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 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.
|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 Executive Director in July 1997.|
The Coalition is supported by a task force of about 200 dues-paying member institutions representing higher education, publishing, networking 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 2001-2002: once in San Antonio, Texas, on November 29-30, 2001, and again in Washington, DC, on April 15-16, 2002 in conjunction with the EDUCAUSE Net 2002 meeting.
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.
The work of the Coalition is structured around three central themes that we believe are the essential foundations of the vision of advancing scholarship and intellectual productivity:
- Developing and Managing Networked Information Content. A network that 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, social, 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. For academic institutions, success in the new environment will require an unprecedented degree of collaboration among libraries, information technology groups, faculty, instructional technologists, museums, university presses, and other units; it will call for new alliances and partnerships with publishers, information technology and network service providers, scholarly societies, government, and other sectors. 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 that 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 that 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 that further these themes evolve from year to year. The initiatives and strategies planned for 2001-2002 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 changing 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. Because of this, the 2001-2002 program plan should be viewed as a snapshot of our thinking about priorities and opportunities as of November 2001 that will inevitably develop further during the coming year.
Advocacy and Consultative Activities
In addition to specific initiatives to address these overarching themes, the Coalition actively conducts an ongoing program of collaboration and advocacy to advance the development of networked information and its role in transforming organizations and scholarly activities. This is accomplished through:
- Facilitation of print-based and network publications.
- Participation in various conferences, meetings, workshops and committees on an institutional, regional, national and international basis.
- Contributions to standards efforts; through collaboration with key funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Education, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- Participation in organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium and the Internet Society.
Of particular note in this area are our contributions to the Library of Congress‘s efforts to map out a National Digital Preservation Program, and to various studies and programs conducted by the US National Research Council. On an international level, we collaborate with other national organizations concerned with networked information, such as the UK Office of Library Networking (UKOLN) and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK, DINI in Germany, and the newly formed Swedish Networked Information Association.
As well as contributing to the programs of our sponsor organizations, the Association of Research Libraries and EDUCAUSE, we also support, contribute to, and collaborate closely with other organizations that share in specific aspects of our programmatic interests and priorities as a strategic part of our own program work. These include:
- The National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH). This broad coalition of arts, humanities and social science groups was founded by CNI, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Getty Information Institute in 1996. CNI is represented on its Board. NINCH initiatives of particular relevance include its Building Blocks conference program and the development of its guide to good practice for digitization of cultural heritage materials.
- The University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID). This organization manages the Internet2 initiative to promote advanced networking and applications within the higher education community. CNI is represented on the Internet2 Applications Strategy Council and works with UCAID on numerous interests, including video and multimedia applications and standards, and high-bandwidth content-intensive applications.
- The Computer Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI).This project is focused on standards, pilot projects, and research to support network-based access and exchange of museum and cultural heritage information. CNI is a CIMI member and is represented on CIMI’s executive committee.
- The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). CLIR addresses a broad range of issues involving the scholarly communication system, higher education and libraries. The Digital Library Federation (DLF) is a CLIR program focused on the use of digital library technologies within research libraries. CNI collaborates extensively with CLIR and DLF on issues ranging from digital preservation to metadata.
The Coalition also contributes to the development of the networked information community by hosting electronic discussion groups, such as the CNI-COPYRIGHT forum, and acting as a distribution point for materials via its website and the CNI-ANNOUNCE e-mail list.
The Coalition’s twice-annual Task Force meetings–scheduled for November 29-30, 2001, in San Antonio and April 15-16, 2002, in Washington, DC–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.
On June 26-27, 2002, CNI will co-sponsor a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, in partnership with the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the UK Office of Library Networking (UKOLN) as part of our ongoing collaboration with these programs.
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, such as the EDUCAUSE Net 2002 meeting, to be held in Washington DC on April 17-18, 2002, immediately following the spring 2002 CNI Task force meeting, or the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries scheduled for June 14-18, 2002, in Portland Oregon.
