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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS 4 Research Motivated by Social Applications of Information Technology The diffusion of the Internet, combined with advances in basic computing and communications technologies, is poised to fundamentally alter the nature of information technology (IT) research. As IT continues to move from the relatively simple realm of back-office transactions processing and personal productivity-enhancement tools into less specialized, mass-market contexts that support electronic commerce (e-commerce), delivery of government services, and personal interactions, the set of problems that motivates IT research is continuing to change. Many of the new applications are social applications that serve groups of people in shared activities. Simple social applications support the collaboration of geographically dispersed groups of people engaged in a shared task, such as designing a new product or writing a report. More sophisticated social applications support a range of business, economic, and societal functions, such as manufacturing processes or distance education. Social applications tend to integrate IT into larger sociotechnical systems that involve people, organizations, and other technologies and that derive their functionality from the complex interactions of IT with nontechnical system elements. Many of the social applications comprise large-scale systems of the kind described in Chapter 3, but social applications of IT pose a number of additional interesting research problems, the solutions to which will require more explicit collaboration among IT researchers, end users, and researchers in other disciplines. Progress along purely technical dimensions, such as processing power, communi-
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS cations speed, and data storage densities, will no longer suffice; a more holistic view is needed (Brown and Duguid, 2000). This chapter examines the increasing integration of IT into larger, social applications and the shortcomings of today's technology relative to a complex set of expectations. The first two sections lay the groundwork for the analysis by identifying the characteristics of social applications and the many challenges they present. Underlying this discussion is the idea that, because IT is proliferating in social applications, research on social applications should be expanded in amount, scope, and depth and, furthermore, that this new research will require approaches that are somewhat different from those taken in much of the more narrowly technology-oriented research that is common today. The third section discusses ways in which interdisciplinary research can play an important role in this arena and identifies some initial steps in this direction. Just as scientific computing has benefited from closer interaction between technologists and natural scientists, so can the more-social applications of IT deployed today benefit from collaboration between technologists and social scientists (including experts in law and business as well as psychology, sociology, anthropology, and economics). The fourth section examines mechanisms for pursuing technical and nontechnical research that could increase understanding of social applications of IT and thereby enhance capabilities to design, develop, deploy, and operate them. Building on the groundwork laid in the present chapter, Chapter 5 identifies specific steps that could be taken to stimulate more of this type of research. The development of appropriate mechanisms for funding and conducting research on the sociotechnical dimensions of IT systems will be a significant challenge. This work can build on some important foundations, notably research on human-computer interactions and computer-supported cooperative work. These existing research efforts are inherently multidisciplinary in outlook because they are concerned with the ways in which people relate to systems. Experience to date in these areas illustrates both the promise of social applications and the practical problems involved. Multidisciplinary research is always problematic because of the difficulties inherent in bridging the gaps separating different communities of researchers. Compounding these problems is the need implied by the concept of social applications to engage not only established researchers in other disciplines but also end users of IT systems who understand the context in which IT systems operate and directly confront problems of implementation, ease of use, performance, and operation. Many end-user organizations have little or no history of conducting research, especially IT-related research. New mechanisms may therefore
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS be needed, and some ongoing activities are suggestive of the types of structures that may be effective. The discussion proceeds at a high level because it is intended to bridge research themes each of which could justify detailed examination. Such examinations have been provided already by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) in more focused assessments. This chapter points to that other work, which established an intellectual history developed through separate engagements with segments of the research community. That this chapter echoes and amplifies ideas raised previously is important enough to be acknowledged explicitly: research ideas and suggestions for how to make progress in the field either recur or linger largely unaddressed because the problems are difficult, because the recommendations are aimed at subsets of the research community despite broader relevance, and/or because there is a lack of readiness, whether due to insufficient insight and understanding of the needs or inadequate capabilities. The committee recognizes that it has focused on difficult problems but believes that the time is right to address them; its recommendations are aimed at promoting both understanding and capability. SOCIAL APPLICATIONS OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Thanks in large part to networking, IT has become a factor in large organizational constructs, whether whole enterprises, groups of enterprises that interact in commerce, or the overarching mix of enterprises and activities (economic and other) that constitute the nation's economy of social structure. It also supports interactions among smaller groups of uses (e.g., in chat rooms and discussion groups). Information technology stands poised to dramatically transform the way people live, work, and play and the way organizations large and small conduct business. With continued research, development, and deployment, IT systems could enable users to routinely access information of many types (text, images, video, etc.) from any location, participate in continuing education programs from the home or office, shop at their convenience, work from home rather than commute to a central office, consult with medical practitioners remotely, or access government services and receive government benefits electronically.1 As such, IT joins mass transportation and more traditional telecommunications (i.e., telephony, broadcast media) as a foundation for the social interactions that form one basis of society, industry, and commerce (Mitchell, 1996). Those long-standing societal infrastructures—transportation and telecommunications—profoundly affected aspects of society, contributing to the rise of suburbs, the globalization of industry, and the decreasing isolation of political economies. Similarly, networked IT is
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS increasingly affecting society, as today's debates about topics such as technological literacy and the digital divide attest (Cairncross, 1997). These issues are not necessarily unanticipated—one of the pioneers of the Internet, Leonard Kleinrock, recognized and wrote about some of these challenges in 1974 (Kleinrock, 1974), but they have not been adequately addressed by researchers in technology areas or other fields, and they are growing in importance as IT becomes more pervasive in society. Today's IT systems put a premium on the explicit consideration of the context (e.g., organizational, societal, or business) in which IT systems are deployed and the organizational structures, human factors, and other types of technology (e.g., transportation and materials transformation) that are involved in completing a certain task. In these social applications of IT, computing, storage, and communications technologies are profoundly influenced by the people involved, the choices they make, and various aspects of human behavior in the design and implementation of the system. Such systems often display a host of other features that make them especially challenging topics for research: They are often large in scale and high in complexity (see Chapter 3). They can be geographically distributed and vulnerable to malicious attacks or unintentional errors. They are often deployed and operated in an environment that is largely uncoordinated. They have critical requirements for availability and security, with the potential for significant losses (financial, human, or otherwise) if they fail. They include people and organizations, along with technology, as essential elements. They are deeply affected by social, economic, and political considerations, such as privacy, productivity, strategic business advantage, national security, poverty, equitable access, and so on. Their design must take into consideration the human and organizational context in which the systems are deployed and the interactions among people, organizations, and technology. Although the first four of these characteristics are common to many large-scale IT systems discussed in Chapter 3, the last three characteristics are especially true of social applications and demand special attention. Consider, for example, the systems used in e-commerce or air traffic control. In both of these cases, the interactions among IT, people, and organizational structures are fundamental to system performance. The IT is placed in an existing social and organizational environment in an attempt to improve quality, productivity, speed, and other performance attributes.2
