Year 6 Analysis of CIAN Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT)

2014 CIAN SWOT Report

For the Year 6 SWOT survey, a new format was developed by CIAN’s graduate assistant in charge of evaluations and reports. The new format is based on recommendations from members of CBiRC-ERC regarding an effective SWOT process. In accordance with CBiRC suggestions, a focus group was held with SLC members and CIAN Education staff, and open-ended student responses from last year’s SWOT were used in the formulation of this year’s survey items. Additionally, a method for obtaining consensus on individual SWOT survey items was implemented based on CBiRC’s information, resulting in a more quantifiable set of data. General background information was first gathered on CIAN’s SWOT survey, after which respondents were presented with four sets of statements regarding CIAN’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, respectively. They were asked to indicate their level of agreement on a four point scale: strongly disagree, disagree, agree, and strongly agree. In addition to the multiple choice items, students were provided with a text box to comment on any other perceived strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats to CIAN.

The final portion of the SWOT survey addressed issues regarding student involvement with SLC activities, as well as other questions that SLC officers had for the student body.Fifty-seven students responded to the SWOT survey, although only 47 completed all survey items; 89% (48) were graduate students, and 11% (6) were undergraduates. Most respondents were students at the University of Arizona and Columbia, with a few each from UCLA, UCSD, and other CIAN sites. Students were asked what types of activities they involve themselves in, and full results are in the graph below. It indicates that most students participate in student development meetings, outreach activities, and, of course, research.

When asked what their goals were related to future employment, 57% said they would like to work in Industry, 25% would prefer Academia, and 16% hope to be part of a start-up or other entrepreneurial endeavor.


In the main body of the survey, CIAN students were first asked to indicate their level of agreement with items that reflected a perceived strength of the ERC. Strengths were defined for the respondents as, “Internal characteristics that help CIAN achieve its goals.” Once again, these items were taken from SWOT results from prior years. The table below lists each CIAN strength and the level of consensus (or agreement) among student respondents. A higher level of consensus indicates a higher likelihood that the given strength is actually an objective strength, rather than simply the misperception or subjective view of one or two individuals.


Consensus (Rate of agreement)

There is a good deal of student collaboration with industrial partners within the framework of their research projects.


Students know what CIAN is, as well as its mission and goals.


Most students understand how their research contributes to CIAN’s strategic plan.


Precollege outreach.


Lecture series and webinars.


CIAN offers a competitive advantage (i.e. valuable research/work experience) for students’ future endeavors.


There is extensive student involvement in CIAN activities (retreat, webinars, outreach, etc).


Students are given opportunities to collaborate with Industry on projects.


CIAN students are aware of specific research being conducted at other CIAN universities.


A large majority agreed that the statements above were indeed strengths of CIAN. Online lectures and webinars was most agreed upon (95% consensus), and 94% agreed that most students know what CIAN is, as well as its mission and goals. The only two relative weaknesses (although both received 77% agreement) are the following: student collaboration with industrial partners, and “CIAN students are aware of specific research being conducted at other CIAN universities.” If nothing else, these results indicate two areas that deserve more attention and effort. Interestingly, there was slightly higher consensus regarding the statement “Students are given opportunities to collaborate with Industry…” than with the statement, “There is a good deal of student collaboration with industrial partners…” The subtle difference in wording suggests that students may recognize they are given opportunities to collaborate with industry, but do not always take advantage of those opportunities.

Students were then asked to list other unmentioned strengths, and below are a few examples of open-ended responses that were given:

“CIAN helps undergrads to collaborate with grad students and faculty in order to get more hands-on in their field of interest.”

“CIAN acknowledges and rewards all the research and educational activities performed by its members.”

“Interesting new ideas and solutions to problems come out of collaborations with CIAN research groups.”


