June 3, 2005

IATUL: Opening Plenary Session: Monday, May 30, 2005

Hacking Innovations and the Impending Digital Pearl Harbor by Hal Berghel, Director, School of Computer Science, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (http://www.berghel.net)

Hal Berghel began his talk by promising he would try to scare us all with his tales of hackers, crackers and script kiddies and he was mostly correct. Imagine, he encouraged us, that all our private information was public. If everything on our computers, in our emails, our PDAs, everything, was vulnerable. The cartoon he put up was captioned “The modern firewall” – simply a picture of a barrier in the road that all the cars are able to drive around. Internet security, he said, was mainly the art of risk management: defending, detecting intrusions, repairing and remediating the inevitable damage, but mostly just praying. Inevitable, because the real hackers out there, not the high school kids that get caught and show up on tv, are just as smart as the high-priced academic security experts. Berghel also contrasted computer forensics with internet forensics. On simple desktop computers, forensic analysis is a matter of employing a few standard tools to recover deleted files or reconstruct lost folders. On the internet, however, the situation is far more complex, with the latest generation of MALware, polymorphic and metamorphic intruders being almost impossible to detect… Rootkits are able to take over the kernals of the latest operating systems, website spoofing is very easy and, according to Berghel, all the various wireless network security protocols have been cracked. Berghel’s presentation was sobering and scary. A call to action to all security professionals at libraries and other organizations to be on our toes.

Building Scholarly Information Infrastructure through Partnership by Alex Byrne, University Librarian, University Librarian, Sydney, Australia.

Byrne’s task was simple: outline the main themes of the conference. As an introduction, he did a great job of touching on the various trends, challenges and issues that libraries face surrounding scholarly communications. His main focus was the transformation of the scholarly publishing world by various disruptive technologies. Beginning from that infrastructure itself of scholars, libraries, publishers and third party databases and indexes and their influence in the world of big science, super computers, data mining and data visualization tools, he pointed out the disruptive technologies facing that infrastructure: the internet, smart phones, PDAs, iPODs, wikis and blogs. The behavioral consequences of these technologies are profound for libraries: the movement from print to online information, the formation of internet based communities, the availability of research information to the general public, the new phenomenon of information overload, which manifests itself in ways such as “Google & grab” or overly selective browsing, the growth of multimedia content, open access publishing, Libraries can respond to these imperatives by serving our patrons 24x7, with multi-level assistance, contextual IL – by finding a way to continue to be the trusted source. We must foster collaborative communities among our patrons, move beyond text-only systems and help transform the scholarly information system.

At this point, Byrne moved on to discuss his ideas of information inequality among developed and developing economies, a term he prefers to the more standard “digital divide.” He approached from several points of view: infrastructure, hardware, software, skills, cost of content and publication system. To tackle these issues, he suggested the library and publishing communities move to a model of partnership, collaboration and cooperation, involving faculty, IT experts and other institutions such as archives and museums. Some of the global challenges this kind of collaboration would face include intellectual property issues and trade policies but that they should strive to overcome these issues. Scholarly information should be a public good; it should come from trusted souces and should be shared as if all countries are part of one world, not many.

At this point, he pointed to the declaration of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and it’s case study on open access publishing. His perspective was not that the Elsevier’s of the world are somehow evil – they are successful, in part, because they do a good job at providing products and services needed by the scholarly community. But the OA movement provides ways to look to a future where the opportunities to both produce and consume scholarly research are more equitably spread across the globe. He pointed to the practice of self-archiving and institutional repositories as a disruptive technology that could provide an interesting quick fix to some of the longer term challenges of getting OA up and running.

In conclusion, Byrne noted that this is a time of flux, with much change and uncertainty. The way forward to face the challenges of the digital divide, cost of infrastructure, finding a sustainable OA business model and finding value added services for libraries to provide is to continue in a spirit of partnership and trust. To embrace disruptive technologies, to move beyond text, embracing data and multimedia as new formats, to push for standardization and interoperability.

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