Consortium for Digital Documents

Document TEI ED A88

C. M. Sperberg-McQueen
Lou Burnard

This document is a draft and is subject to change without notice. It represents one possible description of the work to be undertaken by the consortium, and should not be taken as a rejection of other possible descriptions.

Table of Contents

The explosive rise in the use of digital documents and wide-area networks in research and teaching poses enormous challenges to users of electronic documents. This document describes a proposal for a consortium of academic and other institutions to enable us to address some of these challenges cooperatively.


The purpose of the consortium is to cooperate in solving fundamental practical problems which arise in using digital documents in teaching and research.

The consortium will initially have three main areas of work:

System Assembly and Integration

Library electronic text centers and other bodies responsible for providing access to some large collection of digital documents cannot rely on turnkey solutions to their problems. The requirements of teaching and research are too various, and too remote from typical commercial and industrial practice. Software powerful enough to serve the needs of research and teaching not only allows, but almost invariably requires, substantial customization to make it match the needs of the individual center.

The customization and adaptation of complex software products is not intrinsically beyond the capability of libraries or other organizations but does require substantial staff time and technical expertise. The software support provided by vendors seldom suffices to make the customization process simple; as a result, academic users of complex software can often learn more from each other than from the vendor. The experiences of schools like the Universities of Michigan, Virginia, and Chicago show that cooperation on problems of system integration can bear significant benefits.

The consortium will provide a framework for cooperation on problems of system integration and adaptation, including:

Training, Workshops, and Information Resources

The consortium will offer a full range of training courses, workshops, and information resources relevant to its areas of interest. For example:

Web resources will also be maintained, to ensure the availability of non-proprietary information on issues of interest to consortium members.

As far as possible, training courses and workshops should be self-supporting; participants from member institutions will pay lower fees than participants from non-member institutions. (Special arrangements may be made for independent scholars.)

Consortium funds may be used to provide scholarships for promising students.

Technical Standards and Infrastructure

The consortium will contribute directly to the maintenance of standards relevant for the use of digital documents in research and teaching. In particular, it will


The consortium will be governed by its members (details to be arranged).

Host Institution

The central consortium offices will be located at one of its member institutions (the host institution). The host institution will

The payment of indirect costs from the consortium to the host institution is a matter for separate negotiation.

HTML generated 21 Apr 1998