June 28, 2007

ETD Uppsala conference update 5

Filed under: E-Theses and ETD conference — Neil Godfrey @ 10:16 am

Greg Crane spoke of the need and inevitability of moving beyond book-imitation pdf files. He used Peseus Classics Online as an example of the potential we should be aiming towards — where texts contain multiple links for each word — to dictionaries, to other related texts, to commentaries. The potential impact will move us beyond the slow and limited intake of information that comes currently from reading lines at a time, then moving on to other texts …. a 2 dimensional process as opposed to the 3 dimensional or more organic structure possible with the sort of thing we now see at Perseus.

I don’t know the technical structure behind Perseus, but I know Perseus well enough to see it as one model for a future online database — and as for metadata implications, what it is calling for is work on ontologies and the semantic web (i suspect perseus is not based on that at present but i could be wrong — and I see Greg has an article online discussing this Perseus project in more depth that I must read) — and that means RDF ideally rather than traditional schema such as MODS or MARC or DC. — though the RDF structured content could generate such schema when needed. (My thoughts arising from Greg’s presentation.)

Next session I attended covered Emory University’s work (Martin Halbert) on integrating IR’s upon Fedora, and building Web 2.0 web services on top of the Fedora repositories for ETD submission and admin and user/public dissemination processes. The approach is to balance flexibility and standards to achieve interoperability. I have requested a copy of the paper presented for this to investigate in more detail the metadata issues behind this balance of flexibility and standards.

I was intrigued by Adam Mikeal’s presentation on the Texas Digital Library. This is a consortium of libraries that deposit their ETD’s with the TDL — a federated collection of ETD’s apparently similar to our original Australasian Digital Theses Program. The metadata application used is a MODS application for theses, not ETD-MS. I had a brief discussion with Adam afterwards and have since received more info on the schema used. Keen to follow this through and see how it might be adapted for Australian needs.

An Indian presentation followed that pointed in a similar direction as the way the TDL is going — a centralized ETD repository — a national database collection. There are several ETD repositories in India but the IR scene is not uniform, hence the hopes for the national db to fill the need.

By attending that group of sessions I missed RUBRIC colleague Peter Sefton’s presentation, but, well, I have heard Peter discuss aspects of the Integrated Content Environment for Research and Scholarship (ICE-RS) piecemeal a number of times: in this context, it’s about writing and publishing a thesis, multimedia format, in pdf/html, with versioning controls in the process, and preservation and descriptive metadata . . . But check out the full story in his own presentation at USQ Eprints repository.

One can’t attend all simultaneous presentations and another I would have loved to have attended was another discussing how SURF (The Netherlands), JISC (UK) and DIVA (Sweden) have begun a project to harvest ETD’s from repositories internationally.

Where is Australia here? But having at least shaken hands with some of these people and “being there”, it gives one some hope that follow up contacts can begin to work towards making things happen for the Australian-New Zealand ADT program. Earlier this year I was appalled when email correspondence indicated that Australian repositories (Arrow Discovery Service) is a nonentity in the UK and Europe, and a bit player in some OAIster or SCIRUS harvesters. Will have to begin email links now between the Europeans and ADT here to see where we can move, and if that fails, to see what foundations can be laid to propel future collaboration between Australian IR’s — ETD’s being the driving force? — and the “world”.

Another presentation I missed while attending one that presented MODS for e-theses, was Ana Pavani’s (Brazil) “Looking at ETD’s from Different Points of View”. This promised a discussion of the considerable efforts put into metadata sets and union catalogue creation for the discovery of e-theses. I have already emailed Ana for more details to catch up here. In another presentation it was clear that ETD’s have the potential in many quarters, whether housed in separate collections or part of the rest of an IR, to promote the university or granting institutions given the right structures and metadata and recovery systems.

I also regretted not being able to attend NDLTD presentations, but I did meet several people from NDLTD and its UK and European sub-projects, and look forward to replies from emails I have since sent back to them to resume contact, and to continue online engagement in what is happening re international cooperative potentials for harvesting of ETD’s. (Again, where has Australia been till now!!)

To be contd….

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