The Industrial Age transformed the world through the application of technology to research, practice, and everyday life. Technology revolutionized manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, and communications and created deep social and economic changes that continue today. In the last century, the explosion of information technologies ushered in an Information Age with similar transformative potential. In 2008, it is hard to imagine modern life and work without the ability to access, manipulate, organize, and understand a sea of digital information on almost every conceivable topic.
The driving engine for the Information Age is cyberinfrastructure (CI): the organized aggregate of information technologies (computers, storage, data, networks, scientific instruments) that can be coordinated to address problems in science and society. Fundamental to modern research, education, work, and life, CI has the potential to overcome the barriers of geography, time, and individual capability to create new paradigms and approaches, to catalyze invention, innovation and discovery, and to deepen our understanding of the world around us. However, CI in the academic sector often falls short of its remarkable potential. Comprised of dynamically evolving information technologies, CI is both a continuous work-in-progress and a stable infrastructure driver for invention and innovation. It is this duality, as well as the challenge of creating an environment that effectively supports both the invention and the broad use of CI for research and education, that is the focus of this article.
Article originally published in ‘EDUCAUSE Review’, V. 43 (2008), n. 4 (July/August 2008). – © 2008 Francine Berman. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial – NoDerivs 3.0 License (//creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/)