Conference logo Networked Information in an International Context


9th and 10th February 1996 at the Ramada Hotel, Heathrow, UK



This account was drafted for this report by The Marc Fresko Consultancy. It is based on notes taken during the presentation and on the slides used.


This paper describes the genesis, objectives, and status of the ROADS - Resource Organisation and Discovery in Subject-based Services - project. Key issues raised by the project are examined, and possible future actions are sketched out.


The project emerged from a recognition of the need for an easy way of locating Internet resources. The idea hinges on the use of simple Internet resource descriptions, which will allow users easily to retrieve information from distributed autonomously managed resources. The idea was incorporated into a proposal for eLib funding; ISSC has funded the project for two years, to develop a suite of services which support resource discovery.

Project Roles

The University of Bristol is acting as project co-ordinator. This involves looking after the liaison, the documentation, and other project management tasks. Key personnel are Nicky Ferguson, Chris Osborne and Phil Hobbes.

UKOLN is providing metadata research, and work on user requirements, WWW issues and the interoperability of MARC and Z39.50. Key personnel are Rachel Heery and John Kirriemuir.

Technical development is taking place at Loughborough University, where the key contacts are Jon Knight and Martin Hamilton.


A Significant Contribution

The first objective is to make a meaningful contribution to the development of a sharable, distributed systems platform for resource discovery services. In fact, it will achieve more, as some services are actually being developed.

The project is based on the avoidance of idiosyncratic components, and so a number of pragmatic choices have been made. The work will build on:

Support Emerging Services

Several eLib projects are developing new subject-based services. The second objective is to support these projects with tools, advice and guidelines. Examples of the projects are:

Make Resources as Useful and Accessible as Possible

The third objective is to work with subject-based services to involve information providers in the description of their own resources, in order to make them as useful and accessible as possible. Early on, a decision was taken that there would be a need for tools to allow information providers to document their resources. The "trusted information provider" and ALIWEB models are both under consideration; quality of documentation remains a concern, and is a constant issue.

Participate in Standards Activities

There is a perception that the UK does not participate enough in international standards setting work. Partly in response, the fourth objective of ROADS is to implement and test emerging standards, and to increase the level of UK participation in standards work. Accordingly, Loughborough University is working on the development of WHOIS++ and the uniform resource initiatives (UR*); UKOLN is working on metadata research, and is organising (jointly with OCLC) a metadata workshop which will follow on from the recent meeting in Dublin (Ohio) which resulted in the "Dublin Core". The workshop will be held in Warwick in April 1996.


The project started in August 1995.

The current version of ROADS software is referred to as v.0. It includes an IAFA-based search engine, and has given rise to much discussion on the ideal template contents.

The next step is ROADS v.1, which is expected in late the Summer of 1996. It will be a standalone WHOIS++ implementation.

By the end of 1996, ROADS v.2 should be available. This will implement a fully distributed environment, with Centroids. It will allow a single entry point to one server, which refers the enquirer to the specialist server which is most likely to be useful.


The ROADS team recognises that a plurality of protocols will be used for the foreseeable future. Therefore, as part of the project, it is planned to develop a small demonstrator which will show interoperability between services based on Z39.50 and MARC.

The project team sincerely hopes that the experience gained so far, and experience to be gathered in the remainder of the ROADS project, will feed back into ongoing discussion and development in this area. One of the debating points which has already arisen is the need for a Simple Internet Resource Description.

A key question concerns the practicality of providing this prototype for a distributed directory service. The use of Centroids will need to be tested, as will questions associated with the inclusion of data from domains other than the limited selection currently incorporated.

Finally, there is the possibility of integrating the ROADS scenario to take in other, non-Internet resources, such as business data.


See the ROADS project home page at URL:

Details of related eLib projects can be found at the eLib Information Centre,

Further descriptions are in ARIADNE at

British Library R&D Report 6250
© The British Library Board 1996
© Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Bodies 1996

The opinions expressed in this report are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the sponsoring organisations.


The primary publication medium for this report is via the Internet at URL
It may also be purchased as photocopies or microfiche from the British Thesis Service, British Library Document Supply Centre, Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7BQ.

This report of the conference was prepared by The Marc Fresko Consultancy Telephone +44 181 645 0080 E-mail

Converted to HTML by Isobel Stark of UKOLN, July 1996