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Conference Report


D-Lib Magazine
November/December 2008

Volume 14 Number 11/12

ISSN 1082-9873

ECDL 2008 Conference Report


José H. Canós
Technical University of Valencia (Spain)

Pablo de la Fuente
University of Valladolid (Spain)

Red Line

spacer The 12th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries (ECDL 2008) was held in Århus, Denmark, from September 14 to 19, 2008. The conference was jointly organized by the State and University Library (SUL) and Århus University (ÅU). The organizing team was composed of Birte Christensen-Dalsgaard (SUL, General Chair), Jette G. Junge (SUL, Conference Coordinator), Bolette A. Jurik (SUL) and Kaj Grønbæk (ÅU, Organization Chair), along with around 15 volunteer SUL staff members and students.
The conference took place in the SUL and ÅU facilities, among which we'd like to mention the grandiose Aula (see picture). As Jette G. Junge explained, "The architect of the Aula and the University is C. F. Moeller. He was actually working in the cellar below the main building when the Royal Air Force bombed the area on the 31st of October 1944. The German Gestapo had their main quarters in the buildings just next to this one and was the target of this operation. C. F. Moeller survived the attack and rebuilt the site. The Aula was inaugurated 11 September 1946 – they delayed the completion until the end of the war as they were afraid that the Germans would occupy these new and fine buildings!" Photo of the Aula at the State and University Library, Arhus, Denmark

As in previous years, the ECDL 2008 conference attracted a number of satellite events. Before the main conference, two one-day tutorials were offered on Sunday 14th, focusing on two hot topics in the Digital Libraries field: Thesauri and Ontologies in Digital Libraries, and Preservation Planning with Plato. In addition, two half-day tutorials presented the features of the NetarchiveSuite software. Also on Sunday, the Doctoral Consortium attracted 12 Ph.D. students who joined professors and senior researchers to share ideas and get feedback about their research.

After the main conference had concluded, a number of workshops were held from Wednesday afternoon to Friday: Cross language Evaluation Forum (CLEF), International Web Archiving Workshop (IWAW), Foundations on Digital Libraries (DLFoundations 2008), Digital Object Repository Systems in Digital Libraries (DORSDL2), Information Access to Cultural Heritage (IACH 2008), Networked Knowledge Organisation Systems and Services (NKOS), and Very Large Digital Libraries (VLDL 2008). Interested readers can find separate reports about all but one of these events in this issue of D-Lib Magazine.

ECDL 2008 attracted a high number of researchers and practitioners from all around the world. Specifically, 205 people registered for the main conference, whereas a total of 386 registered for the workshops, of which 242 were not registered for the conference. A majority of attendees came from European countries (around 150), followed by North America (24), Asia (17), Australia & New Zealand (6), South America (4) and South Africa (1).

Conference program

The technical program received a total of 98 submitted papers and 27 poster/demo proposals. The Program Committee, composed of 69 members coordinated by the program co-chairs Donatella Castelli, Bolette Ammitzbøll and Joan Lippincott, made a selection of 28 full and 10 short papers, which represents an acceptance rate of 38%. In addition, 28 submissions that were originally poster, demo or paper submissions were accepted for poster and demo presentations. To complete the poster and demo program, the authors of four of the accepted papers followed the invitation from the program chairs to contribute to the demo session with demonstrations of their systems.

The technical program was scheduled from Monday to Wednesday afternoon, and was composed of three keynote talks, one panel, a plenary Best Papers session, 12 sessions that ran in two parallel tracks, and two poster and demo sessions.

The opening keynote was "Towards Universal Access to All Knowledge", by Brewster Kahle, director of the Internet Archive. He described part of his work at the Internet Archive, where a large digitization effort is being performed in different media such as text, audio, moving images, software, television and, of course, the World Wide Web. Mr. Kahle mentioned universal access to knowledge as one of the greatest achievements to pursue. Such access depends on technical, financial, societal and political aspects. It is his opinion that technical and financial issues do not present a significant problem, due to the high amount of storage available at very reasonable prices. With regard to societal and political issues, he advocated for the development of public services to provide access to the vast amount of knowledge as the alternative to proprietary systems. Mr. Kahle outlined a number of research opportunities these initiatives create, related mostly to the high cultural diversity in the world (with more than 1,000 living languages), which may require facilities such as real time speech translators or universal (that is, not only English-oriented) optical character recognition, in order to reach the goal of a truly Open Library in which one Web page for every book can be found.

