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CEP annual and triennial reports



Dear Mike,
   Here attached the 1998 annual and 1996-1999 triennial reports of the
EPC / CEP.
   The budget will follow shortly.
   Our chairman says that he is also trying to write the stuff on ICSTI.
Best wishes and happy reading,
  The CEP / EPC
-- 
Howard Flack        http://www.unige.ch/crystal/ahdf/Howard.Flack.html
Laboratoire de Cristallographie               Phone: 41 (22) 702 62 49
24 quai Ernest-Ansermet             mailto:Howard.Flack@cryst.unige.ch
CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland                   Fax: 41 (22) 702 61 08

IUCr Triennial Report 1996-1999 - Committee on Electronic Publishing, Dissemination and Storage of Information

In the triennium 1996-1999, the Committee on Electronic Publishing, Dissemination and Storage of Information (EPC) constituted a small and very active technical working group. The committee suffered a tragic loss with the death of Professor E. N. (Ted) Maslen on the 2nd February 1997. In his role as Chairman of the Working Party on Crystallographic Information, then as Director of Archiving and Crystallographic Information and then as founding Chairman of this Committee, Ted guided the IUCr's publication and archiving activity into the electronic era through a tangled maze of options and opinions. The EPC was reinforced on the 21st December 1998 by decision of the IUCr Executive Committee with the appointment of L. M. D. Cranswick.

A publishing consultant's study of activities of the IUCr was received in January 1996. The consultant recommended the use of SGML favouring a DTD modelled on the Elsevier Art(icle) DTD and conforming to ISO 12083. This is now the manner in which documents are treated in the editorial offices.

During the 17th IUCr Congress in Seattle in 1996, a microsymposium devoted to the Internet was organized by two members of the EPC and the Committee's then Chairman E. N. Maslen gave a very clear exposition of the Science, Technology and Economics of Electronic Publishing in Crystallography, and Y. Epelboin spoke on Internet Resources for Crystallography. The microsymposium also presented a talk from George D. Purvis, an outsider to crystallography, on The Role of the World-Wide Web in Computational and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and finished with short presentations on two hot subjects on the Internet, Java and VRML, both likely to have impact on the area of electronic publishing. Further, a workshop on the Internet was run to give participants hands-on experience. In the period 1996-1999, on-line services based on the Internet have followed such a rapid and widespread development that it was not considered necessary to organize similar events in association with the 18th IUCr Congress in Glasgow, 1999.

Within the triennium the committee has expended considerable effort on the implementation and deployment of the IUCr web information service. This has been nurtured into a system with a unified design with content arising from distributed sources of information. A high priority is set on providing up-to-date information of use to the whole crystallographic community. During its meeting in Lisbon in August 1997 the IUCr executive committee delegated editorial powers for IUCr web services to this committee. The information service needs its content to be increased by input from collaborating providers from the crystallographic community.

Within the triennium, deployment of mirror servers for the IUCr information services has passed from the stage of the inexistent to that of a fully functional, highly-optimized set of mirror sites. The development involved not only overcoming the technical difficulties and improving efficiency of file transfer but also of producing the policy documents detailing the responsibilities of site managers and national committees. This policy was approved by the IUCr executive committee in its meeting in Lisbon in August 1997. The latest improvements involved a considerable restructuring of the file system at the Chester. As part of this strategy for mirror sites, the IUCr has acquired the Internet second-level domain name iucr.org permitting a unified naming of Chester and the mirror sites. The deployment of the mirror-site system depends on the good will and involvement of the IUCr members (i.e. the National Committees for Crystallography) in providing equipment with network connectivity to act as mirror sites for their country or region. Some regions of the world are inadequately covered at the moment depriving crystallographers of a very important resource.

The committee identified a need within the community for discussion forums operated by means of an e-mail list server. In early 1998 this became operational and the EPC drafted a Policy document on Creation and Management of IUCr Mail lists which received the approval of the IUCr Executive Committee. The IUCr list server provides facilities for e-mail based discussion lists on topics relevant to the Union and the field of crystallography. At present the server is only lightly used.

A major revision of World Directory of Crystallographers (WDC) was started at the beginning of 1996 and the National Editors were invited to prepare their data to be ready before the end of 1996. Subsequently the tenth edition of WDC was published and made available in printed form through a limited print run. The directory was also made available for on-line consultation using a web interface on an industry-standard public-domain directory service. It has become apparent on many occasions that the procedures for including updates into WDC were obsolescent. Consequently, a functional specification for a new implementation of WDC as a relational data base using technology parallel to, but not directly integrated into the IUCr-editorial-office production database is currently at the discussion stage. The design of this database is centered around the need to allow rapid, but supervised, updating of records in a secure manner. It is intended that it should be possible to consult the database on-line by a variety of the most popular industry-standard protocols.

The conversion of the Chester editorial office to electronic publishing using full-text SGML markup is virtually complete (apart from Acta Crystallographica C which uses an entirely different production stream). The in-house production relational database is fully operational. The electronic online distribution of the IUCr's six journals will require an infrastructure that the Chester office is not in a position to provide itself, indeed in the same way that the printing, mailing and subscription administration for the printed journals is sub-contracted. The negotiations with the holding company of Munksgaard for the electronic distribution of the Union's journals are continuing at the very highest level within the IUCr.

The CD-ROM is an attractive medium for electronic publication. The EPC is very supportive of L. M. D. Cranswick's NeXus project. In this, CD-ROMs are produced just-in-time upon request in small quantities on a low-cost burner and are distributed to crystallographers in developing countries lacking a reliable Internet connection. The content contains a 'virtual' WWW of crystallographic information drawn from the IUCr information services and elsewhere, and a selection of public domain software of general use and for crystallographic applications. Over 40 CD-ROMs have been distributed in this way.

The EPC is collaborating in the project to produce the CD-ROM for the 18th IUCr Congress and General Assembly in Glasgow, August 1999. The CD-ROM will contain the Congress abstracts, material from the sponsoring organization, a selection of the IUCr information services and a digitized copy of an out-of-print book. The CD-ROM will be distributed to participants and will also replace the three-yearly printed supplement to Acta Crystallographica A containing the Congress abstracts. The project will afford valuable experience in the production of CD-ROMs and in the scanning and digitization of books by a commercial service. The later will be useful for the digitization of all back numbers of the IUCr journals.

Contacts are being pursued with some other learned societies and publishers concerning the checking of their crystal structure data. It is projected that the web interface and criteria used for the checking of these data for Acta Crystallographica C could be adapted to the needs and requirements of the other interested parties as individual joint developments with participation in costs.

Three members of the EPC (Y. Epelboin, H. D. Flack, and B. McMahon) accompanied by S. R. Hall and A. Authier attended the ICSU Press/UNESCO conference on Electronic Publishing in Science held in February 1996 in Paris. The conference brought together interested parties from learned societies, publishing houses and libraries in a series of formal presentations and working groups in which the technical, economic and social effects of electronic publishing in science were discussed. The EPC met during the 17th IUCr Congress in Seattle. H. D. Flack visited the IUCr Editorial offices, Chester, UK in November 1996 (including a visit to the IUCr's Editor-in-chief in Manchester), November 1997 and November 1998.

L. M. D. Cranswick, Y. Epelboin, H. D. Flack (Chairman), E. N. Maslen (deceased), B. McMahon, P. Strickland.

IUCr 1998 Report - Committee on Electronic Publishing, Dissemination and Storage of Information

Information Services: The EPC has continued its task as editorial body for the on-line web information services of the IUCr. A high priority is set on providing up-to-date information of use to the whole crystallographic community. The design of the pages has been restyled and a higher degree of uniformity of presentation has been achieved. The current design is judged by many to be rather austere but a considerable amount of work and design talent would be required to modify this. It is not evident that a much increased penetration of the community would result. The work of maintaining the content continues to be operated on a distributed basis with the major part of the input coming from Chester, Geneva and Paris. Further extension of the content requires the collaboration of the commissions, committees, editors of the IUCr and individual crystallographers. The functioning and software of the mirroring mechanism and its underlying file structure have been revamped. This has resulted in a greatly improved speed and efficiency in the file transfer and in the need for reduced storage space on the mirror servers. There is still a need for further mirrors to serve the needs of local communities whose access is limited by slow international transfer. National committees and regional associates with a responsibility for areas that are currently poorly served are encouraged to make all possible effort to set up mirror servers.

List Server: An IUCr e-mail based discussion list server was put into operation in early 1998. For this purpose the EPC drafted a Policy document on Creation and Management of IUCr Mail lists which received the approval of the IUCr Executive Committee. The IUCr list server provides facilities for e-mail based discussion lists on topics relevant to the Union and the field of crystallography. It can greatly facilitate the work of IUCr commissions, committees, etc. At present the server is only lightly used.

World Directory of Crystallographers: A functional specification for a new implementation of WDC as a relational database using technology parallel to, but not directly integrated into the IUCr-editorial-office production database is currently at the discussion stage. The design of this database is centered around the need to allow rapid, but supervised, updating of records in a secure manner. It is intended that it should be possible to consult the database on-line by a variety of the most popular industry-standard protocols.

Glasgow CD-ROM: The EPC is collaborating in the project to produce the CD-ROM for the 18th IUCr Congress and General Assembly in Glasgow, August 1999. This is the first time the IUCr ventures into the realm of publication on CD-ROM. On arrival, Congress participants and, in September, 1999 subscribers to Acta Crystallographica A will receive a copy of the CD-ROM. Printed copies of the congress abstract book will be distributed to congress participants but not to subscribers to Acta Crystallographica A. The CD-ROM is sponsored by a commercial organization. The CD-ROM will contain the Congress abstracts, the sponsoring organization's web site, a selection from the IUCr's web information service, including the General Assembly papers, and the contents of a book, now out of print, for which the IUCr holds the copyright. Many aspects concerning the design and technical aspects of this production were discussed at a meeting in Chester in November 1998 between the Congress organizers, the sponsoring organization, the EPC, the Promotions Officer and the Executive Secretary. The scanning and digitization of the book by a commercial service will also provide excellent experience for the electronification of all back numbers of the IUCr journals.

On-line access for Journal content in Acta D: Negotiations were carried out with Munksgaard to provide an online version of Acta D on their Synergy server, which is operated by Healthgate. Healthgate were supplied SGML, PDF and image files of the journal, and the Managing Editor visited their offices in Boston at the time of the ACA Meeting. Development has been slower than expected, but the journal should become available online during Spring 1999.

Checking: Contacts are being pursued with some other learned societies and publishers concerning the checking of their crystal structure data. It is projected that the web interface and criteria used for the checking of these data for Acta Crystallographica C could be adapted to the needs and requirements of the other interested parties as individual joint developments with participation in costs.

The EPC was happy to welcome L.M.D. Cranswick as a new member appointed by the IUCr Executive Committee. The chairman of the EPC visited the IUCr editorial office in Chester, UK in November 1998.

L. M. D. Cranswick, Y. Epelboin, H. D. Flack (Chairman), B. McMahon, P. Strickland.
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