Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Challenges of Cyberinfrastructure & Choices for Libraries

Clifford Lynch of the Coalition for Networked Information started the second full day of Internet Librarian with his keynote address Challenges of Cyberinfrastructure & Choices for Libraries. Anyone who has heard Lynch before knows that he mixes philosophy, science, and future studies into his presentations, bringing in many concepts unfamiliar to most of humanity, and he can at times be hard to follow. Perhaps I have heard him at enough conferences. I think I understood him this year.

Teaching, learning, and scholarship are rapidly changing, according to Lynch. The explosive increase and retention of digital documents alters the missions of scientists, scholars, and librarians. So much scientific data is available that scientists no longer have to do actual experiments or field work; many people are needed to mine and analyze the data coming from the big projects, such as the Hubbell telescope. Biographers studying important individuals can no longer read all their subjects' published or archived writings and communications, as digital capturing has caught much too much. Academic libraries can no longer afford to comprehensively collect research literature.

Lynch calls on libraries to help manage the data. There will have to be more collaboration and agreeing by academic libraries to specialize and then share their collections more readily with other institutions. They will have to get beyond just having published materials. Researchers who are not part of large, richly funded projects are the people who most need library help with managing and storing their data.

Lynch spoke at length about the predicted growth of the field of data science, which he says is ill-defined and unplanned. Who will be training these new scientists? Where will they work? He foresees that they will be decentralized, spread to academic departments, funding agencies, and small research institutions.

Lynch ended by pointing out how democratization of data has led to the amateurization of research. Non-funded individuals are doing great thinking. How can their work be synthesized. The future is full of opportunities.

No comments: