The Bridges Archive

Last year, shortly before the opening of the 2013 Bridges conference in Enschede, I launched The Bridges Archive, a comprehensive repository of every paper ever published in Bridges. This was the first major step forward in a project that was more or less inaugurated in 2009, when participants in that year’s conference agreed that we would all like to see a free online paper repository.

Over the years I considered a large number of possible implementations, including turnkey academic publishing systems (like DSpace) and paid services. In the end I deemed these options to be too complex to use or maintain, and (with some reluctance) implemented my own system. As it stands, the Archive is a collection of statically generated pages built from a few simple Python scripts. The contents of the pages are drawn out from information I was collecting already in order to produce the proceedings every year. Every year since 2009, that is; earlier years rely on a much older indexing system that had already been in use. Further complicating matters was the fact that we had electronic copies of papers only from 2005 onward. We filled in the earlier years by paying for high-quality OCRed digital scans of older proceedings.

Of course, the main goal of the Archive is to disseminate Bridges papers as widely as possible, to make them more useful as a scholarly resource. Until last year, coverage of Bridges papers was spotty on the web—really, it came down to individual authors posting their papers on their own websites. Naturally, the Archive must therefore be easily discoverable. One of my top priorities was to embed appropriate metadata on each paper’s web page so that Google Scholar would treat the site as a paper repository and index it properly.

Yesterday I released the first update to the Archive since it was launched. There are two changes, a small one and a big one:

  • The page indexing papers for each year now includes a small “header” with a picture of the proceedings cover and basic information about that year’s conference (location and dates).
  • The Archive now includes a search box in the sidebar, powered by Google Custom Search. The site was already indexed by Google Scholar, meaning that you could have searched for Bridges papers there. The Custom Search is a quick way to search for papers while visiting the Archive.  It’s not tailored to our metadata (you can’t search specifically by author, for example); but because it’s Google-powered, it’s pretty good at finding anything you might be interested in.

It would still be great to add a few more features to the Archive. I’d love to differentiate paper categories (invited, regular, short, workshop). And I want the Archive to include any supplementary material provided by authors to accompany their papers on the annual CD-ROM. But with search, I’d say the most important features are now in place. Scholars, please use the Archive and cite the papers you find there!

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