The Russian inter-university information and research center: perspectives for the humanities in Russia

Tatyana Yudina,
Research Computer Center, Moscow State University
Moscow, Russia, 119899
Vorobievy Hills

As the American and European experience has proved the computer-based technologies stimulate education and research in humanities. The digital age may promote education and research in humanities in Russia but special efforts are needed to educate students, to create an appropriate information infrastructure, to develop tools that assist students, professors, specialists to adopt to the computer technologies and to make use of them.

The information access is one of the main political, economic, social and scientific challenges that Russia faces now. Russia has inherited low information culture from the USSR, it is still a problem to get accurate and validated data, digital resources needed for investigations in humanities is only to be created. Poor funding of universities makes the problem hard to solve. Currently the computer-based research in humanities are much less developed as compared to natural and social sciences.

The general level of humanities students' education in advanced technologies is lower than in that of natural sciences and social sciences. The problem partly lies in poor level of computer education that students bring from school, most students in Human .faculties are computer illiterate. To benefit in the digital age they are to be educated and trained in the field. Special efforts are been undertaken by the Moscow State University to improve the situation. The Information and Training Center for Human faculties is being arranged in 1998. This infrastructure oriented on humanities is a special direction of a SuperComputer Initiative launched by the Moscow State University last year. The initiative is to promote computer-based education and research, it covers all main components of the task - technical base modernization, information resources and education in advanced technologies.

The Center for Human faculties will provide new knowledge and skills to the students, post-graduate students, as well as to professors and specialists to stimulate them in learning computer-based technologies and to apply to investigations.

The Internet is part of the program. The audience is to be educated how to use the channel to access the information, documents, multi media stuff that is needed. Special efforts are planned to design and develop the resources in humanities. This work is done under the IS RUSSIA project (also part of the SuperComputer initiative) aimed at creation of the Internet accessible public domain information resources.The fundamental research in linguistics provided for the NLP technology created under the project. Currently the information system covers mostly social domain stuff, stuff in humanities is a next step which is planned to be developed in close ties with the Human faculties. The NLP technology provides for large text corpora to be processed and indexed and categorized. The large text corpora for linguistic research, philosophy, pieces of literature will be available in the digital form and with advanced value-added user services.

Special work is done in translation technologies to ensure international sharing of resources via the bilingual search tools. - Russian-English module. The NLP technology and bilingual module provide for the tools to retrieve the Internet sites in English and to direct the users : the Russian users may work with the Internet sites using bilingual tools, they receive metadata in English and translated into Russian on each document and may browse the metadata. Metadata includes bibliographic description of a document and main topics. Search in English is possible for foreign users thanks to the well developed bilingual options - user interface, help screens, searching tools. The most efficient search instrument is a Thesaurus of Modern Life in Russia which includes up to 15,000 of English equivalents and System of subject headings -200 categories. Thesaurus in its English version includes terminology from the most respected thesauri of the world - the ones of the Congressional Research Service, US Library of Congress; the LegiSlate; the United Nations; the EVROVOC (Commission of European Communities). The search tools include the optional use of subject headings systems that are mostly popular among foreign experts (those of the Congressional Research Service, US Library of Congress; the LegiSlate; the Commission of European Communities). These are the linguistic treasures with well developed terminology in the humanities. The Human faculties users may work with the international stuff in English, in the future - in other languages, special module that includes survey of the sites valuable for specialists in humanities is under development. This scope of knowledge will be included into curriculum, innovating it.

Part of the project is to implement the international standard GILS ANZI Z39.50 to ensure the IS RUSSIA compatibility with the international information resources to make it available for a global audience.

Available as a reliable, permanently updated, Internet accessible information resource, the IS RUSSIA helps in reaching important social and human goal - free public access to the information that ensures an information society in a country.

Significantly increased will be research and educational potential of Russian regional universities. Given that local universities in Russia are not just educational institutions but they also concentrate scientific, cultural and political life in their regions, university professors and researchers usually assist as political consultants and experts to the local politicians and public organizations, increase of analytical potential will widen the possibility to influence political life in the regions. Via the universities' Internet centers general public and schoolchildren may access the resources in humanities.

The Moscow State University is a leading university in Russia, its Rector is a Head of the All-Russia and CIS Association of University Rectors. The SuperComputer initiative will assist other Russian universities in their move into the digital age. All the educational and training programs, curriculum innovations will be disseminated around Russia and the CIS assisting them to be up to date in the digital age.