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

The Whiteboard Report
August 2001, Issue #9



NEEDS Introduces SMETE.ORG to the Engineering Education Community
August 2001--At the 2001 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition in Albuquerque, NM, NEEDS introduced the engineering education community to SMETE.ORG. Built upon the foundation it developed, NEEDS introduced the new features, services and collections available from the SMETE.ORG National SMETE Digital Library. NEEDS also showcased previous winners of the prestigious Premier Award. SMETE.ORG will function as the premier portal and interface for the NEEDS collection as the National SMETE Digital Library develops further.

Ideas for NSDL From the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit
August 2001--Dean Krafft, Cornell, reports that during Bill Gates' keynote talk at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit in Redmond, WA last month the following question was asked in reference to scholarly publishing, 'Did Microsoft think it was going to go entirely digital, and if so how?' Rick Rashid, Senior VP, Microsoft Research, answered in part by making a plea that scholarly publications represent their internal data and results in a way that could be queried and extracted as data, and not merely as text. Investigating and tracking the use of XML, or other markup for this purpose, and preparing to support such querying and extraction once standards begin to develop will benefit NSDL development.Another major theme at the MSR Faculty Summit was providing programmatic interfaces to web-based information. Jim Gray, Senior Researcher at MSR, demonstrated such an interface for the Terraserver. Based on the SOAP and XML protocols, this interface is now available at Providing such a programmatic interface may be a high priority for the NSDL, if the Library is to create an environment that supports distributed, independently developed services that make use of the NSDL core. Initially the NSDL might provide a programmatic interface to existing metadata records. Over the longer term, it may be possible to provide a programmatic interface to individual items in digital libraries, and to the data resources within them, as available markup permits.

Alsos Version 1.1 Release
August 2001--Frank Settle, Washington and Lee University, announces the release of version 1.1 of the Alsos Digital Library featuring an improved graphical interface that facilitates access to 375 annotated references that have been edited and reviewed by the national advisory board. A possible partnership with the 'Atomic Archives' site is in the planning stages. The 'Atomic Archive site would attract new users, provide specific information in the form of images, documents, and lesson plans while Alsos would provide annotated references and detailed bibliographic information.The Access relational database has been redesigned to accommodate data on a variety of references, videos, CDs, articles, etc. The old database was suited for books only. A system for entering, editing, and tracking references has been added. We encourage you to review version 1.1 at and give us your input through the 'contact us' feature of the site.

American Library Association Urges Support for Dept. of Energy PubSCIENCE
August 2001--In the wake of Congress's proposal to cut funding for PubSCIENCE, the American Library Association has asked library supporters to use their own significant lobbying power to persuade the Senate to fully fund PubSCIENCE. ALA officials call PubSCIENCE 'an extremely important Department of Energy database,' and note that elimination of this service 'denies no-fee public access to an important database for government funded research,' including development reports, citations, and in some cases full-text journal articles. Thirty-five publishers have provided access to over 1200 journals through PubSCIENCE, and ALA officials say the public good is not served in cutting the service.--From Library Journal Academic News Wire, July 10, 2001.

Digital Cautionary Tale: Could Librarians' Help Have Prevented Hopkins Tragedy?
August 2001--Librarians know too well the misperception that everything is available on the Internet--but has that misperception now proved fatal? Perhaps, say medical librarians, after recent reports in the BALTIMORE SUN suggested that a Johns Hopkins medical researcher failed to uncover published research suggesting the potentially lethal side effects associated with inhalation of the drug Hexamethonium. According to the SUN, while investigators found that supervising physician Dr. Alkis Togias made 'a good faith effort' to research the drug's possible adverse effects, his search apparently focused on online resources, including PubMed, which is searchable only back to 1960. Previous articles published in the 1950s, however, with citations in subsequent publications, warned of lung damage associated with Hexamethonium. Dr. Frederick Wolff, a professor emeritus at the George Washington School of Medicine, told reporters Togias was 'foolish' and 'lazy' for not finding the articles. 'Anyone trained in academic medicine knows how to do this research,' Wolff told reporters. 'What happened is not just an indictment of one researcher, but of a system in which people don't bother to research the literature anymore.''These people should have been speaking to a medical librarian,' says Edward Morman, College Librarian and Director, Francis C. Wood Institute for the History of Medicine at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, noting that the tragedy might have been avoided had an information professional been involved. Morman said 'a manual search of pre-1960 medical indexes should have supplemented any database search' on the drug done by physicians. In a case that has garnered worldwide attention, physicians at Johns Hopkins administered hexamethonium to a healthy 24-year-old woman, Ellen Roche, in an attempt to study how the lungs of healthy people protect against asthma attacks. But Roche died weeks later from complications caused by the drug. Medical librarians say the tragedy is a stark reminder that the Internet should not replace either the stacks or the important work of information professionals. In fact, Morman notes, even if the lion's share of medical research does one day make it online, the stacks must be maintained, as reliable search engines and digital preservation remain dicey propositions. 'The point is,' said Morman, referring to the tragedy, 'That older medical research must be maintained.' --From Library Journal Academic News Wire: July 24, 2001.

