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Information Technology and the Conduct of Research The User's View REPORT OF THE PANEL ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE CONDUCT OF RESEARCH NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND PUBLIC POLICY NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS WASHINGTON, D.C. 1989
NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS · 2101 Constitution Avenue, NVV · Washington, DC 20418 The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and their use for the general welfare. Under the authority of its congressional charter of 1863, the Academy has a working mandate that calls upon it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. The Academy carries out this mandate primarily through the National Research Council, which it jointly administers with the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press is President of the NAS. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) was established in 1964, under the charter of the NAS, as a parallel organization of distinguished engineers, autonomous in its administration and in the selection of members, sharing with the NAS its responsibilities for advising the federal government. Dr. Robert M. White is President of the NAE. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) was chartered in 1970 by the NAS to enlist distinguished members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. In this, the Institute acts under both the Academy's 1863 congressional charter responsibility to be an adviser to the federal government and its own initiative in identifying issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Samuel O. Thier is President of the IOM. The Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy is a joint committee of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. It includes members of the councils of all three bodies. This study received support from the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Bureau of Standards and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis- tration of the Department of Commerce, the National Library of Medicine, and the National Science Foundation. Opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the Panel on Information Technology and the Conduct of Research of the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Panel on Information Technology and the Conduct of Research (U.S.) Information technology and the conduct of research. Bibliography: p. Includes index. 1. Information technology-Scientific applications. 2. Research-Technological innovations. I. Title. Q180.55.I45P36 1989 001.4'2 88-28903 ISBN 0-309-03888-X CopyIight @) 1989 by the National Academy of Sciences No part of this book may be reproduced by any mechanical, photographic, or electronic process, or in the form of a phonographic recording, nor may it be stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or otherwise copied for public or private use, without written permission from the publisher, except for the purposes of official use by the United States Government. Printed in the United States of America Cover Photograph: Temperature field in January at a depth of 225 meters, from a global model of the oceanic general circulation. Deep reds represent temperatures of 24°C and deep blues are -2°C. Picture courtesy of Michael Colic. Reproduced from "Computer modeling in physical oceanography from the global circulation to turbulence," William R. Holland and James C. McWilliams. Physics Today, vol. 40, no. 10, p. 52.
Panel on ~fonnadon Technology and the Conduct of Research DONALD N. LANGENBERG (Chair), Chancellor, University of Illinois at Chicago W. RICHARDS ADRION, Chair, Computer and Information Science Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst JOSEPH BALLAM, Professor, Department of Physics, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford, California BRUCE G. BUCHANAN, Professor and Co-Director, Center for Parallel, Distributed, and Intelligent Systems, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania WILLIAM J. EMERY, Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering Science, University of Colorado, Boulder DAVID A. HODGES, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, University of California, Berkeley DAVID A. HOFFMAN, Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Univer- sity of Massachusetts, Amherst F. THOMAS JUSTER, Professor of Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor SARA B. KIESLER, Professor, Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania KENNETH M. KING, President, EDUCOM, Princeton, New Jersey ROBERT LANGRIDGE, Professor, Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, University of California, San Francisco NINA W. MATHESON, Director, William H. Welch Medical Library, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland DAVID A. PENSAK, Corporate Advisor, Computing Technology, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., Wilmington, Delaware ALLAN H. WEIS, Vice President, Data Systems Division, IBM Enterprise Systems, White Plains, New York iii
1V Staff JOHN R. B. CLEMENT, Study Directo, AUDREY PENDERGAST, StafF9fficer ANN K. FINKBEINER, Writer NISHA GOVINDANI, Secretary JOAN ROOD, Secretary
Commiticc on Science, Engineering, and Public Polity Cornelius J. Pings (Chairman), Provost, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California GILBERT S. OMENN, Dean, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (former Chairman*) H. NORMAN ABRAMSON, Executive Vice-President, Southwest Research Institute San Antonio, Texas ALBERT M. CLOGSTON, Member, Center for Materials Science, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico PHILIP M. Cohort, Executive Vice-President, Boeing Commercial Airplane Com- pany, Seattle, Washington EMILIO Q. DADDARIO, Washington, D.C. GERALD P. DINNEEN,* Vice President, Science and Technology, Honeywell Incor- porated, Minneapolis, Minnesota ALFRED P. FISHMAN, William Maul Measey Professor of Medicine, and Director, Cardiovascular-Pulmona~y Division, University of Pennsylvania School of Med- icine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania RALPH E. GOMORY, Senior Vice-President for Science and Technology, IBM Corpo- ration, Monk, New York Zv~ GRILICHES,* Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy, Department of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts ARTHUR KELMAN, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Senior Research Profes- sor of Plant Pathology and Bacteriology, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin Francis E. Low, Institute Professor, Department of Physics, Massachusetts Insti- tute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts *Term expired June 30, 1988. V
V1 JOHN D. ROBERTS,* Institute Professor of Chemistry, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California KENNETH J. RYAN, Kate Macy Ladd Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Haward Medical School; and Chain, Department of Obstetrics and Gyne- cology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts HERBERT A. Simon, Richard King Mellon University Professor, Department of Computer Science and Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Ex Officio FRANK PRESS, President, National Academy of Sciences ROBERT M. WHITE, President, National Academy of Engineering SAMUEL O. THIER, President, Institute of Medicine Staff ALLAN R. HOFFMAN, Executive Director MYRON F. UMAN, Associate Executive Director BARBARA A. CANDLAND, Administrative Coordinator CATHY D. WILLIAMS, Administrative Secretary
