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Report on Santa Fe Initiative (Interoperable Eprint Archives)

Those of you working in disciplines where authors may put up their
articles in electronic form on so-called eprint (or preprint) servers will
find the report below to be immediately relevant.  The release describes
the outcome of a meeting held a few days ago in Santa Fe.  Its aim is to
make interoperable the papers deposited in a variety of preprint servers
on a variety of sites, across disciplines.  If such interoperability can
be achieved (and it certainly seems quite feasible), we will see a boom in
the value, let alone accessibility, of articles & papers distributed prior
to (or in lieu of) for formal publication.

Ann Okerson


        First meeting of the Universal Preprint Service Initiative
        UPS Initiative: Paul Ginsparg, Rick Luce, Herbert Van de Sompel


           * Location: Santa Fe, New Mexcio, US, October 21-22
           * Sponsors: Council on Library and Information
             Resources, the Digital Library Federation, the
             Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources
             Coalition, Association of Research Libraries, the
             Research Library of the Los Alamos National
           * Meeting moderators: Clifford Lynch & Don Waters.
           * Represented institutions/organizations: American
             Physical Society, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,
             Association of Research Libraries, California
             Institute of Technology, Coalition for Networked
             Information, Cornell University, Council on
             Library and Information Resources, Digital
             Library Federation, Harvard University, HighWire
             Press, Library of Congress, Los Alamos National
             Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of
             Technology, NASA Langley, Old Dominion
             University, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic
             Resources Coalition, Stanford Linear Accelerator
             Center, University of California, University of
             Ghent, University of Southampton, University of
             Surrey, Vanderbilt University, Virginia Tech and
             Washington University.
           * Represented eprint-initiatives: arXiv.org (=xxx),
             CogPrints, NDLTD, RePEc, EconWPA, NCSTRL, NTRS
           * Participants: see seperate list

Executive Summary

The Universal Preprint Service initiative has been set up to create a
forum to discuss and solve matters of interoperability between author
self-archiving solutions, as a way to promote their global acceptance
(see http://vole.lanl.gov/ups/ups.htm ).

The first, largest and most important such archive is the Los Alamos
National Laboratory (LANL) Physics Archive. Founded by Paul Ginsparg in
1991, LANL now houses over 100,000 papers, mirrored worldwide in 15
countries with over 50,000 users daily and still growing (see
http://arXiv.org/cgi-bin/show_stats ). Other disciplines and
institutions have begun to create public research archives along the
lines of LANL but what is needed are conventions that archives could
adopt to ensure that they work together so that any paper in any of
these archives could be found from anyone's desktop worldwide, as if it
were all in one virtual public library.

The participants in the meeting were digital librarians and computer
scientists specializing in archiving, metadata, and interoperability,
and they included the founders of the principal public research
archives that exist so far. The participants were diverse in their
underlying motivations, but entirely unified in their objective of
paving the way for universal public archiving of the scientific and
scholarly research literature on the Web.

The group agreed on minimal technical requirements for archives. These
will be published seperately as the "Santa Fe Conventions" and, in the
next six months, will be implemented in the existing archives.

Technical Summary

The first meeting concentrated on the creation of cross-archive
end-user services. The aim was to try and identify general
architectural and technical characteristics of archive solutions, that
would facilitate the creation of such services. These characteristics
could then be used as recommendations for existing and upcoming

The meeting started off with a presentation and demonstration by a team
consisting of Herbert Van de Sompel (University of Ghent and Los Alamos
National Laboratory), Michael Nelson (NASA Langley and Old Dominion
University) and Thomas Krichel (University of Surrey and RePEc
initiative). This group had built an experimental end-user service
providing access to data originating from main archive initiatives
(arXiv, RePEc, NCSTRL, NDLTD, NTRS). A variety of technologies were
used in the project, including NCSTRL+ as the digital library service,
intelligent objects called buckets as a means to store the archive
metadata and the SFX linking solution as a means to interlink the
eprint data with the traditional scholarly communication mechanism. The
presentation identified problems that arose during the project, and
discussion of those served to launch the UPS meeting. This presentation
was followed by position papers on interoperability issues presented by
Carl Lagoze (Cornell University), Kurt Maly (Old Dominion University),
Ed Fox (Virginia Tech) and Carolyne Arms (Library of Congress).

Following the initial presentations, there was a panel discussion in
which Paul Ginsparg (Los Alamos National Laboratory), Paul Gherman
(Vanderbilt University), Eric Van de Velde (CalTech) and John Ober
(University of California) expressed their opinion on the possible pros
and cons of institutional versus discipline-oriented archive
initiatives. The UPS group concluded that many different archive
initiatives were likely to emerge, with different conceptual,
organizational and technical foundations. In order for such initiatives
to successfully become part of the scholarly communication system,
interoperability was seen as a crucial factor.

