|High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine|
Issue 9 / February 2004
The EULER project completed its work in November 2002. It forms the last part of a very successful project in the specialized but global discipline of mathematics. After a successful RTD project had created the technology, a take-up project has effectively exploited it to the point where its future is assured through a not-for-profit consortium.
EULER is a European based, world class, real virtual library for mathematics with up-to-date technological solutions, well accepted by users. In particular, EULER provides a world reference and delivery service, transparent to the end user and offering full coverage of the mathematics literature world-wide, including bibliographic data, peer reviews and/or abstracts, indexing, classification and search, transparent access to library services, co-operation with commercial information providers (publishers, bookstores).
The EULER services provide a gateway to the electronic catalogues and repositories of participating institutions, while the latter retain complete responsibility and control over the creation and maintenance of their data collections as well as the access provisions pertaining to their offerings.
About 2,400,000 entries, regularly updated, from:
On an experimental basis, OAI harvesting of metadata records from Project EUCLID electronic journals (Cornell) also takes place.
The EULER Consortium recently has released a new, enhanced version of the EULER Search Engine. http://www.emis.de/projects/EULER/
The new EULER Engine comes with a complete re-design of the user interface, inspired by other popular and easy-to-use general-purpose search engines, and a new, speed-optimized retrieval machinery in the background (based on EDBM indexing and retrieval software, © 2001 Cellule MathDoc, UJF & CNRS).
Clearly arranged search result overviews:
Complete display of single items:
Links to full texts (per item, where available):
The EULER service was designed during two EU funded projects, EULER and EULER-TAKEUP. After the completion of the projects, the EULER Consortium was founded as a non-profit membership association to sustain the services that were developed.
Main results from the EULER project (1998-2000) were
The objectives for EULER-TAKEUP (2002):
The technical results can be summarized as follows:
Several enhancements and further development of the metadata scheme took place: Adaptation of the EULER Metadata Element Set to current Dublin Core standards and recommendations, introduction of the EULER Format of Entries, introduction of the EULER Application Profile, establishing the EULER namespaces (euler0.1, eulerq0.1).
Technological and usability improvements have led to a consolidated software and operational EULER Service, following usability standards that make it "as easy to use as Google". Various new features (such as ranked result lists, spell checking of queries, targeted advertising, and user guidance) were introduced. Two architectural variants (central / distributed) are now available.
The end-user evaluation that took place during the last phase of the project produced very satisfactory results. Positive feedback in general was received on system usability. The integrated service was easy to use. Of course, additional advanced functionality was also requested. The contents of the database was appreciated: Important data providers are already present, additional benefits are to be expected from additional data providers. MSC browsing with related DDC mapping was asked for.
The EULER Consortium is a registered incorporated society (association), according to German law. The Consortium consists of full members and associate members. Only not-for-profit institutions can become full or associate members. In addition, the Consortium recognizes another category: commercial parties may join as sponsoring members. Full members consist of the former EULER project participants and new members who are prepared to contribute actively to the Consortium. Associate members participate as information providers only. They provide metadata and regular updates of their data according to Dublin Core based EULER specifications. Commercial partners (sponsoring members) are participants who contribute their metadata according to Dublin Core based EULER specifications and for which a higher financial contribution is required - they cannot be full members.
The Consortium acts through its members to ensure the continuation of the EULER services. Members are required to provide metadata and regular (at least monthly) updates of their databases according to Dublin Core based EULER specifications. The necessary scripts for the conversion are the responsibility of the member. The Consortium can provide initial and basic technical advice. Co-ordinating tasks as well as technical and administrative tasks are carried out by the Executive Committee. As necessary, such tasks can be distributed among the full members. A Scientific Advisory Board consisting of the European Mathematical Society (EMS), their appointed representatives, and other suitably qualified and recognized personalities is responsible to ensure the scientific quality of the EULER service, and advises the Consortium on scientific matters. The European Mathematical Society (EMS) represents the interests of the mathematical community for which the EULER service is made. The EULER services will remain under control of organizations representing the public interest.
The EULER Consortium will need income to provide the management, administrative and technical service to negotiate and sign contracts with new members and commercial partners. The Consortium determines the estimated income needed to keep the service running, and - if possible - to compensate the not-for-profit information providers. Information provider expenses consist mainly of efforts to provide conversion tools for the metadata (one-time costs), regular updating of data and end-user support. In principle the provider should carry the financial consequences.
