Saturday, March 31, 2007

Revisiting the NSF Cyberinfrastructure Report

I would like to add in my two cents and concur that the NSF report, Cyberinfrastructure Vision for 21st Century Discovery (March 2007), is a crucial document for our School. I approached it with skepticism, knowing that it’s focus was on science and engineering, and understanding that our work takes us far beyond these domains. Yet, I found throughout the report comments suggesting the need for us to break down bureaucratic and disciplinary (and other) barriers in our School. For example, in the executive summary we find this statement: “Responding to the challenges and opportunities of a data-intensive world, NSF will pursue a vision in which science and engineering digital data are routinely deposited in well-documented form, are regularly and easily consulted and analyzed by specialist and non-specialist alike, are openly accessible while suitably protected, and are reliably preserved” (p. 3). This strikes into a number of our programmatic tracks and specializations. In fact, the report makes overt comments on the knitting together of different disciplines, such as with this statement: “Ongoing attention must be paid to the education of the professionals who will support, deploy, develop, and design current and emerging cyberinfrastructure. For example, the increased emphasis on ‘data rich’ scientific inquiry has revealed serious needs for ‘digital data management’ or data curation professionals. Such careers may involve the development of new, hybrid degree programs that marry the study of library science with a scientific discipline. Similarly, the power that visualization and other presentation technologies bring to the interpretation of data may call for specialized career opportunities that pair the graphic arts with a science or engineering discipline” (p. 39). This is a report worth required reading by all SIS faculty, especially since it might jar all of us out of our little worlds to see the bigger universe that is SIS.

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