NSF grant to preserve electronically published research

04/22/04

ITHACA, N.Y. -- As more researchers are publishing their findings in electronic journals, libraries today are faced with the complex question of how to archive and preserve that digital literature for future generations. To begin addressing this issue, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Cornell University Library a $450,000 grant to create a system for the long-term preservation and dissemination of digital mathematics and statistics journals.

Libraries preserve the printed serial publications in their collections by binding journal volumes and providing conservation treatment as needed over time. Traditionally, journal publishers haven't provided financial support for these efforts. Over the past five years, the number of electronically available journals has skyrocketed. Although scholars, teachers and students appreciate having 24/7 access to e-research literature, this new publishing model has created a major challenge for librarians. Now libraries no longer own copies of the journals to which they provide electronic access -- they only have licensed access to the digital literature, and that access is limited to the period of time covered in their contract with the publisher. Librarians question whether they should rely on the publishers to maintain long-term access to those e-journals or if they should collaborate with each other, and with publishers, to develop digital archives.

In addressing the myriad questions surrounding how best to develop and maintain digital archives, librarians at Cornell will collaborate on this project with colleagues at the Göttingen State and University Library in Germany. (Göttingen's participation is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Germany's primary funding agency for research in the sciences and the humanities.) The two institutions will develop an online archive of digital mathematics serial publications that will be available to libraries worldwide under agreements to be worked out between Cornell, Gottingen and the publishers who have agreed to contribute content to the project. At the same time, this project will serve as a model for similar efforts in other disciplines within the library and publishing communities. "In the 21st century this capacity to maintain access to research literature is a critical challenge for research libraries," said Thomas Hickerson, associate university librarian for special collections and information technologies at Cornell. "Thanks to the NSF grant, we'll be able to address a discipline that has broad importance across the sciences and also work with one of the outstanding science libraries in Europe."

The Cornell and Göttingen libraries will design archiving systems that can operate together and whose management can be distributed. Using the Open Archival Information System (OAIS), which is regarded internationally as the foundation for digital preservation efforts, they will establish structures and mechanisms that will enable their separately administered archives to function as a single digital archiving system. The preservation requirements of this distributed set of repositories also will be managed in common.

"The OAIS model has only been used in a few other digital archives, so this project will provide an important foundation for similar efforts at other institutions and with e-research literature in other disciplines," said Marcy Rosenkrantz, director of library systems at Cornell.

Cornell University Library (CUL) is a leader in research on digital archiving models and in developing electronic publishing initiatives. Between 2000 and 2003, CUL collaborated with Duke University Press to develop "Project Euclid," a partnership funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that enables small, independent mathematics and statistics journals to make the transition to electronic publishing. Project Euclid is now available to libraries worldwide and is managed by Nylink, a nonprofit organization that provides cataloging, resource sharing and reference services. In 2001 a major online repository for research papers in physics, mathematics and computer science, known as arXiv.org, moved to Cornell from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and is now managed by the library.

"While there are unique challenges in dealing with mathematics literature, our experience with Project Euclid and arXiv will be particularly valuable," said Rosenkrantz. "We believe we can make a major contribution in addressing a critical need."

For more information on the Cornell-Göttingen digital archiving project, contact Rosenkrantz at (607) 255-0653 or e-mail mr41@cornell.edu . More information also is available online at http://www.library.cornell.edu/dlit/EATMOT/web/ .

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Source: Eurekalert & others

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