Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report 19:89-90 (article 33) 1996
CGC on the World Wide Web
Department of Horticulture, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742-5611 USA
In June 1995, CGC established its presence on the World Wide Web (WWW) at http://probe.nalusda.gov:8000/other-docs/egc (Fig. 1) in an effort to provide additional services to CGC members, and to educate the broader public on issues dealing with the genetic and breeding of cucurbit crops.
The initial purpose in establishing a CGC web site was to provide archival access to back issues of the CGC Report. In the early 1990s, CGC was facing a dilemma in that the original CGC By-Laws required all back issues of the CGC Report to be "available indefinitely" for sale "to active members" of CGC. This had not been a problem in CGC;s formative years, but was increasingly so as CGC approached its third decade. Stocks of many past issues were close to depletion, and duplication costs for reprinting small quantities of specific reports were far in excess of what could reasonably be charged for back issues. Also, the sheer mass of paper which was accumulating in order to adhere to this policy was taxing the storage capacities of the CGC Chair.
In 1993, I proposed at the annual CGC Business Meeting that we pursue a change of the By-Laws such that the Chair only be required to retain sufficient copies of the last five years of the CGC Report for sale to active members. Reports older than five years whose supplies had become exhausted wo8ld no longer be reprinted. As per our charter, a mail ballot was conducted among the membership to approve this change, and the subsequent vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal (2).
At the 1993 CGC business meeting, I also made the pledge that I would find an alternative means - probably electronic - to ensure that research information from all CGC back issues remained available to cucurbit researchers. After the By-Laws change became official in 1994, I began pursuing the possibility of archiving the back issues on a CD-ROM using the facilities of the USDA National AGricultural Library (NAL). Unfortunately, the estimated cost for mastering and duplicating a CGC CD-ROM was far beyond our means (approximately $45,000 US) and the idea was abandoned.
Fortunately, around the same time the web was becoming increasingly popular as a means of disseminating information via the Internet, and the April 1995 version of NetScape Navigator became the first popular web browser to support the HTML table format, enabling scientific information to be encoded in a much more effective manner for data presentation on the web.
I established the first web site for CGC on my University of Maryland computer account in June 1995. (Those of you with e-mail addresses may have recalled receiving an e-mail message from me in June announcing the experiment.) Within several days, I had overrun the capacity of the Maryland account and sought a larger (and more permanent) home for the web activities. My CD-ROM contact at NAL put me in touch with the web administrator for the USDA plant Genome project, and they generously agreed to host the CGC web site on the USDA Agricultural Genome Information SErver (AGIS). I next digitized the table of contents of all of the CGC reports and placed them at the web site for reference, then started building web pages for other resources which might be of interest to the CGC membership. Finally, I recruited a number of talented and dedicated CGC members (Jeff Adelberg, Thomas Andres, Jim McCreight, Bill Rhodes, Todd Wehner, David Wolff, and Xingping Zhang) to start a year-long project of digitizing all of the research articles from the first seven CGC Reports for posting on the WWW. This project is now nearing completion.
The next step was to inform the world of the Internet of our existence. Yahoo placed a reference to the CGC homepage in their "Science/Agriculture" category on 11 July 1995. Subsequently, powerful web browsing and indexing search engines such as Altavista (http://altavistas.digital.com) delved into the CGC site and indexed all of the existing pages regardless of their level within the CGC hierarchy. In fact, these search engines now provide a means of indexing key words within each of the CGC research articles that are HTML-encoded, and will (hopefully!) eliminate the need for updated index of articles in the CGC Report.
The CGC web site is still growing in a number of areas. Henry Munger gave me permission to archive the Vegetable Improvement Newsletter (VIN) collection from 1959 - 1982, and I am currently in the process of converting all of that material to web documents. I've subsequently built in web hyperlinks to other cucurbit-related locations, and most recently incorporated the web efforts of "The Cucurbit Network" into our site.
Although only a year old as of this writing, the CGC web site has a tremendous potential for furthering CGC's goal "to develop and enhance the genetics of economically important cucurbits." It provides a means of rapidly dispensing information about events of interest to cucurbit researchers, such as the Cucurbitaceae conferences. It allows CGC members to contact each other directly via the Internet by clicking onto their e-mail address in the web page CGC directory rather than looking up their e-mail address. By providing wider access to the public, it helps CGC recruit new members who work with cucurbit species but were previously unaware of CGC's existence. It allows us to provide access to binary electronic files such as the Joseph Kirkbride's Cucumis database program (1), which was included on disk in CGC Rept. 15, as well as computer programs written by other CGC members. And last, but not least, it allows us to archive back issues of the CGC Report for future reference, and use WWW search engines to provide the indexing needed for past articles.
As the web grows and more of our members gain access, it is not inconceivable that CGC will become completely electronic and dispense with the printed Report. Since this will eliminate the workload associated with creating a printed report, it is also possible that CGC Reports would be issued on a more frequent basis - perhaps twice or more a year! As with all of our other activities, I would be very much interested in hearing from the CGC membership what ideas you might have for future directions in the CGC web site.
In closing, I believe it important to acknowledge the contributions of the wonderful folks at the Agricultural Genome Information Service (AGIS), USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, who set up the CGC account and generously provided hard disk space for us on their web server. These individuals include Pamela Mason (now at the National Institute for Standards and Technology), Gail Juvik, Doug Bigwood, John Barnett, Gary McCone and Marty Sikes. Their help has been invaluable.
- Kirkbride, Joseph Jr. 1992. Interactive microcomputer database for identification of Cucumis. Cucurbit Genetics Coop. Rept. 15:48-50.
- Ng, T.J. 1994. Changes to CGC By-Laws. Cucurbit Genetics Coop. Rept. 17:ix.