31 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2002
Date Written: November 2001
The convergence of three distinct but interconnected trends - unrelenting globalization, growing worldwide electronic connectivity, and increasing knowledge intensity of economic activity - is creating powerful new opportunities and challenges for global politics. This rapidly changing environment has information demands that surpass existing capabilities for information access, interpretation, and overall use, thus hindering our abilities to address emergent and complex global challenges, such as terrorism and other security threats. This reality has serious implications for two diverse domains of scholarship: international relations (IR) in political science and information technology (IT). Unless IT advances remain "one step ahead" of emergent realities and complexities, strategies for better understanding and responding to critical global challenges will be severely impeded. For example, more so now than ever, the U.S. Office of Counter-Terrorism and the newly-created Office of Homeland Security rely on intelligence information from all over the world to develop strategic responses to security threats. However, relevant information is stored in various regions throughout the world and by diverse agencies in different media, formats, and contexts. Intelligent integration of information is fundamental to developing policies to anticipate and strengthen protection against terrorist threats or attacks in the United States.
This Project's activities, and relationships with its collaborators, will be coordinated through a newly formed joint Laboratory for Information Globalization and Harmonization Technologies (LIGHT). LIGHT will address information needs in the IR domain, focusing on the conflict realm, which deals with emergent risks, threats, and uncertainties of potentially global scale and scope related to: (a) crises, (b) conflicts and war; and (c) anticipation, monitoring and early warning. The goals of this initiative are to: (1) improve understanding of the types of IR information needs for decision making and institutional performance under varying degrees of risk and uncertainty; (2) design and implement the System for Harmonized Information Processing, to facilitate access to and correct interpretation of essential information that is critical to policy and research in the IR realm, as well as to other similarly complex domains, and (3) advance developments in the use of information technologies to facilitate such interdisciplinary research and to contribute to new education approaches, tools, and methods. Increasingly, addressing problems central to national and global interests in complex domains such as IR requires the use of technologies that easily combine observations from disparate sources, using different interpretations, for different purposes, and by a wide range of users. Critical advances in IT capabilities must span multiple domains (e.g., economic, political, geographic, commercial, and demographic), diverse contexts (i.e., meanings, languages, assumptions), and a multiplicity of contending agents (i.e., states, governments, corporations, international institutions). The technology-related research will focus on acquiring and enhancing information to serve user requirements both over individual domains (i.e., a single shared ontology) and across multiple domains, which are necessary for addressing complex challenges. The core innovation is reflected in the notion of a Collaborative Domain Space (CDS), within which applications in a common domain can share, analyze, modify, and develop information. For applications that span multiple domains we provide for a Collection of CDSs to link shared concepts in distinct domains. Moreover, we will develop the System for Harmonized Information Processing that incorporates CDSs as a basis for knowledge representation and includes all the necessary reasoning algorithms required to support information processing over a range of heterogeneous sources and applications.
The development of the system described above builds upon prior work. The political science IR work will draw on an earlier Internet-based experimental "platform" for exploring forms of information generation, provision, and integration across multiple domains, regions, languages, and epistemologies which are relevant to complex but domain-specific applications, the Global System for Sustainable Development (GSSD). The IT component builds on work on the Context Interchange project (COIN) focused on the integration of a range of distributed heterogeneous information sources (e.g., financial, supply chain, disaster relief) using ontologies, databases, context mediation algorithms, and wrapper technologies. Both groups have considerable experience with the organization and management of large scale, international, distributed, and diverse research projects, including cross-national (e.g., China, Middle East, Europe) and institutional (private, public, national and international) agencies.
The anticipated results will apply to any complex domain with multiple entities that rely on heterogeneous distributed data to address and resolve compelling problems. This initiative is supported by a network of international collaborators from (a) scientific and research institutions, (b) business and industry, and (c) national and international agencies. Expected research products include: a software platform, IR-based knowledge repository, and diverse applications in policy, research, and education which are anticipated to significantly impact the way complex organizations, and society in general, understand and manage critical global challenges.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Madnick, Stuart and Choucri, Nazli and Siegel, Michael and Haghseta, Farnaz and Moulton, Allen and Zhu, Hongwei (Harry), Laboratory for Information Globalization and Harmonization Technologies: A New Research Initiative (November 2001). MIT Sloan Working Paper No. 4350-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=303825 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.303825