A significant challenge exists in widening the scope of impact for information technology research. We propose CIARA, a Center for Internet Augmented Research and Assessment, to be a new bridge between the existing disciplines and the IT community. CIARA is not a locus for fundamental information technology research; it is creating a new generation of scientists and engineers who are capable of fully integrating IT into the whole educational, professional, and creative process of diverse disciplines. CIARA targets minority students and faculty members, who otherwise would not be part of the excitement of information technology research.
The normative state is that research scientists (institutional information technology professionals with academic backgrounds) understand broadly applicable IT research. The research scientists are active in communities that transfer computer science from the labs to the networks. They work hard to ensure that institutional infrastructure is in place to maintain low barriers for use of these technologies. Early adopter faculty members are excited to see potential benefits in their research domains, and as such become active in the communities that transfer IT research from the labs on to the networks. These faculty members are the exception. Previous efforts have tried to work with these early adopters to become evangelists for IT in entire domains of science. That work did not have a long or broad impact, as it depended on enthusiasm without a system for substantive rejuvenation. (Cambre 1991; Pournelle 1994).
CIARA is a system that will effect sustained transfer of IT research, and as such will broaden the horizons for researchers and educators. The majority of faculty members do not see the applicability of IT research for their own investigations. Their research requires a detailed understanding of their domain. Scanning other domains for possible benefit and collaborations, is often a desired activity, but too much of a time burden, and often the technical material is difficult to apply ( Hazemi, etc. 1998). The research scientists are institutionally positioned to help faculty who need to use infrastructure, but lack topical expertise to explain how IT research may be of benefit to faculty in their investigations.
This divide between faculty and the technical research scientist is so severe, that the full merits of IT research are rarely realized due to the paucity of adoptions. CIARA seeks to integrte IT into research projects today, provide a lifelong framework of understanding for tomorrow's faculty, to assess the effectiveness of applied IT research, and to demonstrate an effective, academically grounded, institutional model of support.
The "collisions of ideas" that Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences and a member of the Boyer Commission identified as requisite to faculty and student success, is the core tenant of CIARA (Boyer Report, 1998, p. 11). CIARA is exploring ways to foster a richer understanding and a greater utility of IT research across domains.