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Stanford/Sun Center for Excellence in the Knowledge Enterprise

“There are technologies and connections that make life of scholars and students easier. We need to use these technologies to adapt and adopt good work that has been done elsewhere to make readers, our users, more powerful”.
Michael A. Keller, Stanford University Librarian and Publisher of HighWire Press

The Stanford Center of Excellence in the Knowledge Enterprise is a partnership between Sun Microsystems and Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources (SULAIR). It represents Sun’s continued commitment to innovation, collaboration with leading academic institutions, and the pursuit of new advances in networked education and federated information.

The overall objectives of the Center of Excellence (CoE) are to:
  • Create best practices and models for the preservation and dissemination of information in academic research institutions;
  • Lead both academia and the publishing industry in creatively addressing the related issues of access and preservation;
  • Establish norms for institutional output storage policies and practices by example.

SULAIR is in the business of selecting, collecting, describing, disseminating, publishing, archiving and making accessible information for teaching, learning, and research. The Center of Excellence will further the state of the art in each of these functions in the digital environment. Specifically, we are deeply and fundamentally interested in:

  • The technology of capture, description, delivery, storage and preservation of information on a massive scale;
  • Growing the market within the academic industry for integrated hardware and software solutions suitable for local digital repositories, mirroring agreements, interoperating repositories, course management systems, distributed persistent digital caches, etc.;
  • Creating and maintaining new kinds of communities among scholars in academic publishing.

The Center of Excellence is the sum of SULAIR’s online endeavors. This includes:

  • Over one million full text scientific articles (of which 600,000 are available to the world without subscription or other cost barriers);
  • 350 Stanford courses managed; • Some 5,000 topical web pages managed and updated by SULAIR staff;
  • Several million page images of research material;
  • Thousands of literary texts;
  • Hundreds of gigabytes of demographic and other statistical data.

Much of this content is readily available online. However, both for reasons of licensing/copyright and bandwidth, Stanford is unable to share all its resources off campus. Part of the purpose of the Center of Excellence is to make practical greater sharing of information between major digital repositories around the world, for research and teaching use as well as for preservation purposes.

The Center of Excellence is both a developer of specific technologies and a creator and demonstrator of best practices. In the academic arena, it does not suffice to develop a technology; it is necessary to promulgate its use; to support new users; to create a community of users (and staff that for quite a while). In lieu of customers, we engage community “activists”. In lieu of a formal sales and marketing role, we evangelize among peer institutions over time. Real R&D funding may come from corporate, government, or foundation grants, but to one degree or another, the Center of Excellence provides a series of services to the academic community on behalf of the greater good.

The Stanford Center of Excellence in the Knowledge Enterprise delivers an ongoing program of products and services to its own users, to users elsewhere in cyberspace, and to other academic institutions. The key areas of research we are working on include the following.

  1. Digital Repositories: Stanford is designing and building a large scale, multi-format, highly robust, long-term digital archive for its holdings and other digital objects. CoE activities are focusing on issues surrounding digitization, storage architectures, preservation models, digital asset and rights management, content linkage to e-learning systems, and standards for content description, technical and structural metadata, as well as content packaging.

  2. Collaboration and Learning Environment Software: Stanford has joined forces with the University of Michigan, Indiana University and MIT, through the Sakai Project ( to develop the next generation of course management tools. This landmark venture is creating open-source course management tools and related software for the higher education community. CoE efforts are focusing on development and tuning for the Sun Platform (Java), integration with digital repositories, and tools for scholarly collaboration.

  3. Academic Publishing: SULAIR’s HighWire Press produces online versions of high-impact, peer-reviewed journals and other scholarly content. HighWire Press hosts the largest repository of free full-text life science articles in the world, with over 15 million articles from over 4,500 PubMed journals, including 830,566 free full text articles from 789 HighWire-hosted journals. CoE efforts focus on e-journals and open access publishing.

  4. Digital Preservation: LOCKSS ("Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe") is open source software that provides librarians with an easy and inexpensive way to collect, store, preserve, and provide access to their own, local copy of authorized content they purchase. Running on standard desktop hardware and requiring almost no technical administration, LOCKSS converts a personal computer into a digital preservation appliance, creating low-cost, persistent digital "appliances" of e-journal content as it is published. CoE activities focus on supporting and expanding the LOCKSS model.

  5. Search, Discovery and User Interfaces: SULAIR is involved in a number of initiatives focused on improving the power, sophistication, and usability of information discovery and retrieval. CoE efforts include work with Groxis ( and Sun's Looking Glass 3-D Desktop technologies.

Ultimately, we have a responsibility to the users and producers of today as well as to future generations. The Stanford Center of Excellence in the Knowledge Enterprise addresses the question, “What can you do for me now” in ways that allow us to address the question of “What will we be able to do for information users in a half-century.”


Last modified: June 24, 2005

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