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS Overwhelmingly, the most important opportunities lie not in simply automating existing applications, but rather in rethinking and remolding the structure and organization of the business process to reflect the best uses of IT and in redesigning and remolding the technology to make it most valuable in its (rethought) application context. The challenge is to reinvent both the application and the supporting technology to make the combination of technology and applications effective. In business, this is often called reengineering or transforming a business process, but the concept applies to the full range of social applications of IT. Transformation requires a rethinking of the entire sociotechnical system, not just the IT portion. Because most social applications involve individuals, brought together in organizations, and technologies that relate to the movement or alteration of materials or other physical items, a critical part of such a transformation is the identification of the capabilities that each element—people, IT, and other technologies —most beneficially contribute to the process, and the determination of how these elements can best work together. These processes are often constrained by complex social and regulatory issues and must take into account a number of nontechnical factors, such as capital budgets, work rules, skill sets, and administrative organizations. Nevertheless, the creative use of new IT capabilities can result in new, transforming applications. E-commerce, for example, has given rise to electronic auctions. The auction concept is not new, of course; what is new is its application to the selling of common goods and services, both new and used, and the participation of large numbers of buyers and sellers in an electronic marketplace, with new ways for individuals to research price and value and new ways to negotiate. Another example is air traffic control. Advances in technology have produced a fundamental change in the way these systems are conceptualized and designed, moving away from a centralized command-and-control model that controls all aspects of an aircraft's flight plan to a system known as free flight, which will give individual pilots greater autonomy—and more information on which to base judgments (Wald, 2000). The changing nature of work is broadening the contexts in which IT must operate. Employees are no longer expected to sit at a single computer in an assigned office to complete their work. Even a simple application to enter employee expense reports must be accessible via many different devices in different locations: a desktop computer at work, a desktop computer at home, a laptop computer or handheld devices when traveling, and perhaps even a wireless phone. If an organization cannot offer remote access to IT services, it may limit the effectiveness of its staff. As IT systems are used to manage more aspects of a business, the properties of the IT system and the behavior of employees become more tightly interlinked.
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS IT-inspired transformations occur at all levels within organizations, as is evidenced in, for example, the flattening of traditional hierarchies, globalization of many business organizations and activities, and emergence of new classes of nomadic workers who are not even assigned permanent offices. As these trends demonstrate, the design of organizations is a matter of both people and IT, leveraging the strongest capabilities of each (Walton, 1989). New methodologies are needed for the design of enterprise applications that more deeply integrate the organizational design and the IT system design. Such methodologies can be developed only through collaborative research in the disciplines concerned, including technology, industrial engineering, business, psychology, and others. The challenges are compounded by the reality that all the information systems that must work together in support of an organization or society cannot be developed at once; rather, new elements are continually added to an existing mix of legacy technologies and applications. Capricious organizational requirements, particularly in a competitive business context, add another dimension to the challenge that has proven difficult to overcome. Of course, IT has always been designed and used in one context or another. Even traditional applications (e.g., word processing) that could be used on individual computers without networking or pursued independently of other applications have had important interactions with job definitions and human relationships within organizations. 3 Social scientists studying such applications have reported on changes in status, hierarchy, work flow, job design, job satisfaction, productivity, and so on, all of which have contributed to ideas for enhancing early applications and evolving new ones.4 Some of these ideas have contributed to computer science in arenas such as human-computer interaction (HCI, which includes the design of interfaces between people and systems and the design of systems for computer-supported cooperative work), but compared to the opportunities emerging now, those instances of interdisciplinary research are too few and too isolated.5 The evolution of HCI is a promising indicator that progress is possible if social applications are addressed through IT research that draws on multiple disciplines: the subdisciplines “form intertwined roots in computer graphics, operating systems, human factors, ergonomics, industrial engineering, cognitive psychology, and the systems part of computer science” and draw from “supporting knowledge on both the machine and the human side” (ACM, 1992). A much greater degree of interaction between IT applications and context is now possible.6 Interest in optimizing that interaction—while addressing issues of complexity and scale—creates an imperative for explicit and substantial attention to context in application design and
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS implementation, which, in turn, implies explicit and substantial attention to the behavior of people as individuals and as members of groups. Great opportunities await progress in the sociotechnical systems that underlie IT, because such progress would enable far greater capabilities than have yet been implemented in all existing feature sets and their combinations. The IT itself can be used more effectively —and it can be combined better with people and their activities as they work, live, and play. The challenge is twofold: (1) to reinvent social applications to improve the combinations of behavior and IT with the aim of producing better economic and social outcomes and (2) to invent new social applications that enhance the economy, culture, or quality of life.7 Both processes build on past experience with IT, which has demonstrated that tasks are typically automated directly at first and subsequently reconceptualized or reinvented to take better advantage of new technology. Both processes focus on the role of individual users and organizations as major players in social applications. RESEARCH CHALLENGES IN SOCIAL APPLICATIONS OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Social applications of IT can motivate research on a range of questions as broad as the applications themselves, with the questions reflecting the particular circumstances in which specific applications are deployed. Some social applications are associated with a given industry or industry sector (e.g., online stock trading systems or flight reservations systems), some cut across the economy (e.g., business-to-business e-commerce systems), and others are specific to a particular organization or function. Despite the fact that it is motivated by applications, the research that results from an examination of social applications can be highly fundamental, in that it requires investigations into, and the development of, basic IT capabilities that are widely applicable to a wide range of systems. The research also tends to be highly interdisciplinary, drawing on the expertise of people in the IT and social science communities, as well as end users who understand the way systems are used in different industries and functions. Despite their diversity, the social applications of IT tend to have in common a set of elements that support (1) group interaction, (2) knowledge management, (3) commerce, and (4) control and coordination. Although some social applications of IT emphasize one or another of these elements, they usually emphasize at least two (Box 4.1). Each of these types of functionality presents a set of interesting research challenges. An examination of each one will provide a sampling of the types of problems
