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Traditional forms of networking are no longer sufficient to support the expanding needs of the ecological community. Fortunately, computer networking technology is rapidly becoming available that can virtually eliminate the physical and temporal barriers to productive collaboration. Almost 90%of the institutions that administer LTER grants have existing or planned connections to the Internet (an association of high-speed, high- capacity, wide-area networks, including NSFNet, a network established and funded by the National Science Foundation). However, the majority of LTER computers, all of the field laboratories and many PI’s remain isolated from Internet capabilities. In order to derive the maximum benefits from electronic networking, we recommend that the LTER network pursue complete connectivity. This includes Internet connections to all administrative headquarters and development of a minimal network infrastructure within each LTER site (cost: $648,500 for equipment and installation, $81,760 for personnel, communications lines and commercial network charges); enhancing local-area network capabilities to permit disk sharing, peripheral sharing, ”user friendly” electronic mail (cost: $833,000 to provide computers, software and personnel), and to provide direct electronic mail service to large field laboratories (cost: $100,000 for computers and $20,000 in communications line charges); and extending full NSFNet connections to all large field laboratories (cost: $250,000 to for equipment and installation, $67,000 in communications line charges). We estimate total costs between 1.4 and two million dollars.

In addition, we recommend that NSF and the LTER coordinating committee:

1) consider funding proposals that include support for technical personnel in networking and computer integration,

2) consider funding proposals to develop workshops that involve advanced uses of computer networks in ecological sciences,

3) consider funding proposals for a UNIX system and network administration workshop, and

4) consider a proposal to produce a networking manual to assist sites in developing their networks.

If this type of funding were considered over a period of several years it would insure a well developed network of investigators and computers, capable of growth to meet new demands and able to serve as a model and catalyst for others in ecological and biological research.

During the preparation of this report, this committee formally visited five LTER sites (CWT, NIN, HFR, HBR and ARC) and informally visited four others (AND, CPR, SEV and VCR). Site visits were both informative and beneficial. The visits helped to facilitate interaction between principal investigators, data managers and campus networking and computer officials, and increased the sensitivity of campus administrators to LTER networking needs. PI’s had diverse expectations, desires and concerns regarding networking. We would recommend that site visits such as these be completed and continued.