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 of Research Libraries (ARL), CAUSE and Educom. ARL represents the research libraries of North America. CAUSE and Educom were organizations concerned with the use of information technology in higher education. In 1998, CAUSE and Educom merged to create the new EDUCAUSE organization, which has broad membership from the higher education community and their technology partners.
In establishing CNI, these sponsor organizations recognized the need to broaden the community’s thinking beyond issues of network connectivity and bandwidth to encompass 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 dues-paying 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 2000-2001:
The Coalition’s program is guided by a steering committee chaired by Richard West of the California State University system. As sponsor organizations, ARL and EDUCAUSE each appoint three representatives to the steering committee drawn from their member leadership; the steering committee is supplemented by “at-large” representatives providing additional perspectives.
| 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. |
| Program Themes|
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 and Managing Networked Information Content
Transforming Organizations, Professions and Individuals
Building Technology, Standards and Infrastructure
The specific program initiatives which further these themes evolve from year to year. The initiatives and strategies planned for 2000-2001 are described below; most build upon and continue earlier efforts already underway. 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.
Advocacy and Consultative Activities
In addition to initiatives to advance these overarching themes, the Coalition actively conducts 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, meetings, workshops and committees on an institutional, regional, national and international basis; through contributions to standards efforts; and through participation in organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium and the Internet Society. 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 via its web site.
The Coalition’s twice-annual Task Force meetings not only allow CNI to highlight activities related to its program themes and to focus attention on significant new thinking and technology developments, 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, who are invited to send two delegates – typically a senior information technologist and librarian — 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.
In addition, CNI occasionally convenes invitational or public workshops to advance specific elements of its program plan, and acts as a sponsor or co-sponsor for other meetings relevant to the CNI agenda.
Developing and Managing Networked Information Content
Content from the arts, the humanities, and the cultural heritage community represents an important scholarly resource for the networked environment; indeed, making much of this information available in digital form should greatly increase its accessibility and usefulness. Our program in this area relies heavily on collaborations and partnerships.
|In 2000-2001 CNI will continue its ongoing support of the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH), a broad coalition of arts, humanities and social science groups. CNI, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Getty Information Institute founded NINCH in 1996, and CNI is represented on its Board. 2000 was a year of major changes and accomplishments for NINCH, which has now established itself as an independent not for profit organization and has launched initiatives such as its Building Blocks conference.|
NATIONAL HUMANITIES ALLIANCE
|CNI also supports the National Humanities Alliance, which was created in 1981 to advance the cause of the humanities in national programs, policies and legislation. The Alliance brings together scholarly and professional associations, museums, libraries, historical societies, state humanities councils and universities and independent centers for scholarship.|
STEERING COMMITTEE FOR COMPUTER SCIENCE AND THE HUMANITIES
|CNI is participating with NINCH, the National Research Council, and ACLS in a Steering Committee for Computer Science and the Humanities which seeks to promote the application of the information sciences to the understanding of the human record; currently, the work of this committee is focusing on knowledge representation and humanities informatics. The Steering Committee has obtained funding from the Carnegie Corporation for the first in a series of major conferences bringing together computer scientists and humanists to advance the use of information technologies in humanities research through collaborations between these disciplines, which will take place in 2001.|
NETWORKED DIGITAL LIBRARY OF THESES AND DISSERTATIONS (NDLTD)
|Theses and dissertations are a key part of the content created by the higher education community; also, because the process of their creation is so integral to the process of higher education, they offer a unique opportunity to train new scholars in the creation of digital documents, and for institutions to formalize their management. Further, these materials represent a significant body of important information that has not historically been readily accessible. CNI is a member of the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD) program, and serves on the steering committee of this enterprise. The initiative, which is now finding broad international acceptance, seeks to improve graduate education by allowing students to produce electronic theses and dissertations, and to understand issues in publishing while increasing the availability of student research for scholars, and preserving these electronic materials.|
DUBLIN CORE DESCRIPTIVE METADATA INITIATIVE
|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 recently helped to sponsor the 8th Dublin Core meeting in Ottawa, Canada in November 2000; we will also be a sponsor of the next meeting, set for Tokyo, Japan in late 2001. Working with partners such as the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) and the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) we will also continue our efforts to move work on metadata beyond descriptive information to support resource discovery; this includes work in metadata and supporting infrastructure to address the authenticity, provenance and integrity of digital information, and to document the digitization or capture processes for electronic information.|
ACCESS TO MULTIMEDIA
|Internet2 and other advanced networking applications are enabling a new range of multimedia applications, including large collections of digital video material. CNI is seeking to promote a greater understanding of the issues involved in managing and providing access to such materials, and is working with ARL to identify library collections that may help to develop experience and insights in this area. In 2000-2001, CNI has also launched an initiative exploring organizational issues involving the management of multimedia content that is described more fully in the next section of the program plan.|
|Preservation and long-term management of digital information has emerged as a central issue in the shift to network-based scholarly publishing. CNI is working with ARL and other partner organizations such as the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Digital Library Federation in developing economic, business and organizational models for preservation; in exploring technologies to manage the archiving of digital content, and in identifying priorities for preservation action. During 1999-2000 most of our work focused on strategies for preserving scholarly journals in digital form; this has led to a number of pilot projects involving CNI member institutions; we will document the state of this work in a white paper and the CNI Task Force meetings will be an important venue for reporting on the pilot projects. While this work is ongoing, our focus for 2000-2001 will shift to explore issues involving materials other than journals: digital books, consumer market oriented content, and web-based materials. We will be partners with the Internet Archive, the Association of Research Libraries and other groups in a spring 2001 Workshop exploring scholarly needs and uses for web archives. We will also continue to examine legal barriers to the development of digital archiving strategies.|
|CNI will continue to explore resource discovery strategies through exploration of portal and gateway approaches in partnership with ARL and the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), and with Project ISAAC. The work of the Open Archives Initiative, more fully described under the Infrastructure Section of the Program Plan, is also an important enabler for progress in the development of e-print and pre-print archives, and we will continue to work with these communities.|
WORKING TOGETHER: ELECTRONIC RECORDS & ARCHIVES
| Transforming Organizations, Professions and Individuals|
A fundamental goal of CNI is to foster dialog and collaboration among information professionals from all disciplinary backgrounds. The Coalition offers Working Together, 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. In the spring of 2001, CNI will offer its fourth specialized Working Together workshop, developed under a grant from the National Historical Preservation and Records Commission (NHPRC), designed to address electronic records management issues by promoting institutional projects undertaken by teams of information technologists, records managers, and archivists.
Building on the workshop series, CNI will convene an invitational workshop to develop a white paper based on lessons learned by participants in earlier workshops as they have implemented their projects; this will try to highlight emerging best practices in the field.
LIBRARY/IT COLLABORATIVE SERVICE POINTS
|Some institutions are beginning to offer public service points where library and information technology staff share responsibilities to serve users; other institutions are establishing teaching and learning support centers that bring together instructional technologists, faculty, information technologists, and librarians in various combinations. Typically, these service points and centers are developed in conjunction with building renovation, expansion, or new building projects. There is great interest in sharing experiences and plans in this area, and CNI will offer project briefings at the Fall and Spring Task force meetings highlighting these efforts. We will also develop information on our website offering links to such projects and will invite contributions of materials ranging from mission statements to facility design plans.|
WORKSHOP ON ASSESSMENT
|Measuring the impacts and value of networking and networked information has emerged as a major issue. Building on the work of Professor Charles McClure and the University of Washington, CNI developed a workshop to teach information professionals about approaches and best practices in assessing networking and networked information resources and services. In 2000-2001, CNI is working with partners to offer the workshop content in a combined distance education and in-person team workshop format, focusing on the assessment of the impact of networking on teaching and learning.|
ASSESSING NETWORKS FOR RESEARCH
|Increasingly, administrators, state governments, and funders are asking what benefits the growing investments in institutional networked infrastructure and a wide range of digital information products are producing. To date, more attention has been focused on measurement of the value of networks and networked information to teaching and learning than on benefits to research. CNI will begin a planning process, engaging researchers, academic administrators, information technologists, librarians, and others to shape a project that will provide methodologies and models for assessing what contributions networks and networked information make to research.|
MANAGEMENT OF MEDIA ASSETS
|CNI has recently started a project to try to understand the emerging practices and organizational issues in the management of non-instructional audio and video assets produced by institutions; this includes content that might be captured as part of special events like performances or symposia, or that might be generated through broadcasting activities that now may be moving to the net. We will be scheduling sessions at our upcoming Task Force meetings exploring these developments, and also prepare a paper on institutional issues and strategies in this area.|
|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. Building on earlier collaborations with the EDUCAUSE National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII), CNI will continue to work through both ARL and EDUCAUSE to explore institutional readiness factors and organizational roles to support distance education and digital instructional media.|
| Building Technology, Standards and Infrastructure|
CNIcontinues to be actively engaged in key areas of standards and infrastructure development. The Coalition is particularly concerned with facilitating the difficult and delicate transition of standards and technologies into operational infrastructure within the CNI community.
