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MODS  March 2005

MODS March 2005

Subject:

Re: back to inline markup, math

From:

"Timothy W. Cole" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 31 Mar 2005 10:31:24 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (99 lines)

As a mathematics librarian, I'd lobby for MathML even in MODS titles, and
would strongly second David's assessment that capacity for MathML in
abstracts is essential. It can even be an issue in specialized subject
headings (e.g., the full Mathematical Subject Classification [MSC], used
universally in research mathematics), assuming the possibility that such
classification schemes could eventually be used in practice with MODS.

Granted mathematicians currently have to live with the fact that existing
online catalogs don't do a decent job of incorporating  mathematics in title
and bibliographic descriptions. That doesn't make it a good situation. Based
on my observations here at Illinois, what this means in practice is that
academic research  mathematicians just don't use online catalogs when
subject searching as much as they might otherwise. They use instead
MathSciNet and/or ZentralBlatt Math, both of which fortunately index the
print monograph literature in mathematics well and thoroughly. Online
catalogs are turned to mostly for known-item searching, after they've
identified the works of interest from another source. Not accommodating
embedded markup such as MathML in MODS records won't make the situation
worse, but it won't make it better either -- and it will limit potential
reach of MODS to communities that need to allow markup from other namespaces
in metadata records.

Of course even in MathSciNet math searching is crude. Basically MathSciNet
just embeds and indexes TeX in titles and abstracts. This allows researchers
literate in TeX (and that includes most academics in this discipline as well
as a number of physicists and engineers) to do crude searching in MathScinet
on the TeX itself. If you don't know TeX, too bad, and even if you do there
are serious limits in how well you can search raw, often author-generated
TeX.

So the current TeX approach to searching math is still seen as insufficient
by many, which is why there is considerable ongoing work in this domain --
e.g., last spring's meeting on enhancing the searching of mathematics hosted
by the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications
(http://www.ima.umn.edu/complex/spring/searching.html). Better ways to
search both TeX and MathML are being investigated, though the smart money
seems to be that MathML will ultimately be more useful and powerful, at
least for searching purposes.

From my perspective, MODS would be of greater interest if it allowed
inclusion of markup from other namespaces in at least a few appropriate
elements. Initially we can assume that most MODS-aware applications would do
an inadequate job of dumbing-down, indexing and displaying such non-MODS
content, but that would improve over time, certainly for systems designed to
meet needs of special communities. I'm not too concerned about standardizing
right this minute on how MODS-aware applications handle these issues in the
short-term. (If you can get use to seeing raw TeX embedded in bibliographic
records, you can get use to almost anything.) But it'd be a shame if MODS
didn't at least anticipate the basic content needs and build in early on the
facility to deal with them.

In my opinion this would best be done by allowing foreign-namespace elements
as children of appropriate MODS elements. The alternative approach suggested
of adding a <span> or similar element as a default child element for this
purpose would also probably work, though it seems to me a little cumbersome.
Display rendering is a tough nut, but right now there are Unicode characters
you can embed in your titles that no existing generic MODS application will
render correctly (because some of the specialized glyphs aren't widely
disseminated yet -- see the STIX font project). You can't do everything at
once. Figure out how to allow the essential content and markup and then
fine-tune the rendering issue, perhaps by experimentation with different
alternatives.

Timothy W. Cole
Mathematics Librarian
University of Illinois at UC

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Metadata Object Description Schema List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Bruce D'Arcus
> Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2005 4:02 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [MODS] back to inline markup, math
>
> I think I forgot to report this excerpt of a conversation
> with David Carlisle; XML and XSLT (and unicode) expert, as
> well as editor of the MathML spec and co-chair of the W3 math group.
>
> I asked him about the necessity of using MathML -- versus
> just using unicode characters -- in titles for
> mathematicians, who have long been able to add inline
> equations to bibliographic records in BibTeX.  Here was his response:
>
> > For many titles, even mathematical titles, unicode plain text is
> > sufficient, you have greek and all the operators.
> mathematicians have
> > a long history of having to get their article titles into search
> > engines and printed book catalogues that don't have mathematical
> > capability so it is exceptionally rare to require really fancy 2
> > dimensional formating in a title. The main problem is not
> titles, it's
> > abstracts or other paragraph sized texts that your biblio
> format might
> > allow, there you really do need full mathematical layout
> possibilities
> > so mathml is your friend.
>
> Bruce

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