Creations of Many Minds: Contextualizing Intellectual Property Issues Arising from Collaborations Across the Disciplines of Science, Engineering, Arts, and Design

Robert Thill, Audrey Pic, and Roger F. Malina

Abstract: Navigating intellectual property (IP) rights in collaborations across sciences, engineering, arts, and design can be a complex endeavor for all concerned. Highlighting new and adapted historic forms of media, this white paper draws on existing literature, original case studies, and interviews to speak about cross-disciplinary collaborations in which intellectual property (IP) might pose obstacles and opportunities and have an impact on creative forms. It calls for flexibility, trust, and respect for the wide range of views held about IP, sensitivity to the varied knowledge and practical experience that collaborators in diverse disciplines might possess, and an openness to learn from and teach one another. Lastly, it encourages critical perspectives and suggests practical actions by specific stakeholders and wielders of influence to foster positive results.

Keywords: Cross-disciplinary, collaboration, authorship, intellectual property, science, art, media, amateur, professional, trust.


Because IP in cross-disciplinary collaborations is an unstable factor that is interwoven into the participants’ shifting contexts, disciplinary knowledge, and professional relationships, it can be of significant consequence. Such collaborations take place not only between a wide range of disciplines (the focus here is on sciences, engineering, arts, and design, with attention given to comparison and contrast with amateur and professional statuses), but also in many different situations and in a variety of structures, including academic frameworks, designated cultural programs, organizations that facilitate residencies within industry, and self-organized projects.1 Some collaborators may have multiple roles and affiliations tied to policies that could dictate that other parties—employers or sponsors—have a stake in IP that might emerge from independently initiated collaborations. In this paper we address these issues through four detailed case studies.

Along these lines, in addition to complex contexts, this white paper notes that the wide variety of collaborators’ general knowledge of IP, especially in relation to cross-disciplinary collaborations, can also be a destabilizing element within these frequently experimental arrangements; this factor is influenced by collaborators’ understanding of the ways in which IP is approached and regarded in their primary fields. However, in some cases, interviewees (also referred to here anonymously as “informants”) had only very general ideas about and a vague interest in IP, even in their primary field, which could make potential fundamental decisions difficult to resolve if they arose. One scientist involved in a successful cross-disciplinary collaboration disarmingly stated, “I have to confess that I had never given a thought to intellectual property concerns in my collaboration” (pers. comm.), underscoring that IP rights do not necessarily have to be exercised (Merges 2011, 84–86), and giving emphasis to the two case studies in this white paper that show they need not be an obstacle if approached reasonably.

However, the sources of IP conflict are also an uncertain component. In fact, two case studies in this white paper reveal obstacles and issues emanating from nonprimary collaborators, highlighting a seemingly less predictable external threat. Based on interviews, there also appears to be a particularly loose sense of IP in relation to publicity, news, and sharing, with potential exposure and recognition tending to encourage some to give over material for reproduction with little consideration of terms, while more care might be taken in terms of IP in other contexts. In addition, the fine print of agreements can sometimes elude authors, allowing for other unintended uses of their works.2

This white paper also focuses on the media used in these collaborations and the kinds of innovations that arise from them, and thus touches upon the perception of participants’ credibility,3 imagination, persuasion, and trust as based to some degree on values, both in their professional roles and as expressed in their intellectual properties.

Owing to the perceived sensitive nature of discussing IP obstacles within cross-disciplinary collaborations, some informants chose to remain anonymous in order not to disturb ongoing personal and professional relationships, among other reasons. Protecting anonymity required omitting some descriptions of the projects under discussion, which also masked some relevant information and concerns. One informant pointedly said that he had not shared everything, and many others we approached declined to participate altogether. While in some cases this was due to scheduling conflicts, it could also be a significant finding for a white paper aimed at identifying IP obstacles and opportunities in cross-disciplinary collaborations, because it serves as a reminder that IP concerns are frequently both confidential and ongoing, and further suggests a potential long-term effect for future considerations—that those who have negative experiences in cross-disciplinary collaborations might not disclose their obstacles and might not pursue these collaborations again, while those who have positive experiences might not disclose approaches that could otherwise serve as models to reduce obstacles and encourage successful cross-disciplinary collaborations.

It certainly suggests the need for more study, though we strongly suspect that the benefit of disclosing confidential information is less obvious than the benefit of protecting reputations and personal and professional relationships. Nevertheless, we have been able to include a number of bold disclosures, firsthand accounts, and evidence of productive outcomes.

