Volume 14, No. 1

Mercurial Matters

Memo: Book Reviews

New SHOT International Scholar

Campaign for SHOT

Information Technology Research Opportunities at NSF

In Search of the First Personal Computer

What Mercurians are Reading and Writing

Communication as Philosophy

That's As High As It Will Ever Get: Getting Into Orbit

I Want My MZTV!

Index to Articles 1988—2001

Contact Us

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Information Technology Research Opportunities at NSF

The National Science Foundation recently announced the third year of its special research competition, Information Technology Research (ITR). Let me encourage SHOT members— and more particularly members of the Mercurians special interest group—to explore this funding opportunity. In recent years, such targeted research programs have been the base of most of the growth of NSF research budgets. The ITR program last year alone had available more than $180 million in new funds. Importantly, NSF requires such focused research activities to include support for projects examining the societal implications of cutting edge science and engineering fields. This opens an important doorway for STS scholars interested in the historical, philosophical, and social dimensions of, in this case, IT.

The program announcement for the FY 2002 ITR program (<>) identifies three areas for attention this year: (1) software and hardware systems; (2) augmenting individuals and transforming society; and (3) advancement of the frontiers of science via information technology. The second category, which comes closest to the interests of many Mercurians, will include support for projects dealing with the following questions:

  • Autonomous, highly automated, and mixed-initiative systems technologies to provide new human-enabling physical devices and systems that enhance physical capability, automate physical tasks, or deliver therapies or treatment. This includes interfaces for the differently-abled, including those whose abilities are changing due to aging.
  • Better use of information for societal use, including new ways of searching, organizing, preserving, and interacting with large information resources in the sciences, engineering and in the humanities. The creation and support of interoperable, wide-area data systems or digital libraries which include a range of numerical, image, sound, video and textual data is encouraged.
  • Multi-lingual systems to serve the needs of multi-national industry, collaborating science teams, or virtual cultural exchanges.
  • Changes in business, labor and organizational processes, telecommuting, mobile and distributed work practices, organizational productivity, and new technologies and designs for reliable e-commerce and effective electronic markets.
  • Technologies for assisting in teaching, learning, collaboration, and creating educational environments.
  • Opportunities for informed citizen participation and improved interactions between government institutions and their constituents.
  • Ethical and value-sensitive information design, information privacy, and intellectual property protection and infringements.
  • Theories and methods for linking IT design to social and economic outcomes.
  • Changes in the conduct of science, engineering, and the humanities driven by information technology.

In general, proposals to this focus area should improve the ability of people and of our society to use information technology effectively and in new ways.

The ITR competition includes support for large projects (up to $15 million/$3 million a year) and medium projects ($500,000 to $5 million/ $1 million a year) with deadlines in November. Most Mercurians will find their research projects fit the small proposal category—up to $500,000. The deadline for these proposals will be February 6-7, 2002. It is almost certain that they will be reviewed by the regular STS advisory panel this spring, but final decisions will be made by special panels looking only at ITR proposals.

In the strongest possible terms, let me encourage Mercurians and other history of technology and STS scholars to submit proposals. Our communities of scholars have much to contribute to conversations about emerging sciences and technologies—and that contribution will be enhanced your participation in this research initiative. At the same time, many of you are already research pursuing research on the “societal implications” of IT. The competition is tough, but I would very much like to see a strong STS/history of technology presence in this year’s ITR competition. So please look over the website. And call or contact me if you have any questions.

Bruce Seely
Program Director, Science and Technology Studies
National Science Foundation
Phone: 703/292-8763