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.
The main topics of the workshop will include, but not be limited to,
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 depicted-visually 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.
Shonan Village Center