Euro project targets Web for radical overhaul

June 14, 1996

A pan-European ECU3.3 million (Pounds 2.7m) project to make the World Wide Web a more usable system for researchers has just been launched.

Among the 23 partners in DESIRE (Development of a European Service for Information on Research and Education) are the universities of Bristol, Bath, Glasgow, Loughborough, Newcastle and Queen's Belfast.

The project, funded by the "Telematics for Research" sector of the Telematics Application Programme of the European union, identifies key problems in Web usage: * It can be hard for researchers to track down the specific information they need and when they do, the quality of the information may be hard to judge.

* Confidential information cannot easily be shared without the risk of interception, making collaboration harder.

* Performance can be unacceptable, particularly for multimedia information sources such as sound and video.

Nicky Ferguson, director of the Social Science Information Gateway at Bristol University, said: "The Web is rather like the early car. It looks impressive but needs a person upfront waving a red warning flag."

He said the university would investigate two elements: resource discovery and retrieval, using manual cataloguing and software robots (with the University of Lund) and, with Newcastle, the training needs for all the software produced by the overall project.The technology will be used to set up information services for researchers in the fields of social science, art history, engineering, high-performance computing and orthopaedics.

More information is available from the consortium's Web site www.nic.surfnet.nl/projects/desire

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