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS BOX 4.1 Social Applications of Information Technology: Examples and Features Electronic commerce—Business-to-business procurement of goods and services involves the capture and presentation of large amounts of information on available goods and services (knowledge-based features); negotiation of terms and conditions for sale and fulfillment between purchasing agents in one organization and sales agents in another organization (group-based features); periodic ordering and shipment of, and payment for, goods and services in accordance with those terms and conditions (commerce-based features); infrastructure supporting payments by credit card or bank transfer (control-based features), and post-sale support (group-based features). Delivery of government services—Government tax-collection applications involve the gathering and assimilation of data from throughout the economy (knowledge-based features); conveying of tax returns with tax payments (commerce-based features); infrastructure supporting payments and refunds (control-based features); and interactions among tax agents, citizens, and accountants in dealing with exceptional cases (group-based features). Manufacturing design—Computer-aided automotive design involves large repositories of design information (knowledge-based features), coordination of concurrent design activities distributed over global design centers (control-based features), and collaboration of the designers (group-based features). Air traffic control—Air traffic control systems are critical infrastructures that combine the coordination of planes and airport facilities (control-based features) with the collaboration of pilots and air controllers (group-based features) and information on aircraft type, flight plans and carriers, weather, and so on (knowledge-based features). Air traffic control uses information technology of increasing sophistication to reduce the incidence of human error and extend human controller capabilities to manage a volume of air traffic. that could be addressed if social applications were to play a more significant role in motivating IT research. Group Applications An important feature of social applications and their context is that they involve people as members of groups. With networking, computing moves from enhancing the productivity of individuals in tasks they perform alone to supporting the needs and enhancing the productivity or social interactions of groups of people, or helping people find other, like-minded people—a class of applications called group applications in this
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS report. Group-based elements support activities, including interaction or collaboration, among groups of individual users. Individuals and groups can now publish and manage information, literally on a global scale, as illustrated by many of the well-known Internet applications, such as electronic mail (e-mail), discussion forums, and the World Wide Web. But the Web affords comparatively static, passive information sharing with relatively little accommodation for variation in individual capabilities or preferences. To improve on this technology—and support a wider range of interactions—researchers must delve into group dynamics and interaction, human learning and cognition, human impairments, and other variations on these themes and how they might be supported by IT. Such research depends on insight from psychology and sociology as well as computer science and electrical engineering. It also depends on insight from specific domains that may shape real-world contexts: for example, different requirements will be associated with groups engaged in routine teaching and learning as opposed to groups collaborating on responses to natural disasters, when one can expect extreme variations in available technology, skill sets, responsibilities, and work environments and where crisis conditions affect needs for the type, delivery rate, and comprehensibility of information gathered, analyzed, and shared (CSTB, 1996, 1999). Knowledge Management Knowledge-based elements support the capture, retrieval, and manipulation of knowledge, typically drawing on massive collections of information. Although more and more data are being generated or recorded in networked computers, finding essential information is increasingly difficult. As the nation shifts from an industrial to an information economy (Shapiro and Varian, 1998), the role of physical assets as a source of competitive advantage is diminishing. To see the role that knowledge is playing in the economy, one need look no further than stock market valuations of Internet start-ups that have negligible physical assets but considerable intellectual property. The acquisition or discovery of knowledge (which is derived from information), plus the strategic management and exploitation of that knowledge—a process called knowledge management—are therefore an increasing focus of many companies, both new and established (O'Leary, 1998).8 The goal is to be able to find, understand, and use the massive amounts of information and knowledge that reside within an enterprise. Tools for searching for information remain frustratingly poor. While it may seem easy enough for people to express their information needs to one another, computer retrieval techniques are unable to filter out a large number of useless search results. To counter the technology shortcomings,
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS organizations today manage knowledge using a combination of people and computers. Much as a library contains books that record information, as well as librarians to organize and index it, computers are used to store and transmit information but are able to organize and index only data that have a precise, logical structure. Managing knowledge that is encoded as expository text is largely beyond today's IT capabilities. Historically, IT contributed to information management through systems for collecting and storing information (i.e., databases), finding and retrieving it (i.e., information retrieval), and processing online transactions. These systems provided experience with the types of functions that people now want to extend, combine, and enhance in new and more powerful ways. Data warehousing, which captures a historical record of an entire enterprise's transactions, and data mining, which attempts to analyze data to identify hidden trends and correlations, represent the current state of the art in knowledge discovery and management. For the most part, knowledge discovery and management strain current IT. Distributed transaction databases with properties such as automatic load balancing and historical archiving have been suggested, but they are beyond the current state of the art.9 In addition, end users are beginning to recognize that knowledge management projects require as much social science as computer science because the systems must serve the evolving mission needs of their users. According to some industry analysts, data warehousing projects fail more often for organizational reasons than for technical ones (Deck, 1999). Commerce Commerce-based elements support the interaction of organizations (including businesses, government entities, and universities) with other organizations and with individuals, whether consumers, citizens and tax-payers, or students. Today's most obvious example is e-commerce, the buying and selling of goods and services, especially among organizations. Business-to-business applications of IT have expanded dramatically from straightforward replacement of paper documentation (such as purchase orders and invoices) in electronic data interchange and electronic bank-to-bank wiring of funds, both of which have been in use for some time. In the emerging model, IT is integrated into all business-to-business operational activities except for the flow of material goods. This new e-commerce (Keen and Balance, 1997) includes activities such as electronic money management (direct transfers of money in electronic forms between businesses), electronic business logistics (coordination of suppliers and customers) and supply chain management (integration of business processes across businesses with supplier/customer relationships).
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS Most of these activities also apply to nonbusiness organizations, such as government entities involved in procurement, tax collection, licensing fees, and so on. The development of Internet-based e-commerce has important implications for IT and related research. First, it has amplified the role of information about individuals as an element of business strategy and therefore of knowledge management. Now IT is being used to collect and analyze information about individuals as actual or potential customers—information that can be used for product design, marketing, and customer service. The result is a predictable tension between those interested in the commercial exploitation of information about individuals and those concerned about protecting privacy (Diffie and Landau, 1997). New questions are being asked: Who knows what about whom? Who owns information about individuals? Who is authorized to use that information and for what purposes? These concerns are related to those surrounding the protection of intellectual property in a digital environment.10 Second, as illustrated by the growing attention to privacy as well as the concerns about reliability, dependability, and trustworthiness discussed in Chapter 3, government entities are scrutinizing the nature and use of IT in e-commerce. The result may well involve a combination of voluntary industry actions and government-mandated actions to promote or avoid certain uses of IT, which would have implications for system design and implementation constraints. One certain result would be a further change in the nature and impact of government, which—like businesses and other organizations—is itself affected by the use of IT.11 Finally, e-commerce is redefining the business processes that span traditional administrative and organizational boundaries (Davenport, 1993) and altering the relationships among organizations.12 Even before the commercialization of the Internet, industry witnessed a strong trend away from vertical integration and toward more specialized or horizontally diversified firms, driven in part by lower coordination and transaction costs enabled by IT. There is speculation about the prospects for consolidation and concentration. The equilibrium boundary of a firm is largely set by the relationship between internal and external transaction and coordination costs, and those costs are being profoundly influenced by IT (Grenier and Metes, 1996). Furthermore, the judicious application of new IT can greatly influence these boundaries and the efficiency of the economy as a whole—another area deserving of research. Coordination and Control Control- or coordination-based features support the coordination of large numbers of distributed elements—often a combination of techno-
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS BOX 4.11 The Engineering Research Center Program The National Science Foundation (NSF) began funding engineering research centers (ERCs) in 1985 to create stronger links between industry and academic engineering programs and improve both the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing industries and the quality of engineering education by making undergraduate and graduate training more relevant to industry needs. Thirty-four ERCs have been established. Each receives funding from NSF for 5 years, after which the funding can be renewed for another 5 years.1 Industrial participation is required. Companies that participate in ERCs must do more than contribute money: They must contribute intellectually, as well, to encourage interaction between students and representatives of industry. The ERCs average more than 30 industrial partners apiece. Both an internal NSF review of the ERC program in 1997 and an external review by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1989 reported that ERCs contributed significant benefits to the nation, both economically and educationally.2 The NAE review concluded that the ERCs were responsible for novel research that was fundamentally important, making previously impossible interdisciplinary work feasible and providing experiences for students “that clearly excite them.” The NSF assessment reported that the ERCs discover new industry-relevant knowledge at the intersections of the traditional disciplines and transfer that knowledge to industry, while preparing a new generation of engineering leaders capable of leading in industry by engaging successfully in team-based, cross-disciplinary engineering to advance technology. More than half of the firms involved in the ERCs that responded to an NSF survey reported that participation influenced the firm's research agenda, and two-thirds reported that ERC participation increased the firm's competitiveness. A majority of firms were able to improve products or processes, and 25 percent were able to create new products or processes as a result of ERC research. In addition, firms that employed graduates of the ERCs reported that the employees were “more productive and effective engineers than peers in the same firms. ” More than 80 percent of ERC graduates' workforce supervisors reported that the graduates were more prepared overall than their peers, contributed more technically, demonstrated a deeper technical understanding, were better at working in interdisciplinary teams, and had a broader technical understanding. The NAE review questioned several aspects of NSF management of the program. Primarily, it was concerned about the fact that the NSF had chosen to reduce promised funding levels at ERCs to reduce costs per center. The review also reported that the ERC application process was too time consuming and that the selection process had been inconsistent over the years. Concerns over community outreach were not a problem because ERCs are not expected to engage extensively in such activities. 1The NSF funding averages about $3 million per center, which represents approximately one-third of the total funding for the centers, the balance coming largely from industry. 2The NAE report concludes with the following comment: “If the federal government is to assist industry in its fight to remain competitive, this is precisely the kind of program that it should support. If universities are to help build a technology base on which industry can draw, this is precisely the kind of role that they should play. And if industry is to take a hand in shaping policies that influence its long-term well-being, then here is precisely the way to become engaged.” See NAE (1989). SOURCES: National Academy of Engineering (1989), National ScienceFoundation (1997).
