by Christos Nikolaou
In a panel discussion held during the ERCIM Meetings at SZTAKI, Budapest, George Metakides, Head of the EC IT programme at DG III commented on points raised in an ERCIM discussion paper that regarded the ERCIM Digital Document Repository Initiative.
The paper stated that ERCIM believes that a major new activity on digital document repositories on a pan-European scale is needed immediately because:
There is a need for rapid, timely and coherent access by the "information society" to on-line multimedia digital document bases. Expertise to build such systems is required from many branches of the computer and information sciences community. ERCIM can play this role.
ERCIM is now organising a number of preliminary activities with the intention of preparing the ground for a major concerted initiative aimed at building a Pan-European Scientific Digital Documentary Repository. It has set up DELOS, a working group to discuss the most significant research issues funded by IT LTR in this area, reoriented its 95-96 fellowship programme to attract young researchers to work on digital libraries, formulated a proposal for the organisation of a series of European Conferences on digital libraries, established ties with similar projects in the US and with the National Science Foundation and CNRI, and is working closely with the European branch of the WWW Consortium. It has also set up an experimental system for linking the collections of technical reports of the ERCIM member research centres and labs on-line. This last activity is running in close collaboration with NCSTRL, a US Consortium in which all the Computer Science Departments of the major US universities participate. It will soon be possible to access and download technical reports of the major European and US research centres using sophisticated search and retrieval mechanisms.
ERCIM thus recommends that the Commission of the European Union supports an activity analogous to the NSF/ARPA/NASA initiative. The central focus should be the building of coalitions for theme-oriented digital libraries. We claim that this initiative will:
In his response, George Metakides agreed with ERCIM that an initiative of this type could play an extremely important role in providing easy and timely access to world-wide distributed multimedia information bases contributing thus to the advancement of research work, increasing the competitive potential for industrial and in general improving the quality of on-line services. If handled properly it could prove to be an area where Europe can provide international leadership especially in areas such as multilinguality in information systems or interoperability of autonomous federated distributed systems. He recognised that ERCIM could play a leading role in the definition, activation and implementation of such activities at a European level. The initiative was to be viewed with favour by the Commission and he promised that he would investigate which of the Commission's programmes were most appropriate for a joint funding. He invited ERCIM to prepare a suitable proposal and to discuss it with the Commission.
Immediately following the Panel, Metakides was shown a demonstration of the initial work at the experimental servers for the on-line technical reports of the ERCIM member institutions. So far, pilot sites have been set up at nearly half of the ERCIM national labs. Servers are expected to be installed at the other centres in the near future.