laborative environment to support the creation of new knowledge. The promise of the networked environment is not in the pipes or the data alone. The great promise of the network is in the ability for human interaction with vast amounts of data and with numerous other students and researchers from around the globe. The value of many minds exploring the same problem or the serendipitous connection of seemingly unrelated efforts is enhanced by a national network. A National Library system that supports and encourages the creation of new knowledge by undergraduates could serve as a model for reshaping the educational process for other disciplines.

This National Library would need a number of attributes to succeed. First, the user must be able to access the available resources transparently, regardless of his or the information's location. A robust network, and effective and affordable delivery systems (bandwidth, scalable systems, and quality of service) are inherent parts of such transparency. Second, applications to retrieve, access, authenticate, evaluate, and utilize data and information, including detailed metadata and/or object content, will be critical in the effectiveness of the National Library and its adoption and use. Third, applications to perform operations on the data—to make it meaningful to the user—including the provision of links to other providers' sites, commercial or noncommercial, and/or to compile data objects to meet a user's needs, will be an essential component of the system. Fourth, authoring applications that simplify the reporting of research results, the incorporating of data Sets or simulations, the building of curricula, will be critical to ensuring timely and active reporting of research results by faculty and students. Finally, communications systems that support interactive real-time text, audio, and visual transmission—the key to the student-faculty, student-student, and student-resource interactions—are equally as important to the success of the National Library.

In addition to these technical issues, there are a number of practices and policies that need to be considered to achieve the vision of the National Library. Access to robust content is essential to the education and training of tomorrow's scientists and engineers. Content in the National Library must be provided with the understanding that it will be used in various ways to support the educational mission. These uses may include access through multiple sites by students across the country, printing and downloading for individual student and classroom use, excerpting for inclusion in papers, projects, instructional packages, multimedia presentations, etc. The uses may also include the making of preservation copies by designated library sites to ensure long-term access to the resources and new knowledge created through the system.

Content for the National Library will come from a variety of sources. Several years of backfiles of scholarly journals, varying by discipline, will need to be included. Permissions will need to be obtained and broad use rights as described above negotiated. Indexing and abstracting flies will also be needed to support efficient access to the published literature. Primary resource data, such as photographs from Mars, human genome data, astronomical observations, the periodic table, geographic information data, should also be at the student's fingertips.

To be successful, new practices and policies are required, particularly with regard to copyright and intellectual property. The current balance between users of proprietary information and creators of that information must be maintained while at the same time, rethinking how creation of information and access to that information is managed.

The education community is both a creator and user of proprietary information, Thus members of this community participate in the full spectrum of activities regulated by the laws governing copyright and must be sensitive to the balance of interests. As digital technologies revolutionize how information is recorded, disseminated, accessed, and stored, these technologies eliminate the technical limits that have supplemented the legal framework of balance between ownership and public dissemination. Unlimited technological capacity to disseminate by transmission in ways that can violate the rights of copyright holders confronts equally unlimited technological capacity to prevent works from being used in ways contemplated by law. Carried to its logical extreme, either trend would destroy the balance currently enjoyed, with results that would likely undermine core educational functions as well as radically transform the information marketplace.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement