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< Contents ERCIM News No. 59, October 2004

DILIGENT: A Digital Library Infrastructure on Grid Enabled Technology

by Donatella Castelli

Building on the results of its past activity in both the Grid and Digital Library domains, ERCIM has provided the framework for the setting up of an innovative IST 6FP funded three-year Integrated Project, DILIGENT. This project, which is coordinated scientifically by ISTI-CNR, involves 14 European partners and a number of international observers. These research institutions and companies will work together on the development of an digital library infrastructure, based on Grid-enabled technology, that will allow members of dynamic virtual organizations to collaborate by exploiting shared knowledge and physical resources.

Research work today is often a collaborative effort carried out by groups of individuals belonging to different organizations remotely spread worldwide. Motivated by a common goal and funding opportunities, these groups dynamically aggregate into virtual organizations (VOs) that share their resources eg knowledge, experimental results, instruments, etc., for the duration of their collaboration, creating a rich and powerful research environment.

The DILIGENT project aims at supporting this new research operational mode by creating an advanced knowledge infrastructure that will serve the needs of dynamic virtual organizations. This infrastructure will allow members of VOs to access shared knowledge, services and computational resources in a secure, coordinated, and cost-effective way.

DILIGENT will be built by integrating Grid and Digital Library (DL) technologies. The merging of these two different technologies will result in an innovative level of functionality providing the foundations for next generation collaboration environments able to serve many different research and industrial applications.

In particular, the Grid framework will provide the context for implementing the notion of virtual digital libraries (VDLs), ie transient, on-demand DLs based on shared computational, multimedia and resources, both content and applications resources. The DILIGENT infrastructure will maintain a network of existing resources on the Grid. A virtual organization will be enabled to dynamically create and modify its own DL by specifying a number of requirements on the information space (eg publishing institutions, content domain, document type, level of replication) and on the services (eg service type, configuration, lifetime, availability, response time). A reliable and secure virtual DL that satisfies the given requirements will be transparently instantiated and made accessible to authorized users through a portal. Many virtual DLs, serving different user communities, will be active on the same shared Grid resources at the same time. The composition of a DL will be dynamic since it will depend on the currently available and registered DL resources and on many other quality parameters such as usage workload, connectivity, etc. This development model will make it possible to avoid heavy investments, long delays and radical changes in the organizations setting up these applications, thus fostering a broader use of DLs as means for communication and collaboration.

The Grid framework will also enable the provision of a number of new functions whose implementation has until now been limited by their high cost in terms of computational, storage and data transfer capacity, such as multimedia document and geographic information processing, 3D handling, spatial data manipulation, etc.

From the technical point of view, DILGENT will exploit the results of the EGEE (Enabling Grids for E-science in Europe ( project, which, in the next two years, will deliver a Grid production infrastructure shared by a very large number of European organizations. DILIGENT will first enrich this infrastructure with the necessary features for creating and handling an open and 'on-the-fly' modifiable set of services as required by the DL application framework. It will then add a number of specific services for:

  • providing access to content sources, such as archives, metadata repositories and databases
  • implementing typical DL functions, like search, annotation, personalization, document visualization
  • supporting existing applications implemented by third-parties, like video summarization, reports generation, media-specific similarity search, etc.

The DILIGENT test-bed will be demonstrated and validated by two complementary real-life application scenarios: one from the environmental e-Science domain and the other from the culture heritage domain. The user community of the first scenario is composed by representatives of leading organizations that operate in the environmental sector. DILIGENT will be used experimentally as a means for supporting two of the typical activities of this community: the organization of conferences and the preparation of projects and periodical reports on specific environmental topics of concern. We expect that DILIGENT will facilitate the achievement of the goals of these activities and will enhance the quality of their results by improving accessibility, interoperability and usability of environmental data, models, tools, algorithms and instruments and by integrating the located data sources with specialized data handling services.

The user community of the second scenario consists of scholars, distributed all over the world, who have decided to work in a three year research project in order to set up the basis for a new research discipline that merges together experiences from the medical, humanity, social science, and communication research areas. DILIGENT will be experimented as a means to provide these scholars with a cost-effective instrument for setting up DLs serving their needs despite the limited duration and funding resources available for their project. The system will also be used experimentally for the organization of courses. Specific VDLs that address the knowledge needs of the students will be created by re-using material maintained in the registered archive resources of the DILIGENT infrastructure.

The DILIGENT consortium expects that the Grid-based DL infrastructure will be adopted and extended by several other communities in order to serve different application areas. Some of these communities have already been registered as project observers. Regular training sessions and workshops will be conducted to disseminate the experience and results of the DILIGENT project to both scientists and potential DILIGENT users.

Information on how to become a DILIGENT observer and about the DILIGENT activities and events can be found on the project website (

Please contact:
Donatella Castelli, ISTI-CNR
Scientific Coordinator
Tel: +39 050 3152902

Jessica Michel, ERCIM office
Administrative Coordinator
Tel: +33 4 92 38 50 89