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS the expense of research and recommended that the outreach continue but be given a lower priority (NAS-NAE-IOM, 1996). 30 Although they may spend considerable time on center activities such as these, the scientists involved report that they and their work benefit from the collegial interactions and exposure to the community and industry. 31 Also noted by COSEPUP was the importance of leadership to the success of an STC. If the center was to be more effective than just a group of individual researchers who happened to share a building and some equipment, its projects needed to be well integrated and effectively managed. Collaboration is an integral part of the center mode of research, but it must be nurtured, because most academic researchers are accustomed to working individually or in small teams.32 Lack of suitable leadership can undermine the value of a center. Embedding Information Technology Research in Other Disciplines As computing and communications have become embedded in many social applications, the role of computing in some disciplines other than computer science and engineering has changed and expanded. Because researchers in other disciplines are faced with designing systems in which IT is an essential element, they need to understand basic IT in its modern form—software applications distributed over a heterogeneous computer and network infrastructure—much better than is typically the case. They need to appreciate both the opportunities and the limitations of IT. An important responsibility will be the conceptualization and analysis of distributed information system requirements and specifications and the acquisition of sophisticated software applications through internal development, outsourcing, or purchase. Because IT is becoming such a fundamental and pervasive aspect of many fields, it is natural for many departments on a university campus to become involved in research on the application of IT to their respective fields. It is becoming increasingly common for faculty and students in these departments to be facile with IT, and not infrequently the departments hire faculty members with a computer science background or degrees who have experience in the appropriate application areas. This is not a new phenomenon—it has a long history in other core disciplines such as mathematics and economics.33 Initially, collaboration with outside experts is a sufficient solution, but eventually the subject becomes important enough to deserve in-house expertise. Accordingly, it can be expected that research related to the applications or implications of IT will be expanded in departments as diverse as engineering (and the subspecialties thereof), business, the social sciences, arts and performance, music, and others. One or more new disciplines
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS may arise out of these opportunities, much as computer science itself arose out of the collaborative efforts of mathematicians, electrical engineers, and physicists. This is a natural process that needs to be encouraged. Most likely some portion of the additional IT research funding being made available under the IT2 initiative will be devoted to cross-disciplinary research of this kind. Aside from setting up new programs (as outlined above), a number of other initiatives could help to establish interdisciplinary programs or to embed IT issues more firmly within other disciplines. For example, Joint degree programs could be established between computer science and engineering and other relevant disciplines, such as the sub-specialties of engineering or business. Restrictions on graduate programs in computer science could be relaxed to encourage students with backgrounds in other disciplines to pursue degrees. Conversely, students with undergraduate degrees in computer science and engineering could be recruited into the graduate programs of other disciplines. Just as they have added expertise in mathematics and economics to other disciplines, universities could hire faculty members with strong backgrounds in computing for other departments, in part so that they could develop discipline-specific courses and teaching materials in the application of IT. Initially, many of these faculty members would probably have computer science degrees and work experience in a particular application domain; typical combinations might include business and transportation IT, computing embedded in mechanical systems, and so on. Minors could be established in computer science and engineering programs and made available to students whose primary interests lie in other relevant disciplines. Computing courses could be established for the benefit of a broad cross-section of students again modeled after mathematics and economics. Such courses could provide a breadth of understanding not available from more specialized courses. Postdoctoral training programs could be established for social science or computer science Ph.D.s who wish to develop skills in research on IT in context. In addition to promoting additional research on social applications, the expansion of interdisciplinary programs would help to redress the teaching and disciplinary imbalances that are likely to be created by increased student interest in IT. At the same time, this expansion would provide a badly needed influx of graduates with strong backgrounds in IT combined with domain-specific understanding. Many computer sci-
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS ence departments are today experiencing an enrollment surge similar to that of the early 1980s. Given current trends in technology, the wealth of job opportunities, and the excitement surrounding IT, this enrollment surge may be more permanent this time. Unfortunately, such growth often comes at the expense of other engineering disciplines, even though many of those disciplines continue to be vibrant and challenging and offer excellent job opportunities. EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH The research programs described in this chapter are initial forays into the social applications of IT. In the process, many different models are being created that will coexist and complement one another. These research efforts will have to be redoubled, always informed by an awareness that multiple, complementary models of research exist. Researchers in traditional IT must broaden their outlook to encompass the social context for the technology, thereby changing what is thought of as the core of IT research.34 Conversely, researchers in other academic disciplines and end users of IT systems must become more actively engaged in IT research. To achieve the desired balance, new models for funding and conducting research must be explored. Only in this way will IT's potential to serve society be fully tapped. BIBLIOGRAPHY Abt Associates, Inc. 1996 An Evaluation of the NSF Science and Technology Centers (STC) Program, Vol. I. Abt Associates, Cambridge, Mass. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction. 1992. Curricula for Human-Computer Interaction. ACM Press. Available online at <http://www.acm.org/sigchi/cdg/cdg2.html>. Bass, L., P. Clements, and R. Kazman. 1998. Software Architecture in Practice. Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass. Bell, D.G., D.G. Bobrow, O. Raiman, M.H. Shirley. 1997. “Dynamic Documents and Situated Processes: Building on Local Knowledge in Field Service,” pp. 261-276 in Information and Process Integration in Enterprises: Rethinking Documents. T. Wakayama, S. Kannapan, C.M. Khoong, S. Navathe, and J. Yates, eds. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell, Mass. Benjamin, Matthew. 1999. “Clunky Internet Sites Get Social Science Treatment,” Investor's Business Daily, October 15, p. A6. Bennis, W., and P. Ward Biederman. 1998. “None of Us Is As Smart As All of Us,” IEEE Computer 31(3):116-117. Bernstein, P.A., and E. Newcomer. 1997. Principles of Transaction Processing. Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco. Bijker, W.E., T.P. Hughes, and T. Pinch, eds. 1987. The Social Construction of Technological Systems. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS Brown, John Seely, and Paul Duguid. 2000. The Social Life of Information. Harvard Business School Press, Boston. Cairncross, F. 1997. The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives. Harvard Business School Press, Boston. Clement, A. 1994. “Computing at Work: Empowering Action by Low-Level Users,” Communications of the ACM 37:52-65. Cohen, W.M., and D.A. Levinthal. 1990. “Absorptive Capacity: A New Perspective on Learning and Innovation, ”Administrative Science Quarterly 35:128-152,. Computer Science and Technology Board, National Research Council. 1989.Scaling Up: A Research Agenda for Software Engineering. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council. 1992. Computing the Future: A Broader Agenda for Computer Science and Engineering. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council. 1994. Information Technology in the Service Society: A Twenty-First Century Lever. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council. 1996. Computing and Communications in the Extreme. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council. 1997. More Than Screen Deep: Toward Every-Citizen Interfaces to the Nation 's Information Infrastructure. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council. 1998a. Fostering Research on the Economic and Social Impacts of Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council. 1998b. “Advancing the Public Interest Through Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence, ” Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Washington, D.C. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council. 1999. Summary of a Workshop on Information Technology Research for Crisis Management. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council. 2000. The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Davenport, T.H. 1993. Process Innovation: Reengineering Worth Through Information Technology. Harvard Business School Press, Boston. Deck, Stewart. 1999. “Human Side Key to Data Warehousing,” Computerworld (February 15):14. Diffie, W., and S. Landau. 1997. Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. Gibbs, W.W. 1994. “Software's Chronic Crisis,” Scientific American (September):86-95. Grenier, R., and G. Metes. 1996. Going Virtual: Moving Your Organization into the 21st Century. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Grief, Irene, ed. 1988. Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: A Book of Readings. Morgan Kaufman, San Mateo, Calif. Hutchins, E. 1991. “Organizing Work by Adaptation,” Organization Science 2:14-39. Iacono, S., and R. Kling. 1984. “Office Routine: The Automated Pink Collar,” IEEE Spectrum(June):73-76. Jones, C. 1996. Applied Software Measurement. McGraw-Hill, New York. Keen, P.G.W., and C. Balance. 1997. On-Line Profits: A Manager's Guide to Electronic Commerce. Harvard Business School Press, Boston.
