Offering structured access to information on education and training in Europe and stimulating cross-Network communication within EERA by exploiting the capability of the Internet*
Network 12: Information Centres and Libraries in Educational Research
Heinz Bartel/Tamara Massar
German Institute for International Educational Research, Schloss-Str. 29, D-60486 Frankfurt/M., Germany
Phone: +49 69 24708 308, Fax: +49 69 24708 444, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paper Presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Lahti, Finland 22 - 25 September 1999
I. Introductory Remarks:
According to the specific tasks of Network 12 this paper cannot be a presentation of research findings because we are not researchers but information and documentation experts in educational research. Fortunately we closely cooperate with researchers from other networks who are both researchers in the field of education and information specialists.
This paper is somehow a state-of-the-art report with conclusions and statements on possible perspectives based on practical experience and theoretical reflections by N12 members. Therefore we have tried to summarize main ideas in order to
make it easier for newcomers to comprehend the matter;
have a platform for further discussion and personal/institutional engagement;
inform the Executive Committee about our work (success and failure) and to ask for support.
II. How were the aims of Network 12 (N12) originally defined?
According to EERA policy on "bridging" EERAs existing research networks and bringing closer together educational information, research and decision-making Network 12 has to offer through the EERA-Website structured access to information on education and training as well as to respective research areas. By using the capability of the Internet (e.g. discussion forum, bulletin boards, address books etc.) N12 intends to establish a platform to promote and to stimulate communication across the research community both within EERA and with potential partners. Priority will be given to develop a link system comprising a great number of national and the majority of European educational information sources in respect of transnational networks, organizations, databases etc. under one "umbrella". Creating this specific EERA-Network has to be considered as a complemenary measure accompanying other European efforts (Eurydice, CEDEFOP, EUDISED etc.) in developing subject-specific knowledge bases and tools.
In February 1999 the Steering Group of Network 12 was requested to submit a "Draft Conception on the Development of Information, Documentation and Communication" to be discussed at the annual meeting of the EERA Executive Committee in Edinburgh in May 1999 (see Annex I). This request came too early and there has never been any response by the Committee.
III. How were the aims of Network 12 modified in the course of our work?
We are now more clear about our mission to fulfill a "bridging function" within EERA. This requires that we have to distinguish carefully between EERA as a whole and Network 12 and their respective tasks. N12 cannot "bring together educational researchers" since this is the main task of EERA as an association. Network 12 activities have to be directed towards the field of documentation and library services for educational research. One aim of our efforts has to be defined therefore as supporting research by supplying information that is available and a further aim by exploring and developing collaborative ways of creating effective dissemination and information media. Doing so means to identify and select resources/ documents both traditional and electronic, to arrange them and to add value to them by description. A "bridging function" can therefore only be understood as bringing together documents, information etc. and providing researchers with materials and facilities that might enable them to start transnational cooperation and communication. To fulfill these tasks we have to find out what educational researchers really need.
IV. How was the main task - set in Ljubljana one year ago - fulfilled?
(based on materials elaborated by Rosemary Wake/ The Scottish Council for Research in Education, Tamara Massar and Heinz Bartel/ Deutsches Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung)
The placement of DIPF-trainee Tamara Massar at SCRE (22 March to 16 April 1999) resulted from our workshop discussion at the ECER 1998. Together with Heinz Bartel (proposal for structured link collection regarding contents) she started her preparation for this assignment in autumn 1998. Tamara made herself systematically familiar with projects, products, tasks and self-presentations of European institutions, associations, organisations and networks dedicated to education and educational research. Taking our main aims into account and comparing what is offered by others it became clear that SOSIG, INES, MPI-Clearinghouse1 etc. could serve as models and give an orientation for further work.
