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It's out there somewhere

The amount of information on the Internet is both its biggest advantage and disadvantage.

For busy civil engineers, the knowledge that the information they want is somewhere in cyberspace has to be balanced against the difficulty of finding it.

The development of search engines has helped, of course, but they roam over huge areas and often return less than user-friendly results.

However, there is a growing number of sites that corral high quality information on a range of areas - including engineering - making searching much more efficient.

The Renardus project is one example. The so-called subject gateway service provides access to vetted websites through a single service. Partner sites are found through libraries and other information-related communities from across Europe including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Finland, making it easier to access useable information.

But the clever part is that behind the 'gateway' each separate site is moderated by Renardus to ensure that the information provided is 'sustained and regular effort is invested in maintaining or improving the level and quality of the collection'.

An engineering-dedicated search engine has been built for Renardus called the Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library, www.eevl.ac.uk with which you can use keywords to search through academic papers, journals, organisations and newsgroups.

A list of useful links is also displayed, including other Renardus project engineering search engines in Sweden, at http://eels.lub.lu.se and Australasia, at http://avel.edu.au.

The combined resources of the Renardus project link to just about every organisation, research centre, university department and newsgroup involved in civil engineering in Europe - and quite a few further afield including civil engineering departments in Asia, Africa, South America, Mexico, New Zealand and Japan.

One of the best of these sites is www.discoverengineering.org.

Although aimed at budding engineers of all disciplines, it has a section describing what civil engineers do and colourful sub sections on structural engineering, waste treatment, transportation, geotechnical, water and construction management.

These subdivisions are filled with pictures and plain English explanations about specific areas of expertise. Further links take users to structural engineering, bridges, the world's tallest buildings, and water management including information on flood control and a Hoover Dam picture gallery.

Those who fear there are not enough undergraduates choosing the profession can rest assured that 'exciting' websites on the net should now be easier to find. Some of these are good enough to convince students that civil engineering could be the profession of their dreams.

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