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outreach activities should take no more than a year after initial funding is provided. The “lifetime” of each facility should not be guaranteed for more than 5 years, but the system must be considered a long-term activity so that data access is guaranteed in perpetuity. Evaluation of the sites and of the system should be regular and rigorous, although the milestones whereby success can be measured will be the incremental improvements in ease of use of the system by students, policy-makers, scientists, and others. In addition, an increasing number of public-private partnerships that fund the research and other operations will indicate the usefulness of accessible, integrated information to commercial and government interests.

Conclusion

In the 21st century, work will depend increasingly on rapid, coordinated access to shared information. Through the shared digital library of NBII-2, scientists and policy-makers will be able to collaborate with colleagues who are geographically and temporally distant. They will use the library to catalog and organize information, perform analyses, test hypotheses, make decisions, and discover new ideas. Educators will use its systems to read, write, teach, and learn. In traditional fashion, intellectual work will be shared with others through the medium of the library—but these contributions and interactions will be elements of a global and universally accessible library that can be used by many different people and many different communities. By increasing the effectiveness of information, NBII-2 is likely to lead to scientific discoveries, advance existing fields of study, promote disciplinary fusions, and enable new research traditions. And most important, it could help us to protect and manage our natural capital so as to provide a stable and prosperous future.

References

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NRC [National Research Council]. 1997. Bits of power: issues in global access to scientific data. Washington DC: National Acad Pr. 235 p.

PCAST [President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology]. 1998. Teaming with life: investing in science to understand and use America's living capital. Report to the President of the United States from the PCAST Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems. Washington DC: GPO.

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