Structure of STKP
By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)
See also the previous reviews (#1 and #2) appeared in the "Japan Technology Review" section.
The STKP consists of the Science and Technology Information Database (STID) and Science and Technology Discussion Forums (STDFs.)
Sec.1 Science and Technology Information Database
Rapid progress of Internet technology enables organizations to easily disclose their science and technology (S&T) information to the public via the web. Academic societies, universities, national laboratories, laboratories owned by local governments and even some companies have their S&T databases on their web sites individually. But it is inefficient for users to visit all the sites to get information on specific technology. There are at least 104 academic societies in the area of engineering, 20 university technology licensing organizations (TLOs,) and more than 100 national or locally owned laboratories in Japan. For this reason, users do not frequently search these sites, and lack of popularity discourages organizations from providing additional information to the public.
Users can obtain all S&T information from STID at once by preparing linkages to S&T databases. One central feature of STID is a meta-search engine that searches all the databases linked to STID simultaneously. STID has value in that only S&T information is retrieved from the web. On the contrary, commonly used portal sites find some information that is not directly related to S&T even using S&T keywords. The other advantage of STID is that users can get technology advise from experts registered to STDFs. STID also contains directly-stored information generated as the results of discussions by experts in STDFs.
Sec.2 Science and Technology Discussion Forums
In STDFs, participants communicate across the institutional boundaries; they exchange ideas, give advice to others, or consult with each other utilizing Internet collaboration technologies such as BBS, mailing lists, and FTP. A user-friendly HTTP-based interface is prepared so that participants having little knowledge of the Internet can communicate easily. STDF is also used to screen information to be stored in STID.
There are three types of forums in STDF:
- Forums without restriction for participation where discussion results are open to the public;
- Forums with participation restrictions where discussion results are open to the public; and
- Forums with participation restrictions where discussion results are shared only among the participants.
If discussion involves proprietary information, a forum of type three is appropriate. However, if a forum is organized to give free advice from experts to people without expertise, it is managed as a type-one forum. Type two forums are for discussions that fall somewhere between type one and three. The Platform Master of each discussion forum can decide the type and set the conditions via the HTTP interface provided specially for them.
Sec.3 Role of Platform Master
Academic societies commonly are composed of several research committees. Research committees are places for experts to discuss technological issues on specific technology, and the chairs of research committees coordinate discussions among participants.
The role of Platform Master (PM) in STDF is similar to a committee chair. In other words, the PM serves as if he/she is the chair of a virtual research committee. His/her role is:
- to recruit key experts in his/her STDF;
- to initiate and coordinate discussions in STDF;
- to give technological guidance to outsiders, if it is necessary and appropriate, so that his/her STDF can gain visibility;
- to collaborate with other PMs in cases where discussions fall into interdisciplinary areas; and
- to report (or to post) results of discussions of STDF to STID.
To facilitate STDF activity, PMs must have some knowledge of Internet technology. The STKP provides some education opportunity to PMs not only in the form of face-to-face meeting, but also by preparing STDF of PMs, where managerial issues of STDF are discussed. In addition, research assistants are provided if requested by the PMs.
Sec.4 Preparation of STKP
Preparatory work of STKP has already begun. Along with development of software, the project team initiated negotiations with academic societies, TLOs, and other S&T related organizations. Several institutes such as the Society of Chemical Engineers of Japan and the Japan Society of Applied Physics have joined. Also some TLOs and universities (e.g. the Tohoku Technoarch, Kochi University, and the University of Tokyo,) will be participants.
A prototype system will be in place at the end of August 2001. Full operation of STKP is expected in October 2001.
I will discuss the major obstacle to STKP in the next issue.