Thanks to the Max Planck Gesellschaft for the invitation and
the idea of this workshop.
Thanks to the organizers for their flexibility and supportiveness.
Tnis document is a mixture of notes for the talk and more detailed comments
for the MPG chief executives
(The latter part is confidential to the MPG and its referees).
This is due to that it became more and more apparent during the preparation of the talk, that one purpose of the meeting is to discuss the concept of the MPG for a new MPI (Max Planck Institute). The text is preliminary and needs overhaul after the meeting in conjunction with MPG representatives and experts.
From Handwritten Information to Printed Information lead not only to more effective services but to a new era of worldwide science and their information network.
The printing age then required
The digital era allows
As an example: teaching (say Quantum mechanics) in theoretical physics at a University, that is what I do, meant reading books of other authors, working out the own lecture and presenting it to the students in a linear (time and complexity ordered way, called 'Vorlesung').
In the digital age we have 65 Departments in Physics in Germany,
where a colleague teaches the same material, and may be 1.000 worldwide.
These 1.000 colleagues will (or do) put their material on the Web, with interactive material, exercises, computational examples, demonstrations, etc (see e.g. PhysNet: Education).
This almost infinitely rich material will almost for shure contain
material much more suitable to your or my own class than a single person
ever can work out in a life time, if only one teaching term.
In addition: all this material is freely available to the students. And the learning style of students changes from linear systematic learning to 'try and error', to 'interactive working'.
Thus in the digital era even the way of learning changes qualitatively, and the quality of teaching will reach a much higher new level.
1987: Webrech, Unirech:
A 'prehistoric example, now assimilated by FIZ Karlsruhe:
A distributed access of a central database (Phys at FIZ Karlsruhe) with the principles:
Since then a set of services developed and installed at other places:
These are mostly done in conjunction with the group at Osnabrueck (Dr. habil. R. Schwaenzl,
Dr. J. Pluemer; Mathematics, see IWI Institut für Wissenschaftliche Information).
Professional Home Pages
1999: Professional Home Page for Institutions : A service for Departments and research institutions to upgrade their home page with adding metadata
(in compliance withj the international Dublin core Standard)
as a prerequisite for professional finding the bits of information by internationally operating search engines.
Examples are: Address, who is responsible for the server, Dean contact, teaching material, etc.
A web-form is offered so the customer has not to understand the metadata
Neither is his computer invaded nor is his page stored.
Only the operator of the Institution's website is allowed to fill in the form.
2.) 1999: PHP for scientists. A similar service for individual scientistst.
Examples are: what is his/her research field, member of which society, contact person for what topics, publication list, professional vita.
Document handling systems
1.) MMM My Meta Maker for scientific documents, for Ph.-D. theses, etc.
A web-Form for the author to fill in the bibliographic data to be added to his/her document (in thesocurce code).
2. ) WUFI the prototype of document management system of the AWI
(Alfred Wegener Institut fuer Polar-und Meeresforschung)
(which includes Dublin Core metadata, and contains electronic
automatic upload and management components as well as authentisation tools).
3.) PhysDep The Worldwide Network of all Physics Institutions
(Departments, Research Institutes, etc., in total about 1.500).
maintained by the European Physical Society.
This comprises a ordered set of link lists, and a search engine.
4.) PhysDoc A worldwide distributed Database for scientific documents
in physics (ordered link lists and a search engine).
5.) LANL e-print Archive: New developments in the central Database for
documents (LANL eprint Archive and its mirrors).
Germany has now a fully operable upload station allowing additional
formats (such as even WORD), and several internal mirrors and collaborators (Halle, Darmstadt, Augsburg, Oldenburg).
All LANL documents are mirrored and put into a database with metadata added.
6.) Metaphys Linking the central and the distributed document networks
and the publishers, as well as other databases.
6.) Rabbit: Business models of a research institute for Journals of
Publishers (commercial and others).
Comparisons are presented of experiments to maximize the amount of retrieved scientific information asked for a specific project using different information channels.
(Journals vs. Search engines plus email contact to authors, using add on services worldwide available, Web-sites of research institutes ..).
Actions taken are
More specifically, Mathematics and Physics have a perfect working relationship due to their very similar requirements and habits, taking care of identical metadata definitions and service types.
The main obstacle in information and communication in science is to reach the individual scientist, to convince and train them to use new services, to understand new types of research supporting tools, to accept new ways of publication and reaching the colleagues and getting reputability, to support the new services locally.
At present no effective way to achieve this has been found. This is
thus to be the major aim for new Institutions and efforts. In short, we
call this 'enlarging the contact surface to the customer, instead of a
selfcontained professional central isntitute.
At present actions are under way to boost the distribution of knowledge via the societies, the deans, and the Institutions.
Same international: the EPS (European Physical Society) , after decisions
of its action committee on publication and scientific communication,
is writing a letter to all national societies for distribution to their
individual members to inform on new services,to ask for new types of services,
A coherent new set services for the European National Physics Societies is advisaged.
Two first steps are envisaged:
1.) Setting up a visible internal structure for the Information Infrastructure of the MPG, for coherent service across all institutes.
