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Elizabeth Gerber

Elizabeth Gerber

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and, by courtesy, Computer Science and Professor of Communication Studies, McCormick School of Engineering, Co-Director, Center for Human Computer Interaction and Design, Northwestern University

In the face of increasingly complex challenges like healthcare access and environmental collapse, we need dramatic and sustained innovation. The driving question behind my research is how new technology can support the innovation process. In particular, I examine what I define as collective innovation , an innovation process that harnesses the diverse and untapped human, social, and economic capital from distributed networks to discover, evaluate, and implement new ideas (Ger ber et al., 2019) . Open, ubiquitous social technical infrastructure supports collective innovation, affording greater speed and deeper and broader participation . While collective innovation has the potential to massively transform society, it is poorly understood. I use qualitative, quantitative, and design research methodologies to establish theory, contribute design principles, and develop infrastructure for collective innovation. My pioneering scholarship leads the academy's understanding of this fast-evolving, scalable infrastructure, and directly contributes to its improved functioning to benefit society at large.

The first premise of collective innovation is that direct interaction between stakeholders can radically enhance rates of innovation (Gerber et al. , 2019; Foong et al., 2017; Gerber and Hui, 216; Gerber, 2014; Gerber and Hui, 2013; Gerber and Carroll, 2012). The second premise is that even across weakly connected, heterogeneous networks, changes in the design of our infrastructure can bring forth effort and resources that would otherwise lie fallow (Foong et al., under review; Hui et al., 2018; Gerber, 2014; Shaw et al, 2014 , Hui et al., 2014; Gerber, 2007). The third premise is that broader participant engagement can expand the breadth of problems addressed and increase the quality of the solutions (Gerber, 2014; Gerber, 2007). This work is embodied in the four ongoing major endeavors of my r esearch career: Crowdfunding, Crowdsourcing, S ocial Innovation Networks, and Design for America.

My scholarship produces three types of results: 1) theory for collective innovation, 2) design principles, and 3) novel sociotechnical systems to support inclusive and continuous innovation in society. My work has resulted in 60 publications in the Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, Computer Human Interaction, and Management literatures and ACM Interactions and IEEE Internet Computing trade publications. My research has been highlighted in the press including the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Wired, National Public Radio’s Marketplace and generously and consistently supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, Hastac (sponsored by the MacArthur and Mozilla Foundations), Watson Foundation, Adobe, and Microsoft.