But these new digital tools—because they are so powerful and easy to use—can be misused by the unsophisticated or abused by the dishonest. They may offer new temptations for plagiarism and fraud. Researchers may find themselves overwhelmed by the massive volume of data on the networks as they seek ways to winnow sound information from nonsense. Protecting the integrity of research will require vigilance and ingenuity and probably the development of new technologies to enhance the security of data and prevent forgeries, use of false identities, and unauthorized changes to publications or data.
Just as important, researchers need better ways to select from among the proliferating sources of digital information. After all, searching for and reading an article takes time, a precious commodity. In the age of hard print, researchers had cues about what to read, such as tacit hierarchies among journals, but these tools have yet to be developed for electronic publishing.
Well-intentioned researchers may be seduced by the power of their computers, and substitute off-the-shelf software packages for their own careful analysis. (Powerful statistical software packages, for example, may be misused by people who do not understand the proper application of statistics.) Blind use of the powerful tools of digital technology, without regard to underlying assumptions, can lead to errors that are difficult to avoid and detect.
The tools of information technology, like other products of our industries, can often fall short of our needs and expectations. It is easy to be carried away with their great promise, but we need to temper our enthusiasm. In real life, we need to remember that human factors may dominate the impact and acceptance of electronic tools. Technology changes rapidly; keeping up to date can be expensive. In particular, the more complex systems for global communications and collaboration involve major investments in engineering and logistics (see, for example, National Research Council, 2000).
For purposes of discussion it is useful to divide the research process into several interactive activities: articulating a hypothesis, creativity and analysis, observation and inquiry, experimentation and simulation, data archiving and access, and publication and dissemination. For most researchers, digital computing and communications technologies are changing each of these activities. This chapter attempts to trace some of the