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Proposals Sought for ERIC Clearinghouses

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WASHINGTON--With an eye toward bringing its 16 information clearinghouses into the "electronic age,'' the Education Department has opened a competition to operate the clearinghouses for the next five years.

The awards for the Educational Resources Information Center clearinghouses, which collect and maintain data bases of information on educational topics ranging from early-childhood education to adult education, are scheduled to be announced next year.

The awards are expected to total $6 million in the first year. Department officials say they anticipate a substantial amount of competition for the contracts.

In 1988, five of the 16 centers drew competing bids, and three changed hands.

In soliciting proposals for 1993-97, the department recommended a number of changes in the 27-year-old data base, according to Robert M. Stonehill, åòéã's director.

"This will put the clearinghouses into the information-dissemination business of the electronic age,'' he said.

In perhaps the most far-reaching change, the request for proposals--published in the Nov. 30 Commerce Business Daily--calls for the centers to include full texts of articles in their electronic data bases, which would allow users to read them immediately.

In the past, the data bases have included only abstracts of journal articles and documents. Readers who wanted full texts could order them on microfiche or paper, a process that took several days.

In addition, Mr. Stonehill said, the plan calls for a greater concentration on electronic dissemination of information, including requiring each clearinghouse to establish a toll-free telephone number to handle user services. The new plan also would mandate the acquisition and indexing of books, in addition to the clearinghouses' traditional responsibility of listing journal articles and documents.

The deadline for proposals is Jan. 29, 1993.-R.R.

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