Advancing Research in North Carolina
JANE SMITH PATTERSON
NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
The Board of Science and Technology was first established in 1963 to encourage, promote, and support scientific, engineering, and industrial research applications in North Carolina. The Board works to investigate new areas of emerging science and technology and conducts studies on the competitiveness of state industry and research institutions in these fields. The Board, whose members are drawn from universities, research institutions, industry, and government, also works with the State General Assembly and the governor to put into place the infrastructure that keeps North Carolina on the cutting edge of science and technology. A critical mission for the Board under Governor Hunt has been to strengthen our research and education base and thus increase the flow of research from universities to corporations and the commercial marketplace. Building collaborative partnerships with access to information and communication networks has offered new opportunities in education, research, and economic development.
The Board played a significant role in building the North Carolina information highway, which is making this conference possible. Some 1,400 high-speed wide-area networks now operate off this information highway, which has also made possible 38,000 video sessions over the last four years. With the network available to them, students at the high schools for science and mathematics have participated in chemistry experiments with scientists across the state.
To support scientific research, the board also initiated projects such as MCNC (Microelectronics Center of North Carolina), the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, and the Technology Development Authority. We are now working to set up the Alliance for Competitive Technology, which will utilize technology and develop strategic industrial plans.
Because electronic collaborations are so important to these projects and the overall research process, we hope to actively foster collaboratories. We might, for example, encourage the new president of the University of North Carolina system to establish a technical cyber "SWAT team" to enable universities to join collaboratories. The Board could also encourage the institutions in the Research Triangle to participate in collaboratories. We hope, in fact, that the Board will agree to build collaboratories linking North Carolina universities with federal agencies and national laboratories in other states. I think it is important to harness
the collaboratory concept to further not only chemical, biological, and technological research but also research involving the humanities.
The Board realizes that making the collaboratory concept work requires not only enthusiastic scientists, but also adequate funding, especially for the underlying technology. The Board could therefore play an important role by funding research on the technologies that enable collaboratories and allow them to work effectively. Our next technological focus, building the H.320 platform—a standards-based video platform—will enable different sites to participate in full-motion video conferences even more easily than they can today. Eventually, participation in video conferences and other forms of online collaborative research will entail simply picking up the phone or checking your computer. We, however, must try to move more quickly from the technology available today to desktop facility for researchers.
The press often portrays members of the research community as isolated scientists engaged in obscure pursuits. Therefore, I also see an important role for the Board of Science and Technology in educating the public and the press about the practical payoffs from collaboratories. Finally, the Board might investigate the complex intellectual property concerns that arise as collaboratories bring together public and private entities to perform joint research. The Board has already investigated intellectual property concerns with a similar science and technology board in Germany.
Although we are only beginning to exploit the potential of advanced communication technology in research, my hope is that this conference has convinced participants that the more they use these tools, the more they become invisible. Users who take full advantage of interactive electronic tools can pursue innovative research and obtain far-reaching results that would otherwise not have been possible. Ultimately, it enables us to shorten the cycle time of scientific discovery and product commercialization for the competitive growth of our economy.