if a problem is hard and the fix is complex, the authors shall prepare a clear problem description, do much more footwork in convincing people the value of this problem, and be ready to spend time in selling the solution. At the same time, very different from research publications where authors have the right to decide the core content, the standardization work is often conducted through working groups based on consensus and is hence largely controlled by the standardization community rather than a single or few authors. This may discourage researchers for participation and prolong the progress. Therefore, the expectation shall be properly adjusted.

Figure 5: Time requirement for IETF Standard Publication.

3. Evaluating the Impact

Citation is a classic factor to determine the research impact, but it suffers from a limitation that it mainly reflects the influence received by the peers in the academic community. At the same time, the standardization work, even the ones with significant research contributions, is given little value, despite that technical standards may receive more reviews than typical academic papers. This creates barriers for researchers to participate in the standardization work. Therefore, a more comprehensive evaluation metrics can motivate researchers to actively get involved, for instance, by taking the standards contribution and its industrial impact into account when apply for tenure positions.

4. Organizational Support

For industry professionals, a typical barrier for academic activities is the gap between the money investment and the payback. The same applies to researchers who find little value to contribute to standardization. There are fortunately organizations like Nokia Research Center and Deutsche Telekom Innovation Labs that stand between academic and industry organizations, and can do both. Such organizational supports also increase the awareness across domains. It is often that industrial professionals are not aware of the latest research results and even so, do not know where to obtain such information, similar to the situation where researchers are unaware of the latest standardization progress and the existing solutions at the product level. The organizational support can form a channel providing pointers, and help promote the career for both researchers and industrial professionals.


[1] "Bridging the Gap between Internet Standardization and Networking Research", ACM Computer Communications Review, Vol. 44, No. 1, January 2014. Aaron Yi Ding (University of Cambridge/University of Helsinki), Jouni Korhonen (Broadcom), Teemu Savolainen (Nokia), Markku Kojo (University of Helsinki), Jörg Ott (Aalto University), Sasu Tarkoma (University of Helsinki/HIIT), Jon Crowcroft (University of Cambridge)

[2] ACM Computing Review:

[3] Publications of WiBrA project:

Created date

13.10.2014 - 13:48

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