Vice Provost and University Librarian
American Council of Learned Societies
Scholars in the humanities and social sciences are transforming their practices of collaboration and communication with increasingly sophisticated and innovative uses of digital tools and technologies. 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. 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, including new tools, shared facilities, and 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.
In 2004, ACLS convened a national commission to investigate and report on these issues. The Commission was charged to:
• Describe and analyze the current state of humanities and social science cyberinfrastructure
• Articulate the requirements and the potential contributions of the humanities and the social sciences in developing a cyberinfrastructure for information, teaching, and research
• Recommend areas of emphasis and coordination for the various agencies and institutions, public and private, that contribute to the development of this cyberinfrastructure
This Project Briefing will review the work of the Commission to date; summarize the major points and recommendations of the current draft of the report; and discuss the larger digital environment in which the final report (to be published in the spring of 2006) will appear.