Digitization and E-Inclusion in Mathematics and Science

I just came across the following call for a conference in 2016. The text speaks for itself. It is good to see that more and more conferences as such are out there. Hopefully we will see significant and positive consequences as well on accessibility of STEM resources and literature.

A significant number of online journals and e-textbooks, as well as other forms of academic/educational information are now digitized for various purposes. Computerized processing of such information is also being actively studied. For instance, in Japan, so-called “digital textbooks” (the official name of an e-textbook in Japan) are supposed to be fully adopted in elementary and junior-high school by April, 2020. Digitization is certainly a keyword in contemporary society, in which “Knowledge” forms its foundation.

However, digitization of STEM (science, technology, engineering and
mathematics) contents and its applications have their own problems, different from those in a non-technical field. For example, while many online journals are provided in PDF (Acrobat Portable Document Format), a mathematical formula in such documents has no semantic representation. It is only depictedvisually as a set of characters/symbols in a two- dimensional layout or an image. Thus, we cannot use it for further processing such as searching the mathematical expression in PDF or reading it out with a screen reader.

We believe that one of the most serious problems is the poor accessibility of digitized STEM contents. In many cases, it is hard for print-disabled people to read/author those contents although their accessibility is definitely important to achieve a truly inclusive society. In terms of a non-technical document, even if the original one is inaccessible, we can usually easily convert it into an accessible representation with standard tools such as OCR (optical character recognition) technology; however, as far as STEM contents are concerned, we cannot at all.

Since a STEM document includes many technical characters, symbols and notations such as mathematical expressions, chemical formulas, figures, tables, etc., its conversion into accessible format

such as LaTeX or MathML is quite beyond the capabilities of the standard tools. In addition, to establish a STEM-accessibility environment in education, digital libraries or others, not only conversion tools but also many other systems such as authoring tools and accessible players should be improved/developed.

The 3rd International Workshop on “Digitization and E-Inclusion in Mathematics and Science 2016” (DEIMS2016), which is supported by Nihon University, Junior College Funabashi Campus and the Not-for-Profit Organization: Science Accessibility Net, will bring together experts from around the world to present and discuss state-of-the-art technologies (research and development), novel activities and future perspectives on digitization/computerized- processing of STEM contents, their applications and accessibility.

A similar workshop was held in Fukuoka, December 2009 and in Tokyo, February, 2012. DEIMS2016 is planned to be the third one of this series of international workshops. For more than 15 years, the Infty Project, (The primary organisers of this workshop) has also organized a series of annual domestic workshops on scientific- information processing and its accessibility. DEIMS16 is also regarded as one of this series.
To view information on the previous international workshops in this series, please visit the DEIMS2012 home page:
http://workshop.sciaccess.net/DEIMS2012 and the WEIMS2009 home page:

the main topics of the workshop will include, but not be limited to,

– Digitizing and processing printed scientific documents
(technology / practice)
– Digital mathematical / scientific libraries
– Accessibility of scientific documents (e.g. PDF to DAISY: Digital
Accessible Information System)
– Accessibility of tables and figures
– Accessible e-books, in particular, accessible e-textbooks
– E-learning, online services in scientific fields
– Assistive tools for disabled people
– Services and technologies for inclusive environments
– Higher education for disabled students
– Other related topics.

Keynote Lecture
Prof. Dr. Volker Sorge
The University of Birmingham, UK.
Prof. Sorge will present a lecture on his amazing work which has
greatly increased the accessibility of chemistry. His talk will
include a description of the new OCR system for chemical
formulas developed by his team.