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS Kleinrock, L. 1974. “Research Areas in Computer Communication,” Computer Communication Review 25(1):33-35, July. Kling, R., and W. Scacchi. 1984. “The Web of Computing: Computer Technology as Social Organization, ” Advances in Computers 21:1-90. Markus, M.L. 1987. “Toward a ‘Critical Mass' Theory of Interactive Media: Universal Access, Interdependence, and Diffusion,” Communication Research 14:491-511. McKnight, L.W., and J.P. Bailey. 1997a. “Internet Economics: When Constituencies Collide in Cyberspace,” IEEE Internet Computing 1(6):30-37, December. McKnight, L.W., and J.P. Bailey. 1997b. Internet Economics. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. Messerschmitt, David G. 1999. Networked Applications: A Guide to the New Computing Infrastructure. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, San Francisco. Mitchell, W.J. 1996. City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. National Academy of Engineering (NAE). 1989. Assessment of the National Science Foundation's Engineering Research Centers Program. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). 1995. National Science Foundation's Science and Technology Centers: Building an Interdisciplinary Research Paradigm. NAPA, Washington, D.C. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Panel on Science and Technology Centers. 1987. Science and Technology Centers: Principles and Guidelines. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. National Academy of Sciences-National Academy of Engineering-Institute of Medicine (NAS-NAE-IOM), Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. 1996. An Assessment of the National Science Foundation's Science and Technology Centers Program. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. National Science Foundation (NSF). 1997. The Engineering Research Centers (ERC) Program: An Assessment of Benefits and Outcomes. NSF, Arlington, Va. National Science Foundation (NSF). 1998. Science and Technology Centers (STC): Integrative Partnerships. Program Solicitation NSF 98-13. Available online at <http://www.nsf.gov/od/oia/stc/nsf9813.html>. National Science Foundation (NSF). 1999a. Digital Government. Program Announcement NSF 99-102, Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate. Arlington, Va. National Science Foundation (NSF). 1999b. “National Science Board Approves Five New NSF Science and Technology Centers,” Press Release, July 29. Available online at <http://www.nsf.gov/od/1pa/news/press/99/pr9945.htm>. National Science Foundation (NSF). 2000. FY2001 Budget Request to Congress. Available online at <http://www.nsf.gov/home/budget/start.htm>. O'Leary, D.E. 1998. “Enterprise Knowledge Management,” IEEE Computer 31(3):54-61. Orr, J. 1990. “Sharing Knowledge, Celebrating Identity: War Stories and Community Memory in a Service Culture,” pp. 169-189 in Collective Remembering: Memory in Society, D.S. Middleton and D. Edwards, eds. Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, Calif. President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC). 1999. Information Technology Research: Investing in Our Future. National Coordination Office for Computing, Information, and Communications , Arlington, Va., February. Available online at <http://www.ccic.gov/ac/report/>. Resnick, P., and H. Varian, eds. 1997. “Special Section: Recommender Systems,” Communications of the ACM 40(3):56-58. Robinson, Sara, and Lisa Guernsey. 1999. “Microsoft and MIT to Develop Technologies Together,” New York Times Cybertimes, October 5. Available online at <http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/10/biztech/articles/05soft.html >.
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS Rosenberg, R.S. 1997. The Social Impact of Computers, 2nd ed. Academic Press, New York. Schofield, J. W. 1995. Computers, Classroom Culture, and Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. Shapiro, C., and H. Varian. 1998. Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy. Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, Mass. Siegel, J.L., V. Dubrovsky, S. Kiesler, and T. McGuire. 1986. “Group Processes in Computer-Mediated Communication,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 37:157-187. Sproull, L.S., and S. Kiesler. 1991. Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. Stonebraker, Michael. 1998. “Are We Working on the Right Problems?” SIGMOD Record (ACM Special Interest Group on Management of Data) 27(2):496. Stonebraker, M., P.M. Aoki, R. Devine, W. Litwin, and M. Olson. 1994. “Mariposa: A New Architecture for Distributed Data,” pp. 54-67 in Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Data Engineering, IEEE Computer Society Press, New York. Wald, Matthew L. 2000. “New Systems for Controllers May Ease Air Traffic Woes,” New York Times, March 23. Available online at <http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/biztech/articles/23traffic.html >. Walton, R.E. 1989. Up and Running: Integrating Technology and the Organization. Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, Mass. Washington Technology. 2000. “Federal Agency IT Expenditures,” January 10, p. 6. Wulf, William. 1999. “A Call for Technological Literacy,” IEEE Computer Applications in Power 12(2):10. NOTES 1. The President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (1999) identified nine major transformations that IT will bring to society. 2. Other examples can be found to further demonstrate the introduction of IT into an existing application. One example is remote conferencing, which is intended to reproduce and improve on face-to-face meetings or voice-only teleconferencing as a means for group interaction. In business, enterprise resource planning applications are intended to improve standard business processes such as human resources, finance, and sales, building on a history of more focused multifaceted systems for manufacturing resource planning. 3. This topic was the subject of an earlier CSTB study. See Chapter 4 of CSTB (1994). 4. For example, the acquisition and use of word-processing applications in organizations are affected by status hierarchies. At one point managers bought word-processing systems that were used by the word-processing pool. The users, lower status clerical personnel, had no control over what was used or its conditions of use (Iacono and Kling, 1984). Suggestions for improvements in the application or its conditions of use that were made by users were ignored because the users had low status (Clement, 1994). As the function of word-processing clerical personnel was taken over by white collar workers doing their own word processing, those white-collar workers encountered hidden interdependencies. For example, people could not exchange documents with others who were using incompatible software. Sociologists have been conducting analyses of the socially embedded nature of (apparently) stand-alone systems since the early 1980s (e.g., Kling and Scacchi, 1984). Also see Bijker et al. (1987) for a more general example of the social construction of technological systems. 5. The challenges and opportunities for designing systems that support a larger and
