Digitization of Japanese Academic Journals and its Services

  1. 1. Jun Adachi

    Research and Development Department - National Center for Science Information Systems

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The National Center for Science Information Systems (NACSIS) is one of the national inter-university research institutions under the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports. Since its establishment in 1986, NACSIS has been giving support for researchers and universities in terms of information services. NACSIS has been engaged in the development of its electronic library system called NACSIS-ELS (NACSIS Electronic Library System) since early 90s. After trial service for a few years, full service was launched in April 1997 as NACSIS's new service for scholarly information dissemination. Through the operation of NACSIS-ELS, the digitization of Japanese academic journals also thrives in a large scale. Many of Japanese academic societies in humanities are considering in participation in this project. The functions now available on NACSIS-ELS are online document delivery capabilities on the Internet. NACSIS-ELS has unique features as compared with other digital library projects which are based on conventional libraries. For example, the coverage of materials provided by NACSIS-ELS is restricted to scholarly journals which are all copyrighted, and potential users are assumed to be mainly researchers. It stores no paper-form materials and permits access for users only through networks. In this paper, the NACSIS activities and the background of the NACSIS-ELS project are described in section 2. Then, the profile of the services are described in section 3. Issues concerning academic societies, database compilation, and copyright, etc. are described thereafter.

2. Overview of NACSIS Activities

2.1 Cataloging Services

One of the most heavily utilized services is NACSIS-CAT service, which is an online cataloging system for the compilation of the union catalogs of university library materials. The records of catalogs and holdings of books and serials at university braries accumulate in databases day by day through the NACSIS-CAT service, which started in 1984. More than 400 university libraries and several public libraries are connected online to the NACSIS central catalog database server, which stores over 20 million holdings records in total. These records are utilized for OPAC services at each university library as well.

2.2 Document Delivery

The service which combines catalog information and general databases is NACSIS-ILL (NACSIS Inter-Library Loan service), which runs a kind of e-mail system for exchanging inquiries for document delivery from users to libraries. Users can issue a request to receive photocopies of an article which he or she has found in conventional information retrieval systems. The request will be sent to one of the libraries that hold the journal or the proceedings that carries the article.

2.3 Cooperation with Academic Societies

NACSIS is supporting the activities of Japanese academic societies by compiling bibliographic records of technical reports and conference papers that cannot be obtained easily through the usual publication distribution systems. NACSIS considers that gray literature, (i.e., literature outside the usual distribution market, and difficult for people to obtain easily, such as SIG reports and conference proceedings) is of as much importance for researchers as academic periodicals. Therefore, NACSIS initiated the bibliographic database compilation of Japanese gray literature. NACSIS has also initiated the compilation of full-text records of articles in some scientific journals in cooperation with the publishing departments of several societies[3][4]. NACSIS proposes to use SGML format for full-text encoding, but the number of participating journals is limited at present.

2.4 Japanese Academic Societies

A major reason for government support of the activities of academic societies through NACSIS operations is that in Japan the scale of individual societies is small compared with those of the U.S., even though the number of societies is more than one thousand. Therefore, the financial state of the societies is weak, leading to occasional difficulties in publishing materials. Furthermore, Japanese societies are responsible for scholarly publications in the Japanese language, and those outside Japan do not subscribe easily to these publications. This makes societies financially weaker in the age of the Internet, where English prevails. While some societies publish journals in English, journals with an international reputation are few and most have limited subscriptions from overseas.

3. NACSIS-ELS Service

3.1 New Service and Digitization of Journals

NACSIS considered that the next stage for the further dissemination of scholarly information was an electronic journal service for Japanese academic societies. In this context, NACSIS-ELS was developed to accumulate scholarly information such as machine-readable journal articles, proceedings and technical reports[2]. Journals are acquired from Japanese academic societies that have given NACSIS permission to use their journals for the NACSIS-ELS service. As of April 1998, 41 societies are participating in NACSIS-ELS, and 171 journals will be digitized. Most of them will be soon available on the Internet this year. We have already digitized over 1 million pages. In 1998, more than 500 thousand pages are to be digitized. Since discussion with societies on copyright charging issues is still going on, there is no charge for the time being. NACSIS-ELS intends to institute a system of charges in October 1998.

3.2 NACSIS-ELS Functions

The service operates in the following way. Firstly, the database server stores conventional bibliographic databases. As well as these databases, the server holds document image databases of scientific journals, which include all pages from cover to cover. Pages are captured in a raster image format. Documents stored in the databases are retrieved and transmitted through high-speed Japanese academic Internet. Users can browse articles on their workstation monitors and users can print papers on a nearby high-quality laser printer, if necessary. Therefore, this system is a superset of conventional library services such as document delivery and photocopying services, and will soon supplant those conventional services. NACSIS-ELS is unique in that it provides the usual functions of the online information retrieval systems, while also enabling users to browse pages on a monitor and then print those of interest.

3.3 Service Operations

NACSIS launched the full service of NACSIS-ELS in April 1997. The definition of the copyright charging policy is one of the major concerns of academic societies. Efforts have been made to define a desirable policy. NACSIS is talking with not only academic societies but also with the organizations related to copyright issues and copyright clearance, expecting to establish a harmonized scheme on copyright charges for scholarly information in case of online dissemination. As of April 1998, negotiations have been settled on the whole.

4 Concluding Remarks

NACSIS-ELS can be categorized as an online document delivery system integrated with bibliographic databases, specially designed for scholarly publications. The full-fledged service of NACSIS-ELS, including copyright charge collection, is scheduled to start in October, will expedite the dissemination of scholarly information and facilitate easy access to Japanese scholarly publications, in particular, academic journals written in English for overseas scientists. Although we give a higher priority to the digitization of current issues for the time being, retrospective digitization is also considered. Several titles have been already converted in digital form from their first issues. The latest information concerning the NACSIS-ELS project can be accessed on the World Wide Web[5].


1. J. and Hashizume, H., ``Electronic library projects in the US and Europe (in Japanese),'' Joho-Shori, Vol. 33, No. 10, pp. 1154 - 1161(1992).

2. J. and Hashizume, H., ``NACSIS Electronic Library System: Its
Design and Implementation,'' Proceedings of International Symposium on Digital Libraries 1995, pp. 36 - 41 (August 1995).

3. Negishi, M., ``Databases of NACSIS (in Japanese),'' Joho-Shori, Vol. 33, No. 10, pp. 1144 - 1153 (1992).

4. Negishi, M., ``Recent development in full text database
applications (in Japanese),'' Joho-Shori, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 413 -420 (1992).

[5] URL: http://www.nacsis.ac.jp/ .

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Conference Info

In review

"Virtual Communities"

Hosted at Debreceni Egyetem (University of Debrecen) (Lajos Kossuth University)

Debrecen, Hungary

July 5, 1998 - July 10, 1998

109 works by 129 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ALLC (10), ACH/ICCH (18), ALLC/EADH (25)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC