Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Report on the 'Networked Information in an International Context' Conference

Chris Bailey at the "Networked Information in an International Context" conference.

This excellent conference, jointly organised by UKOLN, JISC, BLRRD, CNI and CAUSE, was one of the best I have ever attended. The quality of the papers I heard was outstanding.

After listening to Sir Brian Follett talking about eLib to start us off, I decided to concentrate on the briefings from the American speakers. There isn’t space to discuss them all so I’ve decided to focus on the most interesting for me.

Jana Bradley (jbradley@indyvax.iupui.edu) presented a report on 10 projects dealing with innovative ways of learning in a networked environment. If you want to see how Fine Arts might be taught in the future have a look at http://www.usc.edu/dept/finearts/fa121/. Or, if you want to see the impact of an electronic community on teaching and learning, go to the UWired project at http://www.washington.edu/uwired/.

Another interesting paper came from Barbara McFadden Allen, CIC Center for Library Initiatives (BMALLEN@UIUC.EDU). The member libraries of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation have developed a prototype, fully managed electronic journals collection (http://www.cic.net/cic/cic.html/). This in itself is just a part of an overall strategy to develop a virtual electronic library for the benefit of all the member institutions. Given the very disparate nature - size, funding, mission etc - of the CIC members, cooperation at this level is impressive. Why can’t we do it in the UK?

Clifford Lynch, University of California, presented the results of research exploring architectural, performance, standards and metadata issues pertaining to improving networked information discovery and retrieval. This really brought home just how outmoded or inappropriate much of our thinking (and our ‘solutions’) are in the context of NIDR. The report is available from the CNI server and I heartily recommend it.

David Koehler, Princeton University, looked at the impact that the Web is having on administrative computing. Students will be able to view their timetables, grades, loan records, personal data, admission forms, application forms…….Anybody working on institutional information strategies should have a look at the following article in CAUSE/EFFECT magazine ( http://cause-www.colorado.edu/cause-effect/cem95/cem9533.html/), and at the work done in this area by the University of Delaware (http://www.mis.udel.edu/).

I can’t comment on the presentations relating to various eLib projects as I didn’t attend them, but informal feedback seemed to indicate that these were also enthusiastically received. Certainly ‘Ariadne’ was referred to on a number of occasions as a ‘very significant development’!

Finally, I did appreciate a venue which was very reasonably priced, with excellent accommodation, food and company, and which avoided that tedious journey from Heathrow to the centre of London. My thanks to Hazel Gott and could we have more of the same please!