by Grant Gross

Iraq’s Virtual Library

Jun 15, 20062 mins
Enterprise ArchitectureIT Leadership

A group of U.S. scientists, with help from Sun Microsystems and the U.S. government, have launched an online library containing more than 1 million research articles for Iraqi scientists and students.

The Iraqi Virtual Science Library (IVSL) was started with $362,000 from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense. According to project organizers, the online library is needed because for more than 20 years, Saddam Hussein’s regime neglected libraries and the scientific community. Then, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, many Iraqi libraries were found to have been looted and destroyed.

“The Iraqis began with nothing,” says Barret Ripin, senior science diplomacy officer for the U.S. Department of State. “A lot of the holdings that they did have were destroyed in the aftermath of the war.”

The project started with a group of scientists who were working at the State Department or DoD through a fellowship program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The group wanted to give Iraqi scientists and students access to “top-tier” research, says D.J. Patil, an IVSL cofounder and researcher at the University of Maryland.

With the first phase of IVSL complete, the online library includes access to more than 17,000 research journals. Some publishers donated access, while others offered subscription discounts, says Susan Cumberledge, another IVSL cofounder and a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Massachusetts. Iraqi scientists and students can sign up for access through seven universities and one research institute there, and more schools will be added, Cumberledge says.

Sun helped the IVSL team evaluate the Internet connectivity and infrastructure needed for the project. In the next phase, Sun will help Iraqi universities and government agencies create an open-source Web portal that the universities can manage, company officials say.