Within the placement initial steps were taken to put into practice resolutions made by network participants to develop an Internet link list and database on educational research recources to be added to the main EERA website (http://www.eera.ac.uk), which is mangaged by SCRE Information Services under contract. The overall aim (Wake, 1999) was to provide the EERA networks and others in the field of education with information on educational research in Europe. Tamara Massar worked mainly with Rosemary Wake (Head of Information Services) on developing evaluation procedures and a pilot framework for the links page. Following induction to the respective hardware and software, the German trainee collaborated with Duncan Service, Librarian/ Information Officer, on developing a database to enable selected items to be mounted on a webserver using bookmarks from Martin Lawn and others. Altogether seven people were more or less involved in the project. It has to be emphasized that there was not any financial assistance from any external source. The action as a whole was self-financed by institutions/persons participating. For a variety of reasons the aim of getting financial support from the European Commission or from national foundations has not been reached so far.
There is not space enough here to describe in detail all the activities carried out during the placement period. Therefore only a short summary with conclusions will be given here. The project activities comprised (Wake, 1999):
collecting a large number of relevant links on European educational research;
working out a structure for the link list;
designing the database fields and input form;
content analysis and indexing of websites;
development of descriptor lists;
writing English and German abstracts.
database software: File Maker Pro.
Results after first stage of development:
technical infrastructure set up;
master database with multilingual fields;
link list structure (14 categories plus subcategories);
133 records, about 30 are filled out completely in English and German;
list of keywords for institutions/ resource type but no contents key words, no controlled terms.
The technical infrastructure either already existed (access to EERA website, editing webpages) or could be set up by SCRE staff within the placement period. Once URL, title, category plus subcategory are filled out it is no problem to update the webpage. The disadvantages of the temporary database are that there are no word lists or an index for the key words as this would slow down the whole system. It was possible to create dropdown lists for the categories, but with more than 100 records the system slowed down considerably. The input of the keywords will be made more comfortable by the introduction of buttons and check boxes, which still will not offer the advantages of an administration system for word lists as for example in LARS. Experience will show how easy or problematic it may be to change record entries when there is a large number of records and keywords.
The input into the database, evaluating/assessing the identified websites, writing scope notes and making translations is time-consuming and demanding. A special problem are the language skills necessary for both reading the websites and writing the scope notes. Currently only English and German (and maybe French) can be mastered so far by the people involved. Particularly the linguistic problems prove the necessity to decentralize the organization and to share the work between dedicated members from different European regions. While the technical infrastructure would remain with EERA in Edinburgh, the database input has to be done via the Internet from institutions in other countries using a form (examples: SOSIG, German Educational Resources).
In this context we hope to get full support especially by our EUDISED experts. Besides we have to attract newcomers from other countries.
Conclusions (Wake, 1999):
"The pilot exercise was useful in making available a limited amount of information (a knowledge base) on the Internet but; more importantly; in identifying the range of considerations, resource requirements and procedures which relate to providing end-users with guided Internet access in a field of interest. The overall conclusion was that the task of structured development and maintenance of such a diffuse and evolving resource required three things:
cross-national cooperation between a number of centres working to agreed guidelines;
overall management and leadership from one core base with the guaranteed support of other participants;
dedicated funding to support the work of all involved."
So far all aims and tasks could be achieved by using competence, equipment, time and energy of staff of SCRE and DIPF plus support from members of the N12 family.
The N12 Steering Group and all N12 participants highly appreciate Rosemarys dedicated work as a Mentor as well as a Webmaster and thank Tamara Massar for her great job, conceptual and technical, which was - according to a certificate (written by R.W. on 8 July 1999) - "of the highest quality".
Acronym for our Network 12: Rosemary Wake proposed some time ago as an acronym PEERLI-Net: Pan Europe Educational Research Library and Information Network. This may be useful in case of contacts with other institutions and organizations to outline the scope of our activities in short.
V. What are future tasks for N12, what are the next steps?
(based on suggestions made by Rosemary Wake, Phil Sheffield, Sabine Manning, Tamara Massar, and Heinz Bartel)
To answer this question will be the main concern of our Workshop on Friday. The remarks below are so far only well-meant proposals and a summary of experiences gained by our N12 activists. All of us ought to share the responsibilities to be laid down in Lahti and to participate actively from now in the various fields, particularly in contributing to further database development. We have to make arrangements to integrate all N12 members into forthcoming work taking their inclinations and competencies into account.
According to Phil Sheffield (British Education Index, Leeds), who expressed some thoughts (almost a concept!!) in the course of discussing an envisaged project proposal for getting financial support from the European Commission, the following activities seem to be on the agenda:
Project administration: including financial management and allocation, network management, evaluation, project reporting,...
Database hub administration: including administration of input from network nodes, server maintenance, help pages, general text maintenance, search interface management, metadata issues,...
Training and dissemination: seminars, visits, workshops, guideline production, marketing,...
Research and Technical: researcher needs, Thesaurus mapping, translation arrangements,...
Internet resource identification, description, indexing,..
Individual national centres (N12 "nodes") produce information about nationally significant internet ressources;
Individual centres seek national funding to complement European money in case of financial support from central sources;
Individual centres promote national bibliographic, preprint and current research databases and archives, or promote the idea of such services where they do not currently exist;
Individual centres collect information about their national educational researchers, practitioners and consumers views on the databases available to them;
Individual centres contribute information about user requirements and perceptions to N12 at EERA 2000;
Individual centres seek to arrange for the electronic availability of EERA 2000 submissions from researchers in their geographic domains in their native language locally, and in English, through Education-line centrally;
Individual centres promote use of services through training and dissemination (with central assistance).
While the individual national centres are collecting local information in the first year (in case of external financial project support), centrally the project managers could be formalising templates for data collection and presentation, establishing procedures for metadata management and for routine translation of resource descriptions, evaluating options for search engines and facilities, considering options for on-demand printing of selective information etc."
These ideas and suggestions, expressed by Phil Sheffield in the context of preparing a grant application to the European Commission are quite interesting and inspiring. They are nearly a programme, almost the maximum that demonstrates how complex our tasks would be, even if we had the money, the personnel and all the necessary capacities. But - coming back to reality - to convert gradually part of these ideas into practice we have to continue our work with small and realistic steps bearing the overall objective in mind.
From these suggestions, idea and hints some basic questions arise:
Can we successfully continue our work without financial support?
Are there other potential sources of financial assistance for N12 besides the European Commission?
In case of future project proposals (EU-Fifth Framework Programme: User-friendly Information Society and/ or Development of the Human Potential), which institution is prepared to take the responsibility to function as a "coordinator"?
What measures has the EERA-Executive Committee taken so far to share the financial burden with us?
Is the SCRE (and especially Rosemary Wake) still ready to exercise its central function?
How can we effectively decentralize the tasks?
Why do we receive only verbal support from CEDEFOP, Eurydice and other units although "complementary measures" are invited by the European Commission?
How can we attract N12 participants from other countries, in particular from Southern Europe and the socalled "pre-accession states", i.e. the first group of applicants for becoming EU Member States?
To what extent and how can we cope with the linguistic problem?
Which are our priorities between ECER 1999 and ECER 2000?
For quite a long time the question of other N12 members how to assist had to remain unanswered because of the necessity to provide a substance for discussion first. Now after we have got it N12 is able to do the next step to support educational research: to render a contribution for the improvement of the EERA-Websites by evaluation, completion, revision and qualitative improvement of the existing link list. For further database development we have to find out what educational researchers and other professionals in the field of education really need by asking them or getting feedback. There will be an opportunity to start our inquiry during the N12 Roundtable Discussion on Saturday afternoon. This will be of particular interest because Dr Sabine Manning (WIFO, Berlin), an experienced researcher in the field of vocational education and training (Network 2), took the initiative together with Sam Saunders (British Education Index, Leeds), our N12 colleague, who developed the ECER 99 programme as a searchable database. According to Manning and Saunders the discussion should help to bridge the gap between the two as yet separate fields of activity - information and research- which now face common challenges of electronic processing of data. As a starting point this session needs to address questions such as What data should be collected and who could collect what? The following discussion will be organised around two focal points: the requirements of databases for researchers and the active involvement of researchers in developing educational resources. Referring to the question of the kind of databases which educational researchers really need, there will be an introduction by an educational researcher followed by information experts presenting and analysing European and national databases. Right now in this paper session Alexander Botte (DIPF) will familiarize us with an example of advanced database development. Acquainting us with the concept of INES we are offered an opportunity to derive methodical appoaches for our purposes of N12 database development, particularly with regard of describing webresources.