In spite of scant non-Western examples and few comparisons and contrasts in the larger realm of international law and economics, we might urge consideration of an assertive exploratory curriculum that centralizes IP to inspire creativity (see Japan Patent Office, Asia-Pacific Industrial Property Center, and Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation 2008). While this is an intriguing approach, it could potentially raise questions about a balanced or neutral presentation of IP. An instruction guide in the US that is narrowly focused on ethics and references interdisciplinary collaboration might offer a point of contrast (Online Ethics Center for Engineering 2006).

This white paper is not intended to offer legal solutions to specific problems. Instead, it focuses primarily on four case studies and notes areas in which there are obstacles and opportunities in relation to IP in cross-disciplinary collaborations.


The specific topic of IP issues arising from collaborations across the disciplines of sciences, engineering, arts, and design takes place against the backdrop of a larger discussion of IP as the conception of intangible properties. It has to do with both a focal point of concern about how IP functions in societies and a balancing act between rewarding creators and serving the public interest, set within a system of actions that are ever-changing. Four case studies are included here because there are numerous points of view published on the general topic of IP and a dearth of publications on the specific topic of IP in cross-disciplinary collaborations, and the case studies reveal specific subjective contextually based obstacles and opportunities. It is of interest that two of the collaborations are characterized as residencies (see note 1). While this small sample is by no means representative, it touches on key IP issues and reveals the various weights placed on IP in different contexts, while revealing a variety of knowledge and experiences.4

Case Studies: Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations and Intellectual Property

Case studies and interviews with participants in cross-disciplinary collaborations revealed both common concerns and unique situations in relation to IP, tracing a variety of situations in which IP was not always an impediment but was nevertheless a consistent, active consideration that subtly influenced the creative forms that emerged.

Case Study 1

A designer who collaborated with scientists in a relatively independent way in examining biological forms reported no unusual IP issues arising in the collaboration. This was true despite their having had neither formal discussion nor any agreement on IP in advance of the cross-disciplinary collaboration, and despite the fact that an invention emerged from the collaboration that attained provisional patent status, triggering a collaborating scientist’s employer’s IP policy, which contained a right of first refusal clause; the importance for one collaborator of maintaining first-authorship credit in science publications; and the different potential goals for their discoveries and invention the collaborators ultimately began to develop. The informant said he did not view these scenarios or key points as conflicts, but rather as “decisions to be made together,”5 and that the relationship was based on “trust” and mutual support, adding, “It is all about relationships” (pers. comm.). When asked if he thought an initial written contract would have served a purpose, he answered, “A contract would have killed experimentation.” He added, “At the beginning stages, a contract would have been confining and insidious” (pers. comm.).

Why were trust and experimentation in cross-disciplinary collaboration important for these collaborators to foster? These were some of the key elements that our informant viewed as enabling the work to thrive as “a successful collaboration that approached a common problem that could only be solved with tools—instruments and methodology—from different disciplines” (pers. comm.). Velonaki et al. (2008, 12) have identified trust as among the characteristics that are essential to successful cross-disciplinary collaborations. Important contextual factors in this collaboration could include long-standing relationships among the parties, relatively equal amounts of control over the work, and very little external oversight. Further, existing mutual interest and appreciation for an aspect of the collaborators’ nonprimary disciplines is frequently cited as an important element in positive cross-disciplinary collaborations (Weinberg 2011, 265–66; Blackwell and Jefferies 2006, 262). The presence or cultivation of these kinds of conditions could help avoid a variety of obstacles, including IP concerns, and aid in clearing the way for the development of new forms. In this case, the anonymous collaborators in the study are actively supporting one another’s future goals with their discoveries, even though their directions have diverged.6

Case Study 2

In contrast to the previous case, an anonymous artist who had developed hardware and software for creative visual and sonic biofeedback systems sought and secured a residency as part of a cross-disciplinary collaboration with a medical doctor for the use of his technology in a clinical setting within the context of a children’s hospital. This brought him into an institutional environment with many employees and patients, no deeply established personal or professional relationships, complex policies and unclear boundaries, and greater oversight, which were contrary to his creative practice of less-controlled experimentation and a more public idea of exhibition. He immediately faced many obstacles related to IP, artistic research methodology, and old-fashioned bureaucracy and workplace politics that were nevertheless unique to his status as an artist collaborating with a medical doctor, who was one among many other employees of sometimes competing authority and in a context of freewheeling policing of activity and varied interest in identifying and enforcing policies.