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS diverse population of users in a larger variety of applications, focusing on issues of usability, are outlined in CSTB (1997). 6. It is fairly easy to understand the capabilities needed by a word processing program or spreadsheet, although as collaborative authoring features have been added, these capabilities have become increasingly sophisticated and complex. A scientific computation has a relatively well-defined form and capability. Even a business application such as transaction support or management of accounts receivables or payroll records are reasonably well defined and understood from the outset. Broader application concepts, epitomized by the expansive term “ e-commerce,” inherently embrace numerous interactions among systems, organizations, and individuals at multiple levels. 7. As used here, the term “economic” refers to a broad range of purposeful activity, including not only activity associated with various goods- and services-producing industries but also that associated with research, learning, and government. 8. “Knowledge management” is a new term that has the disadvantage of being a management buzzword, with the attendant hype, but if the hype can be set aside, the concept can be leveraged to set ambitious objectives for making better use of information through technology. 9. See Stonebraker (1998) and Stonebraker et al. (1994). 10. For a detailed discussion of the complexities of intellectual property protection in a digital environment, see CSTB (2000). 11. The core role of governments is affected by IT, particularly by the global nature of networks. The concept of sovereignty rests largely on the geographical separation of jurisdictions, which is undermined on a global network. The trend toward more international governance mechanisms to deal with international issues is a natural response to globalization, but the trend is accelerated by global computer networking and the applications it supports. Issues such as privacy, restricted access for children, and taxation demand not only new governance mechanisms but also new technologies to support them. 12. Here again, networking is a driver, building on historical improvements in transportation and telecommunications and resulting shifts in markets, organizational scope and scale, and institutional relationships. Business processes and relationships associated with contemporary IT cannot be appreciated accurately without acknowledging that history. 13. The CSTB developed a powerful illustration of the value of systematic study of a specific application domain. Asked to look at crisis management, the board intrigued a group of computer scientists with no knowledge of that domain by exposing them to the problems of people whose jobs revolve around planning for, and responding to, civilian and military crises (CSTB, 1996). The communication about the problems inherent in crisis management, in turn, led to new computer science research. Some of the problems and solutions were common to those found elsewhere, but even some of those had domain-specific requirements, as evidenced by a project participant's observation that some of crisis management technology was like “digital libraries with deadlines.” 14. It must be emphasized that social applications research is about technology as well as social, economic, and political systems. Its goal is to make technological progress more dependent on visionary attention to the uses and needs for that technology and not simply on a near-term, incremental commercial and technical research agenda. As IT is encumbered with few fundamental limits and is mostly what we make of it, the goal is to aim technological advances in directions that offer the most benefit to society. This research is not only about the impact of technology on society, as emphasized by the report of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (1999), but also about the impact of society and humanity on the requirements of future technologies, with the aim of maximizing the beneficial impact and minimizing the harmful ones.
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS 15. These figures are from the Office of Management and Budget as cited in Washington Technology (2000). 16. The Digital Government program is administered by the Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) directorate at NSF but grew out of an effort by the Federal Information Services and Applications Council (FISAC) of the Computing, Information, and Communications Research and Development (CIC R&D) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council. FISAC was created to stimulate and foster the migration of technology from the IT community to government application missions and information services communities and to identify challenges from applications to the IT R&D community. It has participants from across the federal government (including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency). It (1) promotes the early application of advanced computing, information, and communications technologies and R&D capabilities to critical federal government missions, (2) supports multiagency leadership in efforts that demonstrate, deploy, and implement advanced computer and information technologies that have the potential to be widely applicable to federal agency missions, (3) encourages pilot projects to assess the critical computing, information, and communications technologies (e.g., security technologies) needed by applications, and (4) supports broad administration goals in the international arena that eliminate barriers to applications. It drew inspiration from CSTB (1996). 17. Additional information on requirements for the Digital Government program is available in the program solicitation. See NSF (1999a). 18. For example, the first solicitation, in September 1998, attracted 50 proposals (many of them for planning grants) that involved, among others, the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Justice, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the General Services Administration, the Federal Reserve Bank, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Security Agency, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 19. Information on IBM's FOAK program was provided by Armando Garcia, IBM Corporation, personal communication dated July 28, 1998, and by Carol Kovak, IBM Corporation, personal communication dated April 20, 2000. 20. As an example of this phenomenon, consider the case of the Computers, Organizations, Policy, and Society (CORPS) group within the Department of Information and Computer Science at the University of California at Irvine. CORPS concerns itself with studies of the organizational, economic, and social aspects of computing and has strengths in human-computer interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, and information retrieval. When the department was reviewed in 1997 as part of a mandatory 5-year external review of its research and graduate programs, the review committee (which consisted primarily of respected computer scientists) recommended that CORPS be removed from the department and placed somewhere else in the university, not because the research was weak (on the contrary, the review committee declared it to be excellent and important), but because the researchers used perspectives informed by the social sciences and therefore could not understand the engineering perspective at the heart of computer science. The department did not take the review committee's advice (on this subject at least), but the case demonstrates the challenges of rewarding interdisciplinary efforts in the framework of highly specialized disciplines. 21. These and other attitudes and perceptions about barriers to cross-disciplinary collaboration were elicited by CSTB Director Marjory Blumenthal through conversations with
