The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) is an organization to advance the transformative promise of networked information technology for the advancement of scholarly communication and the enrichment of intellectual productivity.
Background and History
The Coalition was founded in 1990 by the Association for Research Libraries (ARL), CAUSE and Educom. ARL represents the research libraries of North America. CAUSE and Educom are organizations concerned with the use of information technology in higher education, and have broad membership from the higher education community and its technology partners.
In establishing CNI, these sponsor organizations recognized the need to move the community’s thinking beyond issues of network connectivity and bandwidth to focus on networked information content and applications. Reaping the benefits of the Internet for scholarship, research, and education demands new partnerships, new institutional roles, and new technologies and infrastructure. The Coalition seeks to further these collaborations, to explore these new roles, and to catalyze the development and deployment of the necessary technology base.
The Coalition is supported by a Task Force of about 200 member institutions representing higher education, publishing, network and telecommunications, information technology, and libraries and library organizations. Membership in the Coalition’s Task Force is open to all organizations — both for-profit and not-for-profit — that share CNI’s commitment to furthering the development of networked information.
The Task Force will meet twice in 1997-1998:
- Minneapolis, in conjunction with the Educom Meeting on October 26-27, 1997
- Washington DC, in conjunction with Net ’98 on April 14-15, 1998
The Coalition’s program is guided by a nine member steering committee chaired by Richard West of the California State University system. The members of the steering committee are appointed by CAUSE, Educom, and ARL.
Paul Evan Peters was the founding Executive Director of the Coalition, and served until his untimely death in 1996. Joan Lippincott, now CNI’s Associate Director, served as Interim Executive Director until the appointment of Clifford Lynch as the new Executive Director in July, 1997.
The work of the Coalition is structured around three central themes which we believe are the essential foundations of the vision of advancing scholarship and intellectual productivity:
Developing Networked Information Content
A network which will play an integral role in scholarly discourse and productivity must be rich with content and information resources. The Coalition seeks to mobilize and bring together the many diverse communities that create and manage content. It works with these communities to develop methods of creating, organizing, evaluating, managing and preserving networked information resources. The Coalition also furthers the development of economic, policy and legal frameworks that sustain the creation and management of networked information and facilitate its access.
Transforming Organizations, Professions and Individuals
The use of networked information will transform institutions, professions, and the practices of learning and scholarship. Success in the new environment will require an unprecedented degree of collaboration among libraries, information technology groups, faculty, instructional technologists, museums and other units. Organizations will need to develop and share new strategies, policies and best practices. Of equal importance is the need to assess and measure the impacts of the new environment on institutions and their activities as the transformation progresses. Professions will need to develop new competencies, and enter into new dialogs which cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Coalition seeks to facilitate these collaborations and dialogs, and to help professions and institutions to work together both in program strategy formulation and impact assessment.
Building Technology, Standards and Infrastructure
The networked information environment relies extensively on the development and deployment of standards and infrastructure components in order to enable the discovery, use, and management of networked information. The ability to use collections of resources in a unified, consistent fashion is essential: this requires a continuing focus on interoperability of services. At the same time, promising new technologies are constantly appearing which need to be explored, assessed and tested, and sometimes adapted to the needs of the CNI community. No one institution acting alone can build the needed infrastructure, or explore the full range of new technologies as they become available. Accomplishing these goals requires a coordinated community-wide effort; CNI seeks to provide leadership in this undertaking, to offer a context for collaborative experiments and testbeds, and to serve as a focal point for sharing knowledge about new technologies.
The specific program initiatives which further these themes change from year to year. The initiatives and strategies planned for 1997-1998 are described below. Many of the initiatives seek to make strategic progress relevant to more than one theme. It is important to recognize that the networked information environment is evolving very rapidly; CNI is continually adapting its activities in response to new developments and opportunities. Indeed, the Coalition believes agility is essential in the current environment and invites a continuous dialog with the members of the Task Force on the need for additional program initiatives.
In addition to initiatives to advance these overarching themes, the Coalition also carries out an ongoing program of education and advocacy for the development of networked information and its role in transforming organizations and scholarly activities. This is accomplished through both print-based and network publications; through participation in various conferences and meetings on an institutional, regional, national and international basis; through contributions to standards efforts; and through participation in organizations like the Internet Society and the Worldwide Web Consortium. The Coalition also contributes to the development of the networked information community by hosting electronic discussion groups and acting as a distribution point for materials.
Finally, the Coalition’s twice-annual Task Force meetings not only allow CNI to highlight activities related to its program themes, but also provide a major opportunity for the membership to showcase and discuss a wide range of emerging issues and developments in networked information. For member organizations, these meetings offer a unique opportunity to remain informed about new developments that may reshape institutional plans, and a forum in which to establish collaborations and dialogs with others sharing common interests.
