At the end of the XIXth century, Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine funded the Mundaneum, sometimes called "the paper Internet", an initiative aiming at organizing and centralizing the world knowledge. In 1934, Otlet publishes his Traité de documentologie, in which he describes a new way of managing documents. Otlet was wishing to make documents easily accessible for everyone, by proposing a better informational management.
In this start of the XXIst century, while the amount of documents on the web is exploding, this challenge is still relevant. On the one hand, the tools to retreive information remain incapable, despite numerous innovations, of effectively managing the digital documentary mass. On the other hand, the studies on the psychological, social and economical impacts of information technologies in general, and of the Internet in particular, are not enough integrated to provide a real interpretation context to the Internet users.
2 The Paul Otlet Institute
Funded in 2010 by Dr. Pascal Francq, the Paul Otlet Institute is a non-profit organization which aims at taking up these informational challenges. It wishes to develop research projects to improve the data processing tools, to offer teaching programmes to Internet users, and to better train the researchers and tomorrow's engineers to face the new stakes generated by the massification of the data available on the Internet (especially on the Web).
Nowadays, its main research efforts are materializing in the GALILEI project, which offers a consistent and integrated approach of the informational management, among which a software implementation, via free softwares.
The Paul Otlet Institute also wishes to create teachings around information technologies. These would not only aim the organization of specialized trainings for computer specialists and engineers, but also the activation of educational programmes, and the production of educational contents for citizens (among which the young Internet users).
3 Publications, source codes and WikiCS
Publishing scientific results has always been a central activity for the academic community. The objective is to confront one's ideas with the other's, while providing the necessary information to reproduce the experiences. When the computer sciences emerged at the end of the 1950's, researchers would naturally share the source code of their programmes as a way to publish their research results. By getting out of the academic frame, this idea would lead to free and open source softwares (like GNU/Linux).
Research in computer sciences has progressively get structured, leading to the organization of numerous conferences and the creation of many scientific journals. Researchers then started to publish only via paper publications. If the publication of scientific articles remains an important practice, not to spread the source codes constitutes an important restraint to the scientific research (the experiences become hardly reproducible). It is also a restraint to innovation, as we notice important delays before the technologies imagined by researchers integrate the users tools, even though the immaterial nature of computing should facilitate these transfers. Moreover, the delays, sometimes very important, observed before a submitted article is published, hinder the functioning of the scientific community in compyter sciences.
The Paul Otlet Institute promotes scientific practices refering to those of the first researchers in computer sciences. One of its priorities is the publication of its research results as free softwares. At the same time, it launches WikiCS, an attempt of hypertext information system for its reasearch projects, integrating the theoretical aspects (in the form of online articles) as well as the technical documentation.
4 Supporting the institute
In order to take up its challenges, the Paul Otlet Institute is looking for funds to finance its research projects and to develop its teaching programmes.
If you wish to support the Paul Otlet Institute, or one of its projects in particular, do not hesitate to contact us.