Networked Information Content
Preservation and long-term management of digital information has emerged as a central issue in the shift to network-based scholarly publishing, and more recently as a broad and fundamental social and public policy question for our society. CNI continues to work with ARL and other partner organizations such as the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Digital Library Federation (DLF) 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. We are also collaborating with the Library of Congress in their efforts to develop a national digital preservation strategy. During 1999-2000 most of our work focused on strategies for preserving scholarly journals in digital form; this led to a number of pilot projects involving CNI member institutions (many funded through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation); in the 2001-2002 program year the results of these projects will be available, and we will offer reports in both the Fall and Spring Task Force meetings, as well as help the community to consider how to proceed based on these results. We will also focus strongly on economic and legal issues involved in digital archiving during the coming year.
A second group of activities address the management of intellectual and institutional assets within higher education in the digital environment.
Management of Media Assets
In 2000, CNI 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. In August, 2001 we sponsored a workshop on the management of video materials jointly with Internet2, the ViDe project, and SURA, and are currently planning follow-on activities. We will be planning follow-on workshops, scheduling sessions at our upcoming Task Force meetings reporting on and exploring these developments, and are also preparing a paper on institutional issues and strategies in this area.
Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Theses and dissertations are another 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. NTLTD is now maturing as an initiative, and is in the process of mapping its future, which is expected to include several areas of collaboration with CNI, such as a stronger emphasis on standards-related activities.
Learning Support and Management Systems
CNI will prepare a paper on learning support and management systems as information resources that will outline and frame policy issues raised by the large scale deployment of these systems in higher education institutions, with particular focus on records management, intellectual property and scholarly publishing issues. CNI believes that it is important to begin to view the content in these learning management systems as institutional scholarly assets.
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. CNI has had a long-standing commitment to the development of such resources. While our program in this area relies heavily on collaborations and partnerships as described earlier, two particular program initiatives are highlighted here.
Computing and Humanities
CNI is participating with NINCH, the US National Research Council, and ACLS in a Steering Committee for Computer Science and the Humanities that 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 2002.
Strategies for Creating Large Scale Digital Content Resources
Several nations are investing heavily in the creation of digital content in the public interest; of particular note are programs in the United Kingdom and Canada, as well as initiatives taking place within the European Union framework. To date, similar investments in the United States have been extremely modest by comparison. However, proposals such as the “Digital Gift to the Nation” (discussed at the Spring 2001 Task Force meeting) have begun to raise the question of what the priorities for such investment might be in the United States – for example, how to balance the creation of new digital content against the retrospective digitization of existing materials. There is also a great deal to be learned from the experience of other nations in areas ranging from economic models and sustainability to best practices and technical standards. CNI will work with organizations such as the Institute for Museum and Library Services and with our international colleagues to pursue an exploration of these issues.
Metadata to describe networked information resources is now recognized as a key component in organizing content to facilitate its discovery and use; it is an essential component in a wide range of other programmatic activities. CNI has been a partner in the OCLC Dublin Core Descriptive Metadata program on a continuing basis and recently helped to sponsor the 9th International Dublin Core Meeting in 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 support rights management, and to document the digitization or capture processes for electronic information.
Professions, and Individuals
In partnership with Dartmouth College, CNI has developed a website featuring plans and related materials for collaborative facilities. A number of institutions are beginning to offer public service points or facilities 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. 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 the website hosted at Dartmouth includes planning documents, layouts, programmatic descriptions, and equipment information contributed by higher education institutions. In addition, project briefings at the Fall and Spring Task Force meetings and at the EDUCAUSE annual conference will highlight particular campus facilities and the experiences being gained through their operation.
A fundamental goal of CNI is to foster dialog and collaboration among information professionals from all disciplinary backgrounds. The Coalition has offered 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. Over the years, these workshops have been repeatedly redesigned to focus on different types of inter-disciplinary collaborations.
Supporting the new initiative on collaborations for joint service points and teaching and learning centers, CNI will explore a new focus for Working Together workshops, one that will engage institutional teams involved in developing and delivering online instructional materials in higher education institutions. Such collaborations often involve faculty, students, instructional designers, information technologists, and librarians. CNI worked with instructional teams in its pioneering New Learning Communities program, and we believe that this will provide a valuable base for the development of a new Working Together program.
