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Based on discussions at the June 1997 workshop and points in the position papers submitted by its participants, the workshop steering committee identified several options for fostering interdisciplinary research and making the results of such research more accessible to the public and policy makers.

4.1 Encouraging Interdisciplinary Studies
And Collaboration

Discussion at the June 1997 workshop indicated that there is a great deal of interest in and value to be gained from pursuing interdisciplinary work. Although some regularly held conferences such as the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference or the Aspen Institute Telecommunications Roundtable are essentially interdisciplinary, workshop participants observed that established means of facilitating working relationships among social and computer scientists are currently lacking. Approaches suggested for encouraging fruitful interactions included interdisciplinary workshops, curricula, and fellowships.

Interdisciplinary workshops. Participants in the June 1997 workshop remarked on the value of convening researchers from various relevant field to explore interdisciplinary approaches to studying the impacts of computing and communications. Workshops and summer programs in a number of interdisciplinary areas would be useful in fostering increased collaborative work. At a minimum, workshops bringing together investigators previously funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to do joint technology/social science work might be convened. Expanding the focus of such workshops to include people from industry who could comment on non-NSF-funded collaborative research could also prove useful. In addition, it is important for funding agencies to be able to recognize good interdisciplinary work and for industry managers and academic principal investigators to be able to understand some of the management challenges involved—opportunities for cross-communication that interdisciplinary workshops can facilitate.

Interdisciplinary curricula. Workshop participants suggested that serious interdisciplinary work might also be promoted by preparing students directly to engage in it. For example, although computer science curricula already include courses in performance analysis, the systems analyzed are not typically embedded in large-scale social systems, and so joint course development for analysis of the performance of complex systems could produce useful results. This step might be taken initially in the context of postdoctoral training and master's degree programs, given that currently not enough is known to be codified at the textbook level. It was observed that development of interdisciplinary curricula would help to strengthen the interdisciplinary research community as well as raise awareness of interdisciplinary issues in computer science and engineering and social science fields.



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