ERCIM News No.32 - January 1998

EU-NSF Working Group on Resource Indexing and Discovery in a Globally Distributed Digital Library

by Carl Lagoze

The first of two meetings of the Resource Indexing and Discovery in a Globally Distributed Digital Library Working Group was held 3-5 November 1997, at SZTAKI (the Computer and Automation Research Institute at the Hungarian Academy of Science) in Budapest, Hungary. The focus of the Resource Indexing and Discovery Working Group is the set of problems associated with finding resources ('documents') in a globally distributed information infrastructure.

Like the other groups, this group is comprised of five European members and five U.S. participants. The European participants are Norbert Fuhr (University of Dortmund, Germany), Sarantos Kapidakis (FORTH, Greece), László Kovács (SZTAKI, Hungary), Michael Papazoglou (Tilburg University, Netherlands), and Alan Smeaton (Dublin City University, Ireland). The U.S. participants are William Y. Arms (CNRI), C. Mic Bowman (TransArc Corporation), Luis Gravano (Columbia University), Carl Lagoze (Cornell University), and Ralph Levan (OCLC).

The two and one-half days of the workshop were divided into four sections.

During the first day, participants presented and fielded questions on position papers that they had prepared prior to the meeting. This process served as both a means of introducing participants to each other and as a vehicle for exposing the diversity of thinking on the resource discovery subject. The focus of the position papers ranged from theoretical information retrieval issues, to distributed digital library architecture, to metadata issues, to visions of how the nature of the discoverable resources might change in future digital libraries.

Following this position paper presentation, the meeting moved on to review existing research in the area. An initial bibliography was developed prior to the workshop and participants were asked to review specific papers to determine whether they should remain on the bibliography. The discussion of these papers presented the opportunity to discuss other possible sources and add them to the bibliography. The eventual goal is to include a selected bibliography of the state-of-the-art of research in the resource discovery area in the final report of the working group.

After establishing this basis of awareness of the interests of group members and the state-of-the-art of the research, the meeting moved to the first stage of fulfilling the goal of the working group ­ a detailed enumeration of the essential research issues in the research discovery area. The process began with a brainstorming session during which components of the problem were offered. After producing a list of thirty-nine components, the group then made a complete pass through the list to establish relationships, or groupings, of elements of the list. The goal is to eventually develop five or six broad categories of problem components that can serve as the structural basis for the group final report.

In the final day of the meeting, the group took a more visionary approach. There was a general feeling that, while the discussion up to that time had been very useful, the group was being too myopic in its perspective. Using the brainstorming process again, the group developed a list of predicted technological changes that will impact resource discovery in the next ten years. This process was especially effective because it allowed the members to reflect on the list of research issues developed in the previous day and note which of those might be resolved simply through changes in connectivity, computing power, or software advances.

The next meeting of the group will take place 26-27 February 1998 in Washington D.C. In the break between the two meetings, members agreed to each 'adopt' elements of the research components list and vision list and individually flesh them out, in preparation for the February meeting.

The public web page of the working group is at

Please contact either of the WG coordinators:

Norbert Fuhr - University of Dortmund

Carl Lagoze - Cornell University

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