During the residency’s first stages, a senior staff member in charge of biomedical engineering who was not a participant in the cross-disciplinary collaboration visited an interactive exhibition of the technology in a public area of the hospital that was used by the collaborators as a form of research to observe participants’ responses to prototype designs and their abilities to influence the displays they were developing for biofeedback. Owing to his concern that the artist was using noncertified biomedical sensing technology, the staffer immediately took action to suspend the residency. According to the artist, “He made a complaint to the Research Committee and requested that we cease our research until we had obtained a clinical trial number, and provided evidence that our heart rate sensing technology was registered with the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration]” (pers. comm.). During a formal meeting with the artist and the staff from the Research Office to address the senior staff member’s concerns, the staff member expressed surprise that the device was wireless and thus posed little or no risk. Drawing on historic stereotypes about limits on artisanal and scientific abilities (Jackson 2003), which Mandel calls for partly remedying by “establishing a new substantive standard for determining joint creatorship status in both patent and copyright law” (2010), the artist reported that the senior staff member also seemed surprised that he had engineered the wireless sensor system himself, remarking that such a design had potential IP value and offering to assist with the collaborative research. The artist turned down the request; the hardware issues were already resolved, and as he pointed out, collaborative research at the hospital was not focused on developing biomedical engineering but on the use of biofeedback in clinical settings.

The senior staff member’s attempt to put the artist into a more formalized framework within the hospital brought with it cumbersome challenges that indirectly led to an IP concern without sensitivity to the artist’s knowledge—or lack thereof—of this context. The formal review identified a requirement that the artist must obtain public liability and professional indemnity insurance that was not available under his insurance policy through an art workers’ organization. The costly new policy would exceed the project’s budget, further delaying the residency. The collaborators’ solution was to create a casual, part-time position at the hospital with the title of senior research manager, which would provide the required insurance coverage for the cross-disciplinary research and an hourly wage. However, one potential problem with becoming an employee of the hospital was a policy that any IP generated by hospital employees as part of their work there was by default the property of the hospital. To this end, as part of the job acceptance contract, the artist filed a declaration of IP in a disclosure of invention document to protect his existing IP and related discoveries while he used it in the collaborative research with the doctor.7 This case demonstrates how complex IP concerns can rapidly become, and provides an example in which the need to address it within the larger context of the cross-disciplinary collaboration can be critical in removing obstacles in order to focus on the opportunities.

Case Study 3

A cross-disciplinary collaboration that presented few IP obstacles—in part because of institutional motivations that subtly encouraged collaboration—between the artist Guillaume Le Moine and the Leti Institute, a research and technology branch of the French CEA specializing in nanotechnologies and their applications, came about through a relationship between Le Moine and an acquaintance, a PhD student, who introduced him to the Leti Institute’s team of scientists (Le Moine, pers. comm.). The cross-disciplinary collaboration appeared to be unusually informal and spontaneous in an otherwise highly formalized institution, but this ease reflected an existing institutional interest in promoting the relationship between science and art.8 Prior to and after the collaboration there were no written agreements for any IP rights that might emerge from the collaboration: the only condition was a verbal agreement to acknowledge the Leti Institute and the CEA each time the artwork was shown, mentioned, or reproduced (Le Moine, pers. comm; Denis Renaud, expert in process integration, Leti Institute, pers. comm.).

The Leti Institute employed an electron beam used for alternative lithography to cut out and build microelectronic components, and Le Moine was interested in using this existing technique to execute a work of art. His artwork entitled Another World (2008) consists of a single sentence written at the nanolevel on a silicon disc and set in a circular metal frame (Le Moine 2012; Constancias 2008).9 The sentence, which is invisible to the naked eye but legible under a microscope, conveys the idea of distance through perception and scale, as follows: “Another world is possible, it’s here.” This would theoretically have been easy to accomplish, because the scientist collaborators had already used the technology to define shapes at the nanoscale, but the artist challenged them by requesting that the sentence be written in a specific style and font. Le Moine has stated, “It was important that the font was in some ways equivalent to the one used for tags on real street walls, carrying this ‘rebellion’ dimension and relating to handwriting” (Le Moine, pers. comm.). While the scientists already knew how to use a PDF file with a design model to program the ray of electrons and produce all kinds of simple shapes, to realize Le Moine’s art they had to carefully adapt the data to manage a precise transformation of the font at the nanoscale and make sure the sentence remained legible, built with well-shaped letters.