Transformative Assessment Project
Measuring the impacts and value of networking and networked information has been an important theme for CNI. In 2001-2002 we will also focus this work around joint service points and online teaching and learning. We are offering a Transformative Assessment Program, developed jointly with the EDUCAUSE National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII) and the TLT Group. The program focuses on using assessment to assist in transforming teaching and learning using technology, and it consists of an in-person, team-oriented workshop (scheduled for early 2002), an online learning experience, and an online community of practice. Institutional teams will develop and implement assessment plans for their home institutions.
Electronic Records Management
In 2000-2001, CNI completed a Working Together workshop series, designed to address electronic records management issues by promoting institutional projects undertaken by teams of information technologists, records managers, and archivists. As a conclusion to this workshop series, CNI will develop a paper summarizing lessons learned by workshop participants, and highlighting some of the subsequent implementation experiences of the attendee teams. We continue to be concerned with electronic records management issues, and to work with the Arizona State University on its Electronic College and University Records (ECURE) program and conference series.
Architectural Contexts for New Academic Platforms
During the past year, the Association of Research Libraries has provided a focus for renewed interest from the library community in a cluster of ideas variously called “scholar’s portals,” “academic platforms,” or “scholar’s toolkits” to assist information seekers in locating, using, and contributing to the ever-growing diversity of academic and scholarly information resources. As these ideas have been refined, they are recognizing the limitations of services such as commercial web search engines, traditional library automation tools like online catalogs and stand-alone abstracting and indexing databases, and also the need to integrate with the emerging technologies of learning management systems.
The Coalition believes that it is now time to consider architectural and standards frameworks that can facilitate the development of interoperable and complementary prototype systems in this area, and contribute to the development of a vibrant marketplace in such systems as they are created by the private sector, by university-industry collaborations, or by university-based projects. We will sponsor a workshop in collaboration with ARL and other partner organizations to bring together not-for-profit organizations, including groups working on learning management system architectures like the Open Knowledge Initiative and the Instructional Management System effort. An important input to this work will be the excellent architectural and service modeling developed by groups such as JISC and UKOLN in the United Kingdom.
Open Archives Metadata Harvesting 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 was established at Cornell University under the management of Carl Lagoze, and a steering committee and technical committee have been set up to guide the work. The first release of the revised OAI technical specifications took place in December 2000, with meetings in the US and Europe in early 2001 to review this work. There are now a large number of implementation projects underway, including a group sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation in the United States and several European projects. The plan for the remainder of this initiative, which will conclude in late 2002, involves a review and updating of the technical specifications based on the implementation experience gained in 2001, and the distribution of these revised technical specifications.
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.
Authentication, Authorization and Access Management
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, implement online and distance education initiatives, or form consortia for resource sharing. The Coalition has been 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 continue to seek to illuminate many of the planning, operational and budgetary issues involved in implementing public key infrastructure (PKI). The year 2002 may be a watershed for efforts in authentication and access management; one of the key findings of our early work, which was motivated by the need to better manage access to information resources, emphasized that PKI systems within higher education needed to be considered as institutional, rather than library infrastructure and thus would represent complex, long-term organization-wide initiatives. Over the past few years considerable progress has been made in this area, and several of the projects are maturing to the point where it should be possible to launch access management pilots within the coming year. We will be participating in an invitational CREN and Mellon Foundation sponsored workshop to explore readiness for such projects immediately following the Fall Task Force meeting, and also working closely with the Internet2 middleware efforts. Another high priority for CNI in this area is to update our paper on authentication and access management to reflect current developments and provide our community with an accessible summary of the state of the art.
The Future of Search Standards and Architectures
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. Recently, we have seen a number of new initiatives related to search standards, including the World Wide Web Consortium XML query language work, “next-generation” Z39.50 experiments, and the Open Archives metadata harvesting initiative. 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.
Image Retrieval Benchmark Database
Another infrastructure 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 chairs 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.
During 2000-2001 we convened a workshop to explore design alternatives; we expect that this project will conclude in the spring of 2002 with presentation and discussion of a draft report at the Spring Task Force meeting, and the subsequent distribution of a final report.