ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC34 N0428


Information Technology --

Document Description and Processing Languages

Title: Report of Official Foreign Travel to England
23 April-11 May 2003
Source: James D. Mason, Chairman, JTC1/SC34
Project: All SC34 Projects
Project editor: All SC34 Editors
Status: This report was submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Agency as part of the requirements for official travel by the author.
Date: 5 June 2003
Distribution: SC34 and Liaisons
Refer to:
Supercedes: SC34 N332
Reply to: Dr. James David Mason
(ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 Chairman)
Y-12 National Security Complex
Information Technology Services
Bldg. 9113 M.S. 8208
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-8208 U.S.A.
Telephone: +1 865 574-6973
Facsimile: +1 865 574-1896
E-mailk: mailto:[email protected]

Ms. Sara Hafele, ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 Secretariat
American National Standards Institute
11 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
Tel: +1 212 642 4976
Fax: +1 212 840 2298
E-mail: [email protected]






Report of Official Foreign Travel to England
24 April-11 May 2003

James David Mason
Internet, SGML, and Integration Services
Information Technology Services


6 June 2002


Prepared by the
Y-12 National Security Complex
Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831
managed by
BWXT Y-12, L.L.C.
for the
under contract DE-AC05-00OR22800


This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.




In support of DOE's use of SGML, XML, HTML, and related standards, I have served since 1985 as Chairman of the international committee responsible for SGML and related standards, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 (SC34) and its predecessor organizations. During my May 2003 trip, I chaired the spring 2003 meeting of SC34 in London, England. I also attended XML Europe 2003, a major conference on the use of SGML and XML sponsored by IDEAlliance; and chaired the annual meeting of the International SGML/XML Users' Group (ISUG).

Supporting standards development allows the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) the opportunity both to provide input into the process and to benefit from contact with some of the leading experts in the subject matter. Oak Ridge has been for some years the location to which other DOE sites turn for expertise in SGML, XML, and related topics.

Note: This report continues a series, the most recent of which, Y/WPP-095, reported on the August 2003 meeting of SC34/WG3and the IDEAlliance conference Extreme Markup Languages 2002 in Montréal, Canada. Copies of documentation for all SC34 meetings are available from the SC34 site on the Web: ( This report is available on the SC34 Web site at Hyperlinks in the online report connect it to the documents it references.


Over the course of the past two decades, SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language, ISO 8879:1986) and its applications, including HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), and profiles, most notably XML (Extensible Markup Language), have come to dominate the interchange and use of structured data. SGML and many of the standards related to it were developed and are maintained by ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 (SC34), which I chair.

The SC34 project gaining the most attention recently is Topic Maps (ISO/IEC 13250:2000), which describes metadata structures for organizing and indexing large collections of information resources. The Topic Map standard seems poised to have a major effect on knowledge-management applications. Topic Maps are being used in the knowledge base for the Ferret analytical engine developed at Y-12 and are being investigated as a mechanism for maintaining and publishing classification guidance on a DOE-wide basis. Topic Maps also have good potential as a structuring tool in other knowledge-preservation activities.

Another project gaining attention is Document Schema Definition Languages, which is drawing participation partially because of reactions to the World Wide Web Consortioum's XML Schema project.

In May 2002, I attended a series of meetings in London related to the support of SC34 standards and their application. SC34 and its Working Group 3 (SC34/WG3), Information Association, which is responsible for Topic Maps, met on Saturday, 3 May. The XML Europe 2003 conference, sponsored by IDEAlliance, followed during the next week. ISUG held its annual general meeting during the conference

Spring Meeting of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34, London, England

The SC34 meeting was held at the London Metropole Hilton in London, England. The attendance at the spring meeting of SC34 included 27 experts from 10 countries (Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and one external liaison bodies (ISUG).

The opening plenary was held on Saturday, 3 May 2003, with reports from national bodies, liaison organizations, and project editors. After the opening plenary, SC34 broke into its component Working Groups: Markup Languages (WG1), Information Presentation (WG2), and Information Association (WG3). Following the pattern established in 2001, we held SC34 plenary sessions at the beginning and end of the IDEAlliance conference, with WG meetings scheduled before the conference and then at free intervals during it.

