NSF Workshop on Cyberinfrastructure for the Social Sciences, 2005

A Final Workshop Report from SBE/CISE Workshop on Cyberinfrastructure for the Social Sciences is available in PDF form.


Workshop Concept

Cyberinfrastructure is the coordinated aggregate of software, hardware and other technologies, as well as human expertise, required to support current and future discoveries in science and engineering. The challenge of Cyberinfrastructure is to integrate relevant and often disparate resources to provide a useful, usable, and enabling framework for research and discovery characterized by broad access and “end-to-end” coordination.

Today, most Cyberinfrastructure efforts are focused on the development and integration of Cyberinfrastructure technologies and resources. Fewer efforts have focused on the immense repercussions of the social dynamics and organizational, policy, management and administration decisions inherent in developing and deploying Cyberinfrastructure. Such choices, and the social, cultural, and behavioral impacts of how we develop, manage, and evolve Cyberinfrastructure will be critical to its success.

In addition to developing a useful and usable Cyberinfrastructure, attention must be focused on the way in which successful Cyberinfrastructure will change our social and cultural environment, including the way it will change the way we do social science itself At scale, Cyberinfrastructure will support an increasing number and variety of users and usage scenarios, and will accelerate the evolution of a cyber-culture. Attention must be paid now to ensure Cyberinfrastructure is of most benefit as it evolves.

In order for Cyberinfrastructure to achieve its potential as an enabling framework for modern science and engineering, it must be thoughtfully designed, expertly developed, deployed at a stable, professional level, and its impact must be understood. A strategic and forward-looking approach to the development of a body of research, experimentation and infrastructure starting now that addresses the socio-cultural, economic, and policy challenges of both building and using Cyberinfrastructure will be critical to ensure best success. Collaborations between social scientists and computer scientists, technologists, and engineers will be critical to meet the challenges of building and using successful Cyberinfrastructure. Such individuals have a wealth of experience and context to offer, but have yet to realize the potential of partnering together in this critical area.

The first step to developing a strategic approach and priority areas for collaboration between social scientists, computer scientists, engineers, and technologists is to identify the key opportunities and challenges. The SBE/CISE Workshop on Cyberinfrastructure for the Social Sciences will seek to identify areas in which both the SBE and CISE communities can partner together to begin to address the most fundamental and strategic problems. The Workshop has been designed to engage an outstanding group of participants from SBE, CISE and elsewhere in substantive discussions that will provide a targeted path forward, and key recommendations, useful to NSF and its constituencies as they move forward to build, deploy, and use Cyberinfrastructure.

Workshop Goals

Our goals are to provide substantive, useful and usable feedback to NSF on programs, and activities for which the SBE and CISE communities can partner together to build, deploy, and use Cyberinfrastructure. We seek to accomplish two goals at the workshop:

  1. The Workshop Report should lay out a Cyberinfrastructure research, experimentation, and infrastructure path forward for the SBE and CISE community and provide a framework for projects and efforts in this area.
  2. The Workshop should provide a venue for community building within the SBE and CISE communities, and in particular a venue for a multi-disciplinary synergistic community which leverages the perspectives and research of both SBE and CISE constituencies.

Workshop Framework

The workshop will combine invited talks, breakouts, and report-outs. Workshop participants will be assigned to one of 6 sessions, and will be asked to work together to produce session recommendations that meet the Workshop goals. It is our hope that the discussion and interactions facilitated at the workshop will produce not only useful recommendations for programs, and efforts which NSF can sponsor, but the beginnings of new interdisciplinary collaborations and teams that can work together to build an integrated SBE/CISE community focused on Cyberinfrastructure challenges.

Output of the Workshop

The “output” of the workshop will be a Final Report which provides an overview of the opportunities, challenges, and recommendations from each session and recommends a set of research, experimentation and infrastructure challenges which can serve to address these problems. The report should provide a concrete description of the Cyberinfrastructure socio-cultural, economic and policy landscape, and a set of key areas to pursue which will foster critical efforts and activities which address these challenges. The report will be made available publicly via the web and will also be printed in hardcopy for use by NSF and key individuals.

Workshop Sessions

Workshop participants have been assigned to one of 6 sessions, and each session is led by a “SBE”-oriented researcher and a “CISE”-oriented researcher. In preparation for the workshop, participants were asked to respond to a set of questions targeted to their session in a “White Paper”. The White Papers for each session will be made available via the web and will be available at the Workshop.

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