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open archives forum

Objectives  |   Organisational Evaluation  |   Technical Evaluation  |   Dissemination

The Open Archives Forum objectives

Supporting open archives in Europe

The Open Archives Forum supported projects and national initiatives with an interest in using an open archive approach to interoperability. It provided a focus for European initiatives implementing the recently released Open Archives Initiative (OAI) metadata harvesting protocol. It enabled European projects and national initiatives to share their experience and to co-ordinate the development of software tools and infrastructure for open archives.
The patterns for scholarly communication are changing as the Web offers alternative publication and delivery options. E-print archives (alternatively termed 'repositories') have been established over the last several years to make publications available direct from authors to a world-wide audience. The first and best known of these archives being the physics pre-print archive, arXiv.org, at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA; now a number of such archives exist in Europe e.g. CogPrints and RePEC in the UK, the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations implementations in Germany. Such archives vary in their inclusion policy, for example some include only refereed pre-prints, others are limited to theses and dissertations. The business models are varied.
The Open Archives Forum facilitated a critical evaluation of the potential of the open archive approach in a wider context, as well as validating European experience of OAI specifications. Open archives offer the possibility of a low cost means of dissemination of content now 'hidden' in cultural heritage and learning institutions. If this promise is fulfilled there may be a significant impact on new service provision. It is essential that European data and service providers are prepared to participate in such innovation.

The OAI Metadata Harvesting Protocol

The e-print community recognised the benefits accruing from achieving interoperability between such distributed archives, and so established the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) as a means to agree an interoperability framework. In early 2000 the OAI met in Santa Fe to establish a technical infrastructure for such interoperability, and in early 2001 the OAI specified a protocol for metadata harvesting as a basis for interoperable service provision. This protocol is being validated by implementors during 2001 and 2002. However there is growing recognition that the technical and business model offered by OAI has potential beyond the e-print community. OAI offers potential for new service options both as regards content and business model.

A European-based focus on open archive activity

The Open Archives Forum provided the means for European stakeholders to collaborate together and form a coherent framework in which future policy decisions can be made. It supported European projects and initiatives in using the open archive approach to providing access to a broad range of digital resources.
The Open Archives Forum enabled a co-ordinated evaluation of the proposed OAI technical infrastructure as specified in the Open Archives Metadata Harvesting Protocol. It facilitated an exploration of the benefits of the OAI as a framework for low cost entry to content provision. It considered benefits to the citizen and learner of access to 'hidden' data surfaced by deployment of OAI.
The Open Archives Forum provided a focus for projects funded under the IST Programme, but it also encompassed national initiatives, and commercial interests (in particular publishers). It encouraged European readiness to exploit commercial opportunities offered by low cost entry to interoperability. The open archive approach is relevant to a number of domains and the project encouraged participation from cultural heritage institutions, research organisations, the public library sector, community services and commercial organisations.

The Open Archives Forum core objectives has been

1. To provide a European-based focus for dissemination of information about European open archive activity

  • Organise a series of workshops to share experience and promote good practice targeted at
    - Current and potential implementors
    - Service and data providers
    - Commercial, cultural heritage, research and educational initiatives
  • Establish the project web site as a focus for information concerning the implementation of open archives in Europe
  • Publish information regarding implementation of OAI through a variety of different publishing channels both paper bases and electronic
  • Liaise with the OAI in the USA and beyond

2. To stimulate building of an open archive infrastructure in Europe

  • Co-ordinate evaluation of OAI specifications
  • Consider alternative technical and organisational solutions
  • Co-ordinate development of software tools and added value services
  • Explore sustainability issues arising from the OAI approach

3. To encourage new service provision

  • Facilitate groupings of European OAI Data Providers and Service Providers
  • Facilitate co-operation on infrastructural issues, agreement on metadata extensions, common partitioning of archives etc
  • Facilitate a consensus approach to IPR issues
  • Evaluate the benefits of the open archive approach in different domains and sector

4. To exploit synergies between projects and reinforce the combined effort of projects

  • Present integrated results of related projects by means of reports and a database
  • Provide platform for exchange of experience between projects in Europe
  • Provide a focus for interaction with the international open archive community

OAF-Factsheet (PDF-File, 572 KB)



The Open Archives Forum (OAF) is an IST– Accompanying Measures project (IST- 2001-320015).
The partners of OAF are: University of Bath-UKOLN (United Kingdom), Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie della Informazione-CNR (Italy) and Computer- and Media Service (Computing Center) of Humboldt University (Germany).

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