The Project relies in an essential way on the convergence of information processing, communication and new media, meeting the main policy issue of the IST programme. In fact, due to its very nature, mathematical information is particularly suited to an integrated analysis under the different perspectives of elaboration, communication and (hyper)media publishing, providing a main arena for innovative experiments and solutions, especially in view of the new technological frontier of the Semantic Web.
The Project also tries to answer to a clear need for wider interoperability and coherence in the realm of mathematics over the Web, especially for educational, scientific and commercial purposes.
Electronic textbooks are rapidly becoming a main tool for education and knowledge dissemination. Electronic textbooks must be interactive, allowing intercommunication between the text and scientific software and graphics. This is very hard to achieve starting form a mere presentational description of the information, clearly requiring a sophisticated semantical description of the content.
Similarly, the academic and commercial research communities generate large volume of dense scientific material. Increasingly, research publications are being stored in databases, especially for those areas of physics and mathematics where academic journal prices have been growing at an unsustainable rate. Still, however, the information is stored in a format which is machine readable but not machine understandable; in particular it is not suitable for any form of elaboration other than its rendering. MOWGLI's content and metadata levels are exactly meant to address complex elaboration requirements, and to facilitate the maintenance and operability of large document collections, for which automatic searching and indexing are crucial.
Corporate and academic scientists and engineers also use technical documents in their work to collaborate, to record results of experiments and computer simulations, and to verify calculations. The Web is, potentially, the natural media for sharing this information; MOWGLI is meant to provide the basic technology to transform this potentiality into an actual possibility.
Commercial publishers are also involved with mathematics on the Web at all levels from electronic versions of printed books to interactive textbooks and academic journals. In this case, MOWGLI offers support for advanced capabilities, such as browsing, interactivity, presentational and stylistic customisation, and advanced searching and retrieving features.
The project deals with problems traditionally belonging to different scientific communities: digital libraries, Web publishing, automation of mathematics and computer aided reasoning. Any serious solution needs a coordinated effort of all these groups and a synergy of their different expertise. The members of the consortium have been also carefully chosen for their experience in the above mentioned areas. From this interaction, we expect to develop new technologies and solutions, fostering innovation towards the construction of the Semantic Web.
MOWGLI contributes in the spread of information and know-how, since new information technologies will be applied to realms such as education and publishing, which are traditionally not very inclined to innovation. More competitiveness will be acquired both by the end users of the system and by the technology providers, which will eventually profit by the expertise gained by applying new and emerging technologies to the huge and compelling problem of the management of mathematical documents over the Web.
By opening new perspectives in the domains of interactive publishing and education, MOWGLI suggests new job-profiles in these domains, and increases job opportunities in the Information Society sector.
Finally, the social and cultural cohesion of Europe is eventually strengthened by the creation of a large distributed repositories of scientific knowledge.
The quality of life, in a civilised country, strictly depends on the quality of its services, and in particular on the attention devoted to those services aimed to preserve, increase and make accessible to a wider audience its cultural and scientific heritage. Building a user friendly Information Society, with particular emphasis on digital heritage, cultural content and education is indeed a main social objective of the European Community.
The new Information Society is essentially based on the convergence of information, communication and networking technologies and takes advantage of infrastructures like the Internet and the Web.
Our project builds on these grounds, to create the technological infrastructure required for the creation and maintenance of a digital knowledge base of structured mathematical information, universally and seamlessly accessible to all people, and in particular to students and professionals, through interoperable, dependable and affordable products and services.
From the educational point of view, our system could easily become a main tool for a wider and more friendly dissemination of mathematical knowledge. Indeed, its interactive nature, and the possibility to access single information units, and possibly applying them, provides a more operational and far less abstract comprehension of mathematical entities, and should naturally induce the user to play with the knowledge base, assembling components in the development of new theorems and results. From the educational point of view, our system could easily become a main tool for a wider and more friendly dissemination of mathematical knowledge. Indeed, its interactive nature, and the possibility to access single information units, and possibly applying them, provides a more operational and far less abstract comprehension of mathematical entities, and should naturally induce the user to play with the knowledge base, assembling components in the development of new theorems and results.
From the point of view of employment and development of individual skills, there are two different aspects to be considered, according to the objectives and the methodology of the project.
From the methodological point of view, the project makes an essential use of technologies which are the very foundations of the information society, driving their development, enhancing their applicability, and accelerating their take up in Europe. In particular, we shall build on most of the recent recommendations of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), like XML, DOM, XSL, XLL, MathML, RDF, etc. testing their applicability to the definition of a comprehensive, integrated description of a given field of knowledge.
This kind of tools and techniques is of crucial importance in the development of the Web and of the Information Technology of the next years, and our project could play a major role in their dissemination in Europe, and in training people in their use.
On the other side, MOWGLI itself could become a major source of inspiration for the re-invention of existing activities, and in particular for the exploitation of new business in the publishing market. Currently, digital journals just offer purely textual objects: our project could help to define new market possibility for content-based publishing (i.e. structured, possibly formal mathematical developments), with all the potentialities offered by this approach, from browsing facilities, to the personalisation of the style, from enhanced forms of searching, to more or less arbitrarily complex forms of elaboration.
Our system also opens new perspectives on the mechanisation of mathematics and the automation of formal reasoning. The growing complexity of advanced technological projects (in the areas of electronic and avionic engineering, for example) has recently arose a renewed interest in formal methods. From this respect, our project contributes to build an essential infrastructure for the exploitation of these methods, providing a major help for professionals, and fostering their skills.
Let us finally remark that the project has no negative impact on the natural environment. We could even claim a few benefits, related to the electronic distribution of documents, such as the minimisation in the use of means of conveyance and the saving of paper.
The possible customisation via suitable style-sheets of structured electronic documents could also meet the needs of particular users, such as disabled (in particular, disabled students) or elderly (as retired researchers who would like to continue their professional activity), providing at the same time comfortable working conditions (e.g. at home). Another general design requirement is the ability to render mathematical material in other media such as speech or braille, which is extremely important for the visually impaired.
In conclusion, the aim of our work is to contribute to the creation of the next generation of user-friendly, dependable and interoperable general-interest services, meeting user demands for flexible access, for everybody, from anywhere, at any time.