:: Aleteia Greenwood at UBC posed an interesting question on ELDNET-L on April 22:
A UBC civil engineering faculty member has asked me a few questions that I am hoping I can ask you all and get your opinions.
In August the 13th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering will take place in Vancouver. For this conference over 2,000 papers will be presented. The faculty member is suggesting that the proceedings be distributed in digital format, most likely a DVD.
He has asked me:
1. What is the current policy in libraries with regard to the preferred format of proceedings from large conferences? Do you still prefer to have a printed copy of proceedings, or will libraries accept proceedings in digital format (DVD or CD).
2. If a limited set of hard copies of the proceedings were produced how many libraries might be interested in getting a hard copy instead of the DVD. The proceedings in print will be 12-14 volumes.
3. Is there a depository where the papers could be placed on a permanent basis so that a few years from now people interested in getting a copy of a paper could get it either for free or at a very nominal fee?
4. If proceedings in digital format are acceptable to libraries, would DVD or CDs be better? or does it matter?
With the ongoing struggle many (most?) libraries face with respect to physical space, and the relatively low (lower?) usage of conference literature in comparison to monographs, although there is considerable variation between discipline-specific subcultures, a 12-14 volume set of conference proceedings poses a daunting problem of storage space versus utility. CD or DVD distribution is nearly infinitely superior with respect to portability and space utilization.
DVD offers a many fold storage advantage over CD. Neither have an assured lifespan on the order of print on paper and both are far more susceptible to loss or breakage than a 14 volume set of bound books. IP-based distribution, however, obviates the need for manufacture, inventory storage, distribution, and library space consumption.
The Caltech Library System assisted in the production of proceedings for the Fourth International Symposium on Cavitation. Hosted by Caltech, June, 2001. CAV2001 is one of the constituent archives in Caltech CODA (Caltech Collection of Open Digital Archives).
The proceedings are compliant with the Open Archives Initiative - Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), are regularly harvested by both repository web crawlers; e.g. OAIster; and general purpose web crawlers; e.g. Googlebot. As a result, the material continues to see steady use 3 years after the conference.
The papers are individually addressable and may be linked at that level. As such, conference papers presented in this manner are well suited for indexing and abstracting by traditional A&I services, in addition to the increased visibility gained through automated crawler/indexers. The next higher level of aggregation, reflected in the cataloging record and in the website, is the session. The overarching collection of sessions, then, is the complete conference. As the host institution, and the library behind the digital conference proceedings effort, it was incumbent upon the Caltech Library System to catalog the archive and contribute the original cataloging to OCLC [OCLC # 47115292].
The technology used in this archive combines eprints.org software, for the user interface and the submission/approval process, with a local URL resolver that implements URL persistence, to provide stable, persistent URLs at the individual paper level.
Part of the Caltech experience with the CAV2001 project is documented in this article: Douglas, Kimberly (2003). Conference Proceedings at Publishing Cross-Roads
Other aspects of the technology may be better addressed through papers on the eprints.org software:Sponsler, Ed and Van de Velde, Eric F. (2001) Eprints.org Software: a Review.
and the local implementation of the URL resolver:Sponsler, Ed (2001) PURR - The Persistent URL Resource Resolver
Another conference came to the Caltech campus recently, LES & SGS Modeling For Turbulent Mixing and Reactive Flows, December 8-9, 2003. The conference organizers, rather than wanting to publish complete proceedings, were interested in producing extended abstracts. The same technology was used to create CaltechLESSGS, Proceedings LES and SGS Modeling For Turbulent Mixing and Reactive Flows, December 8-9, 2003, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA USA.
So, in answer to the basic question, neither DVD nor print is desired for conference literature. Get it online and distribute it gratis. The tools necessary are Open Source and LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl). - George Porter
:: I agree with George, and would add that neither DVD nor print nor CD-ROM is desired for the publishing conference literature. When I order conferences for our collection, I try to avoid purchasing those which are published in CD format only. Our library does not have PAC stations with CD drives, and with conference proceedings, my experience has been that users want either print or online versions. I would accept print as a second choice to online, or the only alternative to online, rather than pay for CD or DVD. The other issue with any conference proceedings, of course, is pricing.
Would the conference organizers and sponsors need to recoup the cost of producing the conference proceedings? If so, and they choose the online option, would the publishers of the online version be prepared to handle IP address restrictions, or would this concern simply enhance the price further? Regardless, George is right in suggesting the way to go is online.
If you have any comments on this topic, please contact Aleteia, who would be grateful to receive them!