ETD Guide/Introduction/Brief history of ETD activities: 1987-2007

The first real activity directed toward ETDs was a meeting convened by Nick Altair of UMI in Ann Arbor, Michigan during the fall of 1987 involving participants from Virginia Tech, ArborText, SoftQuad, and University of Michigan. Discussion focussed on the latest approaches to electronic publishing and the idea of applying the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML, an ISO standard approved in 1985) to the preparation of dissertations, possibly as an extension of the Electronic Manuscript Project. In 1988, Yuri Rubinsky of SoftQuad was funded by Virginia Tech to help develop the first Document Type Definition (DTD) to specify the structure of ETDs using SGML. Pilot studies continued using SoftQuad’s AuthorEditor tool, but only with the appearance of Adobe’s Acrobat software and Portable Document Format (PDF) in the early 1990s did it become clear that students could easily prepare their own ETDs.

In 1992 Virginia Tech joined with the Coalition for Networked Information, the Council of Graduate Schools, and UMI, to invite ten other universities to select three representatives each, from their library, graduate school/program, and computing/information technology groups. This meeting in Washington, D.C. demonstrated the strong interest in and feasibility of ETD activities among US and Canadian universities. In 1993, the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA) and Southeastern Library Network (Solinet) decided to include ETD efforts in regional electronic library plans. Virginia Tech hosted another meeting involving multiple universities in Blacksburg, VA in 1994 to develop specific plans regarding ETD projects. On the technical side, the decision was made that whenever feasible, students should prepare ETDs using appropriate multimedia standards in addition to both a descriptive (e.g., SGML) and rendered (e.g., PDF) form for the main work.

Then, in 1996, the pace of ETD activities sped up. SURA funded a project led by Virginia Tech to spread the concept around the Southeastern Unted States. Starting in September 1996, the US Department of Education funded a three-year effort to spread the concept around the USA. The pilot project that had proceeded at Virginia Tech led to a mandatory requirement for all theses and dissertations submitted after 1996 to be submitted (only) in electronic form. International interest spread the concept to Canada, UK, Germany, and other countries. To coordinate all these efforts, the free, voluntary federation called NDLTD (Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations) was established and quickly began to expand. Annual meetings began in the spring of 1998 with about 20 people gathering in Memphis, TN. In 1999 about 70 came to Blacksburg, VA while in 2000 about 225 arrived in St. Petersburg, FL for the third annual conference.

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