ERCIM News No.27 - October 1996

Digital Library Initiatives at INESC-Porto

by Paula Viana and Eurico Carrapatoso

Similarly to other EU countries, official Portuguese national policies aimed at a full participation in the global information society, contemplate a considerable investment of resources in order to make knowledge increasingly available to a wider public. In line with these trends and following the growing interest in the area of Digital Libraries, since the middle of 1995 INESC-Porto has been involved in a number of projects related to the development of distributed library services. In addition to its participation in the DELOS and SAMOS initiatives of ERCIM, INESC is currently a member of three other digital library related projects: SCREEN (European ACTS), Babel and Infocortex (national projects with the University of Porto).

The goals of INESC's involvement in these digital library projects are not only scientific but also to contribute to regional social and economic development and to tighten the links between partners playing an important role in the regional context, to improve the quality of teaching and research, and to strengthen cooperation between university and society. These three projects cover technical domains as disparate as Individual and Group Behavioural, Social and Economic aspects, Networking Protocols, Interactive Browsing Technologies, Categorisation and Organisation of Electronic Information, Formal Description Techniques, Distributed Platforms, etc.

The SCREEN project (Service Creation Engineering Environment) belongs to the area of Service Engineering and deals with distributed platforms, formal methods, tools and methods for service creation. The project began in September 1996 and will define and demonstrate service creation environments (SCEs) targeted to distributed processing environments (DPEs). This project will use CORBA, the distributed-object standard developed by the Object Management Group. To evaluate SCREEN service creation engineering practices and the resulting SCE, the consortium will perform a number of trials, one of which will implement a small distributed digital library. Although, as the main objective of the project is not to build an application, certain important topics related to digital libraries will not be considered (eg property rights, interoperability, multilinguality, etc.), this implementation will bring together people and knowledge from areas as diverse as Service Engineering and Telematics Services, which are generally kept very separate.

SCREEN will deal with the whole service creation lifecycle: from the negotiation between the service subscriber and the service developer and the user (informal) specification, to formal description, modelling, imple-mentation, testing and deployment of the service. Several languages, with different characteristics, will be used in the project, such as Visual Basic for requirements capture, Object Modelling Techniques for service analysis, formal description languages like SDL-92 for service specification , and C++, HTML and Java for implementing Web related services.
The Babel (Bibliotecas Digitais como Base do Ensino Lusófono ­p; Distance Learning based on Digital Libraries) initiative will promote the development of digital libraries in the University of Porto as a network of knowledge bases with functionalities for distance learning, self education and scientific research. This project will cover research areas such as Information Retrieval, Browsing Interfaces, Educational Methodologies and Legal, Commercial and Security aspects. The rationale behind the project is the creation of a framework for multidisciplinary R&D activities in the area of digital libraries and to promote cooperation among university faculties and research centres.

The purpose of Infocortex is the specification and prototyping of a multimedia database system with information about the available expertise in several faculties of the University of Porto. This database will provide information that can be consulted by companies or businesses. The initial idea was to create a digital library of papers and theses produced by students and staff of the University, accessible mainly by people at the university This objective was then extended to make the information available to the outside world, in a format that could be used by people not directly involved with the academic world. The project will begin with the identification of the particular information needs of companies working in different sectors, followed by the specification and systemisation of the information system of the University of Porto. Based on these studies, a prototype will be implemented that can be used to promote the system and motivate the agents involved, and which will also foster the establishment of protocols with other universities and groups of enterprises.

It is our belief that these projects will lead to advances in quite different areas but that each of them is of great importance to the topic of Digital Libraries. We expect to have the preliminary results of these projects on-line by mid 1997.

Please contact:
Paula Viana - INESC
or Eurico Carrapatoso - INESC
Tel: + 351 2 2094220

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