agement and sharing. In recent years, electronic mail (e-mail) systems, mailing lists, and bulletin boards have enabled rapid information sharing among groups of people distributed throughout the world. Other commercially available computer-based tools and technologies have enhanced collaborative work by facilitating cooperative research involving, for example, the use of remote instruments, and electronic data publishing that speeds the dissemination of research results. 8 Indeed, the success of many complex scientific investigations now is predicated on bringing the capabilities of diverse researchers from multiple institutions together with state-of-the-art instruments. In addition to the purely technical issues raised by these requirements, however, the research agenda for creating such "collaboratories" must address fundamental psychosocial questions.9
Desktop video conferencing is a next logical step in the use of collaborative tools and may be as widely available within 10 years as e-mail is currently, provided that adequate bandwidth can be supplied. Users can now obtain rudimentary desktop video conferencing systems for as little as $100 using the CUSeeMe software from Cornell University; 10 such systems provide crude service today but offer great promise. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and several universities are using the MBone to broadcast symposia and conference events worldwide. 11 Video conferencing systems based on integrated services digital network (ISDN) services and asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) are now available commercially, offering high-quality images and advanced application sharing features.12 "Plain old" telephone service (POTS)-based video conferencing is expected to be available with the next release of major PC operating systems.
The low cost of desktop video conferencing equipment and the ability to operate over a variety of media types will enable scientists who have access to these technologies to communicate more readily. These types of technologies can help improve the efficiency of scientific fieldwork, especially in remote areas, but only if they are supported by links with sufficiently high bandwidth. Investment in commercial products that support information sharing and workflow has accelerated as vendors recognize the importance of multiuser support to acquiring and sustaining market share.
Natural language processing has been an active branch of artificial intelligence for decades. Recent approaches and products have significantly improved automated document subject classification.13 In addition, the Internet has greatly increased interest in capabilities for indexing and locating knowledge, thus contributing to the rapid growth of the text retrieval industry. Users can now gain more rapid access to a wider base of scientific information.14 Moreover, numerous products (e.g., Fulcrum, Context, Limbex, InQuizit, Excaliber, Excite, Systran) and services (e.g., Digital Equipment's Alta Vista, Yahoo, Lycos, Dejanews, InfoSeek)