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WWW as a Strategic Tool in Research and Teaching of Molecular Sciences

Henry S Rzepa

The World-Wide Web has its origins in promoting information exchange amongst the high energy physics community, but was rapidly adopted by molecular scientists, often before it was adopted by computer centres and support staff, and has now achieved a productive maturity in this area. During the period 1993-5, amongst the many accomplishments by UK scientists that can be listed are:

In formulating institutional guidelines we have to create an environment where individual efforts by such scientists are not stifled by excessive centralised regulation and control, yet one in which the essential generic tools are well supported. We also have to plan how to react to the trends already visible at the Second WWW meeting in Chicago toward the commercialisation of WWW. At this meeting, one left with a feeling that the interests of science in particular and teaching in general are not at the top of the priority tree for commercial developers, and we are reaching the end of the road where hitherto immensely successful "spare time" departmental enthusiasts can exist in isolation. An efficient and permanent support infra-structure is essential. I would nevertheless argue strongly that such support structure should belong within individual departments as well as within a centralised support service. Experience has shown us that intimate subject knowledge is essential for innovation and that effective communication with subject experts is essential for progress.

Many issues will need to be addressed in the near future. These include

In conclusion, I strongly believe that the development of World-Wide Web as a Strategic tool in UK higher education must be a collaborative venture between support agencies and academic departments. In particular, the consultative procedures between the two must be robust enough that duplication of effort is minimised and that key enthusiasts in departments feel appropriately consulted and supported.

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