When scientific/scholarly communication is mentioned, you tend to think of specialised documents containing information about new discoveries and advances. These traditional publications are at a high level of abstraction, and are generally difficult for people to understand if they are not themselves familiar with the particular discipline concerned.
Scientific/scholarly communication also means, however, that research findings are made accessible and understandable for relative outsiders, for example researchers in other disciplines, policymakers, businesses, scientific information officers, and the general public.
Information for a wider public
The original publication will naturally need to be adapted or rewritten if it is to be understandable for a wider public. Examples of such adapted or derived works include policy memoranda, popular science publications, and application-oriented publications. Generally speaking, it is often not the scientist himself who produces these derived works.
Scientific/scholarly publishers are not interested in publications of this type, focusing solely on the commercial distribution of specialised documents. The development of “institutional repositories” – i.e. depots belonging to scientific/scholarly institutions containing digital versions of documents – means that far more people have access to the original literature. But giving free access to information does not mean that everybody will understand what has been published.
Role of the World Wide Web in scientific/scholarly communication
In this wider type of scientific/scholarly communication, the World Wide Web plays a major role. The Web offers possibilities that are not feasible with a traditional document. It can be extremely illuminating, for example, to illustrate the written text with pictures, tables of data, videos, or software. At the same time, it is important that the relationship with the original work, i.e. the scientific/scholarly publication, remains intact. This allows the reader to easily trace the basis for the derived work.
Purpose of ESCAPE
The ESCAPE project has been set up to meet this need. The partners in the ESCAPE project wish to demonstrate that it is possible – starting from a scientific/scholarly publication, for example in a repository – to define an aggregation of related documents (objects). This aggregation, described by a so-called rersource map, can serve as an identifiable group on the Internet, allowing other people to profit in a simple manner from the added value of the grouped objects.
What sort of things are involved? Well, the official scientific/scholarly publication is often based on one or more data sets, audio fragments, and videos. The relationship between these types of objects and the scientific/scholarly publication is often not apparent within the traditional culture of publication. Also, working with aggregations will make it possible to present the original item and the works derived from it as a whole.
The object of ESCAPE is therefore also to make it possible to permanently identify, describe, and present aggregations of related sources on the Web. In this way, extensive composite publications can be created. The descriptions of these aggregations can be found – as said before – in “Resource Maps”.
The ESCAPE software is freely available under a GPL license. The source code and installation instructions are available on request. If you’re interested, please contact : Esther Hoorn (University of Groningen)
The source code will allow you to install your own ESCAPE environment, customize it and extend it. The following software is required to run ESCAPE: Apache, PHP, Tomcat and the Fedora Commons repository.