Cyberinfrastructure and innovation policy

Brian Kahin

Abstract


The National Science Foundation’s cyberinfrastructure initiative evokes the federal program and policy initiatives around the Internet 15–20 years ago. Although there are important differences between the leading edge platform infrastructure of the Internet and cyberinfrastructure’s focus on knowledge, community, and resource integration, both involve boundary–crossing that provokes interaction with the social and economic environment. This interaction has led to new forms of technology–enabled “private ordering” and “virtual organization.”

The Internet standards (and therefore the Internet as infrastructure) were the product of a legendary virtual organization, the IETF, which was supported by research funding for science–based data communications. This proved a powerful but unspoken standards policy that ultimately triumphed over the official standards setting process for data communications. Cyberinfrastructure remains very concerned with standards, but with adopting open international standards to ensure interoperability rather than pioneering them.

Public research, infrastructure development, and standards are closely allied as elements of innovation policy in IT. The other key element, the patent system, looks like it should be an aspect knowledge infrastructure, but it operates very differently, especially in the IT sector where an overabundance of questionable patents has led to failure of public disclosure — a principal purpose of the patent system — and growing tension between patents and both standards and infrastructure development. Bridging this gap may be the greatest challenge facing the evolution of cyberinfrastructure.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v12i6.1906



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