chapter  1
30 Pages

The Contours and Challenges of e-Research


Every so often major shifts emerge in the way society is imagined. Historical periods have acquired labels, albeit debated and disputed, that refl ect such shifts: Reformation, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, Information Age. The scholarly enterprise has been integral to the formulation of these shifts and that enterprise itself has been the subject of transformation. Introduction of the experimental method is associated with such a shift, as is evolutionary theory; the switch from Newtonian physics to general acceptance of Einstein’s theory of relativity also refl ects such transformation. During the past few years, discussions in policy and academic circles suggest yet another move is underway, some claim revolutionary in scope, impacting the full breadth of the scholarly enterprise. This latest shift is attributed to the widespread availability and incorporation of high-speed computers and electronic networks, particularly the Internet, into the research enterprise, making very large volumes of data available that provide opportunity for addressing new questions in new ways. Refl ection on this transformation of scholarship, particularly within the social sciences and humanities, is the concern of this book.