Digital Library Research & Prototyping

Scholarly communication in the digital age.

The Library's Digital Library Research and Prototyping Team explores various aspects of scholarly communication in the digital age, with a main focus on information infrastructure, information interoperability, and long-term persistence of the scholarly record. The team was the lead in devising groundbreaking, and widely used, scholarly information interoperability standards such as OAI-PMH, OpenURL, and OAI-ORE. The team also conducted the MESUR project, the first ever effort to explore alternative metrics for scholarly communication in a scientific manner, which became a major catalyst for the meanwhile popular Altmetrics movement.

Papers by the team


Contact: Herbert Van de Sompel (505) 667-1267 Email


"Scholarly Context Adrift: Three out of Four URI References Lead to Changed Content". PLOS One, 2 December 2016.

"Scholarly Context Not Found: One in Five Articles Suffers from Reference Rot". PLOS One, 26 December 2014.


Current Projects


Signposting the scholarly web

Signposting is an approach to make the scholarly web more friendly to machines. The concept is based on using IANA-registered link relation types to establish coarse-grained interoperability among scholarly communication and research nodes. By using typed links in HTTP link headers, Signposting shows machines the way to obtain information from repeatedly occurring scenarios in scholarly portals. For examples, it helps machines find the authors of a publication, the bibliographic metadata that describe a publication, and discover the (compound) resources that make up a publication. Signposting principles have found early adopters in DataCite, Pangaea, DANS, and the University College Dublin Digital Library.


Memento - Time Travel for the Web

Memento wants to make it as straightforward to access the Web of the past as it is to access the current Web. The Memento protocol adds a time dimension to the HTTP protocol. Inspired by HTTP content negotiation, the protocol introduces the notion of datetime negotiation that allows a client to request the version of a resource as it existed at a specified time in the past. Memento is the result of a collaboration between Los Alamos National Laboratory and Old Dominion University, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

View the presentation Memento: "Time Travel for the Web" 101

Memento at the W3C: The W3C Wiki and the W3C specifications are accessible using the Memento “Time Travel for the Web” protocol.



ResourceSync aims to address the problem that resources change over time: they get created, modified, deleted. Destinations want to keep in step with the resource changes. The goal is the devise a specification for web-based resource synchronization that has a fair chance of adoption by different communities. ResourceSync extends sitemaps, to capture a resource baseline, track changes, and send change notifications.

The ResourceSync Framework Specification has been issued as ANSI/NISO Z39.99-2014.

ResourceSync is a collaboration of NISO and the Open Archives Initiative, funded by the Sloan Foundation and JISC.

View the presentation "ResourceSync: a Quick Overview"


The focus of the Hiberlink project is to assess the extent of so-called ‘reference rot’ - how web links in online scientific and other academic articles fail to lead to the resources that were originally referenced.

Hiberlink explores references to resources on the Web at large: quantifies reference rot; explores potential solutions to reference rot, and focuses on links in electronic journal articles, but has the big picture in mind: dynamic interdependent, web-based scholarly assets. Hiberlink also explores content decay, and ways to archive resources which are referenced in scholarly communication.  Hiberlink is a collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

View the presentation "Investigating Reference Rot in Web-Based Scholarly Communication"

Open Annotation

Open Annotation

Annotation is a core practice of scholarship, requiring new standards and tools for annotating digital resources. The Prototyping team has led efforts aimed at devising a web-based approach for scholarly annotation through the Open Annotation Collaboration. This work resulted in the Open Annotation Data Model . Open Annotations can easily be shared between platforms, with sufficient richness of expression to satisfy complex requirements while remaining simple enough to also allow for the most common use cases, such as attaching a piece of text to a single web resource.

This data model specification, merging with the Harvard-based Annotation Ontology work and intensive community feedback in a W3C Community Group, led to the recent approval by the W3C to turn the annotation work into an official W3C standardization effort in which the Prototyping team will remain involved.