Tuesday's keynote was given by Carole Goble, from the University of Manchester (United Kingdom). In her talk, entitled "Curating Services and Workflows: the Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly", Prof. Goble emphasized the need for paying more attention to workflows in the Digital Library field. So far, workflows have been considered mere tools to support the curation of digital content. However, increasingly domains, especially related to e-science, are being found where large-scale workflows are built by assembling other workflows and/or services and later (re)used to produce data on demand or just to run the same calculations on different data sets. Thus, having well-curated workflows is becoming a necessity in large e-science environments. Prof. Goble related different experiences of curating workflows and services in the domain of Life Sciences, and she outlined the essential requirements for the curation processes. Particularly interesting was her description of, a portal where one can find, use and share workflow models and/or templates. The portal currently contains over 330 workflows and has registered more than 50,000 workflow downloads.

Daniel Teruggi, from the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (France), was the keynote speaker on Wednesday. His talk was entitled "Users – Usability – User requirements – User friendly... are these concepts the centre of every project?". Dr. Teruggi addressed the need for websites developers to know the type of their users. He defined the different types of users and explained why we need to know what the users want and need in order to achieve good usability of websites. He posed different aspects of usability and spoke about the requirements and actors of web site development. Dr. Teruggi's presentation was complemented with a usability analysis of several interesting example websites. Finally, Dr. Teruggi described the development process of the EDLnet Europeana project, taking into account both its functional requirements and potential users to explain the main design decisions that were made as part of the project. A clear conclusion was that users' collaboration is very valuable for improving usability in websites.

The ECDL technical program included a panel entitled "The Web vs. Digital Libraries". The panel members were coordinated by Dr. Vittore Cassarosa (ISTI-CNR and DELOS Association). In his initial statement, he focused on the DELOS reference model, highlighting the three-entity framework and user-related aspects. Catherine Lupovici (TEL Office and EDL Foundation) explained the possibilities of the Europeana project and several ways of participating in it. Andreas Rauber (T.U. Vienna) addressed the differences between Libraries, Digital Libraries and the Web with regard to their content, use and structured information and metadata. According to Dr. Rauber, the goal and use of a given content determine what the best option is. Birte Christensen-Dalsgaard showed the different viewpoints between European and American communities. In addition, she pointed out the need for more information and better ranking of Digital Libraries. David Harper (Google European Engineering Center, Zurich, Switzerland) promoted the use of Web search technology for both the Web and Digital Libraries. He claimed that Web search is a service that Digital libraries must exploit. In the final colloquium, the panelists answered different questions posed by attendees. Among the questions, a recurrent topic was that of data quality and authenticity of search results.

The Best Papers technical session featured the contributions that received the Best Paper and Best Student Paper awards. The former was "Improving Placeholders in Digital Documents", by George Buchanan and Jennifer Pearson, from Swansea University (United Kingdom), whereas the latter was "Towards Ontology-based Chinese E-Government Digital Archives Knowledge Management", by Ying Jiang and Hui Dong, from Wuhan University (China).

The remaining technical sessions presented a picture of the state of the art of research and development in Digital Libraries. As usual, classical sessions such as Information Retrieval, Collection Building, and Interoperability were present in this year's program. Also, topics like Digital Preservation, User Interfaces and Personalization, User studies and Evaluation consolidated a presence that began in earlier ECDL conferences. Finally, there was room for emerging topics such as Social Tagging and Citation Analysis, which were not present in earlier years of the conference. Other classical topics, such as DL Architectures or DL Applications, were not present in this year's program. This does not mean these topics are not important. Rather, their absence demonstrates that the field of Digital Libraries is still evolving, facing new challenges every year while at the same time other aspects have become mature.

The poster and demo sessions held on Monday and Tuesday afternoons featured work in progress, as well as running prototypes and systems. To promote the participation of the attendees, the conference organization created the Best Poster/Demo award, which, unlike the best paper awards, was not selected by the program committee, but by the direct and secret vote of attendees. The award went to "Summa: This is not a Demo", by the Summa Development Team from the State and University Library of Denmark. Summa is a fast, modular, scalable and open source search system designed to integrate data from various sources and distribute results over a large number of different client systems.

The ECDL social programme included two main events. On Monday evening, a reception was held at the Århus City Hall, an interesting building designed by architects Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller and inaugurated in June 1941. The conference dinner took place on Tuesday evening at the Varna palace. During the dinner, the conference officers presented the Best Paper, Best Student Paper and Best Poster/Demos awards.

At the closing session of the conference, it was announced that the ECDL 2009 conference will be held in Corfu (Greece) from September 27 to October 2, 2009. You may find more information about next year's conference at <>.

Copyright © 2008 José H. Canós and Pablo de la Fuente

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