While the cross-disciplinary collaboration appeared to be viewed not so much through a lens of IP as through the prism of cultural contribution, it did serve to bring the Leti Institute’s endeavors to a larger public that could include potential industry partners and entrepreneurs, at the same time that it promoted the Leti Institute’s IP (Renaud, pers. comm.). And although the Leti Institute does not at present see an application for specialized fonts in any further scientific pursuits (Renaud, pers. comm.)—which may still be an open question, as organizations potentially begin to see unique tags at the nanoscale as a valuable marker—it did foresee the value in the potential publicity that the project might generate, since part of its mission involves technology transfer (Le Moine, pers. comm.; Renaud, pers. comm.). Despite having no written IP agreement, the arrangement took the contractual form of a verbal agreement to credit the Leti Institute and the CEA’s contribution to the work as a collaboration. This short-term cross-disciplinary collaborative opportunity presented itself by way of established relationships and an institutional awareness of the value of working with artists. A work in a relatively new medium was realized and specific IP and authorship concerns were addressed informally through mutual trust and respect among the collaborators.

Case Study 4

Different approaches to acknowledging authorship and credit can converge in relation to cross-disciplinary collaborations and cause conflicts in ways that may challenge participants’ values and introduce stipulations that potentially limit creativity. In this case, the artist Daniela De Paulis collaborated with the sound specialist Jan van Muijlwijk, whose primary role in the collaboration was as a part of CAMRAS,10 an amateur radio group that is organized as a foundation and had restored the Dwingeloo radio telescope, which is owned by ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy. De Paulis proposed that together they find a way of using a historic radio communication technology called “Earth-Moon-Earth” (EME), commonly known as “moon bounce” (which CAMRAS was already using for a non-visual purpose) to send visual images to the moon and back to the earth. The EME technology was originally developed by the United States military after World War II as a way to relay communications signals by literally bouncing signals from the earth off the face of the moon and back to the earth.11 Van Muijlwijk’s concept for moon-bouncing an image was to utilize SSTV (slow-scan television) software, which is commonly used by radio amateurs to share images, to transmit and reconfigure images. Once they succeeded in doing so, the entire process was named “Visual Moonbounce.” Because the technology involved already existed, it is not easy to discern the innovation, but as Van Muijlwijk explains, “Moon-bouncing SSTV is unique,” adding, “We [CAMRAS] were the first radio amateurs who succeeded in moonbouncing a picture,” and “that’s only because there was not a dish big enough [previously] to create the necessary signal strength” (pers. comm.), demonstrating the significance of CAMRAS’s restoration of the Dwingeloo dish and emphasizing the result (see De Paulis 2012).

As is customary with the group of radio amateurs, the images that were moon-bounced were shared among themselves. They could also request to have their own images moon-bounced by sending them via email to Van Muijlwijk (Van Muijlwijk, pers. comm.). Early into the collaboration, De Paulis noticed that images that had been moon-bounced were appearing in a variety of contexts without mentioning authorship credits for her and CAMRAS. De Paulis has stated that “a fellow radio amateur from the U.S.” had begun using images in research-based presentations, published papers, self-promotion, and ways that suggested commercial applications, assigning authorship to himself with no additional credit to her and CAMRAS, and circulating the material with misleading attributions that could confuse the original research by De Paulis and Van Muijlwijk (De Paulis pers. comm.) 12 De Paulis has stated that this is “not usually what radio amateurs do” (De Paulis pers. comm.). While CAMRAS uses a variety of informal ways of consistently crediting works within the group (Van Muijlwijk, pers. comm.),13 De Paulis was apparently used to more formal crediting practices, presumably based on her experience in the art world. Van Muijlwijk was not very familiar with formal crediting and the concept of IP was new in the relatively open culture of radio amateurs (Van Muijlwijk, pers. comm.), in which sharing is frequently part of participation. However, he recognized that there was no evidence of the informal credits used by radio amateurs (Van Muijlwijk, pers. comm.). This caused the collaborators to come together to arrive at a solution.14 Blending the role of artist with her collaborators’ roles, De Paulis reported that at the time she had also become part of CAMRAS (pers. comm.). This created an odd doubling effect of authorship by causing De Paulis to be both independently credited by name and also implicitly credited as part of CAMRAS, resulting in her occupying an unusual position of both first and second author, which can have different values aligned with the level of contribution, with alphabetical order being a minority structure in a general study (Marušić, Bošnjak, Jerončić 2011).

