July 16, 2002

HPWREN Study Examines Impact of Broadband Connectivity Upon Ecological Field Research

The HPWREN team recently completed a social science study focused on the diffusion of the network within the 4500-acre Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (SMER). Recently deployed sensors and high-resolution cameras allow researchers from throughout the world to conduct their studies at SMER≠and receive their sensor and camera data via the Internet. That is, the collected ecological data travels via the Internet (originating with the HPWREN connection) from dataloggers and cameras in the field directly to the researcherís computer.

Before such an innovation is adopted by users, though, it is important for them to be familiarized with the technology and willing to adopt it. Therefore, the HPWREN study examined the perceived attributes and communication channels used during the deployment of the HPWREN technology within SMER. The research also looked at the ways in which the SMER scientists perceive the HPWREN and related technology; specifically, study results discuss how the technology will be relatively advantageous to SMER scientists' research and teaching endeavors, compatible with their current data collection procedures and teaching curricula, and whether or not the technology will be too complex for the field scientists to use within their current and future work.

hpwren-connected smer

Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve receives its 45 Mbps connectivity via the HPWREN antenna atop the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). The link hops from SDSC to Mount Soledad to Red Mountain to the reserve.

The research team hypothesized that the increase of perceived relative advantage, perceived compatibility, and positive communication channels leads to increased HPWREN adoption, while the increase of perceived complexity leads to decreased HPWREN adoption. To test the hypotheses (which totalled nine), the HPWREN team collected survey data related to SMER researchersí perceptions of the network connectivity, their communication channels, and use of the network. Path bivariate correlations provided support for eight of nine hypotheses related to perceived attributes (relative advantage, compatibility, complexity), communication channels, and network use among 37 field scientists affiliated with the HPWREN-connected SMER.

Additional study analysis included simultaneous regression analysis of diffusion communication with relative advantage, compatibility, and complexity as predictors; this analysis resulted in significance for both relative advantage and complexity. However, multiple regression results indicated that perceived compatibility is not a significant predictor of diffusion communication. On the other hand, simultaneous regression analysis of all variables, with adoption acting as the dependent variable, showed that perceived compatibility, perceived complexity, and diffusion communication all have a significant impact upon HPWREN adoption. Perhaps the most important lesson learned during this study was the vital role played by communication during the innovation development, implementation, and use stages of the network.

This research was conducted in conjunction with Kimberly Mann Bruch's master's thesis at San Diego State University's School of Communication. Details regarding the study are available at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/kmb/thesis/.

Additional photographs regarding the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve's connection to HPWREN are available at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/Photos/sites.html#SMER.


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