At the same time it is necessary to promote the new opportunities the internet offers for exchange of information or publishing. This can be done by N12 by giving a good example itself. As you know Sabine Manning will speak in this paper session about "The potential and pitfalls of electronic publishing...". The creation of a N12-Website as part of the EERA-Network with facilities to pre-publish (Education-line) or publish papers, a discussion forum, FAQs on information practice, a help service for the development of new products of members could be a goal for the near future.
VI. What were the obstacles to receive financial support from the European Commission?
Main Rule for successful applications: They have to be the fruit of long and stable cooperation between several European institutions:
There were attempts to submit a proposal of N12 (not of EERA!!!!) in the context of "information specialists for educational research":
(1) Grant application (Complementary Measures)/Dead-line: end of september 99
The N12 network convenor made contacts with EU representatives in Brussels employing various means of communication. He wrote to Mr Mitchell (DG XXII, responsable for applications on Complementary Measures). Here an excerpt from this letter:
"Before we submit our grant application and proposals for other actions in the framework of SOCRATES II we really need a consultation opportunity with you. On behalf of the Steering group of Network 12 I would like to discuss some issues with you. They are not related to technical questions referring to the the Addendum 99 but to the Commission interest and possibilities in supporting the development of large-scale non-governmental networks.
Network 12 is expected to fulfill a "bridging function" within EERA and its 17 thematic networks (http://www.eera.ac.uk). We had a promissing start with participation from more than 12 European countries (including Slovenia and Hungary) in last years annual conference. There we, the information specialists, agreed on promoting information and communication between European educational researchers via Internet. Scottish efforts (server with SCRE in Edinburgh) and German efforts (preparing the structures and placing a German trainee for some weeks in Scotland) ensured a good start based on national efforts with a lot of personal additional work and our institutional backing.
Now it becomes really a European matter and the network could be extended. But this cannot be done with a minimum of financial support from the Commission, at least to pay a webmaster (a non-Scottish EU-citizen working for three years in Scotland) and to be able to have some money for activities with regard to coordination, monitoring, evaluation and the dissemination of results.
We intend to have a preparatory meeting in July or August 1999 in Edinburgh to prepare the grant application in team work with specialists from Edinburgh, Leeds, Berlin, Frankfurt on Main)."
On 9 June 1999 Heinz Bartel had a discussion in Brussels with Mr Massimo Gaudina (successor of Mr Mitchell) asking the following questions (see Annex II) and receiving the following answers:
- DG XXII decides according to departments - N12 s concern is interdisciplinary and does neither fit into higher nor in distance education;
- For all matters of research, including educational research, DG XII is responsible.
A chance for receiving a grant we have missed only recently:
(2) Grant application under the PROMISE Programme (Promotion of the Information Society)/dead-line: end of September 99
Another call for proposals was published by DG XIII (contact: Mr Liisberg). But besides being under pressure of time and busy with institutional duties we also failed for the following reasons:
- the number of potential project partners was too low (it would have become almost a German-British application);
- the amount of financial support (in case of success) would not have covered our costs;
- an agreement on the coordinating institution and the coordinator itself could not be reached;
- institutions concerned are short of finance, personnel and occupied with restructuring processes;
- N12 members face difficulties in spending too much (unpaid) time for EERA.
(3) Application within the Fifth Framework Programme (DG XII)
There are two focal points in Framework 5 which are relevant to us:
Human Potential (contact: Mrs Melanie Kitchenerand Mr Wilkie/ Phone: 0032-2-29 59300);
Information Society (contact: Steve Rogers/Phone: 0032-2-29 68016).
