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Distance Learning and Collaboration

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) conducts research on biomedical applications of collaboration technology over advanced networks. The research focuses on a range of predominantly synchronous tools for online collaboration, but emphasizes the use of technologies providing interactive real time audio and video communication between two or more sites. The research is supported by extramural grants and contracts and intramural activities. The former include the NLM Office of High Performance Computing and Communication’s Telemedicine, Next Generation Internet (NGI), and Scalable Information Infrastructure (SII) initiatives. Many of these externally funded projects employ videoconferencing and other technologies to solve problems in telemedicine, distance learning, and public health (bioterrorism). Intramural research emphasizes exploring collaboration technology applications that directly support programs and activities of the library. The research focuses on: 1) exploring state of the art and emerging technologies of interest to the NLM and building infrastructure enabling their use; 2) assessing the technology to provide distance learning regarding library programs, products, and services; and 3) evaluating the technology’s potential to deliver library services and enhance library products. One special area of interest is exploring the technology’s efficacy in reaching underserved and other special populations.

Most intramural research occurs in the NLM Collaboratory for High Performance Computing and Communications and primarily involves technologies providing video via IP. These technologies include videoconferencing using the h.323 standard, the Access Grid, ConferenceXP, MPEG2 and MotionJPEG codecs in conjunction with other technologies for sharing applications as well as one way video streaming and webcasts combined with real time chat. Use of high definition video streams and the transport of uncompressed digital video, the use of wireless technology to transport video, and extending the interactivity of application sharing programs are technical areas of interest. Collaboration technology has been used at NLM to provide distance learning seminars and tutorials at institutions and national meetings, to monitor end user tests of library products, and to participate in real time events and activities offered online by the Internet2 community. The technology also has been used routinely to collaborate with extramural researchers receiving funding from OHPCC, to make presentations virtually at a distance, to conduct a distance learning research program with the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and to demonstrate its use in various health science applications at Slice of Life Conferences, Internet2 Member Meetings, and annual meetings of the Radiological Society of North America.

The research effort involves identifying collaborators inside and outside the NLM who have needs matching the research goals, who are willing to perform research in addition to fielding programs involving the technology, and who are willing to contribute some of their own time and resources to the research effort. Individuals or institutions interested in exploring mutual research should contact:

Craig Locatis, PhD
Office of High Performance Computing and Communications,
National Library of Medicine,
Bethesda, Maryland 20894