The Digital Library Federation Encourages Use of Open Archives Initiative
August 2001--The Digital Library Federation is supporting the development of a small number of Internet gateways through which users will access distributed digital library holdings as if they were part of a single uniform collection. The gateways will be built using the OAI Metadata Harvesting Protocol. DLF gateways will contribute to a practical evaluation of the OAI's harvesting technique and its application within libraries to encourage digital collection managers to expose metadata and build services. More information at

DLESE Holds Annual Meeting
August 2001--The Digital Library for Earth System Education's (DLESE) second annual meeting, is being held at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. The meeting is funded by the National Science Foundation, enabling geoscientists, educators, librarians and information technologists representing the diverse interests in Earth system education to meet as a community and to work together to shape DLESE as a resource that serves their needs. The program includes small active sessions that support the development and use of DLESE including: effective use of materials disseminated through DLESE; development of quality learning-resources; new or continuing working group activities; community input for DLESE policies; and community involvement in ongoing, or future projects developing DLESE resources, collections, or services.

Help Plan a Successful NSDL Fall Meeting
August 2001--The NSDL Coordinating Committee is planning activities for the next NSDL PI meeting which will be held September 21-23, 2001 at the NSF Building in Fairfax Virginia outside of Washington D.C. NSDL Program PIs and all attendees are encouraged to take this '15 minute' online survey as an information gathering strategy that will assist the Coordinating Committee in planning a meeting that will meet our needs. Please take a few moments to complete this survey by AUGUST 6, 2001.Responses are collected by MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) and CUDA (Center for Usability in Design and Assessment, a MERLOT partner). Questions about this survey should be directed to

Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) Workshop Focuses on Digital Libraries
August 2001--The role of Digital Libraries in transforming SMET education was the focus of a workshop at the recent NSF funded Project Kaleidoscope Summer Institute in Snowbird, Utah. Undergraduate educators, adminstrators, architects, and technology experts met for three days to discuss the role of technology in undergraduate education. Several presentations by Frank Wattenberg envisioned a future in which discovery, replication and dissemination of resources were trivial, students could be transported easily into virtual environments to facilitate learning, and campus boundaries disolved through communication technology. Participants engaged in the NSDL program and other digital library projects reported on the progress of their projects to date. A set of questions and benchmarks regarding digital libraries in education developed by participants will be incorporated in an upcoming PKAL report.



Transforming the Nature and Reach of Scientific Information
August 2001--'Cornell plans to expand arXiv's reach into other disciplines, including computer science, and to use it as a test bed for research into digital libraries.' --by Declan Butler, Nature, July 5, 2001.

Practical OAI Tutorial
August 2001--Simeon Warner provides a clear look at what OAI is and is not with simple examples of how to use it in the June issue of the High Energy Physics Webzine: 'The most common misconception of OAI, as it currently stands, is that it provides mechanisms to expose and harvest full-content (documents, images, . . .). This is not true, OAI is a protocol for the exchange of metadata only.

August 2001--'We're drawing a line in the sand here,' Michael Eisen, University of California, Berkeley, said in his address to the International Conference on Intelligent Systems in Molecular Biology in Copenhagen last month, 'A huge portion of the scientific community wants this, and the publishers ignore us at their peril.'

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