Here we have a new chance to submit an application and our prospects seem to be good. But we have to know at an early stage who our potential project partners are. This has to be discussed in our workshop.
VII. What is the position of the Council of Europe regarding our efforts?
On 9 August 1999 I had a discussion on behalf of Network 12 with James Wimberley (Directorate of Education, Culture and Sport, Head of the Technical Co-operation and Assistance Section; successor of Dr Michael Vorbeck in this position). Mr Wimberley (email@example.com) appreciates our efforts and is observing with great interest EERA activities. But the Council of Europe is like many other European Institutions in a critical financial situation. That is why EUDISED (documentation of educational research projects) cannot be financially supported any longer. Mr Wimberley promised that the Council of Europe will send an official recommendation to national EUDISED agents to join Network 12 of the EERA.
Draft Conception on the Development of Information, Documentation and Communication according to EERA Policy
(submitted to the EERA Executive Committee)
Edinburgh, May 1999
Aim: Promoting information and communication between the EERA networks and other actors in European educational research for bringing closer together educational research, educational policy and educational information/documentation
Task (Phase 1): Providing structured access to information on education and training in Europe and stimulating cross-Network communication within EERA by exploiting the capability of the Internet
Method: Developing a multi-level structure (link system) comprising main areas of education and training in the interest of educational research and designing the respective EERA websites (technical implementation); promoting the discussion on electronic communication procedures during ECER 99; fostering agreements on joint documentation projects ("pooling")
Role of Network 12 (in close co-operation with Martin Lawn and representatives of other EERA networks):
According to EERA policy on "bridging" EERAs existing research networks and bringing closer together educational information, research and decision-making Network 12 will be offering through the EERA-Website a carefully structured access to information on education and training as well as to respective research areas. By using the capability of the Internet (e.g. discussion forum, bulletin boards, address books etc.) a platform (meta-server) will be established to promote and to stimulate communication across the research community both within EERA and with potential partners. Priority will be given to develop a reference or link system comprising a great number of national and the majority of European educational information sources with regard to transnational networks, organizations, databases etc. under one "umbrella". Creating this EERA-Network has to be considered as a complementary measure accompanying other European efforts (Eurydice, CEDEFOP, EUDISED etc.) in developing subject-specific knowledge bases and tools.
Contents: Education in Europe, value-added structured link directory, online communication via mailing lists, discussion list, electronic publishing (future development!)
VANE Value-Added Network Education
SEER Structured European Educational Resources
CHEER Clearing House for European Educational Resources
EARS European Academic Research Service
USER Umbrella of Structured European Educational Resources
Structure of Contents
EERA: Current EERA website Martin Lawn/Rosemary Wake (Scotland):
General information about EERA; history of development; how to join EERA; EERA networks; communication tools (mailing lists etc.), ECER99
2. Information Resources
|NETWORK 12:||Role of N12 within EERA; aims and purpose of the network; general information about the provided directory (Tamara Massar/Germany)|
|ADDRESS BOOK:||Databases of institutions, researchers, information
European address book of educational research institutions (Armin Gretler/Switzerland in co-operation with information specialists from various European countries) (to be developed gradually!)