I. Developing Networked
| OCLC DUBLIN CORE DESCRIPTIVE METADATA PROGRAM
|Metadata to describe networked information resources is now recognized as a key component in organizing content to facilitate its discovery and use. CNI has been a partner in the OCLC Dublin Core Descriptive Metadata program on a continuing basis and is a sponsor of the 5th Dublin Core Meeting scheduled for October 1997. The Coalition also expects to release its White Paper on Networked Information Discovery and Retrieval (NIDR) in the 1997-1998 program year.Preservation of digital information is a difficult and important problem. The 1995 report of the Task Force on Digital Preservation established by the Commission on Preservation and Access and the Research Libraries Group was a major advance in community thinking about the preservation of networked information. CNI is working with Peter Graham of Rutgers University, the Association of Research Libraries and the Commission on Library and Information Resources to chart the next phase of the digital preservation agenda, which will focus on identifying high-priority targets for preservation and developing strategies to address their needs.|
|SCHOLARLY COMMUNICATION AND THE DIGITAL AGENDA||CNI continues to be a vital part of the dialogs surrounding the changing economics of scholarly publishing, intellectual property in the networked environment, and other parts of the emerging digital agenda. The Coalition is participating in meetings such as the Scholarly Monographs conference sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Association of American University Presses; National Research Council workshops on scientific publishing and digital libraries; and the Pew Roundtable on Managing Intellectual Property.
II. Transforming Organizations,
|WORKING TOGETHER/ NEW LEARNING COMMUNITIES||A fundamental goal of CNI is to foster dialog and collaboration among information professionals from all disciplinary backgrounds. In 1997-1998 the Coalition will continue to offer its Working Together program, which provides a structured workshop experience to help groups of professionals improve their ability to collaborate and build partnerships with colleagues, particularly on projects related to networked information resources and services. These workshops can be offered as preconference programs, or specialized for on-campus retreats or consortium programs. During 1996 and 1997 CNI expanded this theme through its New Learning Communities conferences, which brought together teams of faculty, librarians, information technologists, and instructional technology specialists; in 1997-1998 we will complete the web site of exemplary case studies and best practices emerging from this program.|
|ASSESSMENT||Measuring the impacts and value of networking and networked information has emerged as a major issue. In 1997-1998 the Coalition will continue the coordinated field test of the assessment measures outlined in McClure and Lopata’s Assessing the Academic Networked Environment: Strategies and Options, working with a group of nine Task Force institutions. The field test is intended to facilitate institutional collaboration on assessment issues, to develop a compendium of assessment measures, and to widely inform the community on approaches and best practices in assessing networked resources and services.|
|IWIS||CNI is working with a number of member organizations to advance and document best strategies and practices in the use and management of information on an institution-wide basis under the Institution-Wide Information Strategies (IWIS) project. IWIS is intended to provide an opportunity for the participant institutions to strengthen and advance their individual work through interactions with colleagues from other leading institutions, and ultimately, by documenting and communicating these practices, to benefit the broader community in improving the effective use of networked information.|
|LIBRARIES AND THE NLII||Distance education and instructional technologies are emerging as important new programs for many institutions of higher education; they are a central part of the Internet2 initiative, which should enable greatly accelerated progress. New institutional strategies, new collaborations, and new kinds of networked information resources and services will be needed if libraries are to be effective partners with faculty and instructional technologists in the implementation of these programs. In 1997-1998, CNI will open a dialog with the Educom National Learning Infrastructure Initiative to begin to explore these issues.
III. Building Technology, Standards
|AUTHENTICATION AND AUTHORIZATION||Authentication and authorization have emerged as essential infrastructure requirements for network-based access to information, and have become a particularly critical need as institutions enter into site-license arrangements with publishers and other information providers or form consortia for resource sharing. The Coalition is pursuing a program to define technology approaches, standards, best practices, and policy and business issues for such an inter-organizational authentication and authorization infrastructure, and to help early adopter Task Force member organizations share implementation experiences and explore interoperability issues.|
|IDENTIFIERS FOR DIGITAL INFORMATION||Identifiers for digital information — such as the Internet Engineering Task Force’s Uniform Resource Names, the publishing community’s proposed Digital Object Identifier, and various bibliographic identifier standards — are an essential part of the infrastructure that will allow access, linkage and reference in the networked information environment. CNI is actively engaged in both standards work and inter-community dialog to help further the development and deployment of such identifiers and to inform the community about the capabilities and appropriate uses of the various identifier systems.|
| INTERNET 2 APPLICATIONS
|Internet2 is emerging as a testbed for the many of the next-generation networked information applications; it will offer not only much higher bandwidth between Internet2-connected sites than can be reliably obtained through today’s Internet, but several fundamentally new network services. Quality of service management allows users to obtain guaranteed bandwidth and delivery and is particularly important in the support of multimedia applications. Multicasting, an efficient way of supporting multi-point distribution and interchange of network traffic, offers new ways to think about information distribution. CNI is has been part of the Applications working group for Internet2, and will seek both to ensure that applications needs in support of networked information are represented in Internet2 and to highlight novel applications to the Task Force membership.|