Monday, July 09, 2007

First Monday on CyberInfrastructure

First Monday has published a special edition exclusively dedicated to selected papers from an illuminating conference earlier this year on Designing Cyberinfrastructure
for Collaboration and Innovation

“Cyberinfrastructure” was originally shorthand for Internet–based information infrastructure, one of the “critical infrastructures” that merited special attention as a matter of national security [1]. The National Science Foundation has since adopted it as a programmatic label for advanced knowledge infrastructure, which despite its roots in NSF’s core competencies (science, engineering, education) is essentially unbounded. It offers a promise of informing and enabling innovation wherever it may occur — and in doing so, helping us better understand the processes, practices, and institutions of innovation. Since we look to innovation as a principal source of increased productivity and economic growth, NSF’s initiative on cyberinfrastructure may prove as politically and strategically important as the development of the Internet, in which NSF also had a central programmatic role.

The objective of this project was not to examine NSF’s program on cyberinfrastructure, but to look at how cyberinfrastructure as an evolving enabling vision (rather than a given that merits protection) faces the innovation landscape beyond NSF’s academic constituency. It’s not just a matter of the social and economic impact of cyberinfrastructure, or the constraints that markets, laws, and policies impose on cyberinfrastructure. Rather it is a matter of designing an optimal ecology for knowledge and innovation, drawing on what can be done with science, software, organizations, and policy. This challenge is both technical and political. It is a challenge of how to get infrastructures — including infrastructure implicit in laws and markets — to work together as well as they work internally. This is a crucial test for both interdisciplinary collaboration and U.S. innovation policy."

Dan Burk does a great job, for example, in pointing out the basic hurdles to open networked scientific collaboration introduced by some of the peculiarities of [US] intellectual property law.

"The development of a new generation of cyberinfrastructure promises to increase and facilitate globally distributed scientific collaboration as well as access to scientific research via computer networks. But the potential for such access and collaboration is subject to concerns regarding the intellectual property rights that will be associated with networked data and with networked collaborative activity. Intellectual property regimes are generally problematic in the practice of science, because scientific research typically assumes practices of openness that may be hampered or obstructed by intellectual property rights. These difficulties are likely to be exacerbated in the context of networked collaboration, where the development and use of intellectual resources will likely be distributed among many researchers in a variety of physical locations, often spanning national boundaries. Such issues may be addressed by a combination of public and private approaches, including amendment of U.S. law to recognize transborder collaborative work, and adoption of clarifying contractual agreements among those who are collaborating via cyberinfrastructure, including cautious adaptation of “viral” licensing from the open source coding community."

No comments: