The 4L-Project: Local Information Worldwide. An applied project for dissemination of scientific contributions produced by Italian authors in Veterinary Sciences and Agriculture and its integration with international information sources.

L. Pitaro*, L. Fruttini**, L. Lazzari***, L. Morotti****
*Istituto Zooprofilattico del Mezzogiorno - Via Salute 2, Portici (Napoli)
**Istituto Zooprofilattico dell'Umbria e delle Marche - Perugia
***Biblioteca Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia e dell'Emilia Romagna "B. Ubertini"

Click here to see the ppt presentation


Academic and research institutions are the biggest producers and users of scientific information. Scientific information wants to be free -considering the fact that the researchers do not have any interest in obtaining royalties from the publication of their articles. Their interest is absolutely opposite: that of enabling the max number of researchers to access the results of their work.

The researcher in the act of publishing does not have the profit finality but only the desire to let all the scientific community access the results of his work.

For more  information on this  issue you can consult  the following  web site: See the proceedings of the meeting on Scholarly Publication Firenze 22nd of March 2001.

On the other hand marketing has an important role in the distribution of scientific information. In reality, commercial activity does not belong to the mission of Academic and Research Institutions, so there is no expectation that this kind of activity can be well managed from these kind of institutes.

Between these two opposite tendencies, probably the best point of equilibrium can be obtained through the co-operation between commercial entities and the scientific world: this could allow the possibility of reaching a model for the distribution of the scientific production in a wider way and following market criteria in line with the emerging needs in the processes of scientific communication, particularly local.

The Context.

The actual situation shows us that not always scientific information produced locally can not always reach the main distribution channels of distribution that are recognised and utilised at international level.

A few data that support this thesis confirm the necessity to find alternative routes to invert the tendency.

Emerging data on the Italian reality are not comforting: in the year 2000 BIOSIS holds less than 4% of records by italian authors and of this less than 0,02% are obtained from Italian journals. With CAB Abstracts these values turn respectively to 3% and 1,6%; COMPENDEX gives the following values: 3% and 0,02%; INSPEC gives 3% and 0,1%; PSYCINFO gives 1,5% and 0,1%; SOCIOLOGICAL Abstracts gives 2% and 1%. Even if this analysis is limited to only 6 databases that refer to 6 macro-disciplines we do not expect that, if extended to other bibliographic resources in different subject areas, this would bring to significantly different and more comfortable results.

This analysis, if done on other countries excluding the English speaking ones, would produce very similar results.

The reasons that contribute to produce this status quo can be identified as:

- at the Institutions end there is a lack of awareness of the importance of promoting and distributing the scientific research to the scientists outside a specific environment;
- general tendency of these Institutions not to implement mechanisms of recording/tracing of what is published by their researchers;
- language barriers. Particularly in relation to this last reason, it must be made clear that in a total globalization context limitations represented by the language used in the distribution of scientific production is no longer justified.

All what has been said is generally applicable to the majority of scientific and research Institutions in Italy, including also the Istituti Zooprofilattici Sperimentali. . All that as been said is generally applicable to the majority of scientific and research Institutions in Italy, including the Istituti Zooprofilattici Sperimentali.a recent analysis conducted on the scientific production of Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale of Lombardia and Emilia Romagna that was chosen due to the significant amount of research papers produced, showed that less than 25% of the whole production was indexed in CAB and less than 18% con be found in Medline. This data as well as the analysis of the internal situation has shown specific needs and also the necessity to start a project aimed to the preparation of the guidelines that must be followed for the harvesting, conservation and distribution of internal scientific production: publications and grey literature.

Istituti Zooprofilattici Sperimentali, which are present all over Italy with 10 headquarters and 96 provincial diagnostic branches, produce scientific information; these works - often produced together with Universities or with other Research Centres - are mainly published on scientific journal. In addition to these publications, other kinds of materials are published such as: annual reports on the diagnostic and research activity and other factual cells and monoclones databases. This publishing activity aims to let the scientific community know about the state of the art of the research process in the various Institutions and also the training and updating activity towards veterinarians, farmers and professionals in the field of Agriculture and in the same way also animal and human nutrition specialists.

While the scientific works published on international magazines have a visibility inside the Institutes and at international level, because of the fact that they get indexed in the major databases of the field, all the other publications, either results of researches or material for teaching purposes, have only a partial circulation inside Istituti Zooprofilattici and are completely absent from the national and international context.

The Project.

Over the last few years the Istituti Zooprofilattici libraries are cooperating in order to create synergies for producing more advanced and efficient services with at the same time lower costs. From 1999 a cooperation has been started between all the Institutes for the acquisition of electronic resources. Currently bibliographic databases are shared with the Libraries catalogues and with the full-text of their electronic journals. From this first experience of cooperation the idea of a better level of integration between the information that can be gathered on international databases and the publications of the Institutes has trought with the primary goal to give the researchers a single environment through which to run their searches.
The original idea has evolved further as it has been understood that there is the necessity to make study activity, research activity and the teaching one visible outside local and national borders searchable together with the information that is contained in the commercial databases of the field.

