February 25, 2005

Revenge of the Blog People!

I seem to have missed much of the fuss about Michael Gorman's Revenge of the Blog People! article in Library Journal. You can read some of the reaction here and via here. Gorman's gist is that all this Google/blog/computer stuff is way over-rated and we should all just sit down and read a good book instead. My first problem is that his shear nastiness really undermines his credibility; how about these for some quotes:

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web

Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.


To go through the flaws of each and every one of his points would be, er, pointless. (Although I promise to try harder on the typo thing.) Blogs are not all good. Not all bloggers have something important to say. Google isn't perfect. Digitization won't solve all problems for everyone. Relevance ranking is very, very hard to do well. It seems to me that all these points are self-evident to an intelligent person, but to deny that trying to make these technologies work for people is somehow wrong is, to me, the kind of facile reasoning he accuses the bloggers of employing. He has a bit of a I'm-not-a-total-luddite disclaimer at the end, but it rings hollow after the opening rant. I can't believe this guy is a UL. Please, nobody show this guy the Wikipedia.

A few words about his one sort-of good point: "If a fraction of the [money spent on Google] were devoted to buying books and providing librarians for the library-starved children of California [and the world], the effort would be of far more use to humanity and society." I added the "and the world" bit. Who can deny the studies that have so closely link better literacy scores with the presence of a librarian in the schools. It's always a shame when short-sighted administrators use Google and the web as an excuse to cut physical libraries and in-the-flesh librarians. But at the same time, it would be equally foolish to deny the value of the web in cases when libraries and librarians are just not possible. I'm just not sure why he expects Google to start funding the public libraries of California. (I thought that was Bill Gates' job.)

A few from Inside Higher Ed

I find the new beta side Inside Higher Ed to be lively and provocative in much of its coverage. I do wish that they would have a bit more non-US, non-humanities/social sciences content but those are only minor complaints.

  • YoungFemaleScientist is a newish blog that they highlight. Cool and depressing at the same time, but in different ways. Two recent posts, Rebuttal Letter and Rebuttal Letter 2 are great.
  • My 57th recommendation letter this week by David Galef is amusing.
  • Educating the net generation is an interview with Diana Oblinger about Educause's new freely available ebook Educating the Net Generation. The interview is very interesting and I think the book probably more so. From the interview:
    A common misconception is that this generation of learners will want to learn online. The University of Central Florida actually studied the online preferences of different generations. The generation that preferred online learning the least was the Net Generation. The older the learner, the more they preferred online learning. Why? We suspect it is because the Net Generation is very social and they want to be in touch with other students and with faculty. Technology is not as important as being connected to others. That doesn't mean they don't want to use technology. They definitely want it for convenience, communication and the like. But to assume that it is the focus would be incorrect. It is a means to an end, not the end.

The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences

I want to get this one in while it's still February. It also includes a couple of bibliographies which are useful for collection development. I hope to post something for March as well. via LII.

Teaching math

An interesting post over at About Math on teaching math, linking to this article. To me, it seems that the fundamental issue is: do you teach math as if it's beautiful or as if it's useful. When I was a kid, math was taught as if everyone wanted to be a mathematician (ie. math is beautiful), now it seems to be taught as if no one could possibly ever want to be a mathematician or even to meet one if it could be avoided (ie. merely useful). The old way served a small number of students well but probably turned off a fairly large number. It seems to me that this new approach serves the mass of students somewhat well by teaching them to balance their checkbook but that it certainly doesn't encourage students to see careers in math (& science) as fundamentally interesting. Math and science are hard -- but they need to be seen as intrinsically worth the effort. The article makes an interesting point that this is the message that kids get from their teachers who are mathophobic.

February 22, 2005

Free patents online

I don't usually duplicate either Randy's or Catherine's posts, never mind something they've both posted on, but I think this one is important enough, if only to serve as a reminder to myself what to do next time I get someone looking for a patent full text.

The Free Patents Online site is very good at giving full text of US patents since #4,000,000 (mid-1970's) and in PDF to boot. No fiddling with huge TIFF files -- never mind that our computing department can't seem to get any TIFF readers installed here (don't ask). There is a problem with very new patents, as there is a delay before they're loaded in the database. A search on "cell phone" returned a lot of hits, but the first 25 or so weren't there in full text. It sends you back to the USPTO site. As of today, the publication date of the most recent patent is February 15, 2005. Not too bad, when you think of it.

February 16, 2005

Free SCI/TECH/ENG Abstract Search Resources

Sarah A.V. Kirby recently polled the ELDNET-L list for some names of good free abstract search engines. She has kindly allowed me to post her summary of the results. Thanks, Sarah!


