Computers & Geosciences, Volume 26, Number 2, 2000

Another Node On the interNet

Cathy Manduca
Keck Geology Consortium Coordinator, Carleton College, Northfield MN

Dave Mogk
Professor, Montana State University
Bozeman MT

John Snow
Dean of Geosciences
University of Oklahoma, Norman OK

Don Johnson
University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

DLESE Workshop Organizers

Mary Marlino
Director, Program for the Advancement of Geoscience Education
UCAR, Boulder, CO
Prototype Library Development Leader

John C. Butler
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204

From The Associate Editor

In August of 1999 I sent several enjoyable days at in West Virginia at the Coolfont Conference Center in Berkeley Springs. The occasion was a Community Planning Workshop and the purpose was to "produce a community vision for an earth system education digital library and an action plan for building the library."

I am sure that there are a number of collaborative efforts underway around the world that want to capitalize on the distributed nature of the Internet. This month I have asked several of the key individuals to summarize the progress toward establishing a:

Digital Library for Earth Science Education

We would like to alert you to an exciting new opportunity for educators in all parts of the Earth sciences at all educational levels. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have joined together to sponsor development of a Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE). The library is envisioned as providing 1) easy, organized access to high quality, peer- reviewed educational materials about the Earth system at all educational levels and 2) student friendly access to data about the Earth system. The goal is to build a community library that meets the neds of educators in all parts of the Earth sciences.The emerging technical capabilities of the information technologies provide exciting new opportunities to keep educators connected to new advances in science, to sources of the best educational methods and materials, and to each other through a variety of communication networks.

The first steps in the development of the DLESE are already taking place. NSF and NASA sponsored a community workshop last summer to develop a vision for the library and a strategic plan for its establishment. Preliminary reports from that workshop are intended as a starting point for community discussion. We encourage you to visit this website and contribute to the formative discussions about DLESE using the established list servers. The first of a series of town meetings to solicit community input was held at the 1999 GSA annual meeting and a special session on digital libraries will be held at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco (session EP03). Other town meetings will be held periodically in the coming months so please plan to participate in person or virtually.

The library effort is moving forward beyond initial planning. In accordance with recommendations from the community workshop, a steering committee has been selected and charged with developing detailed governance and business plans, and with seeking additional funding to further support the development of DLESE. A series of working committees will be established in the near furture. Initially these will focus on issues related to users of the library, creators of new educational materials, services offered through the library, and development of technology. We encourage you to volunteer to serve on one of the working committees by contacting one of the authors of this editorial.

In parallel with these initial organizational efforts, a prototype library system is under construction with NSF funding,. This work has been undertaken by consortium that includes the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, the Universities Space Research Association, the Keck Geology Consortium, the University of Colorado, and the University of California-Santa Barbara..

Although the overall design of DLESE is in its earliest stage, several ideas have emerged from the workshop that are central to the design of the prototype library and the subsequent full implementation of DLESE:

  1. The unique aspects of DLESE are its foci on the Earth system and education. The design of the library and selection of its "holdings" will be predicated on the needs of the Earth science education community, with specific attention paid to effective materials and methods at all instructional levels.

  2. DLESE will be part of a larger network of digital libraries that span the physical, life and social sciences, and it will itself comprise a federation of interrelated initiatives focused on different aspects of the Earth system at all instructional levels. A central set of guiding principles will provide an organizing framework (e.g. shared philosophy, technical and quality control standards), but individual projects will emerge according to community need.

  3. A central part of DLESE will house the "core holdings" which will be peer-reviewed, with minimum standards for supporting documentation or metadata. A collections policy is currently in development. Other functions of DLESE will be to index and abstract materials that are already in the public domain.

  4. A public domain in DLESE will be established to facilitate free and open exchanges of ideas related to Earth system education. This area can be used as a "testbed" to encourage the development of new materials and techniques that will eventually be admitted to the core holdings. Special focus groups, assessment services, special training (workshops and virtual) in the use of new technologies are all services that may be provided by DLESE.

  5. Delivery of archived and real-time data sets about different parts of the Earth system is a key component of DLESE. Interfaces are being developed so that data may be transferred seamlessly with appropriate spatial, temporal and social data so that the information can be used in meaningful ways.

  6. DLESE will both respond to community needs, and also provide leadership to demonstrate to the community what is possible in Earth system education.

This last point is most important. DLESE is being developed in response to widespread recognition that educators need better access to exciting scientific discoveries, as well as the means to translate science into effective instructional practice. DLESE is growing in response to our community's call to action. We now have the opportunity to make this facility a reality, but it will require broad-based support from the community. DLESE provides an incredible opportunity for geoscience education. So, we encourage you to become involved-please submit your ideas during the developmental stage, participate in focus groups, serve on the working committees, develop and share materials with your colleagues through DLESE, and become a regular user of this facility. We hope that you will join us in this effort.