the Open Archives home page The Open Archives initiative aimed at the further promotion of author self-archived solutions

Paul Ginsparg, Rick Luce, Herbert Van de Sompel - Los Alamos National Laboratory - July 1999

With the support of the Council on Library and Information Resources , the Digital Library Federation, the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, the Association of Research Libraries and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.





The purpose of this call is the mobilization of a core group to work towards achieving a universal service for author self-archived scholarly literature. Such a universal service is thought of being the fundamental and free layer of scholarly information, above which both free and commercial services could flourish. We think that important steps towards the establishment of such a universal service can be taken by identifying or creating interoperable technologies and frameworks for the dissemination of author self-archived documents (termed e-prints).

A meeting of technical experts to be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 21-22 1999 is proposed to discuss various issues regarding interoperability. A visible outcome of this meeting should be an agreement regarding an approach to build a promotional prototype multidisciplinary digital library service for the main existing e-print archives. Furthermore, it is hoped that this initiative can lead to the creation of a forum that will continue to address the interoperability of self-archiving solutions, as a means to promote their global adoption.



In certain areas of scholarly activity, electronic preprint archives have become an established medium to communicate non peer-reviewed results of ongoing research. The trend began in high energy physics in 1991 and since then, the centralized xxx preprint archive has become a global repository for research in physics. xxx has also incorporated mathematics, non-linear sciences and computer science. CogPrints is modeled on xxx and focuses mainly on papers in Psychology, Linguistics and Neuroscience. NCSTRL is a similar initiative, providing a point of access for technical reports in computer sciences, that are either submitted to the CoRR part of xxx or to decentral departmental archives that cooperate in the initiative. Archives in the NCSTRL initiative share the Dienst protocol, which enables the creation of library-like services that support searching and browsing the archive. Along the same lines, the RePEc initiative in economics provides authors with the option to submit working papers to a departmental archive or - if one does not exist - to the EconWPA archive at Washington University. These archives support the so called Guildford protocol that guarantees interoperability between the RePEc archives and has enabled the creation of a variety of end-user services. The NDLTD project aims at building a digital library of electronic theses and dissertations (ETD) authored by students of member institutions. NDLTD addresses issues such as the creation of a workflow to submit ETDs, the development of an XML DTD for ETDs and the support of a digital library for ETDs.

There are several indications that a growing number of efforts are investigating the establishment of communication mechanisms that find inspiration in the pioneering work mentioned above. Recently, NIH has expressed a strong interest in the establishment of the centralized E-biomed initiative for biomedical sciences. The Stanford libraries and the BMJ just announced details on their e-print server. CalTech's Scholar Forum proposes an alternative model for scholarly communication. SPARC initiated the SCI call, asking for proposals introducing alternative communication channels as a way to address the serials crisis. Also the information industry is starting to understand the potential of the e-print concept, regarding it either as an opportunity for collaborations, as a challenge or as a threat.

The aim of the initiatives mentioned above is to optimize scholarly communication. The approaches that are taken or suggested are quite different. Some initiatives build on an centralized model, others on a distributed departmental, or by extension, institutional model. Some deal with grey literature only, others incorporate metadata of peer-reviewed papers or try and establish some form of peer-review outside of the established system. Some only deal with metadata, others with both metadata and manuscripts. We think that the joint impact of these and future initiatives can be substantially higher when interoperability between them can be established. The aim of our initiative is to create a forum to address various issues regarding interoperability, as a way to break the ground for a more universal adoption of author self-archived communication mechanisms. In this context, interoperability is a broad term, touching many diverse aspects of author self-archived systems, including their metadata formats, their underlying architecture, their openness to the creation of digital library services, their integration with other information layers, their usability in a multidisciplinary context, the metrics for usage of e-prints and for evaluation of their scholarly impact, ...

As a preparation for the October meeting, concrete work is already going on. Herbert Van de Sompel (Los Alamos National Laboratory & University of Ghent) has initiated the protoproto project that simulates some aspects of interoperable distributed e-print archives. Under the umbrella of the so-called Ghent-agreement, Thomas Krichel (University of Surrey & RePEc) has joined the initiative and is currently converting data from existing e-print initiatives into the ReDIF metadata format that is being used in the RePEc initiative. Michael Nelson (NASA Langley) also joined and will take this data and use it to create various archives architected along the lines of his Smart Object Dumb Archives concepts. The aim of this protoproto work is not to make statements about the architectural directions that UPS should take, but rather to facilitate discussions about this at the October meeting. Thus far, permission has been obtained to use data from CogPrints, NASA, NCSTRL, RePEc and xxx, while a decision regarding data from NDLTD is being awaited.


Purpose of the October 21-22 1999 Santa Fe meeting

The assembled team will identify technologies to stimulate the adoption of the concept of author self-archived systems in scholarly communication; theorize a framework for the integration of e-print services in the academic document system; and determine specifications for a prototype testbed supporting the creation of digital library services for distributed archives.


Agenda of the meeting - to be discussed on UPS discussion list


The current list of invitees

In order to make the October meeting as successful as possible, the group of technical experts has been restricted to the following:
  Los Alamos, New Mexico, July 27th 1999

get in touch with the Open Archives initiative by contacting

the Open Archives home page