Are They Surmountable?
R. STANLEY DICKS
North Carolina State University
Collaboration between academics and practitioners in technical communication is essential to both groups. Academic programs in technical communication came into existence because of the needs of business and government for competent communicators with the special knowledge and skill sets required to produce technical documents of high quality. Those programs, in a real sense, depend for their existence on continuing to meet the needs of the “work world. ” To ensure that their programs continue to meet such needs, academics must continue to communicate with and collaborate with practitioners. In turn, business badly needs to hire technical communicators trained in the special requirements of audience-centered writing as opposed to the journalistic and expository writing instruction received in more traditional writing programs. Corporate and government entities, which face a constant shortage of qualified, competent communicators, must rely on academic programs to help supply enough such practitioners. In addition, to improve the quality of their work, practicing technical communicators need to interact continuously with academics to remain informed of the results of academic inquiry and research into appropriate principles and practices (Tebeaux, 1996).
Although both groups benefit greatly when they interact and collaborate effectively, many cultural differences between academia and business thwart collaboration efforts. From 13 years in academia and 16 years as a practicing technical