The standards world is hardly the space to set out in if one wants to become famous. There are a very select few, such as Tim Berners-Lee, who are widely recognized outside of their specialty, but for the overwhelming majority, the reward is more personal satisfaction than it is public praise. But this lack of public praise should by no means minimize the tremendous contributions that people make to the process. Sadly, last month we lost one of those important behind-the-scenes leaders. Dr. Norman Paskin passed away suddenly on March 27th. Norman was a significant figure in the areas of information standards; content and rights interoperability; and, most importantly, within the world of scholarly content navigation and discovery.
Norman began his career as a Publishing Editor with Elsevier Biomedical Press after graduating with a PhD from the University of Nottingham. After a short stint with Blackwell Scientific Publishing, he returned to Elsevier as Publishing Director. He moved into the technology side of publishing in 1992, as Elsevier's Director of Information Technology Development. Norman then moved to the position he would hold for the next 17 years: Founding Director and Managing Agent of the International DOI Foundation, an organization where he would make his lasting impact.
The DOI system is built upon the Handle system that was created by CNRI to address the significant problem of persistent linking on the World Wide Web, as it was architected. Persistent linking of citations was a critical problem for the scholarly community that supported the creation of the DOI system and its most successful implementation, the Crossref system. However, Norman was not content just to see the DOI system in place, but rather sought to find new communities that could rely on DOI's functionality, persistence, and quality metadata. Over the years, DOIs have grown to cover not only journal articles but book and other published content, data sets, audio-visual content, and other domains as well. This expansion was due in large part to Norman's vision and evangelism of the DOI system, as well as his deep technical competency.
As an active member of NISO and as a contributor to the ISO work of TC 46/SC 9, Norman articulated a clear vision of content interoperability with patience and tenacity. While strongly opinionated, he was fair and willing to listen to others' perspectives. The standards and identification communities will certainly miss his wit and contributions. Expressions of condolences may be sent via the International DOI Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rest in peace, my friend.