These new ways of conducting research are also challenging many traditions of academic research. All research institutions, including universities, libraries, corporate and government laboratories, publishers, professional associations, and research funding agencies, will need to adapt. At the same time, utmost care must be taken to preserve the core values of research. Applications of technology must be monitored to ensure that they do not threaten researchers' expression of these values.
An equally profound challenge, however, is improving the rising flood of information in digital form and the capacity of the researchers to receive, assess, and act on this information. As the tools get better, the task of research may get harder, since the data is growing more complex and diffuse. In some fields, more information is helpful. In others—especially those involving complex questions at the frontiers of knowledge—it may be overwhelming and distracting. For many fields, what will be needed is better information, and better ways to handle it.
Computers connected by high-speed networks to other devices throughout the world are powerful information systems. Public and private networks permit transmission of nearly instant voice, images, and other information to wide audiences around the world—and all at low cost.
And digital technology continues to advance at a nearly inconceivable rate. For the past four decades, the speed and storage capacity of computers has doubled every 18 to 24 months. Cost, size, and power consumption have shrunk at about the same rate. The data capacity of networks has increased one thousand-fold in just the past decade. Traffic on the Internet is doubling every three months.
The uses that will be made of advanced digital tools are difficult to anticipate. Some of the new applications are already having a fundamental impact on academic life. It is impossible to predict long-term effects, both positive and negative.
In education, teachers use computers to enhance conventional classes, for example, by creating Web sites for course materials, showing demonstrations, and using programmed instructional packages. The new technology has also created a new form of education. In some instances, course materials have been put online, and the number of face-to-face classes has sometimes declined. Most radically, technology permits so-