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April 17, 2008

Contrary to Erik Ringmar's statement, all British parliamentary papers from 1688 to 2003-04 are freely available online to the UK higher and further education communities, thanks to licence agreements arranged by JISC Collections (http://parlipapers.chadwyck.co.uk/).

Furthermore, his comments about British research institutions ignore the valuable digitisation work being undertaken in such organisations. The universities of Oxford, Southampton, Cambridge, East London, the National Archives, the British Library, the National Library of Wales and a host of other organisations are all involved in the Digitisation Programme of the Joint Information Systems Committee (www.jisc.ac.uk/digitisation)

The digital outputs of this programme will include British Cabinet papers from 1916 to 1975, British election data, a million 19th-century pamphlets, crucial documentary evidence relating to topics such as the history of polar exploration and the First World War and a wide range of other collections valuable to scholars and students. All these resources will be freely available to universities and colleges in the UK when the projects complete in spring 2009.

As for Ringmar's aim to scan, edit, catalogue and upload each and everyone of the billions of pages and documents that constitute "old papers" ... well, good luck to him.

Alastair Dunning, Digitisation programme manager, Jisc.

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