Electronic Support for the Practice of Research

Roger Clarke
Australian National University

Published in The Information Society

© Australian National University, 1994

Developments in information technology services during the previous and current decades are argued to have very significant implications for the conduct, and even the nature, of research. These changes should not be thought of as predictable, linear developments, nor even as mere discontinuous functions. They constitute a revolution, challenging established notions of research process.

Conventional economics is not appropriate as a means of understanding these changes, because it is presaged upon resource scarcity, whereas data and processing power are not in short supply. Other inadequacies include the heterogeneity of research activity and research tools, and the chameleon character of many information technology services, which are what each user perceives them to be. To cope with the revolution, policy developers and research managers must resort to the blunter instruments of political economy, strategic and competitive theory, innovation diffusion and technology assessment, and be nimble.

The various stakeholders in the research community need a permanent focal point in which to pursue these debates, rather than just occasional, ad hoc fora. In the United States, the national research and education network (NREN) may or may not provide that focus. In addition, a vehicle is needed for discussions of electronic messaging and data access for industry, government and the public. The United States national information infrastructure (NII) initiative may provide a model for other countries. It is contended that the these changing patterns have implications far beyond the research community.


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Last Amended: 15 October 1995

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