. "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
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