Research news and notes from the National Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Education
Digital Library (NSDL) Program [Back Issues]

The Whiteboard Report
September 2004, Issue #60



An NSDL System for Managing Rich Content
September 2004 -- Providing users with rich services, beyond searching for and accessing web-based resources currently supported by Dublin Core metadata aggregation, is a top priority as NSDL matures. To accomplish this, NSDL Core Integration (CI) must manage heterogeneous information: metadata in Dublin Core and other formats, content such as the URLs of relevant resources, NSDL-created content such as aggregated learning objects and exhibits, data about educational standards, as well as information about users and organizations. The goal is to provide users with a richer experience more akin to Amazon, where they can participate in the library through resource contribution, annotation, and creation, receive personalized services in return, and get recommendations to other objects "like" the one they have chosen. How is this done?

Enter FEDORA, not the hat, but the Flexible and Extensible Digital Object and Repository Architecture. FEDORA is a general information model and repository architecture for encapsulating and securing multimedia content. In non-technical terms, this is a way to ingest, manage, and provide access to complex and dynamic information. CI is building a new library infrastructure which will be released early in the next calendar year based on FEDORA. This implementation will continue to support current NSDL Metadata Repository functions such as OAI ingest and exposure of Dublin Core metadata while building an infrastructure that extends the types of information that can be managed. FEDORA increases the options available for user services including resource discovery, access, repurposing, and reuse.

FEDORA work began in 1997 as a DARPA and NSF-funded research project at Cornell University. It grew into an open-source project with the University of Virginia, which is funded through the Mellon Foundation, and is focused on creating a production-quality content repository system. The U. of Virginia built the first digital library prototype with FEDORA in 1999. Other digital libraries making use of Fedora include the Northwestern University Library, Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, and their Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) for storing educational content maps, and the National Library of Denmark.

FEDORA supports the creation of complex objects that aggregate heterogeneous types of information and supports their use through "behaviors" (different ways of generating multiple views of the aggregated information and providing access to them). For example, if I store an image in FEDORA, I can associate behaviors for viewing the image as a thumbnail, low-resolution, or high-resolution image, which allows a portal builder to find and access this image in the appropriate resolution. FEDORA is agnostic as to information type and also about where the information is actually stored (locally or externally). It allows association of external rights management schemes with the dissemination of an object's contents. FEDORA makes use of web-based technologies, including XML and Web services. For more information about FEDORA, visit, or read the D-Lib Magazine article summarizing FEDORA at

Further information about NSDL Fedora development will be available in general and concurrent sessions at the NSDL Annual Meeting, November 14-17 in Chicago.
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News from the NSDL Policy Committee
September 2004 -- The NSDL Policy Committee (PC) and Standing Committee Chairs met in Boulder on August 20 and 21. They worked on policies concerning collection development, a new Assembly membership model, allocation of non-NSF NSDL funds, metadata requirements, and guidelines for Committee activities. In addition to several policy changes, a change to the Working Structure has been proposed. Information about these initiatives will be circulated to the Assembly for discussion in October.

Eight original Policy Committee members are finishing three-year terms of service this fall. As described in the Working Structure, the Policy Committee and Standing Committee Chairs have formed a nominating committee to prepare a slate of candidates for Assembly approval. If approved, new members will join five current members to serve on the Policy Committee for three years. The nominating committee will seek nominees both before and during the Annual Meeting November 14-17 in Chicago ( Howard Burrows, PC Chair, at For more information about the Policy Committee visit
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New Math Digital Library
September 2004 -- The Mathematical Sciences Digital Library (MathDL, has a new site, a new look, and a new component. MathDL is now being housed and maintained by the Mathematical Association of America using a new content management system. This gives an entirely new look to the Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications (JOMA) and Digital Classroom Resources (DCR), the online interactive collection of the Library. In addition, MathDL now features Convergence, an online magazine devoted to the use of the history of mathematics in the teaching of mathematics. Convergence features articles, book reviews, Problems From Another Time, and the Quote of the Day.
Related Link: Conducting a User Survey
September 2004 -- (, an education resource of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), is conducting a user survey. The goal of the on-line survey, found at is to learn more about the needs of the users and the way in which the resources are currently being used. Different questions are automatically generated depending upon who the survey respondent is, i.e., student, educator, general public, and there is a separate survey for Spanish users. The survey will run through the end of the year. If you have any questions, please contact Susan Musante, or 202-628-1500 x249.
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MicrobeLibrary Offers Subscriptions
September 2004 -- MicrobeLibrary (ML), an online digital resource library for undergraduate biology and microbiology education, will be available by subscription effective October 1, 2004. Subscriptions permit access to peer-reviewed curriculum resources, annual Microbiology Education Journal, quarterly Focus on Microbiology Education, and reviews of books, multimedia programs and websites. More than 1100 peer-reviewed resources are included in MicrobeLibrary. Annual subscriptions are $50. (Members of the American Society for Microbiology receive a 50% discount.) The ML Visual Resource Collection, which contains images and animations, will continue to be available without a subscription. Subscribe today at
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NSDL Annual Meeting November 14-17, 2004, Chicago, IL
September 2004 -- This dynamic event is traditionally sparked by lively formal and informal exchanges over a three-day period. Details can be found at the NSDL Annual Meeting Web site: Be sure to plan for submitting a poster for the NSDL Annual Meeting by October 22.

There is no fee for the conference, however please complete the registration form available at Also, we request that you help NSDL meet the quota for guest rooms at the conference hotel by staying at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place:
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Upcoming Conference Dates
ACST 2004: The IASTED International Conference on Advances in Computer Science and Technology
November 22-24, 2004

Technology + Leadership + Learning Conference
October 27-29, 2004, Denver, CO

Educause 2004 "The Premiere IT Event in Higher Education"
October 19-22, 2004, Denver, CO
NSF-NSDL National Visiting Committee member Diana G.Oblinger, Vice President of Educause, will address the conference in a talk entitled "Educating the Net Generation."
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A Case for Copyleft
The economics of information goods suggest the need for institutional intervention to address the problem of revenue extraction from investments in those resources characterized by high fixed costs of production and low marginal costs of reproduction and distribution. Solutions to the appropriation issue, such as copyright, are supposed to guarantee an incentive for innovative activities at the price of few vices marring their rationale. In the case of digital information resources, apart from conventional inefficiencies, copyright shows an extra vice since it might be used perversely as a tool to "hijack" and privatiz▀e collectively provided open source and open content knowledge assemblages, even in the case in which the original information was not otherwise copyrightable. Whilst the impact of hijacking on open source software development may be uncertain or uneven, some risks are clear in the case of open content works. The paper presents some evidence of malicious effects of hijacking in the Internet search market by discussing the case of The Open Directory Project. Furthermore, it calls for a wider use of novel institutional remedies such as copyleft and Creative Commons licensing, built upon the paradigm of copyright customization.--by Andrea Ciffolilli, First Monday, Sept. 2004, volume 9, number 9
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What Works, What Matters, What Lasts
Last month NSDL projects presented articles and essays concerning "What works, what matters, what lasts" in the National Science Digital Library on Project Kaleidoscope's web site. Top | Back Issues | EDIT
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An iTunes Model for Education
Matthew Pittinsky, chairman and co-founder of Blackboard Inc., thinks that e-learning should mean much more than just putting courses online. It should mean the creation of a true networked learning environment that allows students, teachers and researchers to access any learning resource anytime, anyplace--whether that resource is a learning object, another educator or student, or a scholarly database or application. Pittinsky says, "Increasingly, providers of commercial digital content fear 'Napsterization'--widespread copying and re-distribution of digital content--and the industry recognizes that publishers need an adequate, affordable digital rights management (DRM) solution to maintain effective business models in the face of disintermediation. However, any kind of DRM solution, particularly as applied to educational content, must also be easy to use for both teachers and students and not create new barriers to incorporating educational content into online teaching and learning. Perhaps what we need is an Apple iTunes for digitized educational content --a consumer-friendly approach that encourages access to a wide range of content for the end user, but, through effective application of DRM, does so in a way that preserves a business model for the commercial content providers."--Syllabus News, Sept. 8, 2004
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The National Science Digital Library is proud to be an Outreach Partner for NetDay Speak Up Day for Students. Mark your calendars now for this 2nd annual online event where students across the country speak out about using technology and the Internet. NetDay, a national non-profit organization, is launching a revised survey this October with an exciting goal to collect input from 500,000 students on the issues that matter to them and to you.

Last year's Speak Up Day survey reached 210,000 K-12 students from 3,000 schools in all 50 states as well as Department of Defense Overseas Schools. It was the largest collection of student ideas on education ever! A national report of the data was shared with local, state, and national decision makers including the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce, and members of Congress. (See the report or look up your school's data online at

The survey will be open for student input from October 11 - 2. Schools may register starting September 23. Visit for more details. If you have any questions about Speak Up Day, please email the NetDay team directly at
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Technonerds go to movies strictly for entertainment, and of course, to dissect, criticize, and argue the merits of every detail after the movie is over. However, when serious scenes totally disregard the laws of physics the motion picture industry provides evidence of its failure to police itself against the evils of bad physics. This page is provided as a public service in hopes of saving young minds and their ability to master vectors.
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Published from 2000 to September 2009, NSDL Whiteboard Report Archives provide access to prior issues of the bi-weekly newsletter published by NSDL. To subscribe to current news and information about NSDL, go to the NSDL Community Network site, register as a user, subscribe to and participate in selected features found there. For more information contact Eileen McIlvain