After failing to reach a friendly agreement with the radio amateur who was not crediting images that were moon-bounced, De Paulis and Van Muijlwijk sought legal advice from an artists’ union in the Netherlands, who encouraged them to develop a credit policy (De Paulis, pers. comm.); the collaborators also reviewed practices of existing residency programs in which both the artist and the organization are credited for the research (De Paulis, pers. comm.). Ultimately, they agreed to formalize credits; the discussions took place on the “CAMRAS board level” with De Paulis and Van Muijlwijk (Van Muijlwijk, pers. comm.). According to De Paulis, “The credits issue was solved amongst Jan, ASTRON and I, most CAMRAS members don’t know much about it” (pers. comm.).15 She added, “We drafted a paper as a group, including myself—the artist—and the radio amateurs, where we agreed on several points. . . . Images moonbounced at the Dwingeloo radio telescope for an external party would need to be accompanied by the credits for both CAMRAS and the artist. Should the party refuse or ignore this request, no other images can be moonbounced for him/her” (pers. comm.). According to Van Muijlwijk, the specific credit terms apply to everyone (pers. comm.), not simply external parties. De Paulis characterizes the credit policy as based on Creative Commons principles (De Paulis, pers. comm.). The credit requirement also applied to parties “requesting research material concerning Visual Moonbounce” (De Paulis, pers. comm.), which is a common practice for reproducing material but atypical for solely personal research purposes in some fields. The agreement required that it be signed and returned (De Paulis, pers. comm.).16 The promulgation of a formal credit policy for moon-bounced images among ASTRON, CAMRAS, De Paulis, and radio amateurs is distinct in that it exists parallel to the ongoing informal established norms for giving credit among radio amateurs, and could be viewed as an expression of one aspect of the collaboration that brings both potential gains17 and losses.18

The cross-disciplinary collaborative work, the concern for formal credit on the part of the artist, and the disappointment in a fellow radio amateur combined to raise interesting questions about the acknowledgement of authorship, which has ramifications in terms of IP rights. The radio amateur who used the images without credit broke the informal rule, ignored the new policy, and can no longer have access to the process. The solution to the problem he created raises the question of whether or not the newly forged crediting policies represent emerging norms of self-policing within a group (Oliar and Sprigman 2011) or suggest a less flexible approach that could hinder access to technical processes and scientific equipment. In this case, providing credit for access to an otherwise unprotected process could raise a substantial representative consideration in terms of IP, because there is said to be only one facility capable of producing high-quality, well-defined images that are moon-bounced (De Paulis, pers. comm.; Van Muijlwijk, pers. comm.). This kind of development is of interest for those pursuing cross-disciplinary collaborations because, in spite of the collaborators and their organizational associates’ intentions,18 it holds the potential of creating a kind of exclusive legal right by allowing access to only those who agree with a specific assignment of authorship for a process that combines common technologies with restored historic equipment; 20 it could also raise questions about the interests of creators and authors and public interests (Wyszomirski 2000, 4–6). In addition, it has the potential to impede broader experimentation with images that undergo a protected technical process, impair the ability to further develop results that could lead to new forms of creative expression, and place burdens on those researching the subject.21 In the case of moon-bouncing images, the credit policy was formed and enacted in reaction to a significant, assertive threat that was external to the primary cross-disciplinary collaboration. De Paulis explains that the “policy we decided to apply to artistic and cultural content developed at Dwingeloo is a way to credit present and future contributors’ research at the telescope. However, by no means should crediting interfere with further development of the technology in question or any future work carried out at the radio telescope. This policy is our initial attempt to avoid the same kind of time-consuming problems in the future. We keep sharing images with the public and usually a reasonable request for credits is welcome” (De Paulis, pers. comm.).


This white paper establishes IP as a consistent, active consideration that can influence and shape media and methodologies. Nevertheless, the case studies and interviews with cross-disciplinary collaborators in sciences, engineering, arts, and design demonstrate that many participants possess an uneven awareness and knowledge of IP rights and their implications in relationship to the forms they create. In this regard, educational materials on IP should be comprehensive and balanced. This white paper also shows that professional and personal relationships both across and within professional disciplines can increase opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaborations. In addition, trust, respect, mutual support, and goals that benefit each collaborator are conditions that can encourage positive results and can help to ameliorate IP concerns if they arise. In highly regulated conditions that lack clear values or strategies about cultivating cross-disciplinary collaboration, coherent discernible linkage to IP should be established so that opportunities for collaborations that could otherwise be mutually beneficial to the participants and to the public interest are not missed or bungled. Further, sensitivity to different values and approaches to acknowledging authorship and credit and their implications in relation to cross-disciplinary collaborations are important considerations for avoiding obstacles and embracing learning and opportunities without limiting creativity. Since even independent cross-disciplinary collaborations take place in some kind of context, collaborators should be alert to threats and obstacles from nonprimary collaborators who might interfere with IP.

Lastly, this white paper acknowledges a paradox in making the suggestions below that are broadly about increasing knowledge and awareness of IP in a world seemingly oversaturated with IP considerations, where rights are being selectively exercised and enforced, and taking into account the fact that in some contexts established IP restrictions can potentially limit access to creative works and scientific instruments, leading to the negative effect of impeding contributions, experimentation, and research. A statement by the Smithsonian Institute’s Office of Policy and Analysis, in the context of a report on interdisciplinary collaborations that is supplemented with a section that looks beyond traditional academic models, could be considered representative of an institutional view of this paradox: there is a challenge to find “innovative ways to exploit open source principles and at the same time minimize the risk of loss of intellectual property” (2010, C-7).

Suggested Actions

1. Obstacle: Uneven knowledge of IP rights among students, educators, professionals, and participants in cross-disciplinary collaborations in sciences, engineering, arts, and design.

Suggested Actions: We suggest that organizations that develop and assess educational programs, including accreditation bodies, take steps to encourage a more comprehensive approach to IP that takes into account the varying standards and practices of sciences, engineering, arts, and design.

We also suggest that international organizations and governments that provide educational materials about IP carefully consider the variety of goals of specific learners and the diverse concerns they might have through balanced presentations of the lawful protections of IP rights, the integration of broad and inclusive points of reference in relation to IP, and the neutral use of the subject of IP as an educational tool.

A further suggestion is the development of online resources that include a free tutorial on IP rights, perhaps modeled on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Extramural Research’s Protecting Human Research Participants Course, which draws on historic and contemporary case studies to teach about risks in human-subject research and how to avoid them, and offers a certification at the end as proof of completion. The proposed course would teach about IP and how it relates to a wide range of pursuits in a variety of traditional and emerging contexts, including cross-disciplinary collaborations in sciences, engineering, arts, and design.

2. Obstacle: The general lack of professional and personal relationships across professional disciplines limits opportunities to initiate and participate in cross-disciplinary collaborations, relegating factors like IP concerns to a lower priority, which could trigger flashpoints of conflict when collaborations do take place. (It is of interest to consider this obstacle in relation to the suggested actions in 4 below.)

Suggested Actions: Since personal relationships and mutual trust play an important role in successful collaborations, we suggest that scientists, engineers, artists, and designers increase opportunities for interactions between disciplines, and that individuals who are interested in cross-disciplinary collaborations make a concerted effort to enlarge and diversify their professional and personal networks to support their goals and begin to address specific issues such as IP concerns.

3. Obstacles: Just as artists and designers might not very often consider working with scientists or engineers, scientists and engineers can sometimes overlook opportunities for working with artists and designers. Science-based organizations can be unprepared to adequately accommodate such collaborations; when they are initiated, there can be both unnecessary conflicts related to misconceptions of artistic research methodology on the organizations’ side and a lack of understanding of regulations, privacy, safety, and formal scientific protocols on the artists and designers’ side. Likewise, many artists, designers, and related groups and institutions are typically not organized to accommodate scientists and engineers, and might not have established crediting policies and other ways to reward them.

Suggested Actions: We suggest that science-based organizations promote awareness of the potential benefits of working with artists and designers in cross-disciplinary collaborations. To support this, we suggest the development of human resources protocols that can help ensure success. These would include enhancing clarity regarding the sometimes intertwined issues of IP, health and indemnity insurance, public-relations benefits, and implementation of cross-disciplinary training for all collaborators to encourage mutual understanding, respect, and successful outcomes. Likewise, artists, designers, and related groups and institutions would be wise to consider their abilities to accommodate scientists and engineers, and what form that would take in practical terms and in relation to IP considerations, particularly with regard to ensuring that scientists and engineers are consistently and properly credited for their contributions and taking into account how the circumstances of these collaborations impact authorship credit and rewards.

4. Obstacles: A conflict between protection and encouragement of developing IP can arise as a result of increased awareness of academic honesty in text-based learning, which can lead to a failure to adequately cover technology, audio and visual subject matter, and other forms of expression. A too-narrow focus can mislead learners and restrict knowledge acquisition. A broader approach can create unexpected relationships and heighten distinctions between plagiarism, inspiration, fair use, authorship, and inventorship in IP and in relation to rights and responsibilities among students, educators, and participants in collaborations in sciences, engineering, arts, and design.

Suggested Actions: We suggest that those who are developing IP policies in government, private-sector, and university contexts identify and integrate linkages that make it possible for sciences, engineering, arts, and design to be more closely aligned, so as to avoid conflict and exploit opportunities. This would help initiate conversations across disciplines, stimulate a cross-pollination of ideas, necessarily establish cross-disciplinary relationships, and begin to reveal commonalities and unique expertise while establishing more credibility and respect across disciplines.

We further suggest that local and international governmental copyright and patent agencies more actively coordinate and develop materials on a range of topics and users’ needs that overlap with citation conventions, taking into account not only aspects of IP rights and academic honesty, but also proper credits, acknowledgements, and fair use.

5. Obstacle: Different approaches to acknowledging authorship and credit can converge in relation to cross-disciplinary collaborations and cause conflicts in ways that may challenge values and introduce stipulations that potentially limit creativity and experimentation.

Suggested Action: We suggest that scientists, engineers, artists, and designers enter into cross-disciplinary collaborations with an expectation of unique differences, and develop strategies to keep the focus on the collaboration, the project or research itself, and the learning experience. Participants should be sensitive to contexts and existing cultures, with special care when being primarily accommodated in a cross-disciplinary collaboration. Further, participants in cross-disciplinary collaborations of amateur practitioners with professional scientists, engineers, artists, and designers would be wise not only to share their IP experiences and practices, but also to be perceptive about the impact of doing so, in order not to inadvertently impose their conventions without a clear understanding of their influence and impact on their collaborators’ culture. From another perspective, in a cross-disciplinary environment that has prescribed IP conventions, artists and scientists should be able to adapt to circumstances, while also being generous in sharing their own experiences. Cross-disciplinary collaboration calls for flexibility, trust, and respect for the wide range of practices used in acknowledging authorship and credit, along with openness and receptivity to the challenges they might pose to an individual’s values.


1. For a list of primary organizers and programs, see artsactive (2012). (Disclosure: co-author Robert Thill is an advisor to artsactive.) For a general overview with a focus on two specific programs, see Kemp (2011). For in-depth analysis of the Arts and Science Research Fellowships Scheme, which was established by the United Kingdom Arts & Humanities Research Board and Arts Council England, in relation to IP, see Leach (2012). For an independent cross-disciplinary collaboration between a technical specialist and n55, an art collective (n55 2012), see Kronick, who articulates a vivid argument for his engineering processes, adding “new meanings” and highlighting his use of open source code as “eschewing copyright norms” and making “a statement against the legal concept of intellectual property” (2010, 7, 10). Kronick’s essay is also of interest because it represents the perspective of a collaborator whose role and views are aligned with science and engineering, even though its author was a student of architecture.

2. The recontextualization of theoretical material intended for discipline-specific readership into interdisciplinary contexts can create deceptive relationships, misleading authorship, and confused knowledge (see Beal and Deal 2011).

3. For an examination of collaboration that highlights greater credibility as a motivation in interdisciplinary collaboration, see Maiensche (1993). This text also thoughtfully explores authorship, credit concerns, and layers of contribution in collaborations, and includes examples that involve the sciences and arts.

4. For a useful general glossary of IP-related terms, see Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012); for spirited perspectives on common questions about copyright, especially in an academic context, see Newman (2007).

5. Mitchell, Inouye, and Blumenthal (2003, 101) state that IP agreements were developed for a collaborative work by an artist and a scientist that established co-ownership; however, the authors provide little detail about them.

6. In Crabbe (2004), the functions of IP are discussed in relation to goal-led design research using a case study of an interdisciplinary collaboration between university researchers and a commercial client.

7. This case study is to some extent paraphrased, based on electronic communication with the informant.

8. CEA and the Leti Institute are partners in the Atelier Art Sciences (L’Atelier Arts-Sciences-CEA 2012); this formal undertaking most likely helped create institutional norms that enabled enough openness for the Leti Institute’s team to work on art projects, such as Le Moine’s, despite his not being involved in their formal program.

9. The project is reproduced at Le Moine (2012), which also includes individual slides of a presentation that documents the project’s process (Constancias 2008).