Here is our list of free resources that contain searchable abstracts for multiple science/technology/engineering journals, magazines, and governmental publications. The abstracts have to be free, but the articles do not. Site registration is o.k., so long as it is free.


US GOVERNMENT (OR GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED) PUBLICATIONS

DOD STINET - http://stinet.dtic.mil/ - Helps the DoD community access pertinent scientific and technical information to meet mission needs effectively.

GPOAccess - http://www.gpoaccess.gov/ - Congressional documents, executive agency announcements (i.e. Federal Register), some government publications (via the Bookstore), locator for federal repositories, and much more.

NASA STI - http://www.sti.nasa.gov/ - Providea desktop access to the STI (scientific and technical information) produced by NASA and the world's aerospace community.

National Technical Information Service - http://www.ntis.gov/ - Serves our nation as the largest central resource for government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business related information available today. Here you will find information on more than 600,000 information products covering over 350 subject areas from over 200 federal agencies. Free version of the catalog begins with items published since 1990. You can call customer support to have the database searched back to its beginning (items cataloged in 1964, could be published earlier). http://grc.ntis.gov/ offers subscriptions for a day or a year to search the entire database yourself. EBSCO, Engineering Village 2, and other large database providers frequently have the entire NTIS database as an option.

NIOSH TIC-2 - http://www2.cdc.gov/nioshtic-2/Nioshtic2.htm - NIOSHTIC-2 is a bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and other communication products supported in whole or in part by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

OSTI E-Prints - http://www.osti.gov/eprints/ - The E-print Network is a set of powerful tools that facilitate access to and use of scientific and technical e-prints communicating the results of a wide range of research activities of interest to the Department of Energy. These e-prints reside on thousands of Web sites and data bases, both large and small, at remote locations worldwide, employing a wide variety of technologies, architectures, platforms, formats, software, and search engines to manage and retrieve data.

Agency library OPACs - Many of the agency libraries have Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs) that include many of their agency's scientific and technical reports, or reports produced for their agency.


GENERAL PUBLICATIONS (MULTIPLE DISICPLINES)

EEVL Ejournal Search - http://www.eevl.ac.uk/eese/eese-eevl.html - Search the content of over 250 freely available full-text ejournals, selected for relevance and quality. Academic journals, professional and trade publications, and Society journals are covered.

Coming in May - EEVL Xtra is a subject-based deep-mining meta-search tool which gives access to material which is largely hidden to normal search engines.

FindArticles - http://www.findarticles.com/ - Not as good as it used to be, but worth a look in computing, automotive, and some biology/botany.

Google Scholar - http://scholar.google.com/ - Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research.

HowStuffWorks - http://www.howstuffworks.com/index.htm - HowStuffWorks is widely recognized as the leading source for clear, reliable explanations of how everything around us actually works. Great site for normal English explanations of things, but beware of annoying pop-ups.
some publisher websites

INFOMINE - http://infomine.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/search?category=ejournal - INFOMINE is a virtual library of Internet resources relevant to faculty, students, and research staff at the university level. It contains useful Internet resources such as databases, electronic journals, electronic books, bulletin boards, mailing lists, online library card catalogs, articles, directories of researchers, and many other types of information. INFOMINE is librarian built. Librarians from the University of California, Wake Forest University, California State University, the University of Detroit - Mercy, and other universities and colleges have contributed to building INFOMINE.

IngentaConnect - http://www.ingentaconnect.com/ - IngentaConnect offers one of the most comprehensive collections of academic and professional research articles online - some 17 million articles from 28,000 publications, including 6,100 online.

Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations - http://www.ndltd.org/browse.en.html - Several databases of theses and dissertations that can be freely searched. Access to documents requires a subscription and/or purchasing links are provided.

OAIster - http://www.oaister.org/o/oaister/ - Our goal is to create a collection of freely available, previously difficult-to-access, academically-oriented digital resources (what are digital resources?) that are easily searchable by anyone.

Scitation - http://scitation.aip.org/ - Scitation is the online home of more than 100 journals from AIP, APS, ASCE, ASME, SPIE, and a host of other prestigious science and engineering societies.

Sirus - http://www.scirus.com/srsapp/ - Scirus is the most comprehensive science-specific search engine on the Internet. Driven by the latest FAST search engine technology (owned by Yahoo!), Scirus returns results from the whole Web, including access-controlled sites that other search engines don't index. Scirus currently covers over 167 million science-related Web pages, including: 58.5 million .edu sites, 18 million .org sites, 6.8 million .ac.uk sites, 18.6 million .com sites, 5 million .gov sites, Over 45 million other relevant STM and University sites from around the world. In addition to Web pages, Scirus indexes the following special sources: 14.6 million MEDLINE citations, 5.5 million ScienceDirect full-text articles, 1.2 million patents from the USPTO, 261,000 e-prints on ArXiv.org, 5,352 BioMed Central full-text articles, 10,600 NASA technical reports, 14,878 full text articles from Project Euclid, 56,000 full-text articles on Crystallography Journals Online, 230,0!
00 full-text journal articles on Scitation.


