The launch ceremony of the online edition of the CGIE encyclopaedias was held on Tuesday, 22 September 2020, and Kazem Mousavi Bojnourdi, Ashraf Boroujerdi, Ali Bahramian, Mohammad Mehdi Mahmoudi, Ali Mousavi Bojnourdi, and Masoud Tarah delivered their speeches at the event, which was hosted by Hamoun Ghorab in the Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia.
CGIE: The launch ceremony of the online edition of the CGIE encyclopaedias was held on Tuesday, 22 September 2020, and Kazem Mousavi Bojnourdi, Ashraf Boroujerdi, Ali Bahramian, Mohammad Mehdi Mahmoudi, Ali Mousavi Bojnourdi, and Masoud Tarah delivered their speeches at the event, which was hosted by Hamoun Ghorab in the Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia.
The session opened with the speech of Kazem Mousavi Bojnourdi, the head of the centre, who noted: “Mentioning the benefits and influences of the online edition of our encyclopaedias will take time. Briefly, we, as encyclopaedists, explore accurately all the cultural aspects of the nation in the form of extensive entries of the encyclopaedias. We scrutinize every key concept that has emerged throughout the history of this nation, express its origins, and recount it in the specific context in which it was developed. Therefore, we, the encyclopaedists, in a sense, are the preservers of the national culture, and concurrently, we enrich the national culture as well.”
He added: “In the online format, all our encyclopaedias are available to the researchers, and this can play a prominent role in the diffusion of our culture and its fertility. Another advantage of the online encyclopaedias is that all the entries (even the ones which have been published formerly in the Encyclopaedia Islamica) can be accessible as soon as they are adequately prepared to be published.”
He reminded: “All the compiled entries are based on authoritative sources and if we want to publish them in the alphabetical paper format it may take a long time. But the online format keeps us updated in promptly publishing the most recent entries. Although we maintain the paper format in the alphabetical order, in the online version, we publish all the entries as soon as they are compiled and edited, and make them accessible for the researchers.”
Mousavi Bojnourdi concluded: “Online Encyclopaedias will undoubtedly carry out a significant role in disseminating Iranian and Shiite culture. We plan to compile more online encyclopaedias such as the Encyclopaedia of Engineering in Iran, which will merely have a digital version.”
Ashraf Boroujerdi, the head of the National Library and Archives of Iran, also expressed her hope that a joint interaction will be possible to exploit what has been created in the CGIE as a valuable reserve for society. Referring to the verse of Quran (68: 1) in which there is an oath to the pen and what is written by it, she stated: “Based on these verses, it can be reasonably concluded that writing and appropriately presenting the written material is not only art but also virtue and can remain a lasting value for all generations. Especially in the present time that sometimes right and wrong words are intertwined intentionally and could be interpreted and used erroneously, distributing the reliable and accurate written material represents a valuable virtue.”
She added: “In the difficult conditions of the covid pandemic that staying at home is recommended seriously, such efforts have eminent benefits for the society. We retain thousands of years of historical, cultural, and scientific background, records of which are kept in the National Library. Mr. Bojnourdi’s previous efforts in the National Library continued by others and recently the project of the “Iranian National Memory System” was launched there. This system has four core parts, one of which is dedicated to the magazines and journals of Iran from the Qajar era to the present time.”
The head of the National Library thanked Mousavi Bojnourdi for properly supervising the online encyclopaedias and concluded: “Mr. Bojnourdi has been a source of long-lasting appreciated decent acts during his successful career. But his greatest work was to invite and gather knowledgeable professors and efficiently create a proper atmosphere for their scientific activities.”
Ali Bahramian, a member of the Scientific Council of the Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia, called the event a turning point for the centre and said: “We all recognize the prominence of cyberspace and its integration into every aspect of our lives. The online edition of our encyclopaedias assists in publishing more widely the result of decades of extensive research by some of the most prominent researchers of the country. Encyclopaedias in general and our encyclopaedias in particular, have been neglected and should be given more attention, especially in the cyberspace era, which provides more opportunities for researchers to share their achievements not only with their colleagues but also with the general public. Some content in cyberspace is inevitably produced on the basis of biased or ignorant sources; therefore, the most reliable sources like the CGIE encyclopaedias must be properly published to be referred to.”
Furthermore, he noted: “The principal product of this centre is the encyclopaedias, but what is more significant and must not be neglected is a generation of the scientists that has been raised during the thirty years of the development of CGIE. This is a prodigious investment that the authorities should consider more seriously.”
Bahramian mentioned the centre’s library as another privilege, in which a selection of the recent research works is collected, and the eminent Iranian scholars such as the late Iraj Afshar and Sotoudeh have donated their libraries and collections to it in recent decades. He concluded: “This unique library requires more support.”
