Past, Present and Future of Research in the Information Society

A satellite event preceding Phase II of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), 13-15 November 2005, Tunis, Tunisia

Sylvia Caras, PhD

I've added some vacation days to the end of this trip and have extracted much of the traveler part of my reports to a separate travelogue file/URL.

The hotel at which I'm staying, Renaissance Tunis, was scheduled to be the site of the in-person part of a virtual conference I joined, IRFD World Forum on Information Society. So far the website has interesting subjects and little participation - I choose to stay here because the price was $25 less than the actual conference hotel and I am not funded for this trip.

The hotel arranged for their free car to take me to the nearby Corinthian Khamsa for the 8:30 AM opening.

Many flights were cancelled Saturday delaying by a day presenters and attendees. I hadn't heard any news and, thinking of Amman, wondered if there had been bombings but apparently Milan was fogged in for four hours delaying the Al Italia landings and departures.

There are maybe 60 people here and the atmosphere feels cool, formal. There are no people with visible disabilities. The organizer is from Baton Rouge and screened a video of the Ward 9 devastation after the Katrina waters had receded, dry, broken, bleak.

The program started with a video about African development. It demonstrated how donor funding leads to corruption by creating brief consultancies where one earns a year's salary in a week. Donated computers and books sit in warehouses because there are no public funds for gas to distribute the books to schools, no one willing to buy the cables to plug in the computers.

One concept introduced was to replace concepts of development with strategies for reagency and redirection.

The first speaker read his PowePoint, and while the content was interesting, the method of presentation was not compelling. The second speaker's theme was to explain OCED, a Paris-based think tank with 30 developed countries as members, building on economics as the foundation. He never said what the initials stand for. He offered "equitable access" of which "open access" would be one part. for his presentation

"Docket" is another word for "resume" or "bio." has presentations and PowerPoints.

Breakout: 25 in audience, speakers discussing services for access to otherwise costly sites, journals

Halaby (Global Development Network): incentives do not create engagement; continuous encouragement is needed; this is part problems with connectons/costs and part culture

Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI): 69 countries with lowest Gross National Income eligible for free access; 43 with low-middle income eligible for $1000/institution/year reduced fee (these low-middle countries are the primary users of the service). Model is to develop eventual profits for journal publishers who won't continue fee reductions when profits are to be made.

There is more supply of research material than there is demand in developing countries where there are other priorities, including just surviving.

This meeting is also at a hotel where the only choices for meals are their own restaurants. There's nothing within five miles. I had the buffet but wasn't happy with the $25 cost.

The afternoon session I went to had four presenters and five in the audience. I didn't stay for the last breakout and reception and took a taxi back to my hotel where I am trying hard to say awake at least 'til 8PM.

17 in this morning's audience

global trend toward the commodification of public research outputs; creation of new legal rights and protectionist mechanisms that are largely extrinsic to the scientific community, but increasingly adopted by participating researchers and their host institutions.

Intellectual property (ip) fist getting tighter and tighter, a market problem, pursue commons approach to make work available. But it is now too hard to share - liability for accuracy, how credit/reward/track history not from ip but from open access approach

I wonder if academics could force their institutions to redefine the "publish or perish" requirements. If papers were first self-published on the web, and then peer-reviewed, revised, "accepted" by some professional society (the alternative to journal publishing) to count towards stature and tenure, the data would be common and the hugely expensive print journals would go out of business, freeing up personal and library budgets. Lots of economic and other implications.

Global Information Commons for Science

information cannot be depleted by overuse (but isn't it be devalued by being available to all? Sylvia)

30 - 40% of medicines prescribed don't work (but patient, not symptom, is called treatment resistant. Sylvia), understanding genome will allow a blood test thus targetting medication.

The break included apricot juice and varieties of cakes coated with powdered sugar, dates stuffed with something light green, small baclava squares.

Michael (originated the term "netizen"), Ronda, Jay Hauben

5 speakers, 9 in audience

history of internet, it's plasticity and multiplicity might create a context for the current internet governance ICANN problem. The original vision was a solution to the multiple network problem, to connect different networks to each other (is there an analog to connecting health network databases? Sylvia). That the internet was created as a nuclear defense strategy is a myth. Well-known thinkers from various fields met to consider the science of communication, cybernetics, self-organizing systems, the brain, realizing that computers were communication devices.

Q: do people want to be involved, what are the rights of a netizen?

Q: what about the commercial aspects? Users v netizens.

It's exciting to me to listen to these speakers and remember the history of computers and of the internet. It's also hugely saddening to remember in 1966 having my thoughts about global networking diagnosed by a Harvard resident at McLean as psychotic. (In 86 a friend had an idea about physical connection and transportation using magnets - this too was diagnosed, in Santa Cruz, as part of her psychosis.)

Distributed, open collaborative research and information production and dissemination on digital networks - open-source software movement, distributed grid computing, community-based open peer review, collaborative research web site

Open data and information dissemination and permanent retention -open data centers and archives, federated open data networks, virtual observatories, open access journals, open institutional repositories, free university curricula online, emerging discipline-based commons

Korea had to first provide language support, now is very internet active, commercial email since 1984. Universal broadband.

Domain names are private goods, hold an auction to determine how many top level domains (TLDs (.gov, .mil, .com, ... .no, .jp, ...). Optimization, competition, privitization; competition creates monopoly. Only innovation counteracts. (Instead of actual money volunteers) may derive utility from their participation (ICANN board (mental health professionals who insist on carve-out)). Markets work. Neither markets nor bureaucracy are the answer to the governance solution. The original netizens, researchers and enthusiastic competent users have been marginalized. We need to ask by whom, for whom, ...

Democracy: society primary; markets secondary.

The other pre-conference at my hotel has begun. I looked in while they were having coffee, lots of pastries nicely served, and no handouts or materials or registration desk that I saw.

Again this morning the hotel car drove me to this meeting. The session I attended had a panel of five and an audience of 10. All the plenary sessions and some of the breakouts were video'd and expect many others will get to share the materials.

Scientists are target users of cutting edge government-funded technology.

Openness, sharing, collaboration, consensus are values of the scientific community

Instead of waiting half an hour, I invited another woman waiting to share a taxi with me and we went to the WSIS site.