Web Magazine for Information Professionals

From MERCI to DESIRE: European Digital Library Projects

Dave Hartland writes the Netskills Corner column for this edition. In it, he provides a brief overview of some of the EU-funded Telematics for Research projects.

We all know that the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW) are wonderful. However there are still major problems to be overcome in making them easier and more efficient to use. The European Union, as part of its fourth framework programme (1994 - 1998), is trying to address some of these problems in its Telematics Applications Programme.

Within the Telematics Applications Programme there are 13 project areas, these include Telematics for Transport, Education, Health Care, Libraries and the Environment. This article will focus upon the Telematics for Research area, which has particular relevance to the UK higher education community.

Since most of the projects have now been up and running for some time it seems appropriate to have a brief look at what they offer; some are working at a basic networking level and are trying to improve the network bandwidth; others are looking at the problems of searching for and retrieving information while some hope to improve the use of the Internet as a means of communication and collaboration. Having reviewed all of the projects I have put together a very brief description of each and provided a URL for you to further investigate the projects that interest you.

  1. ADVISER [1] aims to promote the development of networked relationships between universities, laboratories and science parks by developing a structured information model. This model, based on the WWW and the X.500 directory service, hopes to make the transferring of results from research to production more efficient and user friendly. A prototype service has been developed allowing the user to search for information in a number of areas such as research projects, deliverables and calls for proposals. ADVISER has partners in Italy, Ireland and the UK. Leeds University is one of the lead partners in the project.
  2. ATRE: [2] The ATM and Telecollaboration for Research and Education project is working on how Internet based applications, which use IP (Internet Protocol) ca be integrated into the developing high speed ATM network in Europe. There is a particular focus upon the use of multimedia and video conferencing services. Partners include CERN, where the WWW was first developed.
  3. CoBrow [3] aims to establish a new form of collaborative work on the Internet. It will extend the current use of the World Wide Web as an information retrival system by introducing the concept of Meeting Places. Meeting Places allow users to share Web pages and communicate and collaborate using videoconferencing and application sharing tools. CoBrow have developed a prototype service which allows the user to remotely control, in real time, a model railway system and view the results via video. Lancaster University Computing Department is one of the partners in CoBrow.
  4. DESIRE [4] is a large project with over 20 partners across Europe. Some of the UK partners are closely associated with the eLib programme, these include Netskills, ROADS and SOSIG. DESIRE has taken as its brief the problems which researchers encounter when using the Internet. Partners are working in areas which include indexing and cataloguing, security, caching, home study, information tools and training. The aim is to develop an integrated multimedia information service by using existing tools, and adding to these where necessary. DESIRE was featured in an article by Klaas Wierenga in Issue 5 of Ariadne.
  5. EuroDemo [5], as the name suggests, provides high quality facilities which allow for the demonstration of the deliverables for the Telematics Application Programme projects. Technical reviews and dissemination of project results are also supported by EuroDemo.
  6. ICE-TEL [6] aims to address the problems of security on the Internet. It will develop and deploy security toolkits and infrastructure, and support users on a variety of platforms (UNIX, PC, Macintosh). The toolkits and infrastructure will allow security to be built into many new services and will be based upon public key certification. Partners include; University College, London and the University of Salford
  7. JAMES (Joint ATM Experiment on European Services) [7] brings together 18 European network operators to work together on providing an infrastructure to provide a high speed ATM pilot network. BT are the UK partners in JAMES.
  8. MANICORAL [8] is a CSCW (Computer Supported Collaborative Work) project which aims to make research more effective by enhancing access to scientific methods, results and raw data. To demonstrate this work MANICORAL uses radar altimetry data for climate related studies and detection of submarine earth resources. Partners include the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
  9. The MERCI [9] project is working in the area of multimedia collaboration and is building upon the early EU-funded project, MICE. It aims to provide integrated, high quality videoconferencing facilities which will be easy to use without special training. These facilities provide cross-platform support for UNIX workstations, PCs and MACs. Partners include the Department of Computer Science at University College, London
  10. REMOT [10] aims to develop techniques to allow researchers to access and control remote scientific experiments and facilities. This is demonstrated by allowing astronomers to perform observations by remotely controlling and monitoring a telescope and associated instrumentation in real time.
  11. SCIMITAR [11] provides support for the projects in the Telematics for Research area by, for example, providing an information point for dissemination of all results arising from the projects. SCIMITAR maintains a number of Web pages giving descriptions and regular updates on the progress of the various projects. SCIMITAR is based at TERENA - the Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association.
  12. TEN-34 [12] is a consortium of 16 national research networks which aims to connect the research networks in Europe at 34 Mbps using ATM and the Internet Protocol (IP). This will greatly improve network speeds between European countries, many of which already provide similar network speed nationally. UKERNA, the provider of JANET, is part of this consortium.
  13. Web4Groups [13] aims to establish a multimedia group communication service. This will include the use of multimedia email and the WWW to link discussion groups. It provides support for multilingual discussions, inquiry tools, intelligent filters and security features.

All of the projects mentioned have mailing lists associated with them [14]. While each project was proposed on a “stand alone” basis, they have been drawn together in a general overview [15] http://www.scimitar.terena.nl/projects/overview.html (If anyone can understand this diagram, I’d be pleased to have it explained to me :-) ) Many of the projects are planning to give papers and demonstrations at this year’s Joint European Network Conference (JENC) in Edinburgh (12-15 May) [16].


  1. ADVISER Web Site,
  2. The ATM and Telecollaboration for Research and Education project,
  3. CoBrow Web Site,
  4. DESIRE Web Site,
  5. EuroDemo Web Site,
  6. ICE-TEL Web Site,
  7. JAMES (Join ATM Experiment on European Services) Web Site,
  8. MANICORAL Web Site,
  9. MERCI project Web Site,
  10. REMOT Web Site,
  11. SCIMITAR Web Site,
  12. TEN-34 Web Site,
  13. Web4Groups Web Site,
  14. Details of mailing lists associated with projects,
  15. Overview of how the projects integrate,
  16. Details of Joint European Network Conference (JENC),

Author Details

Dave Hartland
Netskills Training Manager,
Email: D.W.Hartland@ncl.ac.uk
Netskills Web Site: http://www.netskills.ac.uk/
Tel: 0191 222 8087
Address: Netskills, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU