Linking Workshop

Your Content and Mine:
A report on the NISO/NFAIS Linking Workshop
Held February 24, 2002
Philadelphia, PA

By October Ivins

The NFAIS conference theme "Integrating at Internet Speed," set the stage for NISO and NFAIS to partner on a NFAIS preconference Workshop examining ongoing "live" linking initiatives from several perspectives. Four top-notch presenters provided both a framework and a wealth of practical information on integrating content from multiple producers.

Ed Pentz, Director of CrossRef, described CrossRef's role as a member supported DOI registration agency for journal articles. Pentz noted CrossRef's reliance on standards and its support of new standards, including ONIX and the Open URL. Major concerns include: responding to the "appropriate copy problem" by supporting multiple link resolutions for a given article (DOIs presently support a single link); how to select the correct link for a specific user or application; and, reconciling the non-standard journal title abbreviations used by publishers. Plans for 2002 include recruiting CrossRef members from all types of scholarly publishers, not just those in STM fields and assigning DOIs to conference proceedings and books (reference works will be first). (PowerPoint presentation)

Howard Ratner, Nature Publishing Group, drew on his early and ongoing involvement with CrossRef to describe the specific application of DOIs in the editorial and production process at Nature. Ratner offered practical insights into how workflow and staff roles have adapted. For example, careful copy editing of journal title references is now mandatory. Ratner pointed out that one advantage of the new workflow is the ability to assign DOIs for advance web publication of articles before they appear in print. The relatively low match rate for references supported CrossRef plans for assigning DOIs to additional types of publications. Ratner's final observation that a substantial increase in document delivery revenue was already allowing Nature to recoup its investment in its new products clearly impressed the audience. (PowerPoint presentation)

Dale Flecker, Harvard University Library, focused on the "appropriate copy problem." That is: how do we link a user to the appropriate copy when there are many options available? For example, a library user should not be linked directly to a publisher site when the library holds a subscription copy locally. (Or if the user is linked to another institution the authentication should be seamless without requiring log-in or fee requests.) Since DOIs can naturally resolve to only a single copy, two enhancements are now on the drawing board. One allows multiple links from a single DOI and another establishes a registry of authorized access options and authentication information which can support user agents. CrossRef, Harvard and other participants have successfully tested a reverse look-up solution to provide the appropriate copy. They acknowledge, however, that additional work to scale to a larger context and more players are needed. Flecker also pointed out that the hardest part may be knowing when a given user needs localization. At this time, cookies offer the best solution but this is far from ideal. (PowerPoint presentation)

Miriam Blake, Los Alamos National Laboratories, described how the LANL uses SFX to support user links to a wide-variety of information, not just journal reference linking. She was careful to note that SFX is a commercial product from ExLibris and similar products are available or under development. For this reason, she referred to the library's system as "OpenURL aware" since that is the underlying standard. Blake pointed out that this area is evolving so rapidly that a common vocabulary is not yet in place. For example, "Local resolution server" and "link server" are, in fact, the same thing -- a software suite with an associated database of links. Blake noted that metadata inconsistencies were the biggest problem in using the system; Blake observed that both quality and quantity of metadata impact services. During the question period following her talk, similar products from Endeavor and Fretwell-Downing were mentioned as well as effective locally-developed products at UNC-Greensboro and the University of Saskatchewan. (PowerPoint presentation)

Blake closed the workshop on a high note that definitely made all the challenges and growing pains worthwhile. Recent research, Blake reported, has found that a typical linked-screen which gives a user a selection of links to information (in a library catalog, and to purchased and free resources that are on local or remote servers) would require a user to execute 42 separate steps to access the same information in a non-linked environment.