Commercial partners will need investments comparable to those of other members. However, they will have the added value of PR and marketing means to a target audience. Therefore, they are required to contribute financially. In providing links to paid document delivery (pay-per-view from the sites of publishers, purchase of monographs, photocopy ordering from library members) as well as free document retrieval (e.g. full-text technical reports), the EULER service can be considered an information broker between the mathematical community and information providers. This fact should make it attractive to producers or vendors of mathematical publications and information to advertise through EULER for a target audience. Besides the normal inclusion of full metadata sets into the EULER databases, a special targeted advertising programme is also available.
The partners recognize the need to adhere to established standards and guidelines in the development and maintenance of the software. This is all the more necessary since the data - originating in different systems and different formats - will be introduced from many sources. For this reason EULER has adopted the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set to facilitate the integration of resource descriptions.
The Consortium's policy is to facilitate participation by non-profit information providers, through the possibility of offsetting their expenses incurred in the transfer of data and the intention to maintain a low entry barrier. This open approach will encourage the incorporation of more data into the system which, in turn, will lead to more wide-spread use which, in turn, will surely attract the commercial (i.e., paying) sponsors needed to assure long term survival. The partners have tackled the self-financing issue with a down-to-earth practicality that is not often detected in academic/research projects: the use of targeted advertising tied into user query terms, but with stringent controls so as not to let the presence of ads detract from the user's search experience.
The system is well poised for future exploitation, starting with the Consortium structure which provides a formal base for future maintenance and development activities. The specialized (and at the same time world-wide) target audience seems quite receptive toward the functionality offered by EULER. Looking into the future, there are international initiatives working toward the creation of a Digital Mathematics Library and the EULER service model may very well provide the single, integrated access point that would be needed.
Several initiatives are currently underway globally to establish a comprehensive Digital Mathematics Library, consisting of scanned images of the whole corpus of historical works, and genuine electronic publications in mathematics. The European Mathematical Society has expressed its interest in contributing to such a development, by co-ordinating European activities, and liaising with other global partners. Several of the original partners of the EULER initiative are involved in these and similar activities. Concrete examples of initiatives are
Results so far are promising, e.g. the ERAM database now covers about 200,000 publications, with a big portion linked online to the archive of scanned works (fulltext archive) at SUB Göttingen. It is already now available in EULER. Research funding agencies world-wide seem to be interested in these developments, which makes it probable that the idea of a global Digital Mathematics Library will eventually be implemented. (See also the article of the executive director of the American Mathematical Society: John Ewing: Twenty Centuries of Mathematics: Digitizing and Disseminating the Past Mathematical Literature, Notices AMS, Aug 2002, 49(7), 771-777.) In such an environment, where several partners would work on a global scale on such a distributed scanning and preservation project, a powerful end-user discovery tool will be needed that works independently from local specialities and formats, is capable of integrated homogeneous retrieval of heterogeneous distributed sources, and is scalable to cope with the amounts of data that are to be expected. EULER has proven that its model is an optimal choice for such a discovery system. Only few adaptations seem to be necessary.
The Consortium is aware of the need for continuous updates in both system usability and functionality, in order to keep up with technological developments and changing user requirements. Among the pending developments foreseen by the Consortium are an OAI implementation (currently in test phase), multilingual support, and mapping between MSC and DDC.
The Consortium is also interested in pursuing a new service model combining the benefits of the two existing structures - centralized and distributed - which could also be helpful for extending the usage to different sectors. Currently, EULER is in possession of two different technical options that are ready to run the EULER services:
Both models are adequate to run the EULER services, however, they have specific advantages and disadvantages. For future developments, it is planned to work on a service model that combines the advantages of both systems while eliminating their drawbacks.
Although the Consortium has no plans for getting involved in implementations beyond its own sphere of influence (mathematics), they are open to serving as consultants to other communities interested in adapting it to their own needs. In order to promote use outside of the mathematics community, dissemination efforts are being made to reach into more general forums (such as this Webzine). The project's participation at events like the IFLA conference in Berlin (summer 2003) is a good example of how to proceed and has served to spread the word about the EULER service model to other sectors.
According to independent European Commission experts, "the partners are to be congratulated on a job well done and no doubt will be capable of maintaining a high quality service for the mathematics community as they had proposed at the beginning of the original EULER RTD project."
Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen
Hans J. Becker
FIZ Karlsruhe / Zentralblatt MATH
Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica
Ay Ling Ong
Università degli Studi di Firenze
European Mathematical Society
c/o FIZ Karlsruhe / Zentralblatt MATH
EULER and EULER-TAKEUP were supported by the European Commission under RTD contracts Telematics for Libraries, LB-5609 (FP4), and IST-2000-29445 (FP5).
Hans J. Becker
Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen
Michael Jost and Hans J. Becker "EULER - a real virtual library for mathematics", High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine,
issue 9, March 2004. URL: http://webzine.web.cern.ch/webzine/9/papers/5/
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