So many people contributed so much to this project, an undertaking stretching across four years, that it is difficult knowing how to formulate an adequate expression of appreciation. The project was conceived during a half-year fellowship in the spring of 2004 at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII). I was invited to join OII while helping coordinate another project on the uptake of the Internet by a range of political actors during national elections. Without knowing it at the time, that Internet & Elections (I&E) Project reflected many of the core features of what was labeled elsewhere e-science: international collaboration, Internet-based data collection and analysis, use of large datasets, research management performed primarily through mediated forms of communication. OII provided a diverse and stimulating intellectual environment within which to undertake that project. Conversations with Bill Dutton, Stephen Coleman, Ted Nelson, Alexandre Caldas, Miriam Lips, and John Taylor were particularly refreshing and provoking. I had the exceptionally good fortune to secure temporary housing in the same student-style brick house in Oxford’s Jericho neighborhood where OII staff member Ralph Schroeder was then lodging. This chance arrangement facilitated opportunity for frequent collective walks to the office, and end-of-the-day drinks and meals. During the course of this project, Ralph and I collaborated on several events including preparation of a day-long workshop at a conference of the National Centre of e-Social Science (NCeSS) in Manchester and of a panel that was part of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) conference in Vancouver.
Near the end of my stint at OII I had come to realize that ‘something was a brew’, often going by the name ‘e-science’. My experiences with the I&E Project, a quick scan of the then limited literature, and my own basic instincts convinced me of its potential importance. About that time I approached Susan Herring, then editor of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (JCMC) whether she would be interested in a theme issue. Her response was positive, and her editorial guidance throughout the trajectory of announcing the issue, selecting submissions, and preparing manuscripts for publication was exemplary of quality editorship. I am grateful for her guidance in preparing that issue, released in January 2007.
Arrangements with JCMC and Susan were such that some of the material prepared for that theme issue might constitute the basis for an edited volume. Many people contributed to the refinement of the proposal for that book, particularly staff members of the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Social Sciences and Humanities (VKS) in Amsterdam, an initiative of the Royal Netherlands Academy of the Arts and Sciences. I became a Visiting Fellow of VKS in mid-2006, mainly with a mandate to complete the e-science book project, subsequently renamed ‘e-research’ for reasons provided in Chapter 1. During the two years at VKS I have enjoyed exposure to the broad range of intellectual interests reflected by its staff, past and present: Paul Wouters, Anne Beaulieu, Sally Wyatt, Charles van den Heuvel, Ernst Thoutenhoofd, Jan Kok, Andrea Scharnhorst, Iina Hellsten, Katie Vann, and Matt Ratto. The weekly VKS research meetings have been high points in my association with this group of colleagues, generous with their ideas and constructive criticisms. In addition, Andrea and I quite recently co-organized a double-billed panel on e-collaboration at the 2008 Oxford e-science conference.
Of course, the authors of the chapters to this book deserve special acknowledgement because of their intellectual labor, and their perseverance and commitment to this project. It has been a genuine pleasure working with this large, diverse, and talented group of scholars, and particularly pleasurable when that collaboration would transpire in face-to-face venues. Many of us have met at conferences, like at the NCeSS workshop, the AoIR panel, and the e-collaboration panel that was part of the Oxford eResearch Conference 2008. Several of us also took part in a special meeting at the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. The Goldsmiths event was notable for several reasons, including exposure to the healthy skepticism that several department staff expressed towards aspects of e-science. I am grateful to Natalie Fenton for initially arranging this event and to Guinevere Narraway and Tamara Witschge for facilitating the logistics.
Many others have contributed along the way, including students at a University of Ljubljana graduate seminar who engaged me in extended discussion about early versions of the introductory chapter. VKS colleagues also provided comment on that chapter – particularly Paul, Anne, Charles, Sally, and Ernst – as did several chapter authors, especially Eric Gleave and Ann Zimmerman. Loet Leydesdorft reminded me of the communication ‘turn’ and the need for discussion of research directions; Maja Turnšek Hančič made valuable suggestions on a range of issues, including the political economy of e-research initiatives; Steve Jones frequently shared materials on publishing innovations and tribulations, some of which found their way into the chapter section on scholarly communication. I am surely forgetting some persons and for this I apologize; such omission is unintentional and should not be construed as any more than fading memory – one of the human foibles e-research probably never will be able to repair.
In sum, once again, my thanks to all for their contributions to this project and I hope many more research initiatives related to e-research follow in its path.
Nick Jankowski, December 2008