ETD Guide/Training the Trainers/Initiatives to support ETD projects in Latin America

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Abstract: This section focuses on the outreach work of the Ibero-American Science & Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC) and selected other organizations in developing EDT projects in Latin America. Training for librarians and for EDT trainers are described.

Many Latin American universities have digital library projects, some of which include electronic theses. However, standards and consistency may be lacking in local EDT initiatives. The Ibero-American Science & Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC) and its partners have been creating learning opportunities and instigating local projects in digital libraries and EDT’s. This section describes ISTEC’s outreach process and progress in regards to EDT projects for the science and technology libraries that are members of the organization.

Overview of ISTEC

ISTEC is a non-profit organization comprised of educational, research, and industrial institutions throughout the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula. The Consortium was established in September 1990 to foster scientific, engineering, and technology education, joint international research and development efforts among its members and to provide a cost-effective vehicle for the application of technology.

With start-up funding from the State of New Mexico and selected IT companies, the ISTEC board created four initiatives to address obstacles to IT developments and to encourage IT manpower development. These are:

  1. The ACE Initiative champions continuing engineering and computer sciences education projects. The most important goals are to upgrade human resources and curriculum development through training and non-traditional exchange programs. The methodology involves on-site training, web-based education, video courses, satellite delivery, and "sandwich" graduate programs. The latter brings graduate students from Ibero-America together with experts from ISTEC member organizations to ensure excellence.
  2. The Research and Development (R&D) Initiative focuses on the development and enhancement of laboratory infrastructure at member organizations. The major goal is the design and installation of modular, flexible, and expandable laboratory facilities for education, training, and R&D with links to the private sector.
  3. The Los Libertadores Initiative champions networks of excellence in the region.The main goal is to network Centers of Excellence equipped with the latest telecommunications and computer technology to provide real-time access to a world-wide system of expertise and knowledge. This requires partnerships among industries and governments to create an Ibero-American academic and R&D Internet backbone.
  4. The Library Linkages Initiative (LibLINK) is ISTEC’s information creation, management and sharing project. Below is a description of LibLINK efforts in developing digital library projects in Latin America, especially in the area of EDT’s.

Overview of the Library Linkages (LibLINK) project of ISTEC

The major goal of LibLINK is to design and implement innovative, international Science and Technology (S&T) information-sharing services. The annual compound growth rate of the Rapid Document Delivery (RDD) project has been hovering around 200% since 1995. Over 27 libraries in 19 countries are connected in real-time and documents are provided using the Ariel® software. The RDD project, although the most popular service, is a foundation for the more important digital library initiatives which were started in 1998. The projects within LibLINK can be categorized as follows:

  • Connecting libraries for information transfer. This is accomplished through opening S&T library collections - especially Latin American collections - for scholars through regional networks created to compliment the LiBLINK document delivery services. Currently these include LigDoc in Brazil, PrEBi in Argentina, REBIDIMEX in Mexico, and most recently, a cooperative group of libraries in Colombia.
  • Training librarians and researchers in digital library concepts.
  • Working with the Networked Dissertation/Thesis Library (NDTL) initiative at Virginia Tech to expand the concept in Latin America. The LibLink initiative seeks to promote easy access to scientific information in the region, especially to thesis and dissertations of master's and doctoral candidates as this is our member organizations’ most important intellectual property.
  • Advancing and piloting new types of scholarly communication by actively supporting new publishing efforts such as the NDLTD and the Open Archives initiatives.

LibLINK volunteers plan and carry out workshops and mini-conferences to facilitate the above. Funding generally come from grants provided by organizations such as the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and other national science councils such as CONACyT in Mexico, and regional organizations such as the OAS and UNESCO.

LibLINK and 'EDT’s in Latin America'

We have refined a process for involving librarians and computer scientists in digital library projects that has proven successful. The principles on which ISTEC and LibLINK base their outreach efforts are:

  • to establish the capacity of libraries and library staff for participating in digital projects.
  • Site visits Participation in regional or local IT and computer science workshops to identify computer scientists working on digital library projects or components thereof. We are especially interested in initiatives created in isolation from each other and from their local libraries.
  • In this way digital library initiatives and researchers are identified and a DL group can be established from the above findings that consist of librarians and computer scientists/engineers. Outcome: Critical mass of computer scientists and librarians linked to each other and to ISTEC.
  • With this groundwork done, we plan and find funding sources for a Digital Library Workshop that generally have two major aims:
    • To share information about current DL initiatives in that specific country or region
    • To provide training in EDT’s as the preferred first DL project
  • In some cases, this is also an opportunity to create strategic plans for coordinated national projects

This process has resulted in the following EDT and DL workshops:

  • A NSF/CONACyT digital library workshop that included NDLTD training by Ed Fox, in Albuquerque, NM. Funding was obtained from various sources, mainly the National Science Foundation, CONACyT (the Mexican Science Council) and the Organization of American States. July 7–9, 1999
  • A successful DL conference in Costa Rica for Central American countries (Seminario / Taller Subregional sobre Bibliotecas Digitales). A full day EDT workshop was delivered by Ed Fox, followed by a day of digital leadership training and planning for local EDT projects. Funding was provided by the Organization of American States(OAS), the US Ambassador to Costa Rica and ISTEC. San Jose, Costa Rica, November 1999 (more detail below).
  • 1st Course for the Training for Project Directors for Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Projects. The course was organized by UNESCO, the VII CYTED, Universidad de los Andes, and ISTEC’s Library Linkages Initiative and held in conjunction with the VII Jornadas Iberoamericanas de Informatica, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, from August 30 to September 1, 2000. This is an example of how EDT training can be piggy-backed on a significant regional event that is synergistic and that provide more value for the money spent to attend.
  • A 2nd Training Course for Directors of EDT Projects was funded by UNESCO (Montevideo), the Asociación de Universidades Grupo Montevideo (AUGM), and ISTEC. This "Train the Trainer" course was held in Montevideo, December 7–9, 2000. The main goals for this series of courses are to create a group of specialists responsible for the dissemination and management of electronic dissertations and theses. The trainer for both these sessions was Ana Pavani from the Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro.
  • REBIDIMEX is the Mexican operations for ISTEC Library Linkages. This group has had a number of meetings to develop coordinated digital library and EDT projects in Mexico. The digital theses project at the library of the Universidad de las Américas- Puebla is an excellent example,, and forms the basis for a national Mexican EDT project.

Case Study:

The Primer Seminario-Taller Subregional sobre Bibliotecas Digitales, sponsored by the OAS and ISTEC at the Universidad de Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica, mentioned above, provides a good case study of EDT outreach events. Each participating Central American country was asked to identify universities with sufficient technological infrastructure to support a digital library/ EDT project. Then each organization was funded to send representatives from each of their computer systems and library groups. The agenda focussed on providing one whole day of basic training by Ed Fox (a co-author of this Guide) in digital library and EDT concepts, followed by another day of leadership training for digital environments and a planning session.

During this portion the groups identified a project that all could participate in. They chose the digitization of their organization’s theses and dissertations and making it available through the Open Archives system using the processes developed by Virginia Tech and others described in other sections of the Guide. Regional working groups were assigned. The most important outcomes, however, were the creation of a network of librarians and computer scientists that understand EDT technological, operational and political issues and that now have contacts for joint projects in the region.

What next?

The model of creating synergism and connections between librarians and computer scientists and focusing their energies on basic digital library/EDT projects will continue to be replicated in other parts of Latin America. Ana Pavani (a section author of the Guide) continues to deliver EDT courses with the help of ISTEC, such as one in Pernambucu, Brasil, in the spring of 2001. Members from ISTEC’s regional and executive offices regularly speak at conferences regarding EDT’s and are available to help arrange EDT events. Organizing training events and developing joint funding arrangements takes a lot of time, expertise, local contacts, and effort, but is critical for creating opportunities in under-served countries.

ISTEC and its partner organizations, the OAS, International Development Bank, UNESCO, etc., continue to work together to offer regional digital library workshops in Latin America. UNESCO is formulating an international strategy for creating and disseminating electronic theses and dissertations that will support Latin American outreach efforts (UNESCO, 1999). As well, we are assisting governments to draft suitable policies to improve access to information, especially in making their universities’ intellectual property (theses and dissertations) widely available to publicize the universities’ research strengths. ISTEC is also sponsoring the Spanish translation of the Guide and will disseminate it through the ISTEC Science & Technology Portal.

Other Latin American Projects

The Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC) at the University of Texas at Austin is the most comprehensive resource for academic and economic information on Latin America (, but not specifically for EDT projects. Some beginning and mature EDT projects can be found at:

  • The Library System of the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (Chile).
  • The Digital Technology Research and Development Center (CITEDI) of the Instituto Politecnico Nacional in Tijuana, México.
  • The UNESP site at the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil.
  • The digital theses project at the library of the Universidad de las Américas-Puebla, Mexico.
  • University of Antioquia (Medellin, Colombia)
  • University of São Paulo (Brazil).
  • In Chile the Universidad de Chile has been developing Cyberthesis, since November 1999. This is an electronic theses production project with support from Unesco and the cooperation of the Universit de Lyon and the Universit de Montreal. The Information Service and Library System, SISIB, is coordinating the Electronic Theses and Dissertations Project (Cybertesis), applying the production process developed by the Universite de Montreal, based on the conversion of texts to SGML/XML. In 2002, the Universidad de Chile will organize training workshops in the production of ETD (structured documents) for other Chilean universities.


The Transborder Library Forum/FORO Transfronterizo de Bibliotecas share many of the aims of ISTEC’s Library Linkages initiative. Their meetings have been held annually since 1991 to work on ways to improve communications relating to border issues and to foster professional networking among librarians from Mexico and the United States. Recently, Canadians and representatives from Latin American libraries also interested in NAFTA and border issues began to have a presence. At the 10th Transborder Library FORO held in Albuquerque, New Mexico in March 23–25, 2000, attendance of several representatives from Latin American libraries were sponsored and ISTEC’s LibLink project provided a training session and talks about the REBIDIMEX initiative in Mexico.

The Association of Latin American and Caribbean Academic Libraries ( Bibliotecas Universitarias da America Latina e do Caribe)) sponsored a LibLINK workshop that included EDT discussions and talks at the annual meeting in Florianopolis, Brazil, in April 2000. ISTEC continues to have a presence at their conferences. And are involved with the Brazilian EDT initiatives.

The impact of Bandwidth and Infrastructure issues on EDT outreach in Latin America

Bandwidth and IT infrastructure are important factors for digital EDT project developers in Latin America. IT policy development is another. More aggressive action is needed in both the governmental and industrial sectors. ISTEC emphasize these issues at the "IT Challenge" conferences by bringing industrial and academic members together with regional decision makers, such as ministers of education and technology and representatives from national science councils.

The first high-performance Internet link between North and South America for research and education was inaugurated in Santiago, Chile on September 12, 2000. Chili and the USA connected their respective high performance networks, REUNA* and Internet2, enabling collaboration among researchers and educators at universities in the two countries. Such high-performance network links are critical to ensure the bandwidth required for future format-enriched EDT projects. ISTEC and its partners are strongly committed to advance this cause. * Reuna is a collaboration between the National Universities of Chili that introduced the Internet in Chile in 1992. Reuna´s high-speed network, REUNA2, is an ATM network of 155 Mbps. across the country. The National University Network is a non-profit consortium of 19 leading Chilean universities plus the National Commission for Science and Technology. Its mission is the creation and development of networks and services in IT aimed at supporting participation in the Information Society.


The Library Linkage initiative of ISTEC has found a methodology for encouraging and supporting EDT developments in Latin America that has proven successful. The most important step is to identify local players in digital library initiatives in both libraries and computer science and computer engineering departments. The next step then brings these players together at events that provide opportunities for training, information sharing and national/regional EDT project planning. ISTEC monitors subsequent developments and provide support to keep projects going as appropriate. The most important strategic outcome we are aiming for is to create an open archive structure that will provide access to all science and technology theses and dissertations of member organizations through the ISTEC Portal. We believe that this will be a rich source of innovation, manpower identification and development, and an opportunity to highlight the intellectual property of our member universities.


UNESCO (1999). Workshop on an international project of electronic dissemination of thesis and dissertations, UNESCO, Paris, September 27–28, 1999


Ibero-American Science & Technology Education Consortium. For more information see

REUNA2. For more information see:

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