Working Group Meetings

WG1: Markup Languages

SC34/WG1 is responsible for SC34's oldest ISO standard, SGML (ISO 8879:1986), the basis for many other SC34 standards as well as for the W3C's XML suite of recommendations. SGML is stable and well supported. SC34 has published two Technical Corrigenda (TCs) to SGML to support internationalization of text (through UNICODE/ISO 10646) and to formalize expression of some of the constraints imposed on applications by XML.

At this meeting, SC34/WG1 concentrated on its project "Document Schema Definition Languages (DSDL, ISO/IEC 19757)," which is to provide a pipelined facility for combining mechanisms for defining XML document structures and validating instance documents. At this meeting WG1 restructured the standard to avoid some questions about numbering parts. RELAX NG, part 2 of DSDL, has been completed, and a final text has been sent for publication. Part 4, "Selection of Validation Candidates" will be sent for Final Committee Draft ballot. Part1 (formerly Part 0) will be sent for a CD ballot.

A detailed report from WG1 is online at The Recommendations of the WG2 meeting are available online at

WG2: Information Presentation

SC34/WG2 continued maintenance of its standards on fonts and related topics, as well as of SPDL (Standard Page Description Language, ISO/IEC 10180) and DSSSL (Document Style Semantics and Specification Language, ISO/IEC 10179). Two amendments to DSSSL were approved for processing as separate documents.

The Recommendations of the WG2 meeting are available online at

WG3: Information Association

SC34/WG3 works mainly on matters of hypertext and multimedia documents and linking. The new Topic Maps (ISO/IEC 13250, standard, published last year, occupies most of WG3's effort.

WG3 is currently concentrating on the development of a Reference Model and a Standard Application Model for topic maps in preparation for the development of topic-map query and constraint (schema) languages. New versions of both models were presented by their editors and analyzed by the WG. Several documents related to the constraint and query languages were also discussed.

WG3 also had a visit from IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coodination Acoustique/Musique, at Centre Pompidou in Paris), which is interested in the incomplete work on ISO/IEC 10743, Standard Music Description Language.

The Recommendations of the WG3 meeting are available online at

Results of the Meeting

Since the creation of SC34 out of SC18/WG8 in 1998, the Secretariat for the committee has been held by ANSI on behalf of the U.S. National Body for JTC1. In 2002, the U.S. indicated its desire to relinquish the Secretariat. At the London meeting, the Standards Council of Canada announced that it was willing to assume responsibility for the Secretariat, and Ken Holman, representing SCC, undertook to manage the secretariat. I have worked with Ken for many years and am grateful to him for taking on this project to support the committee.

SC34 is pleased that its standards continue to attract attention and new applications. The group is particularly pleased by the high level of participation in its work and by the excitement that DSDL and Topic Maps are generating. The increase in the number of projects related to schema languages and Topic Maps, as well as the consolidation of the technical work in SC34, reflects the maturing of these areas of standardization.

The Resolutions of the SC34 Meeting ( are available online as formal statements of the accomplishments of the meeting. The SC34 library also includes the Report of the SC34 Secretariat (, which lists all the formal projects in SC34 and their editors. Documents distributed during the meeting are listed in Appendix C.

Conference: XML Europe 2003

IDEAlliance, has been a supporter of SGML and its applications from the earliest days. Their conferences on SGML-related topics had already grown steadily over the years, but the arrival of first HTML and then XML has caused an explosion of participation in both North America and Europe.

The XML Europe 2003 conference, which generally had several concurrent tracks, was too vast for me to absorb by myself (I have the proceedings in electronic form for anyone wanting to inspect them). Much of the attention at the conference (and the associated vendor showcase) is on EC technology. Many vendors are showing tools for putting existing databases and product catalogs on the Web using XML technology. However, there also seems to be a resurgence of some of the traditional SGML/XML applications, such as high-quality publishing. One interesting trend is a resurgence of interest in document-centered models in the face of the data-centric model generally favored in EC. The opening keynote, by Jon Bosak (Sun Microsystems, often called the "father of XML"), promoted a document-centric view of EC as a means of opening EC to small businesses and developing economies. A second trend is the proliferation of open-source tools for manipulating XML, particularly in the Linux community. The conference Web site is

The track on Topic Maps and knowledge management continues to draw attention, as it did last year in Barcelona. I attended most of the sessions, looking for refinements for my ideas about how to apply Topic Maps to local projects and for tools to aid in the manipulation and visualization of data represented in maps. I shall be seeking some of these papers for republication in interChange, the ISUG journal.