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS MIT faculty members in computer science, electrical engineering, and social sciences, as well as administrators, in 1998. 22. Historically, most civil engineering departments have been, by necessity, sociotechnical systems departments. Similar divisions have been tried at many universities. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Sloan Foundation funded a number of universities to create divisions of this type. Other examples include MIT's Energy Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, which go back 25 years or more. Historically, these centers flourished for a number of years and then either atrophied or faded as funding shifted to different sociotechnical system areas or the faculty champions retired. 23. The NSF has also supported some work on sociotechnical systems through its Directorate on Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE), but most of that work has focused on issues not directly associated with IT. Some researchers at the nexus of computing and the social sciences claim that SBE has not been supportive enough of the centrality of technology in such research, but in recent years, the directorate has cosponsored work (with the CSS program) on research challenges related to the social and economic impacts of IT on intellectual property protection in a digital environment. See CSTB (1998a) and CSTB (2000). 24. A “Dear Colleague” letter posted on the CISE Web site in 1999 noted that increased future funding was anticipated for the CSS program and called for proposals related to traditional CSS interests and the broader issues of social and economic implications of IT. Proposals could request up to $300,000 in funding for 36 months. The CSS expected to make about 10 awards in FY99. See National Science Foundation, Computing and Information Science and Engineering Directorate. Undated. “Dear Colleague” letter from Michael Lesk, division director, Information and Intelligent Systems Division. Available online at <http://www.interact.nsf.gov/cise/html.nsf/html/css_dcl?OpenDocument >. 25. Indeed, the purpose of NSF's ITR program is to “enhance the value of information technology for everyone.” The complete list of areas in which NSF is soliciting proposals under the ITR program is as follows: software, IT education and workforce, human-computer interface, information management, advanced computational science, scalable information infrastructure, social and economic implications of IT, and revolutionary computing. Letters of intent for proposals exceeding $500,000 were due in November 1999; those for smaller projects were not due until January 2000. The NSF anticipated making awards under the ITR program in September 2000. See NSF (1999a). 26. Many Web designers do not understand user behavior, including why users often leave sites soon after going to them. In an attempt to understand a user's experience of a Web site, Modem Media uses the technique of role playing, in which employees pretend to be users that fit a certain profile. Modem Media intends to hire psychologists and anthropologists to expand its efforts to understand user behavior. Meanwhile, Sapient announced plans to buy E-Lab because of E-Lab 's knowledge of “patterns of behavior that reveal and drive the nature of experience. ” However, Web site usability expert Jakob Nielsen says social scientists are not the answer, and that companies should focus instead on conducting usability tests with actual customers. See Benjamin (1999). 27. The STC program was initiated in response to President Ronald Reagan's 1987 State of the Union address, which proposed the establishment of federal centers to promote U.S. economic competitiveness. Of the original 25 centers funded from the first two program solicitations, 23 remain; 5 new centers were granted funding in July 1999. See NSF (1999b). 28. Industrial support is not a requirement for the centers, but the STCs average eight industrial partners per center. See National Academy of Public Administration (1995). 29. A bibliometric analysis conducted by Abt Associates, Inc., found that the journal publications of STC researchers were cited 1.69 times as often as the average U.S. academic paper published and that the journals in which STC scientists published had greater influence than the average scientific journal. In addition, papers from STC researchers are cited
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS two to four times as often in U.S. patents as the average academic research paper. See Abt Associates (1996). 30. In most cases, outreach did not significantly interfere with the conduct of research, but it did in the case of at least one STC. The center was told after one NSF site visit that it did not conduct enough outreach programs, so it began participating in so many outreach activities that after another NSF site visit, the center was told that it did not conduct enough research. In response to the first site-visit report, almost all of the time of the postdoctoral scientists and almost all the resources of the center in the summer months were devoted to K-12 outreach programs. 31. Most of the time is spent by a center's director and administration, and only a small proportion of the time is spent by the actual researchers. 32. The Abt Associates evaluation of the STC program was even more favorable than the COSEPUP report. Abt writes that “individual centers have produced significant research achievements in fundamental knowledge and the development of research tools, and have identified a range of downstream impacts of this work.” Abt found the centers to be particularly flexible and effective in responding to scientific opportunities and reported that “industry partners consider their affiliations with the STCs to be immensely beneficial.” In addition, the Abt report viewed the K-12 educational programs more favorably than did the COSEPUP report. See Abt Associates (1996). 33. As an analogy, consider the roles of mathematics and economics in other fields. As they became increasingly critical to a number of fields—mathematics to physics and economics to business or agriculture, for example—collaboration as a way of addressing the resulting challenges soon became inadequate. Rather, domain experts felt the need to become sufficiently adept at mathematics or economics to contribute directly in these areas. The situation is similar with IT, which is becoming an integral part of the sociotechnical applications within which it is embedded; that is, the artificial separation of application-specific and information technology expertise is no longer effective. A solid grounding in mathematics is considered essential to the natural sciences and engineering, and a solid grounding in economics is considered essential to business, agriculture, and a number of other fields. Similarly, modern forms of IT should be considered normal and essential parts of the background in a number of other fields. These fields include particularly the education of future engineers in fields as diverse as civil, mechanical, aerospace, electrical, and nuclear engineering, and also the education of future business managers (many of whom specialize in the social sciences and humanities as well as business). A broad cross-section of students in other natural and social science disciplines also need to take at least a foundation course in these technologies, analogous to a first course in economics. 34. This continual expansion of what is considered the core is healthy and needs to be strongly encouraged. Two fields that were once considered applications of computers are computer graphics and database storage systems. After computer science researchers began to make progress on these topics and publish papers and the capabilities became a normal part of many systems, they gradually came to be considered part of the core of the computer science research community. The technologies surrounding e-commerce are in the process of making this transition. Controversy surrounding the publication of the CSTB report Computing the Future: A Broader Agenda for Computer Science and Engineering in 1992 suggests that change is not always welcome or even understood. See CSTB (1992).
Representative terms from entire chapter: