Research is not infrastructure


Research infrastructure is not research just as roads are not economic activity. We tend to forget when confronted by large infrastructure projects that they are not an end in themselves. There is an opportunity cost to investing precious research funds into infrastructure. Every $100,000 lab that lasts four years before needing renewal is the equivalent to $25,000 a year for a Ph.D. student to do research for four years.

A is not B, just as C is not D. OK. But C can be A.

Road Infrastructure  The backbone of transport system

In order to develop innovative and cost-effective alternative transport concepts and to assess their potential impact, research is required on two areas. First, the needs and opportunities for new transport means and systems over the next 10 to 30 years, such as the innovative use of pipelines, floating tunnels, automated underground distribution systems, large capacity transport means, including investigations as to how current means could fulfil future requirements and how innovative technologies can be integrated. Second, the safe, efficient and environmentally-friendly integration of new means of transport, e.g. high-speed vessels, into existing transport operations.

I enjoy Professor Rockwell’s papers, but I disagree that infrastructure is not research, and by that I mean research infrastructure has to be research-based, otherwise it is not providing for genuine research. This is a complex argument (I hope that does not mean long-winded) so I won’t go into it too much tonight.

Key issues though are

  • what is are humanities?
  • what is infrastructure?
  • can infrastructure be emergent research?

From my knowledge of gothic cathedrals and computer games I say “yes it can” to the last question.

I still like his conclusion though even if I argue with his definition of (research) infrastructure.

NB is housing intangible? I think not.

“research infrastructure” means equipment, specimens, scientific collections, computer software, information databases, communications linkages and other intangible property used or to be used primarily for carrying on research, including housing and installations essential for the use and servicing of those things.” (From the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, c. 26)


Rockwell, G. (2010, May 14). As Transparent as Infrastructure: On the research of cyberinfrastructure in the humanities. Retrieved from the Connexions Web site:


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