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UNIVERSITY OF EXETER COMPUTER UNIT
The SGML Project
Report on the 5th MAJOUR-body meeting of the European Workshop on
SGML (EWS) at CERN, Geneva, on 30-Sept-1991
Director SGML Project
14 November 1991
At the Markup '91 Conference in Lugano earlier this year, members
of EWS presented a paper on their work and distributed copies of
the MAJOUR-header DTD in book form. The group was made up
solely of members of the major European Scientific, Technical and
Medical publishers, and the DTD is to be used for the interchange
of scientific articles between themselves. It was clear that
this group is putting in considerable effort to develop a full
DTD and that they could have considerable influence on the work
of academic authors. Following discussions at Lugano, EWS
agreed to expand and to invite others to attend. I decided to
attend to ensure that a) they had some representation from the
academic community and some means of communicating with that
community, and b) the UK was not totally excluded from their
efforts (the UK STM publishers have shown little interest in the
work of ESW).
Dr Eric van Herwijnen - CERN, Geneva
Marion Kampmann - Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg
Holger Wendt - Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg
Dr Manfred Kruger - MID, Heidelberg
Tibor Tscheke - STEP - H Sturtz AG, Wurzburg
Fred Veldmeijer - Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam
Dominique Vignaud - Advanced Information Systems, Neuilly
Dieke Van Wijnen - Wolters Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht
Marc Woltering - Wolters Kluwer Rechtswetenschappen, Deventer
Paul Ellison - University of Exeter, Exeter
Introduction of New Members
I had not been able to attend the first meeting to which I had
been invited. I was given an opportunity to introduce myself and
to expand on the remit of the SGML Project. I emphasised the
need for co-ordination in order to ensure easy interchange of
Eric van Herwijnen of CERN also underlined the need for co-
ordination. He participates in EPS1 (a taskforce of the
European Physical Society). This group has proposed to the EPS
that it recommends use of a modified set ofthe AAP DTD's for use
within the Physics community throughout Europe. They would hope
to get their modifications accepted by the AAP. They chose the
AAP DTDs on the grounds that they were American so must be
adopted, even if European effort could produce something better.
The EPS argues that American authors will only use systems that
are `approved' in the US, whereas European authors do not suffer
from such parochialism. They wish to continue to obtain
academic articles from American authors for their various
publications, so feel that they must accept their restricted
vision of the world!
The main part of the meeting dealt with reporting the work of the
various subgroups that are developing parts of the body DTD as
Body Matter & Back Matter: The body-DTD is completed. They
are awaiting the material for references and index parts.
Integration of the body with the header may well result in
modifications to both. As the header is already published, this
may cause problems with users.
Tables & Figures: They were not aware of the ISO set of tables
which is used as a test by ISO of typesetting systems. There
are various `tables' developments taking place, and the group
will try and take them all into account. It was pointed out
that, irrespective of the quality of the structure embodied in
the DTD, any tables structure that has been incorporated into
typesetting software was liable to be accepted as a defacto
Formulae: The AAP DTD is used extensively by the publishers.
Clearly they require a layout-oriented approach even if it is
unacceptable as a representation of Mathematics. I argued
strongly for the ISO approach embodied in ISO TR 9573. There
was discussion about active participation in the new AAP project
to improve the Math & Tables DTD. Detailed discussion was held
over to a future meeting.
Conversion: I am not clear as to the work of this subgroup.
The convener believes it is to provide "down translations" -
which I don't understand. It will not do much work until most
of the sub-groups listed above have finished. At which point
its raison-d'etre will be more obvious (I hope!)
Documentation: As for `conversion', the work of this group
awaits the results of the other sub-groups.
Activities of the EPS Taskforce
In short, as Americans will only accept an American solution and
the Europeans do not mind so long as it works, the EPS Taskforce
will recommend use of the AAP DTDs with some improvements (like
a complete re-write in my opinion!). The EPS has received
favourable noises from EPSIG concerning their proposed
modifications to the AAP DTDs - as yet nothing has happened. I
don't believe anything will happen apart from minor tweaking and
we will still be left with a poor DTD.
AIS in France will recommend to the French Ministry of Research &
Technology that they carry out a large scale study with authors
in order to test the effectiveness of the EWS DTD and the EPS DTD
and any appropriate tools.
There was a general discussion of the position of EWS within
European and wider DTD development. Specifically, attendance at
the AAP meetings to improve the Math DTD was arranged, as was
membership of the SGML-L electronic distribution list.
Finally, I raised the question of "what next?" What did the
developers of the DTD hope to do with it? and how did they plan
to follow up this development? The general response was blank
faces - once the DTD is written it will be used by the three
companies for interchange of articles but they have not
considered anything else - for example, providing syntax-directed
editors for their authors (at the moment, simple style sheets are
all that is provided, or obtaining EEC funding for a major
development across the Community as a whole. The next meeting
on 28th October will be held at PIRA in Leatherhead where this
question has been put on the agenda. I will attend.
The meeting closed at 16.30 .