Emory Report

Mar. 29, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 25

New Council on Information Resources and Technology looks to 'map' high-tech future

Breathing new life and a new name into a three-year-old effort, the University has established the Council on Information Resources and Technology (CIRT) to develop a strategic vision for how Emory can best use new technologies to accomplish its mission.

Formerly the Digital Information Resources Council, CIRT was established by the provost's office and is co-chaired by Chancellor Billy Frye and College Dean Steven Sanderson. It will serve in an advisory capacity, counseling the provost, deans and other top administrators on broad matters of policy and budgetary priority concerning technology and information resources. One thing it is not, both Frye and Sanderson stressed, is a technical, infrastructure-minded group that will address specific hardware concerns.

"One of our goals in this group will be to lay out a flexible and knowledgeable strategic map," Sanderson said. "And it's an area that doesn't have a lot of maps to go by. It will be strategic in an organizational and institutional sense, but by way of a set of activities that are really intellectual and exciting, trying to bring the best minds to bear."

"Historically, the various academic and administrative units of the University have functioned with a high degree of autonomy," Frye added. "One result is that we have relatively few well-established ways to a bring a University-level perspective to bear upon the plans and goals of the individual units. In the digital realm we have an unprecedented opportunity to coordinate our activities for greater effectiveness and economy. CIRT will provide a forum for deliberations that we are confident will lead to a higher level of collaboration and cooperation across the University."

CIRT's 18 members will be appointed by the provost from all corners of the University in order to get the broadest perspective possible, but two key council members are vice provosts Paul Morris of the Information Technology Division and Joan Gotwals of University Libraries. Since the two units already work so closely together in marrying information and technology to serve the University, it's natural the two directors would serve as CIRT "senior members," so to speak.

"We see ourselves very much as partners," Gotwals said. "ITD and the University Libraries are the two information providers of the University--ITD provides the highways in terms of technology, and the libraries manage the content in terms of acquiring, organizing and classifying it, and assuring its accessibility and preservation."

Morris added that new possibilities abound in the world of technology, but resources are often scarce. Where CIRT will play a vital role, he said, is in deciding which of the many available "highways" Emory will take. "Right now I don't have a University body to consult with about goals, about setting priorities for our activities," Morris said. "Both Joan and I are facing the situation of having more needs than we have the resources to provide for those needs."

The set of problems CIRT will address, Sanderson said, are "simply a digital version of the same, age-old problems" universities have always faced: how to gather, manage and disseminate information and knowledge in the most efficient and effective ways possible. To provide an intellectual approach to the questions, Sanderson and Frye plan to convene a seminar during the 1999-00 academic year for faculty not only from Emory but around the country, culminating in a Universitywide symposium next spring. "We will call on seminar participants to read the best literature, and we will invite the finest minds, wherever they are," Sanderson said.

"This is not going to become an esoteric seminar," Frye continued. "We're not interested in climbing the technology mountain, to quote, 'just because it's there.' We're interested in finding the best paths to our ultimate goal as an institution."

--Michael Terrazas

Return to March 29, 1999, contents page