Re: Central vs. Distributed Archives

From: Greg Kuperberg <greg_at_MATH.UCDAVIS.EDU>
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2000 13:54:36 -0800

On Thu, Nov 02, 2000 at 09:29:24PM +0000, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> Centralized archiving has been with us for over 10 years, and at its
> current rates it will take 10 more years to free the Physics literature
> alone, where it is most advanced. In Greg's own field of mathematics,
> it might be going even more slowly. It looks to me as if centralized
> self-archiving can now use the help of distributed institutional
> self-archiving.

Actually the main difference in math is that we in effect started
later than physics did. Part of the reason for that is that some of
the mathematicians involved, including me but not mainly me by any
means, instead devoted effort to "umbrella archive" projects (i.e.,
"global virtual archives") that ultimately failed. We have had much
more success by moving in the opposite direction, i.e., by strengthening
distributed open archival with a centralized foundation.

> What Greg seems to overlook is that the institutional self-archiving he
> describes PRE-DATED the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), with its
> interoperability.

This is partly untrue. The MPRESS project (
has a lot in common with OAI, and it was started before the universal
math arXiv. It has its own metadata standard, "Dublin Core", and its
has a number of institutional preprint series among its data feeds.
But it hasn't yet caught on. It doesn't seem to make much difference to
authors whether a preprint series is indexed by MPRESS or not. Part of
the trouble with MPRESS is that not all of its sources are providing
as good metadata as they promised. Ironically the lion's share of good
metadata in MPRESS comes from the math arXiv.

I would like to know where OAI thinks that MPRESS went wrong. In fact
since I maintain a "service provider" for the math arXiv, I looked into
using OA-compliant metadata instead of the ad hoc metadata that I get from
the arXiv. I discovered that the OA standard is an oversimplification
of the full arXiv metadata record, to the point that I can't use the
OA format.

But don't get me wrong. I am in favor of fragmented interoperability if
you really can't hope for something better. And as I said, the overall
STM literature might well have to be fragmented, for now, down to the
level of individual disciplines (e.g. chemistry) or small groups of
disciplines (physics+math+cs).
  /\  Greg Kuperberg (UC Davis)
 /  \
 \  / Visit the Math ArXiv Front at
  \/  * All the math that's fit to e-print *
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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