Fall 2003


Message from the Chair: Contribute and they will come!

Wolfgang Christian

One hundred and forty years ago, Samuel Butler wrote: “I venture to suggest that the general development of the human race to be well and effectually completed when all men, in all places, without any loss of time, at a low rate of charge, are cognizant through their senses, of all that be desire to be cognizant of in all other places….” It appears that Butler’s grandiose vision may be closer to reality now that robust and authoritative digital libraries are coming online. Almost every professional organization is creating digital libraries using web technology to distribute high-quality content to the desktop. For example:

  • The German Federal Ministry of Education (BMBF) and German Research Foundation (DFG) have developed an Internet portal for scientific information that links 40 German libraries, research centers, and institutes. This portal is publicly funded and on a par with the Google search engine. It can be accessed at:

  • The IEEE provides access to the abstracts of its journals on the IEEE Explore site. Furthermore, the IEEE has reached agreement with Google to display the content from over one million IEEE abstracts in relevant keyword search results. See:

  • The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the American Institute of Physics/Society of Physics Students (AIP/SPS), and the American Physical Society (APS) have initiated the ComPADRE: Communities for Physics and Astronomy Digital Resources in Education, project. This project seeks to discover and organize collections of high quality educational materials in physics and astronomy. See

Although ComPADRE is still in the development stage, it should be of particular interest to FEd members because it is sponsored by the APS and will almost certainly become widely used when it too is linked into commercial search engines. Researchers and curriculum authors risk missing an exciting opportunity for peer review, discussion, and distribution if they do not take advantage of this digital library. We should be submitting material to ComPADRE just as we submit our research to the arXiv preprint server.

Wolfgang Christian is chair of the Forum on Education and also a member of the Committee on Education. He is a Brown Professor of Physics at Davidson College where his primary job is teaching. His research interests are in computational physics, educational software design, and curriculum development.