This is a NYT article that addresses some of the issues and fears that design faces with outsourcing. In the dash 'upstream' in the product development cycle by consultancies and manufacturers, research is viewed as an important differentiator, for now at least. The logic behind the new service science programs being offered in (mostly graduate) schools is similar to the move toward design research. While these programs are not (probably) being filled by designers, this may be an interesting and viable option for design graduates looking for advanced degrees.
Yet a similar skepticism greeted computing decades ago. When some advocates started promoting the idea of "computer science," traditionalists sneered that any course of study that had to add the term "science" to its name was not a science. Eventually, computing won over the skeptics. And today, computer science departments are academic fixtures.
Bruce M. Tharp, PhD is a designer, professor, researcher, and entrepreneur, with degrees in mechanical engineering, industrial design, and anthropology. He and his wife, Stephanie Tharp run an award-winning, design studio, materious.
They have licensed a dozen new product ideas to companies, and currently manufacture several of their own. Materious also produces discursive products and concepts to engender reflection and debate on cultural topics. They are currently finishing a book project on the topic entitled, Discursive Design.
Bruce is a professor of design at the University of Michigan's Stamps School of Art & Design where he teaches a range of undergraduates as well as graduates in the new Master of Design program in Integrative Design.