NSF Announces Awards for Digital Libraries Research

$24.4 Million to Fund Advanced Research and Technology Development by Teams from Universities, Industries and Other Institutions

Six research projects developing new technologies for digital libraries--storehouses of information available through the Internet--have been funded through a joint initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The projects' focus is to dramatically advance the means to collect, store, and organize information in digital forms, and make it available for searching, retrieval and processing via communication networks--all in user-friendly ways.

The projects are at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, the University of California, Santa Barbara and Stanford University. Each effort brings together researchers and users from the local university with those from other organizations including other academic institutions, libraries, museums, publishers, government laboratories, state agencies, secondary schools, and computer and communications companies.

"We see these projects as taking the next step - and a very large one - in our ability to make available vast stores of knowledge and innovative information services based on High Performance Computing and Communications technologies to researchers, students, educators and the general public," said Paul Young, assistant director, for computer and information science and engineering.

Digital Libraries have been identified as a "National Challenge" in the Information Infrastructure Technology Applications component of the U.S. High Performance Computing and Communications Program (HPCC). National Challenges are fundamental applications that have broad and direct impact on the Nation's competitiveness and the well-being of its citizens, and that can benefit form the application of HPCC technology and resources.

"One goal of this initiative is to establish better linkages between fundamental science and technology development upon which key aspects of the National Information Infrastructure depends," Young said.

Within the past decade the number and kinds of digital information sources have proliferated. Computing system advances and the continuing networking and communications revolution have resulted in a remarkable expansion in the ability to generate, process and disseminate digital information. Together, these developments have made new forms of knowledge repositories and information delivery mechanisms feasible and economical.

Source information targeted by the joint initiative takes many forms--text, numerical data, visual images and symbols, sounds and spoken words and video clips. It is stored and recorded on numerous types of media--paper, film, and high capacity magnetic and optical storage. The content may include reference materials, scholarly journals, satellite mapping images, video archives, environmental data and instructional materials of all types. The information sources may reside physically at hundreds of thousands of geographically remote locations. When stored in digital form, organized and connected through an electronic network, the information resources become the ingredients of a digital library, available to users from around the country and the world.

Guided by ongoing work and new research, each project will develop a testbed for research and prototyping purposes. The testbeds will then be scaled to accommodate more information, more advanced information handling tools, and a greater number of users.

The six projects are:

*Carnegie Mellon University, $4.8 million: The Informedia interactive on-line digital video library system to be created by Carnegie Mellon University and WQED/Pittsburgh will enable users to access, explore and retrieve science and mathematics materials from video archives. The Informedia system works by integrating speech, image and natural language understanding technologies. The library will initially contain 1,000 hours of video from the archives of public television station WQED/Pittsburgh, Electronic Field Trips on video from the Fairfax Co., Va., public school system and video course material produced by the BBC for the Open University, a British college without walls, with an enrollment of more than 200,000. Issues involving human-computer interaction, pricing and charging for digital video use, and privacy and security will be addressed as part of the research program. Industrial partners include Microsoft Corporation, Digital Equipment Corporation, Bell Atlantic Network Services, QED Communications, Open University, and Fairfax Va. County Public Schools.

*University of California, Berkeley, $4 million: This project will produce a prototype digital library with a focus on environmental information. The library will collect diverse information about the environment to be used for the preparation and evaluation of environmental data, impact reports and related materials. The research prototype is intended for eventual full-scale deployment in the State of California's CERES production systems. To create the prototype, researchers will need to produce technologies which allow untrained users to contribute to and find relevant information in other world-wide digital library systems. Research areas include automated indexing, intelligent retrieval and search processes; data base technology to support digital library applications;new approaches to document analysis; and, data compression and communication tools for remote browsing. Partners and collaborators in the project include Xerox Corporation, Resources Agency of California, California State Library, Sonoma County Library, San Diego Association of Governments, The Plumas Corporation, Shasta County Office of Education, Hewlett Packard.

*University of Michigan, $4 million: This project will conduct coordinated research and development to create, operate, use and evaluate a testbed of a large-scale, continually evolving multimedia digital library. The content focus of the library will be earth and space sciences. Potentially connecting thousands of users and information repositories, the library system will be designed to meet the needs for systemizing the vast amount of information on an array of topics available on the Internet. A critical component of the project is the testing and evaluation of the prototype system by a wide variety of users, including those from on-campus, local high schools and public libraries. Commercial sponsors including IBM, Elsevier Science, Apple Computer, Bellcore, UMI International, McGraw-Hill, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Kodak.

*University of California, Santa Barbara, $4 million: Project Alexandria will develop a digital library providing easy access to large and diverse collections of maps, images and pictorial materials as well as a full range of new electronic library services. The project is centered at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with its major collections of maps and images and its strong research focus in the area of spatially-indexed information. It also involves the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo), the University of Maine and several industrial partners. The project will begin with collections of digitized maps, images and airphotos relating to Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties using software developed for geographical information systems. Over four years, the project will grow to include other components at UCSB, SUNY-Buffalo, Library of Congress, the United States Geological Survey and the St. Louis Public Library, as well as other interested libraries. Each site will include, as necessary, facilities for geographical information interfaces, electronic catalogues, and information storage and acquisition.

*Stanford University, $3.6 million: The Stanford Integrated Digital Library Project will develop the enabling technologies for a single, integrated "virtual" library that will provide uniform access to the large number of emerging networked information sources and collections--both on-line versions of pre-existing works and new works that will become available in the future. The Integrated Digital Library will create a shared environment that links everything from personal information collections, to collections found today in conventional libraries, to large data collections shared by scientists. The research thrusts of the project include: information sharing and communication models; client information interfaces; and information finding services. Participating organizations include the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Bell Communications Research (Bellcore), Dialog, Enterprise Integration Technology (EIT), Hewlett Packard Laboratories, Interconnect Technologies Corporation (ITC), Interval Research, O'Reilly and Associates, NASA Ames, WAIS Inc. and Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).

*University of Illinois, $4 million: This project draws on the new Grainger Engineering Library Information Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and will be centered around journals and magazines in the engineering and science literature. An initial prototype system will include a user interface based on a customized version of Mosaic, software developed at the university under NSF sponsorship to help users navigate on the World Wide Web. Once the digital library is developed, techniques for retrieval will be created, usage patterns of the system analyzed, and effects of the information costs determined. Partners in the project include the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Arizona (UA), Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), American Physical Society, John Wiley & Sons, and U.S. News & World Report.

"A common strategy in all of these projects will be to emphasize research partnerships. We view building partnerships between researchers, applications developers and users as essential to achieving success in generating new knowledge, promoting innovative thinking, and accelerating the technology transfer process," said Y. T. Chien, director of NSF's division of information, robotics and intelligent systems. "The goal of the initiative is both to capitalize on advancements made to date and to further develop tools and technologies to make vast amounts of useful information available to large numbers of people with diverse information needs."

For more information on the initiative contact: The Division of Information, Robotics and Intelligent Systems, (703) 306-1930

For more information on any of the projects contact: