Olson, Gary

Olson 2015
Steve Crowley looks on while Gary Olson speaks at the Science of Team Science Conference, June 3-5, 2015 in Bethesda, MD.

Gary Olson (1944 – ) is a Donald Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine and Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. He is a cognitive psychologist whose research primarily focuses on how people collaborate to complete complex intellectual projects. Using both laboratory and field studies to explore the fields of programming, design, and science, Olson has produced perhaps the most extensive program of research on collaboration over distance.

Olson 1987
Gary and Judy Olson at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Toronto, Canada in April 1987.

Olson has led the nation in the development and study of “collaboratories” – a concept formed in the late 1980s and defined as a “center without walls” in which researchers who were geographically dispersed could work together using appropriate technologies to access one another, databases, and other shared tools. Olson not only studied collaboration, but also practiced it with his long-time collaborator and wife, Judith “Judy” Olson. The couple produced a long series of papers describing the technology design principles and social conditions conducive to effective collaboration over distance, including their classic paper “Distance Matters.”

Gary and Judy Olson at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Toronto, Ontario Canada in April 2014.
Gary and Judy Olson at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Toronto, Ontario Canada in April 2014.

Gary Olson was elected to the CHI Academy in 2003, recognizing him for his independent contributions to the field, including editing a range of top journals and chairing some of SIGCHI’s most prominent conferences. In 2006, SIGCHI presented its most prestigious award, The Lifetime Achievement Award, to the joint team of Gary and Judy Olson to honor “their long, productive collaboration as a single, unique contribution to the field of computer-human Interaction, or perhaps more accurately, of human-human collaboration, mediated and enhanced through modern technologies.” Gary Olson also received ACM SIGCHI’s Lifetime Service Award in 2016.

“Gary’s playful side complemented his serious research side, making him an appealing colleague.  He and Judy wrote the influential paper on ‘Distance Matters’ (2000) about how even in the age of internet communications, it was easier to collaborate face-to-face than remotely.  Gary focused on ‘Scientific Collaboration on the Internet’ (his co-edited 2008 book), studying and helping collaboratories succeed.  He admirably put in a lot of energy into community building efforts, especially the SIGCHI Executive Committee – he’s a real team player.” – Ben Shneiderman


Education:

  • Ph.D. in Psychology, Stanford University (1970)
  • M.A. in Psychology, Stanford University (1968)
  • B.A. in Psychology, University of Minnesota (1967)

Affiliations:

  • Donald Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine (2008 – Present)
  • Emeritus Professor, University of Michigan (2008 – Present)
  • Visiting Researcher, Microsoft Research (2003)
  • Paul M. Fitts Professor of Human-Computer Interaction, School of Information, University of Michigan (2000 – 2008)
  • Associate Dean of Research, School of Information, University of Michigan (2000 – 2006; 1995 – 1998)
  • Interim Dean, School of Information, University of Michigan (September 1998 – December 1999)
  • Director, Collaboratory for Research on Electronic Work, University of Michigan (1994 – 1997)
  • Professor of Psychology, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing (1994 – Present)
  • Visiting Professor, Beijing University, China (1993)
  • Co-Director, Joint Program in Cognitive Science, University of Michigan and University of Chicago (1980 – 1985)
  • Assistant Professor to Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (1975 – 2008)
  • Assistant Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (1973 – 1975)
  • Visiting Lecturer in Psychology, Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut (1972 – 1973)
  • Lieutenant, Medical Service Corps, United States Naval Reserve, on active duty November 1970 – August 1973, stationed as experimental psychologist at Submarine Medical Research Laboratory, Groton Connecticut

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