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ICE-TheOREm – Authoring theses has never been easier

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Peter Sefton and ourselves are teaming up. ICE is the Integrated Content Environment for authoring semantic documents. Peter’s been working on this and it’s now becoming an important factor. With the ODT/OOXML arena in many people’s minds groups like Peter and ourselves who tackle the semantic aspects have a lot to offer. TheOREm is – surprise – based on ORE – the Object Re-use and Exchange being developed collaboratively across the globe – led by Carl Lagoze and Herbert van de Sompel. (I’m on the advisory board).

ORE is important. It’s difficult for the academic community to outguess and outpace the Web, but there is a need for a semantic overlay on the current content of the web and ORE fits that. At its simplest it’s a navigational RDF graph overlaid on content. with time we can learn to use it in more powerful ways. RDF is so new (in practice) that we don’t know what ways it will go and its flexibility is a strength and a problem. On the assumption that ORE becomes a mainstream approach in scholarly content then it will gather people round it, just as HTML did in 1993.

So TheOREm – Jim’s term – is a JISC project funded in response to a call for demonstrators for ORE. We thought it would be exciting to base our example on theses – aggergating the material, authoring them, submitting them, reviewing them and getting them into the Institutional Repository. (This is one area where I support the role of the Instituion in running a repository – it’s more important to aggregate them there than in the cloud).

Here’s Peter Sefton (much is omitted)

Deflation in repository clicks

At Open Repositories 20008 a group of us Australian developers entered in the Repositories Challenge, with an entry entitled Zero Click Ingest [1]. The introduction puts it like this:

This micro-project demonstrates a way to eliminate the repository deposit step altogether, by having the repository software take responsibility for collecting the content that it needs. It involves using the Integrated Content Environment1 (Sefton 2006)[2] (ICE) as a document authoring system, but the principle could be applied to other content management systems which support metadata or category-aware ATOM or RSS feeds, with the ability to supply the requisite formats. We show how documents created and managed in ICE can be automatically ingested into a repository at the appropriate time, based on document state.[...]

In TheOREM we’re going to set up ICE as a ‘Thesis Management System’ where a candidate can work on a thesis which is a true mashup of data and document aka a datument [3]. When it’s done and the candidate is rubber-stamped with a big PhD, the Thesis management system will flag that, and the thesis will flow off to the relevant IR and subject repositories, as a fully-fledged part of the semantic web, thanks the embedded semantics and links to data.[...]

At USQ, the Integrated Content Environment is on the way to becoming a ‘core’ system for producing courseware. It has been available for a few years under an open source license…

But at USQ, where we are reaffirming our commitment to flexible delivery we call it Fleximode staff know they have to create resources that suit on-campus, web and print use. ICE helps with that, so it has grown organically from our first user to a couple of hundred because overall it makes life easier. Learning ICE is not trivial, you have to do some training, you have to change the way you work, and the organization needs to supply support. If you do use it, though, there’s a net benefit….

This is one reason why TheOREM is so exciting; not that it’s going to look at ORE but that it will be a first step to providing tools for PhD candidates and their supervisors that I hope will be the envy of others, just as Shirley Reushle used the first version of ICE to make an online course that met the USQ standards and her colleagues saw it and wanted to do the same.

[1] L. Monus et al., Zero Click Ingest, Apr. 2008;

[2] P. Sefton, The Integrated Content Environment for Research and Scholarship, ICE Website, 2006;

[3] P. Murray-Rust and H.S. Rzepa, The Next Big Thing: From Hypermedia to Datuments, Journal of Digital Information, vol. 5, 2004, p