LINGUIST List 15.1314

Sun Apr 25 2004

FYI: ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure

Editor for this issue: Anne Clarke <>


  1. Maling, Joan M., ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure

Message 1: ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure

Date: Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:59:49 -0400 (EDT)
From: Maling, Joan M. <>
Subject: ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) announces the
formation of a Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities
and Social Sciences

(At the URL above, you can subscribe to a one-way, spam-free email list
for updates and announcements concerning the meetings and other work of
the Commission. Input from the scholarly community is invited, and may
be sent to:

The Charge to the Commission

As scholars in the humanities and social sciences use digital tools
and technologies with increasing sophistication and innovation, they
are transforming their practices of collaboration and communication.
New forms of scholarship, criticism, and creativity proliferate in
arts and letters and in the social sciences, resulting in significant
new works accessible and meaningful only in digital form. Many
technology-driven projects in these areas have become enormously
complex and at the same time indispensable for teaching and research.

For their part, scientists and engineers no longer see digital
technologies merely as tools enhancing established research
methodologies, but as a force creating environments that enable the
creation of new knowledge. The recent National Science Foundation
report, "Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through
Cyberinfrastructure," argues for large-scale investments across all
disciplines to develop the shared technology infrastructure that will
support ever-greater capacities. Those capacities would include the
development and deployment of new tools; the rapid adoption of best
practices; interoperability; the ability to invoke services over the
network; secure sharing of facilities; long-term storage of and access
to important data; and ready availability of expertise and assistance.

The needs of humanists and scientists converge in this emerging
cyberinfrastructure. As the importance of technology-enabled
innovation grows across all fields, scholars are increasingly
dependent on sophisticated systems for the creation, curation, and
preservation of information. They are also dependent on a policy,
economic, and legal environment that encourages appropriate and
unimpeded access to both digital information and digital tools. It is
crucial for the humanities and the social sciences to join scientists
and engineers in defining and building this infrastructure so that it
meets the needs and incorporates the contributions of humanists and
social scientists.

ACLS is sponsoring a national commission to investigate and report on
these issues. The Commission will operate throughout 2004, and is
charged to:

I. Describe and analyze the current state of humanities and social
 science cyberinfrastructure

II. Articulate the requirements and the potential contributions of
 the humanities and the social sciences in developing a
 cyberinfrastructure for information, teaching, and research

III. Recommend areas of emphasis and coordination for the various
 agencies and institutions, public and private, that contribute to
 the development of this cyberinfrastructure

Among the questions to be explored in pursuing these three goals are:

I. Describe and analyze the current state of humanities and social
science cyberinfrastructure.

1. What can be generalized from the already significant digital
 projects in the humanities and social sciences? Which humanities
 and social science communities are most active and why? Of those
 that are not, which might soon, easily and/or profitably, engage
 more deeply with digital technology? How have those scholars
 developed computing applications to accomplish their scholarly and
 expressive goals? Where have they failed to do so, and what can be
 learned from those failures?

2. What new intellectual strategies, critical methods, and creative
 practices are emerging in response to technical applications in the
 humanities? To what extent are disciplines in the humanities
 transforming themselves through the use of computing and networking
 technologies? What are the implications of that transformation?

3. What organizations and structures have empowered or impeded the
 digital humanities? What are examples of successful and durable
 collaboration between technologists and humanities scholars? Where
 and how are people being trained to support and engage in such
 collaborations? What has been the role of libraries, archives, and
 publishers in these projects?

II. Articulate the requirements and the potential contributions of
the humanities and the social sciences in developing a national
cyberinfrastructure for information, teaching, and research.

1. What are the "grand challenge" problems for the humanities and
 social sciences in the coming decade? Are they tractable to
 computation? Do they require cyberinfrastructure in some other way?

2. What technological developments can we predict that will have
 special impact in the humanities and social sciences in the near

3. Which are the most important functionalities necessary for new
 research and development in cyberinfrastructure generally? What
 kinds of humanities or social science problems are theoretically
 difficult or expressively complex, or challenge our ability to
 formulate a computable problem in some other way? What kinds of
 humanities or social science problems are computationally
 intensive, require especially high bandwidth, or present resource
 challenges in other ways?

4. What are the barriers that confront humanities and social science
 users who wish to take advantage of state-of-the-art computational,
 storage, networking, and visualization resources in their research?
 What can be done to remove these barriers?

5. What impact will the availability of high-performance
 infrastructure have on enabling cross-disciplinary research? What
 will high-performance infrastructure mean for the broader social
 impact of humanities and social sciences?

6. What can be done to improve education and outreach activities in
 the computer-science and engineering community to broaden access to
 high-end computing? How can computing expertise in the humanities
 and social sciences themselves be increased?

III. Recommend areas of emphasis and coordination for the various
agencies and institutions, public and private, that contribute to the
development of humanities cyberinfrastructure.

1. What investments in cyberinfrastructure are likely to have the
 greatest impact on scholarship in the humanities and social

2. What research infrastructure should be coupled with

3. How can private and public funding agencies coordinate their
 efforts and cooperate with universities, research libraries,
 disciplinary organizations, and others to maximize the benefits of
 cyberinfrastructure for the humanities and social sciences?

4. How should new investments in infrastructure and technologies be
 administered so as to include the humanities?

The Scope of Work and Method

Over the course of 2004, the commission will investigate the questions
raised above, and others as they become relevant, by:

* inviting expert testimony in public meetings, in writing, or in
 personal interviews;
* examining and documenting ongoing practices and projects;
* administering a web-based survey;
* reading broadly in recent literature on scholarly publishing,
 libraries and archives, intellectual property, and other relevant
* consulting with foundations and funding agencies.

The commission will hold a number of public forums designed to
encourage thoughtful, wide-ranging reflection among stakeholder

1. Monday, April 27th (at the Research Libraries Group annual meeting) 
2. Saturday, May 22nd, Chicago 
3. Saturday, June 19th, New York 
4. Saturday, August 21st, Berkeley 
5. Saturday, September 18th, Los Angeles 
6. Saturday, October 9th, Houston 
7. Tuesday, October 26th, Baltimore (at the Digital Library
 Federation's Fall Forum)

The Commission expects to publish its findings and recommendations
early in 2005.

Commission Members:

Paul Courant
Provost & Professor of Economics
University of Michigan

Sarah Fraser
Associate Professor and Chair
Art History, Northwestern University

Mike Goodchild
Director, Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science
Professor, Geography
University of California, Santa Barbara

Margaret Hedstrom
Associate Professor, School of Information
University of Michigan

Charles Henry
Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Rice University

Peter B. Kaufman
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Innodata Isogen
President, Intelligent Television

Jerome McGann
John Stewart Bryan Professor
English, University of Virginia

Roy Rosenzweig
Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor
History, George Mason University

John Unsworth (Chair)
Dean and Professor
Grad School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Bruce Zuckerman
Professor, School of Religion
Director, Archaeological Research Collection
University of Southern California

Advisors to the Commission:

Dan Atkins
Professor, School of Information
Director, Alliance for Community Technology
University of Michigan

James Herbert
Senior NSF/NEH Advisor
National Science Foundation

Clifford Lynch, Director
Coalition for Networked Information

Deanna Marcum
Associate Librarian for Library Services
Library of Congress

Harold Short
Director, Center for Computing in the Humanities
King's College, London

Steve Wheatley
Vice-President, American Council of Learned Societies

Senior Editor:

Abby Smith
Director of Programs
Council on Library and Information Resources
Washington, DC
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