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A Look Back: ETD-Conference at Humboldt-University Berlin in 2003

posted Aug 4, 2017, 11:28 AM by NDLTD Admin
NDLTD 20th Anniversary Logo

In 2017 the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations, NDLTD ( celebrates its 20th Year and Prof. Dr. Peter Schirmbacher writes about the NDLTD’s first conference outside the USA. 

The first electronic publishing project was organized at Humboldt-University in Berlin in 1997. It gave doctoral students the option to publish their dissertations electronically. In the past in Germany everyone was required to publish their doctoral theses in paper by a publishing house or in microfiche format. The idea of this project was also to make an electronic version acceptable.  
At the beginning of this project various technical and organizational problems occurred. A goal was to store these works in a special server that would be appropriate for a long term preservation. A new repository had to be built and additional services had to be developed, such as an upload-tool, a search mechanism and an appropriate directory structure. 

 For this project to be successful it was important to find colleagues in other universities with the same problems, and it was not necessary to look for long. A look at Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) showed us that a team of people under the leadership of Ed Fox were active in this field.  One result of visit there was the beginning of a very intensive cooperation between the two universities, and Humboldt-University was integrated in the ETD-community. 
Beginning with the first ETD-conference in Blacksburg in Virginia in 1998, representatives of Humboldt-University regularly took part in the conferences. It was a time I which we had a lot to discuss about technical and organizational problems in managing ETD’s. Some of these questions were:
  • What is the right file format for storing theses and dissertations?
  • How to build up an ETD repository?
  • What aspects need consideration?
  • Is a contract between the authors and the owners of the repository necessary?

Every year the number of conference participants has grown. In most but not all cases these were representatives from US universities. The number of participants from different countries also grew, and the community wanted to disseminate the idea of ETD’s worldwide.

In consequence the sixth ETD-conference in 2003 was organized by Humboldt-University Berlin in Germany. Under the banner “ETD 2003 – Next Steps: Electronic Theses and Dissertation worldwide” the conference was a big success with 215 participants. More important than the number of participants was the number of countries: 46 from all over the world. With a financial support by the UNESCO and other international and national organizations, it was possible to cover the travel cost of many people who came from countries with no experience in managing ETD’s.   

This conference helped to establish a new basis for publishing of theses and dissertations worldwide. A lot of documents, such as the guide for Managing ETD’s, could be distributed in many countries. A result of tutorials offered during the Berlin conference was the creation of a multiplicity of initiatives in Africa, Asia and especially in Eastern Europe. The ETD in Berlin was also a signal for welcoming additional international conferences in the next years, such as in Sydney, Cape Town, Lima, Hong Kong and New Delhi. The Berlin conference was really the “Next Step” in disseminating of the idea of 
Network Digital Library for Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD).