company's formats. There are some interesting challenges ahead. For example, what if you stuck another kind of document into this commercial notebook or document management system? They are not really responsible for all of the different kinds of documents and data you might use. There's also an issue of progressive conversions, for keeping file formats up to date as time passes. That brings in issues of fidelity—if we convert files, how can we assure ourselves that the converted objects are still correct? There are challenges with electronic signature systems, too, since you have signed the original binary file, which has not been translated. So, what does it mean legally when you convert that file in the future? How do you retain that authentication that you had in the past? So, in addition to the format issues there are also issues of authentication.

By the way, my slides are on the Web at <>.

Bridget Carragher: I think this is a problem. You cannot even read a Microsoft document that is one version behind the version on your desktop. If you cannot do that with Microsoft—which is probably the most ubiquitous software around—we are in a lot of trouble. But I think we are not the only ones facing this problem, and I think again, the scientific community isn't going to drive this problem. This is a huge problem for the world as the world moves onto the Web, and I think there are going to become tools that do automated updating. But where is your thesis now? Probably a printout somewhere is your real evidence that you wrote it, and I think that in part will continue to be the case.

Clint Potter: In a sense I think you also have to throw stuff away because you cannot keep everything. Perhaps you don't have the original data for your thesis anymore. So, you have got to be smart about what you save and think about what the things you save are—the things that go into libraries or university microfilm services.

Bridget Carragher: You publish things that you want to keep. The publishing record is partly what is there.

David McLaughlin: I think you should try to save the information in a format that you can easily move forward. The more open the format, the better. If you store your Word documents in Rich Text Format, that may give you more forward viability than a binary Word document. We often store spectral data in an ASCII format that is easily readable. It takes more space to store it in ASCII, but we know we can move it forward. An important part of our plan is to convert the format of our information as future versions of software may require.

David Smith, DuPont: We said several times during the course of the meeting that software is important, and perhaps just as a sanity check for myself, I would like to ask Susan about the component-based, object-oriented paradigm for software development. From your viewpoint as a computer scientist, is this really a viable approach for the future development of software or is it just a fad that is going to disappear in the next 5 years?

Susan Graham: I think it is more than a fad, and the reason is that structure and structuring are very, very important, and this provides a structuring mechanism. Object-oriented programming is just a structuring mechanism, and if you get the structure wrong then it is going to be just as bad as any other disorganization. But I think it is an approach that is only now possible because it requires more heavy-duty computing and in particular image sizes. Storage is used much more, and so the ideas are actually

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement