The purpose of this article is to contribute to our stock of knowledge about who uses networks, how they are used, and what contribution the networks make to advancing the scientific enterprise. Between 1985 and 1990, the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) ACCESS data facility at the University of Wisconsin‐Madison provided social scientists in the United States and elsewhere with access through the electronic networks to complex and dynamic statistical data; the 1984 SIPP is a longitudinal panel survey designed to examine economic well‐being in the United States. This article describes the conceptual framework and design of SIPP ACCESS; examines how network users communicated with the SIPP ACCESS project staff about the SIPP data; and evaluates one outcome derived from the communications, the improvement of the quality of the SIPP data. The direct and indirect benefits to social scientists of electronic networks are discussed. The author concludes with a series of policy recommendations that link the assessment of our inadequate knowledge base for evaluating how electronic networks advance the scientific enterprise and the SIPP ACCESS research network experience to the policy initiatives of the High Performance Computing Act of 1991 (P.L. 102–194) and the related extensive recommendations embodied in Grand Challenges 1993 High Performance Computing and Communications (The FY 1993 U.S. Research and Development Program).
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