August 2005
The Coming Era of Low Power, High-Performance Computing — Trends, Promises, and Challenges
Conference Report
Fran Berman, SDSC
Ruzena Bajcsy, UC Berkeley

Workshop Findings

Participants in the workshop explored the concepts of Social Science-enabled Cyberinfrastructure and Cyberinfrastructure-enabled Social Science. Participants also identified key challenges in the social impacts and implications of Cyberinfrastructure. The Final Report Executive Summary describes the following conclusions drawn from workshop discussions:

  1. “Cyberinfrastructure can make it possible for the SBE sciences to make a giant step-forward — Cyberinfrastructure can help the social and behavioral sciences by enabling the development of more realistic models of complex social phenomena, the production and analysis of larger datasets (such as surveys, censuses, textual corpora, videotapes, cognitive neuroimaging records, and administrative data) that more completely record human behavior, the integration and coordination of disparate datasets to enable deeper investigation, and the collection of better data through experiments and simulations on the Internet.

    … Cyberinfrastructure provides the ability to do these things at unprecedented scale and intensity … just at a time when social and behavioral scientists face the possibility of becoming overwhelmed by the massive amount of data available and the challenges of comprehending and safeguarding it.

  2. “SBE scientists can help CISE researchers design a functional and effective Cyberinfrastructure which achieves its full potential — Cyberinfrastructure requires unprecedented organization, coordination, and integration and will have immense impact on the social dynamics, technological resources, and communication and interaction paradigms for both science and society …. SBE leaders are needed to help guide the design, development, and deployment of a functional Cyberinfrastructure …
  3. “Together, SBE and CISE researchers can assess the impacts of Cyberinfrastructure on society and find ways to maximize the benefits of Cyberinfrastructure … It is already an accepted part of the mission of the SBE sciences to assess societal impact, but it is particularly important to assess the impacts of Cyberinfrastructure for engineering and the sciences. Social and behavioral scientists can be especially helpful in understanding changes in social interactions, changes in jobs and income, the impact of policy, and new conceptions of privacy and trust in the networked world. …”

The Final Report Executive Summary continues

“… true collaborative research is needed between SBE and CISE researchers. In order to achieve this, both intellectual and material interfaces must be shared. For example, it is not sufficient for SBE researchers to be told about Cyberinfrastructure possibilities if they do not possess the technical expertise to understand their ramifications. Many SBE researchers lack the technical know-how to participate without significant support from Cyberinfrastructure experts. Similarly, CISE researchers often lack sufficient domain-specific knowledge to appreciate the complexity of the technical problems that truly need to be solved by SBE researchers. The level of knowledge required by both sides will require true collaboration between the two research communities to make a joint research initiative successful. SBE researchers must become familiar with emerging Cyberinfrastructure technologies and CISE researchers must learn about the social sciences.”

One of the concrete outcomes of a successful integrative workshop is the number of collaborations generated out of issues exposed within workshop discussions and collaborations begun at the workshop. Based on this criteria, the NSF SBE-CISE Workshop on Cyberinfrastructure and the Social Sciences was a resounding success. More information on the workshop can be found at http://www.sdsc.edu/sbe/ .


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Reference this article
Berman, F. and Bajcsy, R. "Cyberinfrastructure and the Social Sciences," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 1, Number 3, August 2005. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2005/08/cyberinfrastructure-and-the-social-sciences/

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