Information Technology, Science, and Public Policy




Cheney, David

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This dissertation addresses how information technology (IT) affects science, and the resulting implications for investments in IT and in research. The dissertation reviews relevant science policy literature and literature on the effects of information technology, and then examines in detail the applications of IT in the geosciences and biosciences. The dissertation develops models of the effects of advances in IT on the productivity, quality, and impact of science. It then tests this model though three case studies of malaria research, earthquake research, and Chesapeake Bay research. The research found there to be a significant impact of IT on science in all of the fields studied. IT affects science not just through improving efficiency but primarily through enabling new types of research. Some of the most significant effects include a huge increase in the productivity of data collection and the availability of data, an increased ability to deal with complexity, the development of fundamentally new approaches to research, and the expansion of collaboration in both geographic and disciplinary dimensions. IT helps to enable researchers to address some of the complex problems that are most important to society, and provides tools for communicating with users and stakeholders of science, increasing the impact of science. Although IT was found to influence all of the fields studied, there are also substantial differences among the fields, due both to the nature of the science and the organizational and cultural history of the fields. Measurement difficulties do not allow one to determine whether there is under- or over-investment in IT for science, but, based on the magnitude of past impact, continued investment in IT for science appears prudent. Because some IT used in science is highly generic while other IT is specific to certain types of science or specific fields, it is suggested that there be multiple sources of funding for these different categories.



Information technology, Policy, Earthquakes, Malaria, Chesapeake Bay, Internet