LINGUIST List 2.400

Sunday, 11 August 1991

Disc: Linguistic Data Consortium

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Message 1: Linguistics Data Consortium

Date: Thu, 8 Aug 91 12:50:24 EDT
From: <John.M.Lawlerum.cc.umich.edu>
Subject: Linguistics Data Consortium
Dear Colleagues,
I have been following the discussion of the establishment of the Linguistic
Data Consortium (Linguist Vol 2, #367, et seq) with considerable interest,
and today I managed to talk to Mr. Charles Wayne (clwaynedarpa.mil), who
is administering the project for DARPA.
The most important thing I learned is that the proposed consortium is *NOT*
intending to set up a server for (restricted) net access. This was the
automatic inference that everybody (including me) drew from the initial
announcement. The fact that DARPA is responsible for establishing and
maintaining the Internet, which academics use daily and would feel lost
without, led automatically to this assumption, and thence to considerable
confusion and furor with regard to the restricted access to the data that
was contained in the announcement, and even some speculation about military
applications of linguistics.
No, what they have in mind is rather different:
 * THE CONSORTIUM PROPOSES TO DISTRIBUTE ALL ITS DATA ON CD-ROM *
 ^^ ^^^
In my estimation, this puts a completely different construction on the
enterprise. Rather than setting up a database and then restricting access
to it (which seems to have heated at least some linguists' temperaments to the
flash point), the proposed Consortium would be in the position of a
software data publisher, putting out annual disk sets. Institutions could
subscribe to these, rather like they already do with ERIC or Census data,
and the disks could be used by the subscribing institution at their
discretion; the model they have in mind is obviously library access. Since
the Consortium would be engaged in physical distribution of data, the usual
copyright restrictions would apply. You aren't allowed to copy and
distribute software freely, after all, and applying this restriction to the
Consortium data should be straightforward and uncontroversial.
The subscription price would have to be set by the governing board, which
has yet to be established, but the figures they're tossing around are
between $1000 and $3000 annually, to cover *ALL* disks with annual updates.
This price is certainly within the range of any university, and some
departments; indeed, it's a great bargain.
I hope this information may help clear up some of the confusion that has
surrounded this issue on various news groups. There's a great deal more to
be decided, and lots of administrative issues, but I thought I'd better
get this out on the nets fast, to focus discussion on the real issues.
 +--------------------------------------------------------------+
 | John Lawler Chair, Committee on Communication |
 | Linguistics Program and Information Technology |
 | University of Michigan Linguistic Society of America |
 | Ann Arbor MI 48109-1285 (313) 662-2149/H 763-9177/W |
 +--------------------------------------------------------------+
 | jlawlerum.cc.umich.edu userll3numichub.bitnet |
 +--------------------------------------------------------------+
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