It is important that all Institutes use for all their documents the same set of Metadata definitions with MPG-specific additions.
Thus a responsible organizational structure should be set up which defines and organizes the MPG-wide document management system, assures the homogeneity, and the professionality by embedding it into the worldwide document systems.
This step is what all companies, institutions etc. have to do at present.
2.) The second step is to work out in international context the introduction
of XML, SGML, RDF, the means for separating structure of content from format,
and the hierarchical metadata.
This needs an intensive scheme for establishing a standard with formluae or text DTDs with automated metadata capture to ease the MPI-members to structure their scientific information.
(The role of the MPG as seen from outside)
The MPG used to install a new MPI whenever a new research problem came up which called for prime research an d which needed as a means of its realization the full throttle of a new research institute with permanent staff.(e.g. the large supernova explosion codes in the MPI Astrophysik).
The MPG used to build the new institute 'around a worldwide known excellent scientist in the new field'. This as a means to assure quality.
The MPG used to give the resources needed to do the research with the necessary internationally competitive speed.
We assume that plans for such foundations were designed, then promoted, then refereed by independent internationally known experts, then discussed on an international workshop, and finally put energetically into action.
This procedure, a continuous path of symposia, refereeing, plans designing, discussion with experts of the steering committee seems to be indispensable to find solutions accepted outside the MPG.
Octopus structure of a future 'Institute':
The organizational structure of a future MPI Institute has to reflect that the topic is scientific scholarship and 'information and communication' for and between human scientists (and not a research topic in exact sciences).
As a realization the number of permanent (internal) positions should be much less than the number of guest positions and externally operating collaborators.
The new institute in its very structure should reflect the task of boosting
It should draw upon an international collaboratory, and set up effective means of reaching, informing and training (and thus possibly convincing) the scientists 'out there'.
While in the 1950ties the solution was to set up large central
databases (FIZ Karlsruhe, Spec-Info,..) and while for research requirements
(such as finding new geometrical solutions for the early Universe) large
and competitive Research Institutes (such as the MPI for Physics and Astrophysics)
were the answer, -
for promoting the transition to the Information Age we need to form and boost and study distributed structures.
Certainly this also needs some permanent structure to organize it.. But the amount of funding should be less than 25 % as compared to the guest positions and to the external 'representatives'..
Organizationially a detailed plan could be developed by an expert committee, then to be analyzed by an independent referee group, with a subsequent workshop and discsussion.
What is different for founding an institute for Information and Communication from a research institute.
The transition from printed to digital information took place in 1994 with the LANL-Conference.
Since then it has been clear, what the next steps should be, how the new information scenario should be structured, and which technical means and tools are needed.
In the mean time the means and tools have been developed, both of and for the scientific institutions as of and for the industry. This may be read of e.g. from the presentations at the recent fairs and conferences.
Thus it no longer a technological challenge.
The real challenge in an industrial revolution is the transition
of work habits: here of institutes and of individual scientists, - and
of the public in general.
A rapid change and adaption of the work habits and its support by understandable, suggestive and easy to use tools and support is essential for future competitiveness in science.
We give two examples: Max Planck Institutes have been dragging behind
in setting up WWW-Servers, whereas the Physics Departments in Germany virtually
all had by 1994 WWW-servers of their own. We account this to the larger
'contact surface' to the outside world, the many more contacts at Universities,
the larger flexibility of University groups and the existing network of
operators (information management officers) at most Physics Departments.
Also we account this to the higher level of professionality the public expects from prime Research Institutes, especially from Max Planck Society Institutions.
By this one gets an understanding that institutions with higher level of professionalism have to drag behind in setting up new service schemes.
Personally we experienced ourselves: Simultaneously we had to install
and adapt an inhouse document management system for our
own University Department and for the AWI (Alfred Wegner Institute
for Polar and Marine Research at Bremerhaven).
Whereas quickly we could install the system WUFI for the department and make it public while doing the adaptions, corrections, improvements, tests etc. on the fly, the requirements by the AWI were much more stringent: several levels of operators, editors, responsibles as well as the large set of document databases and research groups had to be taken care of by a document flow which contains a set of registration, checking, approval anbd decision levels to assure quality, correctness of scientific content, and of fitting the respective data base.
This had to be implemented before making the service public.
The advantage was that the installed adaption of WUFI is much more sophisticated.
But another outcome is that the AWI-document system might not go public before the year 2000.
More specifically to your plans:
As you see I argue for deciding now to spend in principal the money
But to design the concept and the organisational structure for the future more far reaching steps with external refereeing and with experts.
A 'Centre of Innovation of the Max Planck Society' is a unique chance
to suport and promote the transition from printed to digital in Germany.
This is not a research question nor one of designing tools but of action
and organisation, of training, of contact, of finding effective ways or
reaching scientists, of radical reorganisation of the internal information
and communication of the MPG and its network of institututes.
N.B.:In some cases it may mean designing tools or collaborating with other places currently designing new tools (e.g. Global-Info, Dissertations Online, eprint, just to name a few).