and it is clear that opportunities exist for their use in other disciplines such as seismology and neuroscience (Institute of Medicine, 1991). Concurrent construction of collaboratory testbeds (Box 6.1) will encourage synergistic technology development and permit several sciences to explore the technology in the short term. At the same time, generic collaboratory technology will benefit from being developed for and adapted to several disciplines.
Multiple testbeds tailored to the needs of particular disciplines are recommended to investigate thoroughly the use of collaboratories to discover, teach, and transfer scientific knowledge. Testbeds are the only effective way to explore the multifaceted nature of these tool-oriented computing and communications systems. The committee believes that these testbeds can play a major role in demonstrating how science will be done in the 21st century and how a national program for information infrastructure for research can be implemented.
A collaboratory testbed program has the potential to support science in at least four different ways: (1) by giving scientists tools to do more and better science; (2) by giving teachers tools that they and their students can use to experiment, explore, and collaborate; (3) by involving industry in collaboratory development, thus giving scientists a means to transfer technology from the laboratory to the business sector, which can then make collaboratory technologies and services commercially available; and (4) by providing opportunities to understand better the social and organizational dynamics of scientific research conducted using collaboratories. Such research can be used to refine and improve collaboratories, making them more useful to science and more easily used by scientists. An important consequence of such a program will be the development of the human resources needed to support the building and operation of scientific collaboratories.
A program length of 5 years is recommended due to the nature of the project. Building collaboratories will require that existing technology be adapted and integrated in new ways, and that new technology be developed. A significant period is needed in which to develop and apply the technology and to refine it based on experience.
It is expected that each testbed will involve senior natural scientists, senior computer scientists, senior social scientists, and a variety of junior-level people. The committee estimates that about 50 full-time-equivalent (FTE) workers will be needed per testbed to create a critical mass of expertise. Fifty FTEs will cost about $5 million per year, based on a mean cost per FTE of $100,000, including overhead. Further, 50 FTEs will need about $1 million for computer equipment and networking facilities per year averaged over the 5-year period of the program. Hence the total annual cost is estimated at $6 million per testbed. The relatively high equipment capitalization costs are a consequence of intensive use of computing technology for instrument control, large-scale databases, and scientific visualization tools associated with the kinds of oceanographic, meteorological, and genome mapping collaboratories considered by the committee. The $6 million estimate assumes that testbed collaboratories will make use of existing scientific instruments and equipment. The committee notes that the NSF supercomputer centers, the NSF science and technology centers, and the NIH and DOE Human Genome Project require similar levels of support to accomplish comparably ambitious objectives.1
A program involving three testbeds implies a total funding level of $90 million to $100 million. The committee believes that this level would enable the program to achieve critical mass. However, it is recognized that this is a time of tight resources. Although shrinking the scale of the overall program somewhat may be a necessity, the committee emphasizes the importance of providing sufficient resources per testbed to achieve sufficient scale (see Box 6.1). Prototype collaboratories and technologies examined by the committee have been developed and implemented on a small scale; the challenges of developing and implementing collaboration technologies on a larger, effectively national, scale are substantial. Consequently, the committee formulated its recommendation to include a minimal number of testbeds while providing for a level of resources per testbed that, based on the experience of other projects supporting collaborative research, appears necessary to achieve success. Given the importance of scale, undertaking fewer testbeds at the same time may be one approach to stretching resources.