The conference was quite lively, and there is a continuation of rapid growth of interest in the SGML/XML world and, more importantly, support for SGML/XML applications. A report of the conference will appear in the June 2003 issue of interChange. There is an online report on at

ISUG (International SGML/XML Users' Group)

The SGML Users' Group was formed at a 1984 conference at Oxford University that was the forerunner of XML Europe. Incorporated as ISUG, a nonprofit organization with offices in the United Kingdom, it now has branches in most Western European countries ( ISUG regularly sends a delegation to SC34 meetings and provides editors for several standards, including HyTime and Topic Maps. This is my fifth year as president of ISUG. At the Annual General Meeting, held in conjunction with XML Europe, we discussed ways of improving our outreach and services to members. ISUG plans to expand its newsletter, which is now the only technical journal concentrating on fundamental issues in SGML and XML technology, into a full peer-reviewed journal. Copies of the ISUG newsletter are available in my office.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The world of SGML/XML appears to be quite healthy, whether one looks at the fundamental level of standards development or surface layers of application.

Although DOE has been involved with SGML and related standards since the late 1970s, interest in these subjects has tended to reside in specialized groups. The rise of the WWW brought a casual, if frequently effective, use of SGML (in the form of HTML) to a wide community but did not spread wide understanding of the underlying technology. The rise of XML and its adoption by major software houses suggests that use will become even more widespread. For some uses, a casual approach to XML may suffice. However, for records, product data, interpretive knowledge bases, and other mission-sensitive information, DOE should take an active position on the development and use of SGML-related standards.

The growth of Topic Maps and other XML-based mechanisms for knowledge engineering has potentially great impacts on mission-critical information for DOE and NNSA. As NNSA's weapons programs increasingly call for electronic data capture, there is a need for stable mechanisms for both capturing and cataloging the information. Particularly in the case of stockpile life-extension programs, there is a need for this data to be usable for decades after it is collected. Current methods of collecting the data do not offer adequate assurance that the data will continue to be usable. Adoption and implementation of standard methods based in SGML/XML should be a high priority for DOE and NNSA.

The application of XML and Topic Maps to knowledge management in projects such as that for the knowledge base for the Ferret classification engine should be pursued. This technology will aid the creation and maintenance of knowledge bases, as well as the extension of the Ferret engine beyond to new applications. The projects in the Information Classification and Control Policy organization to develop an XML-based publishing system for classification guidance and a topic-map guidance-management system are examples of how this technology can be applied.

Because DOE is one of the organizations adopting SC34 standards, it should continue active participation in SC34's work, particularly the work on Topic Maps. As DOE's use of these standards increases, the need for continued commitment to their maintenance and extension will increase as a consequence. DOE should also keep aware of developments in the realm of applications by participating in conferences and developers' groups. Furthermore, DOE should establish more internal means for sharing tools, techniques, and applications. Ferret technology seems a good candidate for extension to other DOE facilities and perhaps for commercialization as well. Y-12, as the leader in development of SGML-related standards, is in a good position to continue also as a leader in their application. The systems for publishing and managing classification guidance will perhaps show a way for even wider DOE application of XML techniques.


Future meetings

SC34 has the following meetings scheduled for the next year:





1-4 August 2003



6-11 December 2002



May 2004


Project meetings may also be scheduled between SC34 meetings.

SC34 continues to schedule most of its meetings in conjunction with conferences sponsored by IDEAlliance. These conferences generally deal with SGML, XML, HyTime, Topic Maps, and related topics; combining meetings with the IDEAlliance conferences allows a reduction in the number of trips for experts who participate in both activities. My travel to this meeting was supported in part by IDEAlliance.

Supplementary documents

The attendance list from the SC34 meeting.

The Resolutions from the SC34 meeting.

The documents issued during the meeting.