DIRECTORIES, SEARCH ENGINES, OR WEB SITES WHICH MAY CONTAIN FINDING AIDS OR LINKS TO MAJOR REPOSITORIES OF STI INFO

ALA's Machine Assisted Reference Section's (MARS) Best Free Reference Websites - http://www.ala.org/ala/rusa/rusaourassoc/rusasections/mars/marspubs/publications.htm - A list of librarian-evaluated websites on all sorts of topics.

Article "Science and Technology Sources on the Internet There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch: Freely Accessible Databases for the Public," Sandy Lewis, Iss Sci Tech Librarianship (29) Win 2001. - http://www.library.ucsb.edu/istl/01-winter/internet.html

EEVL - http://www.eevl.ac.uk/ - EEVL is the Internet Guide to Engineering, Mathematics and Computing. EEVL's mission is to provide access to quality networked engineering, mathematics and computing resources.

Internet Public Library - http://www.ipl.org/ - a public service organization and learning/teaching environment at the University of Michigan School of Information.

Librarian's Index to the Internet - http://lii.org/ - The mission of Librarians' Index to the Internet is to provide a well-organized point of access for reliable, trustworthy, librarian-selected Internet resources, serving California, the nation, and the world.

Memorial University of Newfoundland Database List - http://www.library.mun.ca/eindex/index_nets.asp - You can search by subject or you can check the full alphabetic list. Free indexes all include the phrase "Internet access unrestricted" in the description.

Pinake - http://www.hw.ac.uk/libWWW/irn/pinakes/pinakes.html - A directory of subject directories, including EEVL.

Research and Documentation Online - http://www.dianahacker.com/resdoc/index.html - An extensive annotated list of specialized sources for more than 25 disciplines. The resources are organized by type -- databases and indexes, Web sites, and reference texts

Resource Discovery Network - http://www.rdn.ac.uk/ - The RDN selects, catalogues and delivers high-quality Internet resources for further and higher education: the best of the Web.

Science.gov - http://www.science.gov/ - Each agency selects its best science information for science.gov. Two major types of information are included -- selected authoritative science Web sites and often hard-to-access scientific databases (specific content varies by database). This gateway to government science information allows searches across 30 databases and more than 1,700 science Web sites.

SciTechResources.gov - http://www.SciTechResources.gov - The government catalog that provides the scientist, engineer, and technologist with easy, one-stop access to key U.S. Government web resources. Thousands of web sites are being reviewed to select just those sites that will provide valuable links to government expertise, services, laboratories, information centers, and other important resources.

University of Michigan Documents Center - http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/ - A central reference and referral point for government information, whether local, state, federal, foreign or international.

University of Missouri-Rolla STI List - http://campus.umr.edu/library/gov/sti.html

WWW Virtual Library - http://vlib.org/ - The WWW Virtual Library (VL) is the oldest catalog of the Web, started by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of html and the Web itself, in 1991 at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Unlike commercial catalogs, it is run by a loose confederation of volunteers, who compile pages of key links for particular areas in which they are expert; even though it isn't the biggest index of the Web, the VL pages are widely recognised as being amongst the highest-quality guides to particular sections of the Web.

and the usual suspects (Google, MSN, Yahoo!, DMOZ/ODP, etc.),


SITES THAT FOCUS ON ONE OR A FEW RELATED DISCIPLINES AND ARE NOT MENTIONED ABOVE


COMPUTER AND INFORMATION SCIENCE/ ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING

CiteSeer - http://citeseer.ist.psu.edu/ - A scientific literature digital library and search engine that focuses primarily on the literature in computer and information science.

Energy Citation database -http://www.osti.gov/energycitations - abstracts and a lot of full-text.

IEEE Xplore - Indexed by Google (Use IEEE as one search term)


PHYSICS/CHEMISTRY

Chemweb - http://www.chemweb.com/ - in transition and requires registration but has been very useful and may be so again soon.

Elemental Data Index - http://physics.nist.gov/PhysRefData/Elements/cover.html - Provides access to the holdings of NIST Physics Laboratory online data organized by element. It is intended to simplify the process of retrieving online scientific data for a specific element.