OPEN ARCHIVES INITIATIVE
|In 2000 CNI launched a major new initiative in the infrastructure and standards area with its investment (jointly with the Digital Library Federation) in the Open Archives Initiative. The goal of this work, which grew out of a meeting held in Santa Fe in 1999 to federate e-print archives, is to develop the necessary standards and infrastructure to permit repository sites to expose metadata for harvesting and subsequent reuse by upper-layer applications. This can be used to federate e-print archives, publisher web sites, or collections of digital objects created from special collections or museum holdings, for example. A clearinghouse for the project has been established at Cornell University under the management of Herbert van de Sompel and Carl Lagoze, and a steering committee has been set up to guide the work. The first release of the revised OAI technical specifications is set for December 2000, with meetings in the US and Europe in early 2001 to review this work, followed by a year or more of experimental implementation. CNI believes that this effort will yield not only critical infrastructure and standards to support a wide range of networked information applications, but will also stimulate the development of novel applications that build upon the growing body of digital content available to support scholarship.|
IMAGE RETRIEVAL BENCHMARK DATABASE
|Another important initiative, launched in late 2000, addresses current problems involved in image retrieval systems for scholarly content. The Council on Library and Information Resources is underwriting this work, and CNI will chair the planning group. The fundamental problem is that there are a wide range of proposed metadata approaches for image content (many of which are very expensive to use), and many prototype systems for retrieving images based either on metadata or content analysis, or some combination of the two strategies. What seems to be needed is a benchmark database (including metadata) that can allow for system developers to explore both the retrieval effectiveness and cost-performance tradeoffs involved in various metadata approaches and system designs. The goal is to design a benchmark database resource that might serve as infrastructure for the communities that develop image databases and retrieval systems in much the same way as the TREC databases have served the text retrieval community.|
AUTHENTICATION & 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. Working in partnership with Internet2, EDUCAUSE’s Net@EDU, and the Digital Library Federation, we will seek to illuminate many of the planning, operational and budgetary issues involved in implementing public key infrastructure.|
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, various bibliographic identifier standards, and the emerging discussion of “human friendly identifiers” — are an essential part of the infrastructure that will enable applications to allow access, linkage and reference in the networked information environment. CNI will continue to be 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.|
FUTURE SEARCH STANDARDS
|The Z39.50 Information Retrieval standard is currently undergoing its five year reaffirmation review through the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). While Z39.50 has a well-established user community and plays an important role in the networked information infrastructure, many of its fundamental design assumptions are more than a decade old. There have been a number of other efforts related to search standards development during the past few years, though most have not achieved wide adoption. CNI will partner with other interested organizations to host a workshop to look at the longer term, higher level issues involved in search architecture, functional requirements and search standards development as a means of focusing community thinking on key ideas that should guide future standards development.|
|Internet2 is a key testbed for 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. It is vital to gain an understanding of how these new technologies, combined with very high bandwidth, can broaden our thinking about networked information applications. CNI will continue to seek to highlight novel Internet2 applications to the CNI membership, and to promote the development of networked information applications for Internet2 by serving as a bridge between the library and networking communities. CNI will work with ARL to identify library collections and services that are enabled by Internet2. Internet2 has recently made a series of policy changes that open up new possibilities for collaboration with content providers across the advanced networks, and we will help to explore the opportunities that these changes offer.|
|Digital books, in conjunction with new technologies like consumer e-book readers, are raising important standards and infrastructure issues, and CNI is participating in the definition and development of standards initiatives in these areas.|
|As part of its efforts to bring cultural heritage information to the networked environment, CNI is a member of the Consortium for the Computer Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI), which consists of organizations working together to solve standards and interoperability issues related to the electronic interchange of museum information, and serves on the executive committee of that organization. CIMI is playing a key role in developing the technical approaches necessary to interchange and provide access to cultural heritage information.|