welfare of society. Many other countries also have large investments in generating and disseminating PSI and an interest in stimulating greater rates of socioeconomic returns from those activities. Some very large PSI programs, such as the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, are not just national programs but are coordinated and utilized on a global basis, and there are many others whose scope and potential effects are smaller but still significant.
Despite the huge investments in PSI and the even larger estimated effects, surprisingly little is known about the costs and benefits of different information policies on the information society and the knowledge economy. There is relatively little empirical data available on the effects of PSI disseminated on the Internet or on the different policy approaches to this dissemination, and what data do exist are generally neither detailed nor comprehensive. Small changes in access and use conditions may have large consequences. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the current assessment methods and their underlying criteria, it should be possible to improve and apply such tools to help rationalize the policies and to clarify the special role of the internet in disseminating PSI. This in turn can help promote the efficiency and effectiveness of PSI investments and management, and to improve their downstream economic and social results. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify, understand, and evaluate the current methods and underlying criteria that are used in this area in order to provide a more solid framework for making such policies.
The workshop that is summarized in this report was intended to review the state of the art in assessment methods and to improve the understanding of what is known and what needs to be known about the effects of PSI activities. Part One provides some background on the goals, values, and the policy perspectives of government PSI producers, one in Europe and one in the United States, as well as of the users of PSI in industry. Part Two offers a number of examples of assessment methods used by those who study the effects of placing PSI online.
Part Three summarizes a discussion of what the different elements of the methodologies are and what might be done to improve them. We begin with a brief overview of the literature and of some of the strengths and weaknesses associated with the current methodologies. This presentation also provides some suggestions for discussion of future work in this area. Following the overview, there were two moderated breakout discussions at the workshop, one focused on the producers from the public sector and one on the users' perspectives. We designated rapporteurs who synthesized those discussions and which are summarized in this report. In Part Four, the rapporteur provides a summary of the subsequent plenary discussion and identifies some next steps.