End user-humanitarian: achievements, needs and access to network today and tomorrow

Alexandra Belyaeva
Director
International Laboratory VEGA, Moscow
E-mail: abelyaeva@home.vega.msk.su


Contents of speech on "User & Support" session and some themes of informal discussions with different groups of participants during the Workshop are summarized.

International Laboratory VEGA performs psychological, technological, methodolodical support of users in humanitarian sciences, education, different areas of social practice in Russia and newly independent states. The aim of our work is to see international standard of open democratic access adopted as a rooting norm of dayly activity for users. Today VEGA provides training and assistance in creating and development of international teams of scientists via the Internet for more then 50 Institutes and groups in Moscow and more then 20 - in other regions of NIS.

This work is being carried out with the support of Carnegie Corporation of New York, USA, in collaboration with IREX - International Research and Exchange Board and is the development ov VELHAM ("Velikhov-Hamburg") project. It was started in 1985-1986 for improvement of interaction of scientists of USA and USSR in the area of humanitarian sciences using computer mediated communication. International computer networks were to become new media, new instrument and premise of new quality of this interaction. Scientific aspect of named activity during all the period of development of the project is being performed in co-operation with Institute of Psychology of RAS and University of California, San Diego (Prof. Michael Cole).

This historical note has sense because it explains that it was essential for VEGA at the first stage to provide independence of beginner users from problem of telecommunication fee, concentrate our and their efforts on getting over psychological and sociocultural barriers and prove practically the disappearance of prohibitions.

Main group of users with whom we deal are the people with limited computer competence, and majority of institutions owns limited resources. Despite all this, during the last time we managed to reach meaningful results in several professional groups - linguists, lawers, psychologists, in libraries, centres of historical researches, among politologists, conflictologists etc. Some humanitarian projects developed effectively namely due to using telecommunication with our support and received about 3-5 grants a year from different foundations. It can be said that, in fact, support of Carnegie and efforts of VEGA in collaboration with IREX form new generation of humanitarian scientists. However, for the meanwhile it's very thin stratum with reference to the whole humanitarian science and very irregular in regional distribution.

Significant part of users supported by us needs further regular information and technological service. But huge part of scientific humanitarian community remains completely isolated not only from today's existent opportunities, but even from adequate and truth information about these opportunities.

Mentioned types of organizations and users will not be able in nearest time reach mainroads of telecommunication infrastructure. About 90% of organizations and users supported by us are of such type.

On the current stage of VEGA project when we just have guarranteed but limited resources and for limited time we feel acute necessity of open co-operation and close coordination with everyone who elaborates now strategy of development of telecommunication for science.

In some Institutes of Moscow and regions (for example, in Almaty) sites of public access to network resources were formed with "distant support" of VEGA and American partners. This direction was started with open address PSY-PUB (later - COMM-PUB) in Institute of Psychology 3 and a half years ago. Now this work is being performed by VEGA in co-ordination with IREX plans. Those "public access sites", which were initially used for e-mail, are now becoming the places of open IP-access. In some regions we need helpth of local providers or project managers responsible for development of academic networks in these regions.

The whole range of concrete suggestions on was discussed with participants of the Workshop. Part of them is just begun to realize in co-ordination with MSU, RELARN, IKI, and Russian Academy of Sciences.


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