Letters to the Editor


D-Lib Magazine
May 2001

Volume 7 Number 5

ISSN 1082-9873

To the Editor

The letter below was received in response to Peter Hirtle's April 2001 editorial, OAI and OAIS: What's in a Name?

To the Editor:

Peter Hirtle's editorial in April's D-Lib Magazine ("OAI and OAIS: What's in a Name?") raises the significant issue of the similarity of the names of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) and the Open Archival Information System (OAIS). The OAIS existed first, and it is unfortunate that those of us responsible for choosing "OAI" to describe our efforts did not identify and avoid the lexical similarity between the two efforts. Those who have been involved in naming projects by committee can appreciate the difficulty of picking a descriptive, yet available name (and corresponding domain name!).

As Hirtle notes, the OAI and OAIS have different, yet orthogonal goals in relation to digital libraries, publishing and data management. I think it would be a tolerable oversimplification to distinguish the two efforts as:

  • Open Archives Initiative: The focus is on "openness", through exposing and harvesting metadata through a simple, explicitly defined protocol. Note that metadata harvesting is the only model explicitly addressed
  • Open Archival Information System: The focus is on "archival-ness" (apologies to William Safire, again) by thoroughly defining the framework, models, and terms needed to discuss long-term preservation of information. Note that protocols are not defined.

Fortunately, there is a simple mnemonic available: the OAIS is the longer of the two acronyms, and describes a much larger, more broadly scoped effort.

Hirtle also suggests the possibility of combining both OAI and OAIS in a single system. Some simple diagrams explaining how this could happen also illustrate the difference between OAI and OAIS. Figure 1 illustrates a highly abstracted OAIS archive.

Figure showing an abstracted OAIS archive

Figure 1: An Abstract OAIS

Producers submit Submission Information Packages (SIPs) to the OAIS compliant archive. The archive transforms them into Archival Information Packages, which have enough additional information to increase their chances for long-term preservation. The Consumer can discover the AIPs through the use of their Descriptive Information (metadata). Upon finding the desired AIP, the Consumer can then receive a Dissemination Information Package (DIP). Note that there is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between SIPs, AIPs and DIPs -- defining the possible structures of and transformations between the various information packages is at the heart of OAIS. This OAIS archive could be made OAI-compliant as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure showing an OAIS archive made OAI-compliant

Figure2: OAIS + OAI

In Figure 2, the roles of SIPs, AIPs and DIPs are unchanged. However, Consumers are no longer necessarily accessing the OAIS archive directly for resource discovery functions. Third parties (called Service Providers in OAI terminology) harvest the Descriptive Information (metadata) via an interface that supports the OAI protocol (indicated by the OAI logo in the figure). This makes the OAIS archive a Data Provider in OAI terminology. Consumers connect to their favorite Service Provider for resource discovery (searching, browsing, etc.), and upon locating the desired information package, a DIP is retrieved by the Consumer from the OAIS archive. Delineating the functionality and responsibility between Data Providers and Service Providers is at the heart of OAI.

The above examples highlight only the most basic concepts of OAIS and OAI -- the fundamental issues that both efforts address can be both subtle and complex. Despite their similar names, we wish to stress that OAI and OAIS are neither competitors nor substitutes for each other. The existence of an OAI interface ultimately aids in resource discovery; it does not make guarantees about the long-term preservation of its contents. Furthermore, the OAIS Reference Model does not specify which protocols should be in place to meet its requirements, and there is no reason why OAI interfaces cannot be added to OAIS archives.

For more information:

OAI: <http://www.openarchives.org/>
OAIS: <http://ssdoo.gsfc.nasa.gov/nost/isoas/us/overview.html>

Michael L. Nelson
NASA Langley Research Center
(Who was in favor of "OAI" when it replaced the previous, even more over-loaded name, "UPS".)

The letter below was received in response to the April 2001 Letter to the Editor sent by John Tagler, Elsevier Science. Mr. Tagler's Letter to the Editor was in response to Kenneth Frazier's Opinion piece, The Librarians' Dilemma: Contemplating the Costs of the "Big Deal" in the March issue of D-Lib Magazine. It is D-Lib Magazine policy to publish the article author's response along with the Letter to the Editor when possible. Because Dr. Frazier was traveling abroad and was unavailable to send his reponse in time for publication with the Letter to the Editor from Mr. Tagler, D-Lib is providing Dr. Frazier's response in this issue.

To the Editor:

John Tagler's letter responding to the "Librarians' Dilemma" is a misreading of the article. I didn't say that Elsevier offered only one way of buying their electronic journals. I said that the "Big Deal" (defined as a license for electronic access to all of a commercial publisher's journals for a price based on current payments to that publisher, plus some increment) is a "one size fits all" approach to licensing content that will do harm to the scholarly communication system in the long run.

John Tagler and I are in full agreement that Elsevier offers academic libraries an alternative to buying the Big Deal. In fact, the article says quite plainly that the University of Wisconsin-Madison has licensed a selection of Elsevier publications in electronic format. We had to initiate negotiations for this alternative ourselves and had to pay a premium price for the option because all the really powerful price incentives are lined up in favor of the Big Deal. But, I am sincerely grateful that Elsevier gave us the option.

It is puzzling that Mr. Tagler makes no response at all to the one serious charge that I make against Elsevier in the Librarians' Dilemma. That is, I say that Elsevier is abusing the intellectual property created within the university community by flatly prohibiting any transfer of e-journal articles via document delivery services to institutions outside the academic community.

It is easy to understand Elsevier's worldview. They want everyone to pay them for the use of their journal articles by licensing directly with Elsevier. But what could explain the behavior of librarians? We obviously don't have to accept such terms. If academic institutions took a firm position on this issue, Elsevier would be obliged to make an accommodation. At the very least we should not delude our institutions and ourselves by pretending that these restrictions are not present in the licenses we have signed.

Ken Frazier, May 10, 2001

D-Lib Magazine welcomes letters related to digital library research and electronic publishing issues. Also welcome are letters with questions or comments about the magazine in general, or about stories appearing in the magazine. Please do not send those that are primarily commercial, promotional, or advertising in nature.

Letters concerning articles selected for possible publication as Letters to the Editor will be forwarded to the article authors for response. If published, the Letter to the Editor will appear with the article authors' responses whenever possible. D-Lib Magazine reserves the right to edit or shorten letters. If you prefer, you may request that your letter not be published.

Please send your Letters to the Editor to dlib@cnri.reston.va.us.

Copyright (c) 2001 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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DOI: 10.1045/may2001-letters