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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Grant No. EIA-9812623 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
ADHOC COMMITTEE ON BEING A SCHOLAR IN THE DIGITAL AGE
JAMES J. DUDERSTADT (Chair), President Emeritus and University Professor of Science and Engineering, Millennium Project, University of Michigan
WILLIAM ARMS, Professor of Computer Science, Cornell University
DANIEL E. ATKINS, Founding Dean of the School of Information and Professor of Information and Computer Science/Engineering, University of Michigan
MARK H. ELLISMAN, Professor of Neuroscience and Bioengineering, and Director of the Center for Research in Biological Structure, University of California
EDWARD A. FOX, Director, Digital Research Laboratory, and Professor of Computer Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
PAUL MESSINA, Assistant Vice-President for Scientific Computing, California Institute of Technology
HELEN NISSENBAUM, Research Associate and Lecturer at the University for Human Values, Princeton University
BEN SHNEIDERMAN, Professor of Computer Science, Head of Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, and Member of the Institutes for Advanced Computer Studies and for Systems Research, University of Maryland
ANNE-MARIE MAZZA, Project Director
REBECCA BURKA, Administrative Associate
KEVIN ROWAN, Project Assistant
ERIC BROWN, Research Associate
DUNCAN BROWN, Consultant Science Writer
SUE BACHTEL, Editor
VINTON G. CERF, Senior Vice President, WorldCom, Ashburn, Virginia
DAVID T. KINGSBURY, Chiron Corporation, Emeryville, California
PETER SHAMES, Space Telescope Science Institute, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
DONALD SIMBORG, KnowMed Systems, Berkeley, California
LEE S. SPROULL, Stern School of Management, New York University, New York, New York
DOUG VAN HOUWELING, University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, Ann Arbor, Michigan
ROBERT A. WELLER, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
WILLIAM A. WULF, President, National Academy of Engineering, Washington, D.C.
DEBBIE STINE, Project Director
ERIC BROWN, Research Associate
The advance of information technology presents enormous opportunities in the conduct of research. In many ways, today's electronic tools of communication and computing make possible heightened productivity and creativity. At the same time, use of these tools challenges many of the traditions of academic research, including its ethical standards, the role of collaboration among colleagues, and the relationship between student and teacher.
These challenges are sharpened by the sheer speed with which these tools have penetrated society and the academic professions. Until the mid-1990s, electronic mail and remotely accessed databases primarily were used by a few specialists whose professional interests outweighed the clumsiness and slowness of the interfaces. Today these tools are so powerful and easy to use that they are all but de rigeur for most academic disciplines. Tomorrow they will be universal, viewed as necessities. In the meantime, applications of information technology grow rapidly more sophisticated and automated, adding media and capabilities that open up new ways of learning, communicating, and creating knowledge. Scientists and engineers may be concerned about the broader implications of these changes, including how they may affect and possibly threaten existing norms and conventions defining good scientific research prac-
tices as well as how they may define the ethical and professional responsibilities of researchers.
Recognizing the extent of these changes, the National Research Council (NRC) formed the Ad Hoc Committee on Being a Scholar in the Digital Age. The Committee was asked to develop a guide for students and faculty that would “provide advice on issues, such as the following:
Opportunities and implications of conducting research in a digital environment
Scientific, technical, and structural barriers to making the best use of these opportunities
Electronic age communication within the research community: from the casual exchange of gossip and information to obtaining data to the preparation of articles and the dissemination of research results
New behavioral norms and issues associated with those new norms.
Key points that could be addressed in a student/faculty guide include:
Development and use of communal assets such as digital libraries and databases
Use of computation as a third research paradigm with theory and experimentation
Changing research apparatus
Communication of research
“Netiquette” (from a researcher point of view)
The Committee may make recommendations, but they are not the main focus of the project—rather it is to develop guidance for scholars.”
The Committee originally intended to produce a guide for scholars. After months of deliberation, however, it decided that it could develop best a document that discussed the evolving nature of scientific and engineering research in the digital age, as well as one that identified issues for students, faculty, and
administrators in this changing environment. Because of rapid changes in the then current environment, the Committee did not believe it could provide a “how-to” manual for the young scholar that would apply to all disciplines and that would remain current. Thus, this report reflects the Committee's discussion of the issues facing those involved in scientific and engineering research as they respond to the opportunities presented by new digital technology. It outlines some of the broad developments that are in progress and sketches their impacts on the conduct of research and on research institutions.
The Committee met as a whole twice in Washington, D.C., and members also communicated frequently by e-mail and telephone as they drafted and refined the report.
The report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments to assist the institution in making its published reports as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: John Amastae, Center for Inter-American and Border Studies; Edward Ayers, University of Virginia; Peter Denning, George Mason University; Robert Gallagher, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Richard Kouzes, Pacific Northwest National Lab; and Robert Schatz, CANIS Laboratory, University of Illinois.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by William Howard (appointed by the NRC's Report Review Committee) who was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
The report is organized in four chapters:
Chapter 1, “A Revolution in the Tools of Scientific and Engineering Research,” presents a broad view of the issues involved.
Chapter 2, “The Research Process in a Digital World,” reviews the changes to be expected in practical terms, at the level of the individual researcher or team.
Chapter 3, “A Digital Infrastructure to Support Tomorrow's Research Communities,” describes the impacts of new information technology at the level of the research community and its constituent institutions.
Chapter 4, “Changing Expectations of the Researcher,” reviews the ethical, legal, and social challenges of the new tools and their applications. Throughout its report, the committee has included URLs to additional sources of information, guidance, and debate.
The staff of the National Research Council's Policy and Global Affairs Division assisted the Committee. Debbie Stine served as initial staff director, before being succeeded by Anne-Marie Mazza. Duncan Brown prepared much of the initial draft material. Rebecca Burka and Kevin Rowan managed the administrative side of the Committee's work. Graduate student and intern Eric Brown gave the Committee and staff the benefit of his perspective as a young researcher. Sue Bachtel provided editorial assistance.