development, implementation, and marketing. Furthermore, in order to facilitate consistency across SE projects, the federal government should help coordinate the development of standardized testing procedures for use across studies, systems, and laboratories, particularly in those areas in which the private sector has not acted. These procedures should include methods for identifying key system dimensions that affect task performance, developing special metrics uniquely suited to evaluating SEs, and comparing SE system performance to performance of other systems intended to meet the same or similar goals.
The magnitude, quality, and effect of the SE-oriented research and development that is accomplished will clearly depend on the role played by the federal government. The current status of the SE field is sufficiently embryonic, compared with what is likely to develop over the next 10 years, that the federal government now has a rare opportunity to foster coherent planning in this area. Furthermore, the recently established National Science and Technology Council at the White House would appear to be an appropriate organization to provide oversight for such a planning effort. Also, in conducting such a planning effort, substantial benefits would be gained by attending carefully to the developments that are already taking place in the other areas of the administration's planning effort—for example, the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the High Performance Computing and Communications program, and the programs associated with defense conversion.
In this section, we discuss a number of mechanisms that illustrate the kind of leadership role that the government could play. We see that role as both informing and complementing the federal agencies' strategic planning for their support of research and development programs.
A national information system that provides comprehensive coverage of research activities and results in the SE field in a user-friendly way to a wide variety of users could be a useful tool for promoting cross-fertilization and integration of the research and development efforts. The free flow of ideas and information among researchers, users, and individuals in government, academia, and industry who require information for SE planning and decision making is crucial to the development of this new field. Also, in order to diminish the increasing threat of a major societal division between the technologically advantaged and the technologically deprived (as well as to counter the current hype about virtual