Research and education networks have evolved throughout the last 40-years reaching a substantial position in providing advance networking capabilty and services to 1,000′s of higher education institutions. Over the past few years, the expertise of the groups owning and operating these fiber-based backbones has continued to grow, and in many areas of the country have extended their state-wide reach to K-12 schools, libraries, museums, healthcare facilities, state and local government, some federal agencies, as well as private industry who are engaged with academic research and education. This expansive experience in planning, deploying, and managing broadband networks uniquely positions National/State-wide networks to play a very interesting and meaningful role in the ongoing need to provide broadband capability and services across their state and the country. An important component of this need is the ability to cost effectively provide equitable access to both education and health care services through leveraging technology in order to scale expertise to the areas with the most need.
An exciting example of ‘scaling the expertise’ via Cisco TelePresence was recently demonstrated in California using the state-wide research and education network that enabled advanced -- placement classes to be delivered to a high school in the central valley, giving the students there the same opportunties for college preparation as their counterparts living in the more metropolitan areas.
Other opportunites exist to ‘scale the expertise’ of health-care professionals from university medical schools into rural areas providing ”tele-consulting’ services as part of their overall internships.
Collectively, the National and State-wide research and education networks provide more than advanced networking capabilities and services. They provide the enablement for researchers, educators, and students to collaborate, learn, innovate, and discover across the state, across the country, or across the world.
An exciting example of cross-cultural collaboration was demonstrated on April 5, 2009, when the first international telepresence meeting between national research and education networks was achieved. The National LambdaRail, the US national research and education network successfully held the first telepresence session with the United Arab Emirates research and education network, ANKABUT. This opens up many new opportunities to bridge physical distances and enable researchers and educators from other sides of the globe to collaborate live, literally face to face via telepresence as the collaboration tool.
Research and education networks will continue to evolve. They will continue to enable expertise to be available across the state or across the world, and they will continue to be the fertile environment for collaboration, innovation and discovery that benefits us all!