Lee Cooper

“The world faces many complex problems, and great universities should be part of the solution. If we want to have an immediate impact, we need to engage today’s students in action-research projects with multidisciplinary teams that confront real problems. The mission of an action-research center is to transform research and education into service to the world — and to do so on a large scale.”

-- Lee Cooper

Lee Cooper is Professor Emeritus at UCLA. In 2009 his focus shifted to action-research partnerships between universities and outside collaborators. He spent six years on the advisory board of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. He is one of the four founders of the Conservation Action Research Network, which is playing important roles in the Congo Basin InstituteREDD+ projects in Cameroon, and the plans for Sèmè City. He is the architect of the partnership between Conservation International and UCLA and the designer of prototypical action-research centers.

He started on the UCLA business-school faculty in 1969 at age 25, one year before completing his Ph.D. (University of Illinois, 1970) in the obscure discipline of psychometrics. With a BA in Psychology from UC, Berkeley in 1966, he spent summers during graduate school designing large-scale, man-machine systems.

His major early contributions are to the foundational big-data methods for understanding behavior in competitive markets. With Masao Nakanishi, he won the Award for Outstanding Contribution, Japan Society for Commercial Sciences, for Market Share Analysis, 1988, which synthesized their first 18 years of their collaboration. Nakanishi is a Living National Treasure. Cooper won the Ashton-Tate Achievement Award Grand Prize for the development of CASPER, a multi-competitor brand-planning game with full market simulators based on the real data and the models in the market-share book. Fall, 1987. (Contest judged and co-sponsored by PC Magazine.)

Along the way, he directed the UCLA Management in the Arts program (1976-79), jointly sponsored by the business school and the College of Fine Arts. He was part of a team of authors that won the Design Excellence Award (Research Category) National Endowment for the Arts for Arts in the Economic Life of the City. New York: ACA, Inc., 1979.

He won the Marketing Science Institute — H.Paul Root Award for 2000.  Given by the American Marketing Association, this award honors the Journal of Marketing article that has made the most significant contribution to the advancement of the practice of marketing, for & “Strategic Marketing Planning for Radically New Products.” Intel sponsored his efforts for three years (1996-99). The innovation is mainly in the use of Bayesian networks for dynamic risk analysis in robust strategic-planning frameworks. The methods were used in early 2004 to incubate the transition from rapid prototyping to direct manufacturing in the 3-D printing industry. Cooper directed the Venture Development Project at the UCLA Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies (2003-2006).

In 1999, he started Strategic Data Corporation, which developed e-commerce personalization and display-ad optimization for a number of major web portals. The company was based on a rule-generating data mining algorithm he and his co-author and co-founder, Giovanni Giuffrida, published in Management Science (2000), the first data mining article they published. Midlife Crisis Startup (2004) relates the tale and the entrepreneurial lessons from doing startups while still a professor. In 2007, Fox Interactive Media, a News Corp. subsidiary, acquired SDC.

Cooper’s latest book is Systems Entrepreneurship: My 50-Year Journey at UCLA. An open-access version is available through the link. Most recently, Lee was appointed co-leader of the Research Well Team for the Healthy Campus Initiative, where he will develop technology across the University of California system that will enable action research so students can apply new knowledge to real-world problems, as well as civic engagement. He was also appointed to the Academic Advisory Board for the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.