Edinburgh University's data library has won Pounds 1 million to back its status as the latest United Kingdom National Dataset Centre on the Internet.
The designation from the Joint Information Systems Committee is part of a policy to establish a virtual library of information services for higher education across the Joint Academic Network (Janet).
The funding for staffing and equipment has come from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council on behalf of JISC, which represents higher education institutions across the country. Edinburgh is the first Scottish data centre; the other national centres are at the universities of Bath, Essex and Manchester, and King's College, London.
Edinburgh is unusual in having had a data library for over a decade, making online research information, principally census data, available to institutions in Scotland's central belt.
Peter Burnhill, head of the data library and director of the new data centre, said JISC's decision would widen the library's remit, since it will host three major new bibliographic datasets.
The first is BIOSIS Previews, an unrivalled source of international biological and biomedical bibliographic references and abstracts, containing around 9.5 million records.
Edinburgh will also host the Periodicals Contents Index, networked access to the complete index of more than 3,000 journals in the arts and social sciences from the 19th century to the 1960s, with references to around 14 million articles.
The third is Palmers Index to the Times, likely to be used by policy researchers and historians.
Brenda Moon, Edinburgh's librarian, said the role of a national dataset centre would bring new opportunities for further close collaboration between the university library and the data library service in providing online information to academics.
"The university library, one of the oldest and largest in the UK, will be extending its online catalogue to include information on its older collections of printed books and manuscripts as a result of SHEFC's support for its specialised collections for research in the humanities,' she said.
Brian Gilmore, computing services director, said Edinburgh had invested heavily over the years in one of the most advanced computing infrastructures in Europe, with strengths in computer networking and database management.
"As the Scottish network operations centre for Janet, and the SuperJANET lead site for ATM, it is able to provide high-speed access to large volumes of data, estimated to be in excess of 50 Gigabyte," he said.
The new data centre aims to open its virtual doors at the start of the new session. The data library can currently be found at http://datalib.ed.ac.uk/
*John Bell, a final-year computer science student at Heriot-Watt University, has prepared a fully interactive on-line prospectus for prospective undergraduates.
Students from all round the world are now able to communicate with admissions tutors through email, and the university believes that in due course, the Internet prospectus may completely replace the traditional printed version.
It can be accessed at http://www.hw.ac.uk/prospectus/ front.htm
The university also has plans to produce an online prospectus for postgraduates.