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search across distributed information collections, as in the NCSTRL service (
http://www.ncstrl.org ) for computer science technical reports. This and related work on metadata, through the Dublin Core initiative, has enabled further sharing of scholarly resources through efforts like the Open Archives Initiative [Van de Sompel and Lagoze] (
http://www.openarchives.org ), which promises to move us toward universal access to broad segments of open literature. Researchers should partake of the new services stimulated by such efforts, both as readers and contributors, lest they miss out on the latest findings in their fields.
Other standards will no doubt emerge in key areas to support research activities. In the area of software development, “platform-independent” languages such as Java and Perl have made it easier to reuse and share information and tools. With so much research depending upon software, researchers will save enormous amounts of time if they make investments in purchasing reliable and relevant tools, or adopting free and helpful software (e.g., Linux, or that from the GNU project), as they pursue particular solutions.
INTO UNEXPLORED TERRITORY
The exploding technology of computers and networks promises profound changes in the fabric of our world. That goes for everyone, of course, not just researchers. As seekers of knowledge, researchers will be among those whose lives change the most. What these changes will mean, for academic work and the larger society, remains to be seen. Researchers themselves will build this New World largely from the bottom up, by following their curiosity down the various paths of investigation that the new tools have opened. It is unexplored territory. At the same time, the hoped-for benefits of these systems will depend on their being made available widely and equitably. That is a challenge that the community of researchers, working with public and private funders and regulators of research and technology development, will need to take on over the long term.