communities, write and read blogs on research developments, and are pioneering new methods to conduct research and share their results. In the long run, these developments are likely to have a more profound effect on research than increases in the pace or scale of traditional practices. These developments can be difficult to foresee. For example, research in many fields is moving toward much more open and collaborative models that are both served and driven by technology, and this trend is likely to result in research environments very different from those that have prevailed in the past. Although our committee has not tried to predict the long-term outcomes of this process, ongoing changes can be expected to continue to transform how research is done and how researchers interact with each other.

The rapid spread of digital technologies also is transforming the relationship between researchers and the broader public that supports and expects to benefit from research. When research results that underlie important public policies are available electronically, they can be examined and questioned by any member of the public. Individuals interested in specific issues—whether the regulation of an environmental toxin or the development of therapies for a human disease—can monitor, comment on, and even shape ongoing research.

Similarly, digital technologies have profound implications for scientific, engineering, and medical education.11 Students can have access to research information from instruments in distant locations.12 Computer owners around the world can contribute to the solution of particular research problems by allowing their computers to become parts of distributed computational networks.13 Data from cutting-edge research are being made available on the Internet for use not only by the research community but by educators or anyone else interested in the subject.14 Members of the public are participating in research projects as varied as analyses of genetic variation and galactic structure.15 Although fascinating, the full consequences of changing technologies for scientific, engineering, and medical education or for direct public participation in research lie outside the scope of this report.


National Research Council. 2002. Preparing for the Revolution: Information Technology and the Future of the Research University. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


An example is the Education and Outreach Project of the National Virtual Observatory (


An example is the SETI@home project (, which uses computer time provided by volunteers to analyze astronomical data for signs of intelligence.


Ryan Scranton, Andrew Connolly, Simon Krughoff, Jeremy Brewer, Alberto Conti, Carol Christian, Craig Sosin, Greg Coombe, and Paul Heckbert. 2007. “Sky in Google Earth: The next frontier in astronomical data discovery and visualization.” Available at


For the analysis of genetic variation, see For the analysis of galactic structure, see

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