. "Research Motivated by Social Applications of Information Technology." Making IT Better: Expanding Information Technology Research to Meet Society's Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000.
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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS
($2 million to $4 million per year) projects. ITR could serve as a mechanism for supporting larger-scale efforts related to social applications of IT, perhaps even small centers. In addition, CISE expects to allocate $30 million to new information technology centers in FY00 to support fundamental research that spans the field of IT and encompasses scientific applications or addresses areas of social, ethical, and workforce issues (NSF, 2000). The challenge will be to find a suitable set of peers to review the proposals, drawing from the IT, social science, and domain-specific communities.
Interdisciplinary Research in Industry
Industry tends to be less wedded to a disciplinary research structure than universities are, and it has made a modest investment in interdisciplinary research motivated by the social applications of IT. Xerox Corporation, for example, has long kept social science researchers on the staff of its Palo Alto Research Center to help understand how people interact with IT systems in a variety of organizational settings. The work of the social scientists has been credited with improving the usability of Xerox copiers and streamlining internal processes for disseminating the knowledge of field service technicians (Bell et al., 1997). AT &T employs a number of economists to study the economics of the telecommunications industry, and several computer manufacturers, Apple Computer among them, have hired psychologists and cognitive scientists to inform their work on human-computer interfaces. In recent years, a number of Internet-based companies have recognized the need to make their Web sites more usable and have begun to hire employees with degrees in the social sciences and humanities.26 These efforts tend to focus on issues closely associated with product design and implementation and are diminutive in comparison to research on the purely technical aspects of IT.
As the market for IT-related services continues to grow, a number of traditional vendors of IT products are becoming more deeply entwined in the provision of large-scale IT systems and services. This trend could lead to greater investment in research on the social applications of IT. AT&T Labs, for example, recently announced a plan to fund research in the computer science and business departments of universities participating in the Internet 2 initiative, as a means of developing public key infrastructure for improving security across the Internet. The collaboration will be managed by a board of experts from industry, government, and academia who will invite participation from other players in those domains. In addition, MIT and Microsoft Corporation announced a partnership to develop educational technologies. Microsoft is investing $25 million in the venture over 5 years to pursue a range of projects, from online learn-