The next section asked if students agreed that certain statements reflected actual CIAN weaknesses. Weaknesses were defined as internal flaws that are harmful to CIAN’s goals.  A brief review of the results (see table below) reveals a pattern that is distinct from the responses given in the Strengths section; some items received 50% agreement and 50% disagreement, while other items had unipolar response sets. Also, no single item achieved greater than 62% consensus; most students disagreed with the items. Because these weaknesses were identified by previous SWOT results, it seems odd that the same items would receive very low rates of agreement this year. If this year’s data is reliable, all except one of the suggested weaknesses were rejected. One explanation is that the steps taken to address last year’s weaknesses were successful, leading to a stronger CIAN student experience.


Consensus (rate of agreement)

Not enough research collaboration between CIAN sites.


CIAN does not provide a grad school experience that differs much from everyone else’s.


Students do not gain satisfactory leadership experience through involvement with SLC/CIAN activities.


Students not included in communication that occurs between faculty and industry.


Student support services (i.e. help with publishing, advising, etc) are not taken advantage of very often.


Long-distance communication and interaction among CIAN sites is an obstacle to effective collaboration.


Many are unaware of the responsibilities and benefits associated with CIAN involvement.


Poor communication between research groups, campuses, thrusts, and students/faculty.


Fortunately, although most CIAN students disagreed that the statements above are real weaknesses, they were able to provide others in an open-ended response section:

“Not getting introduction tutorials as what CIAN is, what are its goals and how each research group is participating in this goal.”

“Some research projects don’t interest industry.”

“The CIAN website is not easy to navigate to find student support services and webinar links.”

“Many events are time-consuming but do not benefit research objectives of students.”


The Opportunities statements received the highest consensus of the four SWOT areas. The lowest agreed-upon item was, “Expanding the program to fund more students/researchers,” which received 88% consensus. In general, however, agreement was extremely high (see table below). This suggests that students comprehend the need for CIAN research and gaps it can fill in current research and development.


Consensus (rate of agreement)

Growing demands on large data transfer creates increased need for CIAN research.


Some of the component projects CIAN expects to use in its finished device could also improve some commercial products, and might be of interest to technology companies.


Expanding the program to fund more students/researchers.


More foreign research connections.


Accelerating consumption of bandwidth by mobile devices (need for software defined networking based solutions)


Additional opportunities listed by CIAN students include:

“Demand for ultra-realistic streaming video will give CIAN a simple way to relate to potential partners or consumers.”

“Globalization of business will allow demand for the finished CIAN product to rapidly spread worldwide.”

“Utilizing the National Photonics Initiative to inform the public more of what optics is.”

“New hardware solutions in the wireless domain (such as full-duplex radio) that bring better spectrum efficiency, but also require careful integration into existing networks.”

“The changing model of higher education, wherein industry is more invested in academic endeavors.”


The views on the potential threats cited in the survey were somewhat mixed. In general, a majority of CIAN students view the items below (see table) as real threats. However, approximately 1/3 of the respondents dissented from the majority opinions of most items, suggesting that the threats may not be overly concerning. The most significant source of consensus was “Loss of funding,” and 93% agreed it posed a significant threat to CIAN.



Consensus (rate of agreement)

Loss of funding


Competing research (industry R&D), might advance faster than CIAN research.


Due to excessive external demands on time, there is not enough CIAN student participation.


Lack of industry involvement because Industry usually invests only a few years out, while CIAN technologies are more long-term investments.


Loss of industry partners.


Lack of knowledge/interest regarding CIAN research among the general public and local communities.


Industry and Academia often “don’t play nice.” (for example, industry may not share new technologies that could help advance CIAN research)


External competition for publications and patents.


The high cost ($) to revamp the current data communication infrastructure.


Other notable comments on potential threats were the following:

“Failing to acquire resources or public attention.”

“Industrial research is more centralized and perhaps more effective for it.”

“Disbelief in the general public that Federal funds in research is necessary for a vibrant economy.”


Overall, a majority of the CIAN students who responded to the SWOT survey agreed that the identified Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats were accurate statements. The Strengths and Opportunities sections obtained high consensus, while the Threats portion displayed more modest rates of agreement. The Weaknesses, many of which were taken from previous SWOT results, received very mixed views; most respondents actually disagreed with the statements highlighting weaknesses. This demonstrates that student attitudes and/or internal affairs at CIAN have changed within the past year.

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