Tools for selective proactive as well as reactive information retrieval, information extraction, information organization and assimilation, knowledge discovery using heterogeneous, distributed knowledge and data sources constitute some of the key enabling technologies for managing the data overload and translating recent advances in automated data acquisition, digital storage, computers and communications into advances in decision support, scientific discovery and related applications. Such distributed knowledge networks (DKN) have to be able to effectively utilize multiple autonomous, often independently owned and operated information systems. Given the complexity of the such systems and the need for autonomy of the components, multi agent systems, because of their modularity, offer an attractive framework for the design of DKN. In such multi agent systems, satisfactory completion of the tasks at hand depend critically on effective communication and coordination among the agents. The paper describes an approach to coordination and control of DKN through inter agent negotiation using the contract net protocol (CNP). The feasibility of the proposed design is demonstrated on tasks involving information retrieval and knowledge discovery using distributed data and knowledge sources.