10. For more information on the organization, see C. A. Muller Radio Astronomy Station (2012).

11. For additional material about historic and contemporary uses of moon bounce, including a brief acknowledgement of interest in moon-bouncing images and an observation that artists have generated some of this interest, see Katz and Franco (2011), which also references earlier attempts to moon-bounce images. For those seeking some documentation on the development of this practice, see K2UYH (2013), which also provides insights into amateur radio identity, culture, and crediting norms.

12. The images used by the radio amateur from the U.S. that were not credited were both his own creations that were moon-bounced for him and images created by the collaborators that were moon-bounced and shared with him, including images related to a performance work by De Paulis and CAMRAS (De Paulis, pers. comm.).

13. Van Muijlwijk gives examples of CAMRAS’s crediting norms: “Let’s say I use certain free software to process radio signals and I get some nice results. When I talk about that I always mention the maker of that software. And if something is written down and published I do the same. It’s more or less second nature. In amateur radio everyone does that” (Van Muijlwijk, pers. comm.).

14. It might be significant to those studying cross-disciplinary collaboration in general to know that the conflict itself and its resolution were reported to have brought the primary collaborators closer together and helped solidify their relationships and create deeper bonds (De Paulis, pers. comm.).

15. Asked about his observations of the response of those in CAMRAS who were strictly amateurs (no professional or science backgrounds), Van Muijlwijk said, “It was not a CAMRAS-wide discussion. Of course some people heard about it and were most of the time rather astonished that we ran into those problems. . . . Most people who heard about it could not understand (like Daniela and me) why [the radio amateur] was not willing to credit Daniela” (pers. comm.). Further exploration of the relationship between a professional artist and radio amateurs raises questions of authority in relation to crediting within cross-disciplinary collaborations and the perception of the designation “professional” and “amateur.” Asked about the converging values and acts of the collaboration, the formal credits, and the lack of informal credit by the radio amateur, Van Muijlwijk said it was “difficult” to speculate about it, offering: “We radio amateurs would have noticed [the lack of credits] but maybe a bit later. . . . Daniela, being a professional artist, is more aware of things that can go wrong, so she was the first to notice” (pers. comm.).

16. In considering these aspects of their crediting requirement, it bears repeating that their original research was appropriated.

17. In the context of a discussion of formalized IP policies, Van Muijlwijk communicated the following in relation to moon-bouncing: “Now that the dish is nearly fully restored we (CAMRAS) will have to do the maintenance in future. That will cost money, of course. So we are looking for ways to make some money. There are all kinds of ideas, but one of the ideas is asking for some money from artists and astronomers who want to use the dish. CAMRAS volunteers can use the dish for free, so if Daniela is one of CAMRAS, she won’t have to pay for dish-time in future” (pers. comm.).

18. Noting the effect of the decision, Van Muijlwijk stated, “I had that sense of getting less free by enforcing the crediting. That was not a nice feeling. Very opposite to what amateur radio feels like” (pers. comm.).

19. De Paulis describes CAMRAS and her public activities in relation to part of her artistic goals as follows: “CAMRAS and I have been very active in making public the technological insights of what we do, both through public presentations and published papers. Jan [Van Muijlwijk ] especially has been helping lots of radio amateurs across the world getting their gear set for moon-bouncing images. We hope that more and more radio amateurs will catch up, to the point where moon-bouncing images will become a more popular way of communicating. This is very much part of my artistic aims too” (De Paulis, pers. comm.). Here, one can see how the practical need to protect cross-disciplinary collaborative works and the desire to promote them converge, and the quandary this convergence can pose for creative intentions.

20. Van Muijlwijk has made a representative statement about the innovation and the credit issue: “Your image was altered by ‘our’ process, so when publishing the end product it would be polite to mention how the alteration came about” (pers. comm.). Here, he more emphatically underscores the innovation as collaborative, appears unambiguous about publishing, and highlights the process that would only come about through cross-disciplinary collaboration, potentially giving the technological process a bit more weight than he does in other statements in which the artist’s idea seems primary. This seems consistent with a trace of modesty and a hint of wonderment in relation to collaborating with an artist. Viewing the situation through the prism of politeness rather than in the legal and academic language of IP rights and authorship seems to emphasize the desired social dynamics and values among the radio amateurs.

21. When asked if there is discussion about the contrast between the free culture of amateur radio and the monopolistic influence that ASTRON, CAMRAS, and De Paulis have on the Dwingeloo dish to moon-bounce or not to moon-bounce images, Van Muijlwijk said, “No, not much discussion about that, that I am aware of. But we must realize we are just at the beginning of this. The first ever try to moonbounce pictures in Dwingeloo was in 2009” (pers. comm.).


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