Mohammad Mehdi Mahmoudi, the executive secretary of the Encyclopaedia of Engineering in Iran, noted: “Until now, many books and various encyclopaedias have been compiled with historical, cultural and social perspectives, but the engineering encyclopaedia attempts to record all engineering methods, works and tools, which have played significant role in the creation of civilization and culture of this country, such as qanats (aqueducts), roads, dams, palaces, castles, underground cities, and engineering equipment unknown today. Fortunately, with the support and encouragement of Mr. Bojnourdi, this encyclopaedia established at the CGIE and it is the first encyclopaedia to be published merely in the electronic format. As Mr. Bojnourdi said, when the entries are ready to publish they will be promptly accessible online, and if required they can be edited at any time.
Mahmoudi continued: “The classification method in choosing entries for this encyclopaedia is according to the first level of engineering fields of the Ministry of Science. We have fifteen engineering disciplines, and the priority is assigned to architecture, civil engineering, electrical, and mechanical engineering. Our leading experts properly recognize these key aspects in past buildings, equipment, urban planning and architecture to compile the related entries.”
The next speaker of the ceremony, Ali Mousavi Bojnourdi, the executive and information technology director of the CGIE, said at the beginning of his speech: “This project started almost two years ago. After designing the website, we provided a core that can properly accommodate various encyclopaedias and respond effectively to the requirements of the users. A specific methodology for adding entries to the system was adopted and with the concurrence of our researchers and colleagues at the CGIE, we uploaded the entries on the system in the most appropriate way.”
Explaining the current situation and prospects of the electronic publishing in Iran, he noted: “Currently, about 13.8% of readers use electronic publications and it is expected that in the next five years it will reach 25.9%. Meanwhile, according to the report of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution published in 2017, the Iranians’ per capita of reading is five minutes per day. Two specific procedures in Iran have led to a general trend towards electronic publishing; one is the staggering increase in the price of paper printing and the decrease in purchasing power. The other is the covid pandemic, which has increased readers’ interest in electronic publishing. The benefits of electronic publishing are more reasonable costs and prices of the products. Moreover, it is imperative for the CGIE to receive feedbacks and edit entries rapidly, which takes place straightforwardly in the electronic publishing. Other advantages of the online edition are the possibility of access from remote places, not occupying physical space (paper encyclopaedias can occupy too much space in the apartments), and using quick search tools for personalization of the various form of the content. Other advantages are the variety of the available content (in the forms of text, audio, image and video), and the ultimate advantage is the avoidance of excessively cutting trees for producing paper.
Ali Mousavi Bojnourdi noted about Generation Z: “This generation, which is also known as Internet Generation, has been born since the early 2000s and makes up around 25% of the world’s population. The vast majority of them have used digital communications and social media and have been widely exposed to technologies such as the internet, social networks, smartphones, and tablets since they were born; therefore, they are called digital citizens. It is unavoidable that producers in various sectors of the industry, including the publishing industry, must take the needs of this young generation into consideration and plan for them.
He added: “In recent years, many eminent encyclopaedias in the world started online publishing, such as Columbia Encyclopaedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Larousse, and Encyclopaedia Judaica. In addition, a considerable number of encyclopaedias are basically born online, the most famous of which is Wikipedia.”
Ali Mousavi Bojnourdi, regarding the features of the online version of the CGIE encyclopaedias said: “Unlike the previous version, the entries are displayed in the text format instead of PDF. The new format is easier to read and adapted to all screen types. It has the capacity of copying the text as needed and there are more tools to explore the text and develop the links between entries. There is also a version designed for mobile and tablet devices. In the new version, the full-text of the content in thematic and alphabetical order is searchable, and users can have an account and create a personal library of entries and resources for themselves. Furthermore, the edited entries will be instantly available online; thus, the process of presenting entries will accelerate significantly.”
Masoud Tareh, the scientific supervisor of the online encyclopaedias project, said: “As a researcher, I present some new features of the online edition. Clearly, few researchers have access to various encyclopaedias in their personal libraries; therefore, the possibility of online access to the content of the CGIE encyclopaedias will efficiently be a great opportunity for them.”
He added: “Previously, the PDF format of the entries was available on the website. In the summer of 2019, the CGIE, in collaboration with a number of its members, decided to present its encyclopaedias in a more dynamic and searchable version with the equivalent level of accuracy which has been considered in compiling, editing, and printing the entries in the paper format. The CGIE encyclopaedias’ entries cover a broad range of scientific topics, an essential part of which are the documentation and references. In the online edition, considerable effort has been made to standardize the documentation similar to that of the printed edition; therefore, it would be unnecessary to refer to the paper edition.”
Masoud Tareh added: “let me present another feature of the online format by an example: Imagine a researcher intends to study on the subject of “Zaidiyyah”. Referring to the printed version of the encyclopaedia, he or she will find that the entry of Zaidiyyah has not been published yet, but searching the online edition reveals that a considerable number of entries in the CGIE encyclopaedias, without mentioning Zaiydiyya in their titles, are actually about this religious sect or contain valuable material on its political, social, and doctrinal aspects. The online version of the CGIE encyclopaedias has the feature of searching the text of entries for the keywords that researchers are looking for.”
In conclusion, Tareh mentioned: “I should acknowledge the efforts of our colleagues who have sincerely and compassionately participated in this project. I hope this event revitalizes the Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia to maintain its activities more vigorously and dynamically.”
Photos: Amir Hossein Mehri
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