The UPS group agreed that interoperability hinges on a fundamental
distinction between the archive-functions, which include
data-collection and maintenance and end-user functions, like the
cross-system search and linking prototype service described in the
opening session. Although archive initiatives can implement their own
end-user services, it is essential that the archives remain "open" in
order to allow others to equally create such services. This concept was
formalized in the distinction between providers of data (the archive
initiatives) and implementers of data services (the initiatives that
want to create end-user services for archive initiatives).
Stimulated by a presentation by Thomas Krichel, the UPS group agreed that an
essential feature of the Santa Fe Conventions would be that providers of
data use a standard mechanism to state the conditions under which their
datasets can be used by implementers of data services. Similarly, the
implementers of data services could describe the use they make of archive

This organizational argument was followed by a discussion on the
technicalities of creating end-user services for data originating from
different archives. The group recognized that there are basically two
ways to implement these: a distributed searching approach and a
harvesting approach. The former would require archives to implement a
joint distributed search protocol, which is not considered to be a
low-entry requirement. Moreover, the technical experts recognized that
there are important problems of scale when implementing such
distributed search solutions, in light of the possible emergence of
thousands of institutional and/or subject-oriented archives worldwide.
As such, the group decided this was not a realistic approach at this
point in time. Therefore, as in the experimental project presented at
the beginning of the meeting, a harvesting solution was proposed. Such
a harvesting solution would allow trusted parties - the ones that
subscribe to the Santa Fe Conventions - to selectively collect data
from different archives. It was identified that such a technique
requires an understanding regarding:

   * Protocols to selectively harvest data;
   * Criteria that can be used to selectively harvest data;
   * Metadata formats that are used by archive solutions to respond to
     harvesting requests.

It was recognized that providers of data could describe the details of these
interfaces in standard ways thus enabling implementers of data to create
archive-specific harvesters. Still, the UPS group decided to go one step
further and to highly recommend the following:

   * Protocols to selectively harvest data: implementation of part of the
     Dienst protocol in order to achieve a uniform way to poll an archive
     for its logical division(s) (subarchives) and to selectively harvest
     data from these divisions.
   * Criteria that can be used to selectively harvest data: there should at
     least be support for a bulk harvest of all data from an archive, as
     well as a mechanism to harvest based on accession date. Other
     harvesting criteria that were thought to be important included author
     affiliation, subject, publication type.
   * Metadata formats that are used by archive solutions to respond to
     harvesting requests: It is recognized that archives will use (an)
     internal metadata format(s) best suited to deal with the material to be
     described. Still, the UPS group decided to propose a minimal Dublin
     Core compliant metadata set, called the Santa Fe Set, that should be
     made available by all archives. It is desirable that archives are able
     to respond to harvesting requests with data delivered in both the
     internal metadata format as in the Santa Fe Set format.

The representatives of existing archive initiatives at the meeting as
well as those from institutions that are in the process of setting up
archive initiatives agreed to comply to those guidelines. The Dienst
protocol will be enhanced to allow for the functions mentioned above
and a minimal Dienst release facilitating the process of making an
archive compliant to the required aspects of Dienst will be made
available. A transport format for MARC-formatted metadata will be
proposed, as well as an XML DTD for the description of the Santa Fe
Set. The recommendations will be extensively documented on a Web site.
Adoption of the recommendations will be promoted worldwide.

The way forward

   * The minimal Dienst protocol set will be implemented for all archives
     that were represented at the meeting. This will allow for a first round
     of experimentation with the creation of end-user services layered over
     existing archives.
   * The group identified the urgent need to discuss the mechanisms used to
     submit material to archives.
   * Paul Ginsparg suggested that a next meeting should be held in Europe,
     in the first quarter of next year.
   * It was also thought to be important to have a presentation and/or
     workshop on the UPS Initiative at the ACM 2000 Conference on Digital
     Libraries as well as at the European ECDLC.
   * The experimental, non-productional prototype that was presented at the
     meeting will temporarily be available for exploration at the beginning
     of November 1999 at http://ups.cs.odu.edu . The representatives of Old
     Dominion University, the Research Library of the Los Alamos National
     Laboratory and the University of Ghent expressed their interest in
     continuing this prototyping work.
   * The UPS Initiative will soon be given a new name and Web site.

                    October 29th 1999

                    get in touch with the UPS
                    initiative by contacting