Preface The ever-present urge to categorize our fellow humans leads in this computer age to the categories "computer literate" and "computer illiterate." It might seem obvious that scientists and engineers, particu- larly those engaged in research, must all be computer literate. After all, such people work with numbers and data, and isn't that what computers are all about? Yet the most superficial survey of researchers will reveal a wide range of capabilities in the use of information technology (computers plus telecommuni- cations) in research. It will also reveal endemic frustration and dissatisfaction. Why? Is not the work of those researchers whose subject is information technology itself yielding a steady stream of new capabilities for their colleagues in other fields? Yes it is, and some of the new capabilities can truly be called revolutionary. Are not researchers in many fields continually finding new ways to apply information technology to do old things faster, better, and cheaper, and to do new things which just yesterday were beyond the realm of possibility? Yes, that is so. So much so, in fact, that there are many who believe that the pervasive use of information technology in the conduct of research is changing profoundly the very meaning of the word "research." Are not our institutions, agencies, and companies, our policymakers, managers, and vendors finding ways to place the new instruments of information technology in the hands of more and more researchers? Yes, despite the usual fiscal constraints, they are. Then what's the problem? Indeed, is there one? It was the suspicion that there is a problem (many, actually), that there are serious impediments to the wider and more effective use of information technology in research, that led the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) to form the Panel on Information Technology and the Conduct of Research and to charge it to explore the situation and to report its findings, conclusions, and recommen- dations. I agreed to chair the Panel because, as a scientist turned university administrator and federal official, and a computer illiterate, I was excited by the ·e V11
· -- V111 PREFACE prospect of learning something of an issue I sense is of paramount importance to the future of the global research enterprise. This report is the result of the Panel's deliberations. Our subject is broad, its literature is scattered, and some of its facets are still more art than science. We cannot claim to have produced the definitive picture of the issue. We hope we have made a case for the importance of understanding and addressing it, and perhaps shed some light on a creature that reminds some of us of the elephant once investigated by an earlier panel. If this report has value, it is due to the salient characteristic of the Panel reflected in the report's subtitle, "The User's View." Most of the Panel members are researchers active in disciplines not encompassed by the term "information technology." They are expert but skeptical users of information technology in their own research, in possession of exciting visions of what this technology might bring to their fields, and of experienced views of what it has brought, and at what cost. From my youth I remember an ad for an automobile, which urged the reader to "Ask the man who owns one!" There's wisdom in that slogan; in the absence of a considerable body of established knowledge, our Panel focused on asking the men and women "who own one." The result is a report that should speak to researchers experienced in the application of information technology, as well as those who would like to gain more experience, and of course to those engaged in supporting research. We believe it is worth the reader's attention. The conception and early stages of the study owe much to the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. In particular, two former members of the Committee deserve mention: Floyd E. Bloom, whose term with the committee ended soon after this study's initiation; and Gilbert S. Omenn. Dr. Bloom conceived the topic and played a central role in its birth. Dr. Omenn chaired COSEPUP during the inception and most of the execution of the study. We also must thank Norman Metzger of the National Research Council, who developed the study's charge and initially served as study director. Support for the study was provided by several federal agencies: the Department of Energy; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Bureau of Standards and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce; the National LibraIy of Medicine; and the National Science Foundation. Sun Microsystems, Inc., donated an advanced workstation for the purpose of report production. The study benefited from the opinions and reviews of many people: research users, experts in computing, computing applications, and communications, and policymakers. We received helpful advice and suggestions from too many persons to mention by name; but we acknowledge the vital part their input played. At the final stages of the report's preparation, four members of COSEPUP served as a review group: John D. Roberts, as chair, and Alfred P. Fishman, Francis E. Low, and Herbert A. Simon. We did not always take the advice offered; but we always profited from it. Of course, the report's statements, findings, and recom- mendations remain the sole responsibility of the Panel members.
LO The Panel is particularly grateful to its professional staff: John Clement, Audrey Pendergast, Ann Finkbeiner, and Nisha Govindani, who supported the study both intellectually and logistically, while exhibiting exemplary patience. The Panel also owes special thanks to Allan Hoilrnan, executive director of COSEPUP, for input and support from conception to final dissemination; and also to Barbara Candland and Cathy D. Williams of the COSEPUP staff. Without the efforts of all these people, the study truly would not have taken place. One final, and important, point: I share with many researchers a strong belief that much of the power of science (whether practiced by scientists, engineers, or clinical researchers) derives from the steadfast commitment to free and unfet- tered communication of information and knowledge. This principle has been part of the ethos of the global research community for centuries, and has sensed it and the rest of humanity well. If asked to distill one key insight from my service on this panel, I would respond with the assertion that information technology is of truly enormous importance to the research community, and hence to all humanity, precisely because it has the potential to enhance communication of information and knowledge within that community by orders of magnitude. We can now only dimly perceive what the consequences of that fact may be. That there is a revolution occurring in the creation and dissemination of information, knowledge, and, ultimately, understanding is clear to me. It is also clear to me that it is critically important to maintain our commitment to free and unfettered communication as we explore the uses of information technology in the conduct of research. If my colleagues and I succeed through this report in conveying some sense of this to our readers, and of the necessity that many individuals and institutions be attentive to it, we will have discharged our duty. DONALD N. LANGENBERG Chair PREFACE
Contents Executive Summary 1 Introduction 7 The Use of Information Technology in Research 11 The Conduct of Research 13 Data Collection and Analysis 14 Communication ant! Collaboration Among Researchers Information Storage and Retrieval 23 New Opportunities: Approaching the Revolution Asymptotically 30 Institutional ant! Behavioral Impediments to the Use of Information Technology in Research 34 Pane] Findings and Recommendations 47 Findings 47 Recommendations 50 Appendix A: List of Position Papers 57 Appendix B: Biographies of Pane] Members 5~3 Bibliography and Selected Readings 63 Inciex 69 18 X1
information Technology and the Conduct of Research The User's View