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< Contents ERCIM News No. 53, April 2003

Extending Digital Libraries towards Multi-Disciplinary Communities

by Tom Gross and Wido Wirsam

The CYCLADES open collaborative virtual archive environment is a virtual community system that supports scholars in searching and managing e-print documents from a large number of digital libraries. Users can share their results in existing communities as well as find new collaborators with similar interests.

The CYCLADES system provides an open collaborative e-print archive environment to support online communities of scholars. Electronic pre-print (e-print) archives are important vehicles for the dissemination of preliminary results and non-peer-reviewed grey literature. Most of them focus on the dissemination of information within disciplinary or institutional communities. Scientific research, however, tends increasingly to be interdisciplinary. There is thus a growing need for easy retrieval of information from diverse sources, and for communication and collaboration across traditional community boundaries. CYCLADES addresses these issues and supports the transition of e-print systems into the genuine building blocks of a transformed scholarly communication model by developing a set of leading-edge technologies.

The CYCLADES system integrates a set of functionalities that support the user when accessing very large virtual e-print archives with:

  • functionality for efficient and effective retrieval of relevant information from many large, distributed and multi-disciplinary digital archives
  • feedback on the degree of relevance of the retrieved information
  • regular information about new publications in the archive environment which are relevant to the users' interests
  • automatic retrieval of users' long-term information needs (user profiling)
  • rapid dissemination of the search results world-wide.

A special set of features provides communities of scholars with functionality for:

  • dissemination of relevant information to community members in the form of recommendations, which are based on collective profiles and behaviour
  • quick on-line annotations on research results published by members of the community
  • carrying out community services such as peer review, which requires the annotation of on-line manuscripts by reviewers, and the sharing of these annotations among editors, authors, and others
  • enabling community members to learn from, contribute to, and collectively build upon, the community's knowledge.

The archive environment is composed of a large number of heterogeneous, multidisciplinary archives and supports interoperability between them. It is based on the Open Archive initiative (OAi) (cf. The OAi consists of a technical and organisational framework designed to facilitate the discovery of content stored in distributed e-print archives.

The CYCLADES system consists of modular software packages, which are executed on geographically distributed computer systems. The different services communicate over an interface that is based on modern standardised internet communication technology (XML-RPC). This architecture allows the different servers to be optimised to achieve best performance in the specific task for which it is responsible. Highly time consuming operations (eg re-indexation of archives) can be performed in the background without decreasing the overall system performance. This specification also gives excellent flexibility in the adaptation, updating or optimisation of services or the integration of a new functionality.

The CYCLADES collaborative working environment.
The CYCLADES collaborative working environment.

The service responsible for accessing all connected archives is the Access Service (AS). It harvests, indexes and retrieves metadata records from the underlying archives.

The Collaborative Work Service (CWS) provides a folder-based environment for managing metadata records, queries, collections, external documents, and annotations. The CWS supports users with functionality for the management of folders and their contents and for cooperation among community members, including special awareness features reflecting the groups' activities in the shared information space.

The Rating Management Service (RMS) is an internal component of the CWS that stores ratings and provides a query interface to other services of CYCLADES.

The Search and Browse Service (SBS) supports searching for records from the various collections, formulating queries, and browsing attribute values and metadata records.

The Filtering and Recommendation Service (FRS) provides personalised filtering of queries and query results, provides recommendations of relevant records, collections, users and communities. The FRS analyses a user's behaviour and data, generates a user profile describing the user's interests, and provides information according to this profile.

The Collection Service (CS) supports the creating and editing of collections. Collections partition the information space according to the users' interests, and make the individual archives transparent to the user. The CS allows each user to create and maintain a personal list of collections consisting of a sub-set of all the collections available.

The Mediator Service (MS) integrates the other services of CYCLADES and acts as a registry for them. Each service registers with the MS. Whenever a service needs to communicate with another service, it asks the Mediator Service for a list of services of the appropriate type. The MS also manages the registration and login of users to the CYCLADES system.

The CYCLADES project, partly funded by the European Union (IST-2000-25456), is administrated by ERCIM. The work is carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology (FIT), CNR, FORTH and the University of Duisburg. The project started in February 2001 and will run until July 2003. At this stage, the implementation, integration and testing of the different services forming the environment has been completed and the user evaluation is starting.

If you are interested in CYCLADES and would like to try the system or participate in the evaluation, please follow the link below or contact the authors.


Please contact:
Tom Gross, FhG-FIT

Umberto Straccia, ISTI-CNR