Cyber-Infrastructure for Scholars: Final Report

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (New York, NY). April 2010.
Joan A. Smith.
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This report concludes a three-year investigation conducted by Emory University Library through the sponsorship of a significant grant from the Andrew H. Mellon Foundation. During the course of this project, we explored a range of questions concerning how to create and sustain inter-institutional scholarly portal services, focused particularly on research in the Humanities.

A key product of our research was a suite of software tools for the creation and maintenance of humanities-oriented search portals. A portal is a user-configurable software interface that typically is used to integrate several tools together into one dashboard-like screen. An example of a popular portal is iGoogle, which has numerous widgets (small applications) and which can be visually organized into a layout that makes sense for the individual user.

For this project, the “SouthComb” portal was designed to provide a comprehensive and faceted search across scholarly information sources. The tools that were developed in support of the portal are those that enable harvesting, automatically classifying, and meta-searching information across multiple sources including the Web, OAI-compliant Open Archives, library catalogs, and other digital information collections.

Sustainability for any software system remains a challenge for the academy, and this project is no exception. We hosted the Models for Sustaining Digital Publications meeting in April 2008 with internationally renowned digital library experts to discuss emergent models and to explore the potential for inter-institutional cooperative alliances around the production of digital scholarship. No clear solution emerged, although various models have been proposed such as pay-for-use and general subscription fees. Perhaps more to the point, the cost of sustaining software through the years while underlying hardware and operating systems undergo constant change, remains problematic.