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Information Scientist Herbert Van de Sompel to Receive Paul Evan Peters Award

Herbert Van de Sompel, photo by Elena Giglia

The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), the Association of Research Libraries, and EDUCAUSE are pleased to announce that Herbert Van de Sompel, research scientist at the Research Library of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been named the 2017 recipient of the Paul Evan Peters Award. The award recognizes notable, lasting achievements in the creation and innovative use of network-based information resources and services that advance scholarship and intellectual productivity.

Nominated by over a dozen highly respected members of the information science community, Van de Sompel is widely recognized as having created robust, scalable infrastructures that have had a profound and lasting impact on scholarly communication. Adept at applying theory to practice, nominating colleagues noted that the application of some of his groundbreaking work has become an integral part of the core technology infrastructure for thousands of libraries worldwide, helping to connect information across the Internet, and constantly working to further his dream of “a scholarly communication system that fully embraces the Web.”

“For the last two decades Herbert, working with a range of collaborators, has made a sustained series of key contributions that have helped shape the current networked infrastructure to support scholarship,” noted CNI executive director Clifford Lynch. “While many people accomplish one really important thing in their careers, I am struck by the breadth and scope of his contributions.” Lynch added, “I’ve had the privilege of working with Herbert on several of these initiatives over the years, and I was honored in 2000 to be invited to serve as a special external member of the PhD committee at the University of Ghent, where he received his doctorate.”

An accomplished researcher and information scientist, Van de Sompel is perhaps best known for his role in the development of protocols designed to expose data and make them accessible to other systems, forging links that connect related information, thereby enhancing, facilitating, and deepening the research process. These initiatives include the OpenURL framework (stemming from his earlier work on the SFX link resolver), as well as the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), which included the Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) and the Object Reuse and Exchange (OAI-ORE) scheme. Other notable contributions include the Memento protocol, which enables browsers to access earlier versions of the Web easily, and ResourceSync, which allows applications to remain synchronized with evolving content collections.

“I applaud Van de Sompel’s milestones in developing robust, scalable, digital infrastructure for the world of research, which is the crucial underpinning for a future that could promote unfettered access for all to the entire scholarly corpus,” stated Elliott Shore, Association of Research Libraries executive director.

Van de Sompel was hired by his alma mater, Ghent University (Belgium), in 1981 to begin library automation. Over time, the focus shifted to providing access to a wide variety of scholarly information sources leveraging the technologies of the day to reach the largest possible end-user base, and by the late 1990s, the work of his team was considered among the best in Europe. In 2000 he received a PhD from Ghent University, working on context-sensitive linking, which led to the OpenURL standard and library linking servers. Following stints at Cornell University and at the British Library, in 2002 he joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory as an information scientist, where he now leads the Prototyping Team at the Research Library. He also serves as visiting professor at the DANS data archive in the Netherlands.

Known as a skilled communicator and generous colleague and mentor, Van de Sompel is in high demand as a speaker and consultant. He is a visible and active member of the information science community, appreciated for his willingness to give of his time and expertise. He is especially adept at building highly effective teams and, as noted in a letter of nomination, his influence can be seen in the impressive careers of former team members.

“Dr. Van de Sompel is an exemplary member of and contributor to our community,” stated EDUCAUSE president and CEO John O’Brien. “His unwavering commitment to quality research and innovation, as well as leadership and advocacy for interoperability, openness, and standardization, is remarkable, especially when balanced with a tremendous generosity of spirit when it comes to mentoring, collaboration, and collegiality.“

Widely sought after for advisory boards and panels, Van de Sompel served as a member of the European Union High Level Expert Group on Scientific Data, as well as the Core Experts Group for the Europeana Thematic Network, charged with building a digital repository of European cultural assets. He has won numerous awards, including the Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows Prize for Outstanding Research (2015) and the SPARC Innovator Award (2006) by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), of which he was the first recipient.

A four-member committee selected Van de Sompel for the award: Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, university librarian and chief digital scholarship officer at the University of California, Berkeley; Marilyn McMillan, (retired), former vice president for IT and chief IT officer at New York University; Winston Tabb, Sheridan dean of university libraries and museums at Johns Hopkins University; and Joan Lippincott, associate executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information.

Named for CNI’s founding director, the award will be presented during the CNI membership meeting in Washington, DC, to be held December 11–12, 2017, where Van de Sompel will deliver the Paul Evan Peters Memorial Lecture. The talk will be recorded and made available on CNI’s YouTube and Vimeo channels after the meeting concludes. Previous award recipients include Donald A.B. Lindberg (2014), Christine L. Borgman (2011), Daniel Atkins (2008), Paul Ginsparg (2006), Brewster Kahle (2004), Vinton Cerf (2002), and Tim Berners-Lee (2000).

CNI, the Association of Research Libraries, and EDUCAUSE sponsor the Paul Evan Peters Award, which was established with additional funding from Microsoft and Xerox Corporations. The award honors the memory and accomplishments of Paul Evan Peters (1947–1996). Peters was a visionary and a coalition builder in higher education and the world of scholarly communication. He led CNI from its founding in 1990 with informed insight, exuberant direction, eloquence, and awareness of the needs of its varied constituencies of librarians, technologists, publishers, and others in the digital world.

CNI is a coalition of some 240 member institutions dedicated to supporting the transformative promise of digital information technology for the advancement of scholarly communication and the enrichment of intellectual productivity. The Association of Research Libraries is a nonprofit organization of 123 research libraries in the US and Canada; its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. A higher education technology association with more than 2,300 members, EDUCAUSE actively engages with colleges, universities, corporations, and other organizations to further the mission of higher education through the use of information technology.

For more information, visit the award website at www.cni.org/go/pep-award/, or contact CNI communications coordinator Diane Goldenberg-Hart at diane@cni.org.