Innovations In Cyberinfrastructure

NSF Chief Urges Colleges to Build Better High-Speed Networking Tools

American colleges and universities should quickly build a better set of shared high-speed networking tools and protocols for research if the United States is to maintain leadership in technology and higher education, said Arden L. Bement Jr., director of the National Science Foundation, in a speech here on Wednesday to college leaders.

In the speech, “Cyberinfrastructure: The Second Revolution,” Mr. Bement highlighted the importance of what has become the major focus of the foundation’s support for technology at colleges in recent years. He predicted that innovations in cyberinfrastructure would have an effect similar to that of the invention of the Internet, which was also sparked in part with the foundation’s support.

This is a very real problem. What kinds of tools would you build? Why not leverage the innovations in learning in various institutions of Higher-Ed in US? Or, make it part of one of the Collective Intelligence Initiative?

One of the ways to bootstrap this model of innovation was proposed by Doug Engelbart. His focus is on Augmenting Human Intellect. While Doug is well known as the inventor of the mouse, he has a lot to teach us about Augmentation, Improvement and Improving the process of Improvement.

Doug Engelbart’s theory of recursive improvement is called the A-B-C model. So let us take the example of Improving Learning.


Let us imagine a community focused on Improving Learning Capabilities in the World. Since this involves several countries, It will be community of communities. One possible application of A-B-C model would be as follows:

A – Would be a community in each university to use internet to enable learning (a lot is already happening in this area).

B – Would be a community to improve A (what are the best techniques of using internet to enable learning). This would be in reality a community of communities (Doug calls this Networked Improvement Community or NIC).

C- Would be a community focused on improving the LearningNIC (a meta NIC). NSF Can fund a meta NIC effort and bootstrap NICs everywhere in the country.

So may be Arden should have a coversation with Doug. And look at some work done by Valerie and others on EdNIC (a NIC for education).

2 thoughts on “Innovations In Cyberinfrastructure

  1. Hi Dorai:

    This is fascinating and with all the social network analysis work maybe as a society we are getting closer to coming up with NIC behaviors. I think it is important to note that the National Knowledge Commission of India recently met with Doug Engelbart about creating a national dynamic knowledge repository and it seemed more plausible in a society that has a longer tradition of real knowledge sharing. My personal concern is that even though we talk about knowledge sharing our organizations still are based on competition and I am not sure what kind of shift would have to occur to change that at a deep level. Finally, I wish to agree with some of our offline conversations that using visuals and “multiple views of information” could engage more people in the online environment including people who are not as text oriented.

  2. Eileen,
    Thank you for your comments. I think while there may be competition for sharing knowledge in specific areas, people are open to sharing knowledge about common areas. For example, recently Google, Yahoo and Microsoft agreed on a common XML format for site-maps.

    In learning portals, knowledge sharing and cross referencing resources is a common theme. See the number of wikis that publish so much of useful information. Wikipedia is having its own impact too. I think if I keep using information provided by others and become a better person, I feel guilty if I don’t give something back. So I think NICs can work.

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