|INTERNATIONAL RESOURCES:||Access to most important international organisations, networks etc. subcategories: UNESCO and others; networks|
|EU / EUROPE:||General EU information; organisations, programmes, educational policy, institutions and databases (EU and non-EU)|
|EVENTS / CONFERENCES:||Selected European conferences on education; most important international conferences with focus on European integration, WIFO (Wlink collection|
|PROMOTION / FUNDING:||Funding of educational research, funding organisations, EU programmes|
|ONLINE DATABASES:||Collections of various databases; general subject guides; overviews on education systems, documentation on educational and VET research as well as on projects, bibliographical databases|
|NATIONAL EDUCATION SYSTEMS:||Comprehensive information referring to educational structures and developments in European states; national networks, databases and guides; most important national servers with meta-information|
|EDUCATION NETWORKS:||Contains networks and common projects, structured by topics subcategories: research, children and youth, social research, school, higher education, adult education, distance education, teacher education, langugages, multicultural education, European dimension, educational technology etc.|
|VET NETWORKS:||Information on vocational education and training; subcategories: organisations, institutions, projects|
|ELECTRONIC JOURNALS:||European journals on education with online access; WIFO link collection|
|MAILING / DISCUSSION LISTS:||Collection of lists concerned with educational research and related topics, including EERA mailing lists; WIFO link collection|
|LIBRARY AND DOCUMENTATION SERVICES:||Associations and link lists; EU-programmes|
|ADD A RESOURCE:||Have your website included in this directory or propose a missing resource; offer of a form with detailed instruction|
|GLOSSARY:||Eurydice glossary of European educational terminology (to be published in 1999)|
|CONTACT / GUESTBOOK:||comments about this website|
|IMPRINT:||addresses of Network 12 and partners who helped to develop this website, e-mail for comments on this website, webmaster|
|COPYRIGHT / DISCLAIMER|
Structuring the EERA websites theoretically and doing the editorial work practically are two phases of our precise planning. About six months after ECER 98 in Ljubljana (quite a short time) the steering group has so far fulfilled "only" the theoretical task. All results are the outcome of team work.
SCRE (Scotland) and DIPF (Germany) have agreed to work intensively on the implementation of the structural design on the Internet in the period from 22 March to 16 April 1999 in Edinburgh. This why the Editor and Internet Coordinator, Mrs Rosemary Wake (SCRE), maybe expected to submit her proposal for a paper only late in April 99 right after the practical period mentioned above will be completed.
All participants are experienced information and documentation specialists fully aware of the European dimension of education. For quite a long time they have been involved in EU/Europe-related activities, e.g. by participation in projects, database development, documentation and dissemination of educational research findings and direct contacts with
representatives of the EU institutions and international organizations.
The author has been working as an information broker regarding the "European Dimension of Education" for more than six years and is co-author of an anually published Bibliography with the same title. He is familiar with structures and policy regarding education and training in the European Union and in Europe.
The topic of this paper is related to all EERA networks for its interdisciplinary approach and the bridging function of Network 12.
Activities of "identifying", "assessing", "selecting", "arranging", "commenting" and "structuring" educational information have required systematic, empirical or/and analytical inquiry.
Questions in Brussels to Mr Gaudina (DG XXII)
9 June 1999
Is DG XXII (Education and Training, Youth) interested and able to support the development of a European Network of Information Specialists in Educational Research? (We can already look back to one year of co-operation)
How about our chances to be financially supported under Complementary Measures within SOCRATES? (CEDEFOP and EURYDICE are informed about our aims and activities)
Is a Preparatory Visit regarding Complementary Measures possible? (In our case the Steering Group (from Germany and UK) is expected to prepare the grant application (deadline: 1 October 1999) in a workshop in Edinburgh and will fax the texts then to our cooperation-partners in seven other countries, including Hungary and Slovenia?
Which other sources of Community support could you recommend in our case?
Is there any possibility of financial support out of project application?
May we submit an application for Transnational Co-operation Projects?
Is the Commission aware of the fact that cooperative efforts by activists/specialists from Member States are at a certain stage due to run into a failure if there is no financial support to make a good initiative a European action?
In case of financial support by the Commission can we hope to be promoted for a period of more than one year?
We have already started with Scottish/German activities on the Internet to prove our seriousness and efficiency? Is this an asset or not? (We spent institutional time and money...)
What is approximately the upper limit (in EURO) of financial support for our concern/request?
Is a larger sum of financial support envisaged by the Commission in case of including partners from Eastern and Central European States in the network?
Acknowledgement: This paper is based to a great extent on theoretical reflections and practical work done by Rosemary Wake (SCRE/Edinburgh) and Tamara Massar (DIPF/Frankfurt on the Main). I would like to thank them for their generous co-operation.
1Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development
This document was added to the Education-line database 01 October 1999