The pilot project has involved three out of ten II.ZZ.SS.: the Lombardia and Emilia Romagna one, the Umbria and Marche one and the Mezzogiorno Italy one. After perfecting the procedures and having verified the feasability of the project, it will be extended on the national network of the Institutes.

It has also been decided that the collections of the single Institutes must be made available in a transparent and organic way to the user-either if he refers to the II.ZZ.SS or if he is an external researcher-independently from their physical location. In the same way these collections must represent a significant quantity of documents of interest to the international scientific community. This necessity has been satisfied thanks to the preparation of guidelines for the harmonisation of procedures aimed to the harvesting of information and the subsequent creation of a centralised bibliographic database.

The next step has been that of identifying the ways through which to open this database to the outside world and make it accessible and integrable with different resources.

The following characteristics have been defined as fundamental for the centralised database:

- easy possibility of integration with the other external resources in a context of hybrid library;
- access possibility with standard protocols like Z39.50 and OAI;
- structure or record based on Dublin Core (in our view the best standard candidate).

Various possibilities have been explored, like for example the Open Archive initiative and that of the pre-print servers, but they offer only a partial solution to the problem. Even though every author is free to include his work on the pre-print server or on an Open Archive system, the quality of the meta-data (of the bibliographic description) is in general not good. For the purpose of allowing the authors to insert the information in a simple and fast way, both these initiatives can not force editorial rules and publication standards that result too strict. This penalises the research of the documents from a quality-quantity point of view and from a methodology point of view.

In September 2000 SilverPlatter Information has started a study finalised to the identification of a solution that will enable to answer needs very similar to the ones highlighted by our pilot project. SilverPlatter Information has proposed to the Istituti Zooprofilattici to cooperate in their project and to contribute to its development.
Once defined the overall architecture and once the prototype is created this can be extended to every Institution interested in making their scientific production available at a global level.

Every Institution deciding to contribute with a significant number of documents will have unlimited access to the archive. SilverPlatter Information will coordinate the promotion of the initiative giving it visibility at a global level. The intellectual property of the data included will remain with authors' affiliation Institutions and they will be able to distribute passwords in order to enable chosen groups of researchers to perform the data entry of their documents directly into the system. Participating Institutions will also provide the necessary training to their researchers and will perform and guarantee the quality control of the works that are included.

Operative aspects.

The service will be hosted by SilverPlatter ad will be made accessible via Internet, while the Istituti Zooprofilattici, as well as the other Institutions that will take part in the project will be able to install a local hosting system at a later stage, if they want to. In this case SilverPlatter will automatically be able to harvest data transferring them from the local collections to the central database via the Internet.
The central database accessible via the Internet will be divided in the following subject areas:

- Food/Agriculture
- General Reference
- Health and Safety
- Humanities
- Medical and Pharmaceutical
- Science and Technology
- Social Sciences

Within these subject areas the record scheme based on the Dublin Core will be defined for every one of the following resources:

- PEER-REVIEWED articles, newspapers and journals
- pre-prints
- thesis
- research result reports
- serials
- monographs
- web resources
- teaching material
- congress and meeting's proceedings
- discussion groups

The database will be integrated with SilverPlatter ERL technology that through WebSPIRS, the gateway Z39,50 and SilverLinker, will enable its integration with other bibliographic databases and with the other resources available in a hybrid Library context.

Bibliographic records included in II.ZZ.SS. database will be linked to the full text of the corresponding documents via the URL and/or the DOI. Links validity verification will be performed on a weekly bases. Alternatively it will be possible to load the documents on the central server. In this case the documents must be in one of the following formats: PDF, MSWord, RTF, ASCII, PostScript.

The feeding of the data will come through a web interface or through batch record procedures in a XML format. The export of the documents will be possible through batch record procedure in XML or the gathering of data with OAI protocol.

In a first stage the system will be compatible only with the ISO-Latin1 (this because of the limit in ERL technology). It will be compatible with the Unicode as soon as it will be supported by ERL Technology.

Authentication will be based on the LDAP (Light Directory Access Protocol) with the possibility of implementing the PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) in the future.


In this early stage of the project we tried not to take into too much account some practical aspects that will for sure represent obstacles to the smooth progression of this project such as:

  • The well consolidated habits researchers have in terms of making their works published in those journals that will give them the highest impact factor although this almost always means to totally loose the intellectual property of the scientific contribution.

  • On the other hand the possible and expected resistance by traditional publishers to allow scientists to keep - even if in part - the intellectual property of their works. And this might represent a threat to authors: to publish in a renowned journal and lose rights on their papers or not to publish at all.

  • Difficulty to make set publishing guidelines followed by our authors
  • Difficulty to have them agree on the fact that the Institutes must and will be those who own the intellectual property of research papers produced by authors employed by IIZZSS.
    to name a few.

    We did it on purpose because we felt that if we gave too much attention to these possible problems we would never be able to start the project and take it forward.

    It is our strong conviction that this is the way in which scientific communication will be delivered in future and that scientists will quickly change their habits adapting to the new possibilities technology gives them in order to communicate to each other.
    Nevertheless we do realise that this project presents us with big challenges and it will absorb many of our resources. On the other hand citing Seneca words: "It isn't because things are difficult that we don't try, but by not trying, things become difficult" and who best than librarians can try and make it happen?