Clips & Pointers


D-Lib Magazine
March 2006

Volume 12 Number 3

ISSN 1082-9873

In Brief


The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program

Contributed by:
Lee L. Zia 1
Division of Undergraduate Education
National Science Foundation
Arlington, Virginia, USA

In Fall 2005, the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) program2 made new grants in three tracks: Pathways, Services, and Targeted Research. These new grants continue the development of a national digital library of high quality educational resources that support learning at all levels in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Through broad access to authoritative learning and teaching materials and associated services, the National Science Digital Library expects to promote continual improvements in the quality of formal STEM education, and also to serve as a resource for informal and lifelong learning.

In FY2005 the NSDL program continued a change (begun in FY2004) from its early emphasis on collecting educational resources, materials, and other digital learning objects, towards an emphasis on enabling learners to "connect" or otherwise find pathways to resources appropriate to their needs. To that end a new Pathways track replaced an earlier Collections track; and the Services track focused on two particular types of projects: (1) selection services and (2) usage development workshops.

  • Pathways projects provide stewardship for educational content and services needed by a broad community of learners;
  • Selection services projects identify and increase the high-quality STEM educational content known to NSDL; and
  • Usage development workshops engage new communities of learners in the use of NSDL and its resources.

Through these emphases projects are also developing both the capacities of individual users and the capacity of larger communities of learners to use and contribute to NSDL.

For the FY2005 funding cycle one hundred twenty proposals sought approximately $83 million in total funding. Nineteen new awards were made with a cumulative budget of approximately $7 million in FY 2005 funds. These include nine awards (four distinct projects due to collaborative efforts) in the Pathways track, eight in the Services track, and two in the Targeted Research track. As in the earlier years of the program, sister directorates to the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) provided significant co-funding of projects. In FY2005 these were the NSF Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and the NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS); and within EHR, the Advanced Technological Education program also provided co-funding. Complete information on the technical and organizational progress of NSDL including links to current Standing Committees and community workspaces may be found at <>. All workspaces are open to the public, and interested organizations and individuals are encouraged to learn more about NSDL and join in its development.

The early October 2005 issue of the NSDL Whiteboard Report provides a list of the FY05 awards displaying the project title, the collaborating grantee institution(s), and the name(s) of the Principal Investigator (PI), see <>. A condensed description of each project is also included. (For brief descriptions of projects from the initial years of the program, see references 1-5 below.) Full abstracts are available through the NSDL program site (under Related URLs, see the link to "Abstracts of Recent Awards Made Through This Program"). The NSF GEO and MPS directorates have both provided significant co-funding for nearly twenty-five projects in the first five years of the program, illustrating the NSDL program's facilitation of the integration of research and education, an important strategic objective of the NSF.

The NSDL Program will have another funding cycle in FY2006 with proposals due May 1, 2006; see <> for the full solicitation.


1. All views expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent an official NSF policy statement.

2. NSF Undergraduate Education (DUE) Funding - National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library <>.


1. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: A Progress Report." D-Lib Magazine, October 2000. Available <doi:10.1045/october2000-zia>.

2. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: New Projects and a Progress Report." D-Lib Magazine, November 2001. Available <doi:10.1045/november2001-zia>.

3. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: New Projects in Fiscal Year 2002." D-Lib Magazine, November 2002. Available <doi:10.1045/november2002-zia>.

4. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: New Projects in Fiscal Year 2003." D-Lib Magazine, March 2004. Available <doi:10.1045/march2004-zia>.

5. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: New Projects in Fiscal Year 2004." D-Lib Magazine, March 2005. Available <doi:10.1045/march2005-zia>.

Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories

Contributed by:
Dr. Anoush Margaryan and Professor Allison Littlejohn
Associate Director and Director
International Centre for Research on Learning
University of Dundee, Scotland, UK

Imagine a world in which learners and faculty can collaboratively build knowledge by sourcing, exchanging, adapting, reusing and integrating a range of learning resources. Soon we won't have to imagine this scenario, since a range of institutions and organisations globally are setting up repositories to support the sharing of Learning Objects (LOs): granular, digital resources developed to support learners in achieving a single learning goal (IEEE, 2001; Koper, 2001; Wiley, 2000). The educational rationale is that a single set of resources can be restructured to support different pedagogical approaches. It is argued that individual, granular resources allow for maximum reuse across a range of contexts. At the same time aggregation of resources enables contextualisation within particular learning situations (Duncan, 2003). While Learning Object Repositories (LORs) can facilitate storage, searching and retrieval of individual and aggregated resources, few of LO resource collections are achieving their full potential.

A key problem is that LORs, like many other learning technology innovations, are often designed to exploit the capabilities of the technology, rather than to meet learners' need. This focus on technology has resulted in an emphasis on issues such as interoperability standards, aggregation of learning objects, resource description, discovery and delivery at the expense of softer, social factors.

The 'Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories' (CD-LOR) project aims to reverse this trend by identifying important pedagogical, social, and organisational factors that inhibit effective use of LORs. CD-LOR is funded by the UK's Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC, the Government Organisation responsible for UK academic networks) to identify and analyse the factors that influence the uptake and implementation of learning object repositories in support of teaching and learning within a diverse range of learning communities. The project is identifying key barriers and enablers to the implementation of LORs to support learning within communities and mapping these against a range of types of LOR communities. Such communities include those based in individual and federated institutions and those that exist across institutions regionally, nationally or internationally, for example discipline-based communities, or communities coalescing around use in teaching and learning of particular formats, such as sound files.

The project team are currently creating a typology of repositories and communities and mapping the characteristics of these communities with respect to their use of the repositories. We anticipate this mapping will form the basis for development of use cases, case studies, and guidelines on implementation of learning object repositories, as well as institution-wide use cases linking LORs to wider information management processes. A range of potential solutions to barriers will be developed and tested within existing communities. We also aim to produce recommendations for institutional managers on wider policy, strategy, systems and workflow issues and make recommendations to JISC for ongoing research and development.

For more information on the project visit <>.


Duncan, Ch. (2003). Granularization. In A. Littlejohn (Ed.), Reusing online resources: A sustainable approach to e-learning (12-19). London: Kogan Page.

IEEE (2001). IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) IEEE P1484.12 Learning Object Metadata Working Group. Retrieved January 18, 2006, from <>.

Koper, R. (2001). Modelling units of study from a pedagogical perspective: The pedagogical meta-model behind EML. Document for the IMS Learning Design Working Group. Retrieved January 18, 2006, from <>.

Wiley, D. (2001). Connecting learning objects to instructional design theory: A definition, a metaphor, a taxonomy. In D. Wiley (Ed.), The instructional use of learning objects. Retrieved January 18, 2006, from <>.

PerX: Pilot Engineering Repository Xsearch

Contributed by:
Roddy MacLeod
Senior Subject Librarian
Heriot Watt University
EH14 4AS
United Kingdom

The PerX Project ( is part of the Digital Repositories Programme (DRP) (, a £4m JISC programme to enhance the implementation and development of digital repositories in the UK, and is based at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.

PerX is addressing various aspects relating to two of the main objectives of the DRP, namely the scoping of a common national repository service infrastructure, and cultural and practical issues affecting the implementation and usage of digital repositories. In particular, it is helping to evaluate the usefulness of the subject-based cross-repository approach to resource discovery, with specific reference to the area of engineering information. It is also investigating various practical management and maintenance issues associated with setting up and maintaining a cross-search service across multiple digital repository collections.

Two further aims of the project are to encourage the development of repositories and repository content of use to engineering academics, and to investigate means of enhancing resource discovery within a subject-based cross-repository search tool.

Focusing on the subject area of engineering is pertinent for a number of reasons. Firstly, digital repository work within engineering is not well supported compared to many other disciplines, and uptake and usage by the engineering community, especially of institutional repositories, has so far been relatively low. The engineering information landscape is relatively complex, with resource types such as technical reports, technical data, standards, patents and trade news being of interest to many engineering academics, alongside more obvious resource types such as scholarly articles and learning materials. Finally, there are a great many commercial publishers, national bodies and professional societies who have roles in the publishing process in this area.

PerX has deliberately taken a broad-based view of what constitutes a repository, reflecting the real situation of resource discovery within the engineering information landscape.

Three documents have recently been released by the project:

1. Listing of Engineering repository sources
This document identifies the most significant repository sources of relevance to the UK Higher Education (HE) Engineering community, classified by coverage (e.g. research data, e-theses, learning materials, technical reports, journals, etc). It distinguishes between repositories with actual content, and metadata repositories without actual content, and gives details of current levels of interoperability, where known.

2. Engineering Digital Repositories Landscape Analysis, and Implications for PerX
This document analyses the digital repository landscape identified in the Listing, and discusses various issues concerning repository provision in engineering. It identifies some significant gap areas, in particular: technical reports, journals, research data, subject based access and assessment materials repositories. Amongst its recommendations is a distributed subject model for the Pilot, whereby digital repositories are cross-searched at the same time as metadata repositories.

3. 'Marketing' with Metadata - How Metadata Can Increase Exposure and Visibility of Online Content
This document reflects the advocacy part of PerX's remit, and is aimed at potential data providers. It gives a non-technical introduction to the means by which content providers can share, or embed, their descriptive data (metadata) with other websites, in standard and reusable ways.

A test-bed pilot is now available from: <> where a number of different types of digital repositories and metadata repositories can be cross-searched. More target repositories will be added as they are identified and configured.

The PerX project would much appreciate feedback on the Pilot, and for this purpose, a 60 second survey is available at: <>.

In the News

Excerpts from Recent Press Releases and Announcements

Anne-Imelda Radice, Ph.D., Becomes New Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services

March 14, 2006 - "On Monday evening, the United States Senate confirmed Anne-Imelda Radice, Ph.D., a skilled administrator, art historian, and museum professional, to be Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Institute, an independent United States Government agency, is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 122,000 libraries and 15,000 museums."

"Dr. Radice has a strong record of public service. She was most recently Acting Assistant Chairman for Programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities. Before joining the National Endowment for the Humanities, Dr. Radice served as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the United States Department of Education. In the early 1990s she served as the Acting Chairman and Senior Deputy Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. From 1989 to 1991 Dr. Radice was Chief of the Creative Arts Division of the United States Information Agency (USIA). And she was the first Director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (1983-1989). Dr. Radice has also been Curator and Architectural Historian for the Architect of the Capitol and an Assistant Curator at the National Gallery of Art."

"Anne-Imelda Radice has a Ph.D. in Art and Architectural History from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, an MBA from American University, and a BA in Art History from Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts. Dr. Radice also has an MA from the Villa Schifanoia in Florence, Italy."

"Dr. Radice succeeds Dr. Robert S. Martin, a library professional, as Director of the Institute and will serve for a four-year term. The directorship of the Institute alternates between individuals from the museum and library communities."

For more information, please see the full press release at <>.

Third archiving deal for Oxford Journals guarantees long term preservation of electronic content

March 13, 2006 - "Oxford Journals, a division of Oxford University Press, has signed a key archiving agreement with Portico, an electronic archiving service launched in 2005 with funding from JSTOR [], The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation [], Ithaka [], and The Library of Congress []. The agreement assures robust long-term preservation and ongoing access to Oxford Journals electronic content."

"This is the third major archiving agreement* that Oxford Journals is participating in, as part of their commitment to ensure long term accessibility to all journals content. In 2004, Oxford Journals became one of the first publishers to sign an archiving agreement with the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), the National Library of the Netherlands, and in 2005 became a member of the LOCKSS preservation initiative from Stanford University. By signing this new agreement with Portico, Oxford Journals now have an enhanced ability to offer perpetual access, back-up archiving, and access facilities for all participating journals."

"...Portico is a new, not-for-profit electronic archiving service established in response to the library community's need for a robust, reliable means to preserve electronic scholarly journals. Portico's mission is to preserve scholarly literature published in electronic form and to ensure that these materials remain accessible to future scholars, researchers, and students. For more information about Portico, please visit"

The full press release can be found at <

New Connotea software supports institutional repositories

March 10, 2006 - "Nature Publishing Group (NPG) has released new software which enables institutional repositories running EPrints to integrate with the social bookmarking services Connotea and This latest innovation allows content within institutional repositories to be bookmarked, tagged, and linked to related content. The work behind this development was funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) as part of their PALS Metadata and Interoperability Projects 2 program."

"Once installed in a repository, the software will enable users to bookmark documents in that repository using their Connotea or account, assigning their own tags and without leaving the web page. They can also see what tags have already been assigned to the document they are viewing in the repository and click on links to related content, either within the same repository or elsewhere on the web."

"If bookmarked in Connotea, the bibliographic metadata for the institutional repository item can be automatically imported. Connotea already does this for items bookmarked from several other sources, including Nature, PubMed, Science, Blackwell Synergy, Wiley Interscience and Amazon."

"Recognizing the importance of the content within institutional repositories, this new functionality will allow such content to be integrated and linked with the wider scientific literature."

"See <> for more information. "

This press release is also available at <>.

JISC announces the development of a new access-management system for the UK

March 2, 2006 - "Over the past few years, JISC has invested significant resources in the development of the next generation of access management technologies through its Core Middleware programmes. We are now planning a major initiative which will affect our funding of Athens, which will require institutions to make choices and decisions."

"On Tuesday 28th February, all Higher Education Vice Chancellors and Principals in Further Education in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, along with publishers, will receive a letter from JISC which details the changes."

"Connecting students and staff to the valuable resources subscribed to by UK educational institutions is essential to the sector. JISC has made this possible by funding the Athens service to provide usernames and passwords to users within UK education, putting us ahead of the rest of the world in providing a consistent and uniform access mechanism to a wide range of online content."

"To maintain its leading-edge status, JISC is devoting significant funds to and collaborating internationally on, the development and implementation of the next generation access-management system based on Shibboleth technology."

"Benefits of the new system will include:"

  • Easier access to online resources for users
  • Enhanced opportunities for collaboration
  • Facilitation of national e-strategies

For more information, please see the full press release at <>.

MDA to Receive MLA Renaissance Funding

February 28, 2006 - "The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is funding MDA, the UK's leading authority on information management in museums, to create Collections Link, an innovative service providing information and advice in all areas of collections management."

"The service, which is funded through MLA's Renaissance programme, will include direct advice by telephone as well as an online library of guidelines, fact sheets and standards."

"Collections Link will bring together resources from a range of partner organisations including MLA, the Institute of Conservation, the National Preservation Office, the National Archives and others. This will be the first time that professionals working with collections will be able to access information and advice in a range of areas through a single point."

For more information, please see the full press release at <>.

Call to action for Public Libraries – Save time and money with Reference Online

February 20, 2006 - "England's 149 public library authorities are set to save both time and money with the launch of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council's new service, Reference Online. In the first initiative of its kind in England, Reference Online provides library managers with easy access to 26 electronic subscription based products, including directories, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, newspapers and business information. MLA has brokered deals with 14 separate suppliers, which will see libraries benefiting from savings of up to 50% on some titles and potential cost efficiencies of over �1million could be achieved."

"Traditionally, public library managers have researched the details and negotiated the costs of online resources either individually or as small regional consortia. By undertaking this work on their behalf MLA has been able to streamline the process for both library staff and content providers."

"These cost savings will help make best use of library resources allowing investment in additional stock or services. Benefits to library users could also include access to a wider range of free online resources through their library membership, from wherever they choose to log on to their library website."

For more information, please see the full press release at the MLA web site. <>, select the links for "News" and then "Press Releases".

Library of Congress and U.S. Copyright Office Issue Notice of Public Roundtables with Request for Comments on Exceptions in Copyright Law for Libraries and Archives

Section 108 Study Group Roundtables in Los Angeles and Washington Seeking Public Comment

February 17, 2006 - "The U.S. Copyright Office and the Office of Strategic Initiatives of the Library of Congress today placed a notice in the Federal Register titled "Notice of Public Roundtables with Requests for Comments." A copy of the notice and additional information can be found on the Web site: <>."

"The public roundtables are part of the work of the Section 108 Study Group, a 19-person body that is charged with making recommendations relating to the exceptions and limitations applicable to libraries and archives under section 108 of the Copyright Act, especially as section 108 affects libraries' use of digital media."

Publishers and national libraries unite to preserve Europe's electronic publishing output

February 15, 2006 - "European national libraries and publishers have completed the successful revision of the Statement on the Development and Establishment of Voluntary Deposit Schemes for Electronic Publications. In a meeting in Brussels in December 2005 a Committee of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) and the Foundation Conference of European National Librarians (CENL) welcomed the news that both their annual assemblies had endorsed the Statement."

"The Statement is a revision of an earlier statement, issued in 2000, that provided guidance for national libraries and publishers on the voluntary deposit of electronic publications. The revision reflects the experience of, and progress made by, national libraries and publishers in the acquisition of, and provision of access to, electronic publications. Best practices could be particularly useful in the framework of the European Commission's i2010 initiative on digital libraries."

"The aim of deposit is to ensure that a nation's published output (and its intellectual record and future published heritage) is collected systematically and made available to current researchers within the premises of national libraries and, importantly, to preserve the material for the use of future generations. Most nations have laws requiring publishers to deposit their publications with national libraries. This practice of legal deposit dates back several hundred years and has been a vital element in preserving and making available the published record of previous generations for researchers of today and tomorrow."

"The full statement is available at <>." (Follow the link under Working Groups, where you will also find a link to the full press release.)

Constantly Seeking User Feedback

The second The European Library user opinion survey

February 15, 2006 - "The European Library ( conducted a user survey on its Beta site last summer to find out user opinion and requirements. All the user responses were incorporated into the first release of The European Library in November of 2005. We now want to find out from users what they think our next areas of improvement should be. "

"Our greatest issue is making a portal work for the user. The European Library conducts a very useful service in bringing together in one place digital collections and catalogues from national libraries across Europe. It uses what is available in terms of metadata and search protocols rather than waiting for each library to have crawl-able data. Therefore it is bringing to the web information that would otherwise only be accessible within the library itself. This does however give rise to issues in user expectations. Can we persuade the Google generation to use a portal i.e. choose the collections they want to search in before launching their query, and if so how?"

"Together with IRN Research ( and in co-operation with the national libraries of Austria, Britain, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia and Switzerland an online survey has been created..."

For more information, including links to the survey in several languages, please see the full press release at <>.

Online Searches Grow 55 Percent Year-over-year to Nearly 5.1 Billion Searches in December 2005, According to Nielsen//Netratings

February 9, 2006 - "Nielsen//NetRatings, a global leader in Internet media and market research, today reported that the total number of searches in the U.S. conducted across approximately 60 search engines grew 55 percent year-over-year to nearly 5.1 billion searches in December 2005....There were 3.3 billion searches conducted via search engines in December 2004."

"While the number of searches conducted online swelled, the number of people connecting to the Internet rose a mere three percent to 207 million people in the U.S. "

"The top three search engines all experienced double-digit growth year-over-year in December 2005. Google Search grew 75 percent to nearly 2.5 billion searches; Yahoo! Search rose 53 percent to nearly 1.1 billion searches, and MSN Search increased 20 percent to 553 million searches..."

For more information, please see the full press release, which also contains tables of data, <>.

Copyright 2006 © Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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