Information Today
Volume17, Number 2 • February 2000
Columbia Earthscape Launched Online by Columbia University

Columbia University and Columbia University Press have announced the launch of Columbia Earthscape, the first multimedia resource in the earth sciences designed for scientists and laymen alike. The site ( is now available for subscription.

Described by Columbia as one-stop shopping in the field of earth science, Columbia Earthscape contains current research, breaking news, policy debates, and curriculum models for earth science teachers on a wide range of topics, such as climate change, oceanography, geology, and environmental resources. The site contains over 70,000 pages of multimedia Web content, including full-text books, video clips, current journal articles, lectures and seminars, conferences, policy papers and commentary, maps and models, searchable databases, links to a variety of sources (Columbia, NASA, MIT, the American Museum of Natural History, and ABC News), and live Webcast features such as Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory’s recent launch of The State of the Planet conference.

Columbia reports that as the site matures, 2,000 pages of information will be added monthly.

According to John Haber, editor of Columbia Earthscape, the site was developed with scientists in mind, but is not exclusively for a scholarly audience. “Because science and environmental policy intrude on people’s lives on a daily basis, the site offers something for everyone,” said Haber.

A quarterly online magazine, Earth Affairs, offers a forum for scientists to exchange opinions and ideas. Breaking news engages the general public, and while the site offers information in the earth sciences for students, curriculum modules offer classroom tools for science teachers.

“With Earthscape we are attempting to bring easily searchable quality content in a variety of media from a variety of resources,” said Kate Wittenberg, senior executive editor of Columbia University Press and director of the Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia. “In a university setting, because of our resources and expertise, we can move swiftly and innovatively in the creation of interesting new models for publication.”

Like Columbia International Affairs Online, which was the first multidisciplinary online venture of its kind in the field of International Affairs when it was launched by Columbia 2 years ago, Columbia Earthscape is the result of a collaborative effort between Columbia University Press, the University Libraries, and Academic Computing Information Systems (ACIS).

“The groundwork for Earthscape was set when we began planning for the Columbia Digital Library. This work gave us much insight into the viability of online resources in academic settings,” said Elaine Sloan, vice president for information services and university librarian. “Since that time, our commitment to the development of the digital library has grown. One of the outcomes is the creation of EPIC, an organization that draws from the expertise of a range of minds within the university: faculty who create knowledge, information technologists who create the complex architecture and security of EPIC sites, librarians who contribute their expertise in the collection and organization of information, and Columbia University Press’ contributions as publishers.”

In addition to a start-up grant from the Office of the Provost, Columbia Earthscape has received two 3-year grants assisting in the development, launch, and staffing of the publication, including $590,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Digital Library 2 Program and $200,000 from SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). According to the director of SPARC, Rick Johnson, Earthscape was one of three digital initiatives awarded grants because of its enormous potential to transform the scientific information economy and general benefit to science, academe, and society at large.

Source: Columbia University, New York, 212/854-5573;

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