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Chemistry International
Vol. 24, No. 3
May 2002

 

IUPAC News


Relocating to Cyberspace

by Fabienne Meyers

In May 1997, IUPAC officially celebrated the relocation of the Secretariat from Oxford, UK to the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina, USA. The decision to relocate, which was considered in detail by the officers, was based on more than just the appeal of RTP. The move gave IUPAC an opportunity to underline its identity as a global organization and to modernize the administrative functions of the Secretariat, including further development and usage of electronic communication.

The Secretariat is now housed in a small one-story building in the midst of the Park, a 7000-acre wooded area centered between three major universities-Duke University in Durham, North Carolina State in Raleigh, and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. RTP is owned and developed by the private, not-for-profit Research Triangle Foundation. It is home to more than 140 organizations—including research laboratories for international chemical, pharmaceutical, and electronics firms— that employ more than 50 000 people, with a total payroll estimated at USD 2 700 million and a capital investment exceeding USD 2 000 million. So, even though IUPAC’s office is quite small and discrete (there are four of us working at the office), the Secretariat has a number of interesting neighbors that might be worth visiting!

In my view, one of IUPAC’s most fortuitous collaborations since relocating to the RTP has been with UNC Chapel Hill, and in particular with the computer center supported by the School of Information and Library Science, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Information Technology Services.

Known today as ibiblio.org, the center is the home of one of the largest "collections of collections" on the Internet. It was created and is maintained by the public for the public. This unique online library project has developed under the leadership of Paul Jones, a computer scientist and associate professor of information and library science.

It is in many ways the embodiment of the Internet as a clearinghouse of information. The project, named SunSITE when started 10 years ago at UNC Chapel Hill, was founded as an archives and information sharing environment designed to be contributor driven and content managed. The collections grew diverse, and covered subjects from music, literature, and history, to software. Continuing its outreach effort and expansion, Sunsite became Metalab. The project continued to stress excellence and active contributor involvement. In fall 2000, the project made another significant step forward when it began a collaboration with the Center for Public Domain. The new arrangement resulted in an even more advanced collection of freely available information. This online library, which was renamed ibiblio, now stands above others because it maintains:

  • a close relation to the open source models for development and management of collections
  • a strong history of contributor participation and autonomy
  • a flexibility of forms and management styles
  • a diversity of collections that maintains depth and excellence and creates synergy
  • a large community of contributors sharing their knowledge across disciplines

Ibiblio’s goals of expanding and improving the distribution of open source software and documentation is fortuitous for IUPAC, whose main goal is also to provide greater access to information. Although IUPAC is still establishing itself in today’s virtual world, it is without doubt benefiting from the fun and fearless spirit that our host, ibiblio, has developed over recent years. Paul Jones and his team, in particular Jonathan Magid and Donald Sizemore, have yet to say ‘no’ to our inquiries. I am grateful for their support.

Another individual to be thanked is Thomas Gould, who has continuously worked behind the scenes of iupac.org, helping us with the daily and continuous demand for site updates and maintenance. Tom, who started out at UNC Chapel Hill, now teaches at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA.

Ibiblio.org averages 3 million information requests per day, while over the last four years the number of hits on the IUPAC site has increased 100 fold to recently hit about 300 000 a month. Such numbers are not trivial. Quantity however, should not be more important than quality; and for a scientific union such as IUPAC, managing a good balance between both should be a priority that benefits the scientific community. It is up to you and to us to make the best use of today’s Internet and electronic technologies to further disseminate the products of IUPAC projects and to enhance communications.

Dr. Fabienne Meyers is the Web site manager for IUPAC.

More about . . .

RTP History, <www.rtp.org>

Public library of the internet, by F. Olsen, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 Sep. 2000, chronicle.com <www.chronicle.com/free/2000/09/2000091201t.htm>

ibiblio concept to a new level, by Roblimo, 17 Sep. 2000, slashdot.org <slashdot.org/features/00/09/17/155240.shtml>

 

www.ibiblio.org

 

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