New Publication - 'World Wide Research: Reshaping the Sciences and Humanities'
The focus of the e-Horizons Project was to critically assess competing visions of the future of media, information and communication technologies and their societal implications. The project's key strategy was to examine leading-edge developments in the use of information and communication technologies in the sciences and humanities as a window on the future of technology in everyday life. The project gained synergy from a range of interrelated projects and from pooling the strengths of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and the Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC) with the combined connections of humanities, social and computer sciences, and engineering across the University of Oxford and throughout the world.
Some of the work of the project and related links can be found at http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/category.cfm?id=3 and http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/microsites/oess/.
The key product to emerge from the e-Horizons Project has been a book entitled: World Wide Research: Reshaping the Sciences and Humanities. This explores the intersection of research with new opportunities offered by developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). It is available from major book stores, including Amazon, Blackwells bookstore and Waterstones.
In June 2007, academics from across the globe came together at the e-Horizons conference to discuss and shape this publication; see the book and the conference section.
It has often been pointed out that the main obstacles to realizing the visions of global distributed scientific collaboration are not technical but social. The e-Horizons Project took this challenge seriously: it is not so much the ever-greater power of high performance computing on its own that will lead to research insights, but the way that this power is organized; it is not simply better tools, but interfaces that can be used by researchers who are not computer scientists; it is not just the middleware that links researchers and research groups to the Grid, but standards, secure access and institutions that maximize the benefits of intellectual property.
These new tools will have a profound effect throughout society. Commerce will depend on Grids; for example, in searching through massive amounts of data to identify shifting consumer preferences. The same applies to medical research, where drugs will in future be developed by means of trawling through research results as much as through clinical trials. e-Science and e-infrastructures are thus vital for national competitiveness, yet the real promise lies in greater global collaboration. And there are threats as well as opportunities; for example in the digital traces that are left by the advent of ubiquitous computing.
The e-Horizons Project worked to identify these new threats and opportunities and to enhance policy and practice as regards their social implications. Its work has been integral to the other James Martin Institutes which are tackling some of the world's most pressing problems, including infectious disease, climate change and migration. Networked computing tools will play an essential role in driving this research.
The idea of a 'network of networks' is a powerful one, and the use of computing networks can help us to understand information flows in the natural and social worlds. For example, the cells in a biological organism can be modelled as communication networks, but so can patterns of diffusion of technological innovation. We are thus entering a period when the sciences use networks not only as metaphors, but also rely on computational tools to study them.
The e-Horizons Project sought to learn from and collaborate with a number of institutions and researchers around the world with related interests in the study of the social shaping and the societal implications of e-research. The Project's research took place alongside a number of efforts in a growing array of centres and initiatives with a similar focus.
e-Horizons Project staff member biographies can be viewed on this site.