WebElementsTM - http://www.webelements.com/ - aims to be a high quality source of information on the WWW relating to the periodic table.


AGRICULTURAL/BIOLOGICAL/BIOMEDICAL/ENVIRONMENTAL

Agricola - http://agricola.nal.usda.gov/ - For agriculture, plant science, veterinary science, some environmental toxicity and other various areas that relate to agriculture.

AGRIS - http://www.fao.org/agris/ - The international information system for the agricultural sciences and technology. It was created by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1974

Eric Weisstein's World of Science - http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/ - Contains budding encyclopedias of astronomy, scientific biography, chemistry, and physics.

Publications of the U.S. Geological Survey - http://usgspubs.georef.org/usgsns.htm - subset of the GeoRef database established by the American Geological Institute. This database provides access to the publications of the USGS and includes references to U.S. Geological Survey reports and maps published from 1880 to date, references to non-USGS publications with USGS authors published from 1983 to date, and 225 references to reports produced by the Hayden, King, Powell, and Wheeler surveys. The database contains more than 130,000 references.

PubMed - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=PubMed - for biomedical articles: (sometimes includes other technology articles, e.g. ventilation, when in a fully-indexed journal)


MECHANICAL/AEROSPACE

TRIS online - http://trisonline.bts.gov/search.cfm - From the Transportation Research Board


CIVIL

ASCE Publications - http://www.pubs.asce.org/cedbsrch.html - Index to their publications (fairly substantial for the field of civil engineering)

Quakeline - http://mceer.buffalo.edu/utilities/quakeline.asp - A bibliographic database produced by the MCEER Information Service. It covers earthquakes, earthquake engineering, natural hazard mitigation, and related topics. It includes records for various publication types, such as journal articles, conference papers, technical reports, maps, and videotapes. QUAKELINE was launched in May 1987.


OTHER (MISCELLANEOUS)

ASSIST Quick Search - http://assist.daps.dla.mil/quicksearch/ - For current military specifications

Math Forum - http://mathforum.org/ - A leading center for mathematics and mathematics education on the Internet.

NSSN - http://www.nssn.org/search.html- Setting the pace worldwide in promulgating standards information to a broad constituency. Whether it's searching for a specific standard, tracking the status of a new development project, or identifying a contact person who can interpret a standard, NSSN serves as your one-stop information repository.

ScienceDaily - http://www.sciencedaily.com/ - ScienceDaily is one of the Internet's leading online magazines and Web portals devoted to science, technology, and medicine.

Where to Find Material Safety Data Sheets on the Internet - http://www.ilpi.com/msds/index.html - Directory of MSDS websites

February 9, 2005

Latest Cites & Insights

Walt Crawford's latest has been posted. I consider C&I to really be required reading, so I don't mention it automatically when a new one comes out. This one I feel that I should point out because it has extensive commentary on the Wikipedia -- what it is, what it isn't and why we should all just get a grip. Personally, I love the thing, and I've suggested my 12 and 9 year old sons use it for their research projects at school. Among the topics: gold and the planets in French. In both cases, it served them very well, better than most other web resources and better than a lot of books I was able to get for them. All this to say is that the Wikipedia has its place, we just have to understand what it is. The naysayers and the utopians are bot a little right and a little wrong. Would I suggest that a York undergrad do all his or her research using the Wikipedia? Of course not. But it can be a good starting place for some basic info that should be certainly supplemented with other books, encyclopedias and perhaps some journal articles, depending on the level.

And speaking of declining enrollments...

It seems to me that part of the problem must be the public perception of engineering. It's just too hard and nerdy, not really in touch with pop culture. When you think about how engineers are viewed on tv, the best you can come up with are the battlebots, giant truck, junkyard wars type shows. While I'll admit to having a soft spot for them, they're not exactly drenched in cool. Let's face it -- they're on Discovery, not MTV or MuchMusic.

But, there's hope. Take a look at this little bit from the most recent IEEE What's New for Students:


10. "GEEKSTA RAP" TRIES TO LURE TEENS INTO ENGINEERING PROFESSION

Can music lure kids into engineering? That's the hope of engineer Rajeev Bajaj and his "Geek Rhythms," a self-proclaimed "geeksta rap" CD about engineering and technology. One track on the CD explains the principles of chemical engineering; another describes the frustrations of computer geeks. Stanford University's radio station has played the CD, and an engineering faculty member at New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute sought permission to play a song from the CD at graduation. Read more at: <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1003905.cms>


Geeksta Rap. Ya gotta love it.

Ontario University Applications

Statistics for university applications from Ontario secondary school students for 2005-2006 are in. York is doing pretty well, holding its own in the post double cohort era. It's interesting to note, however, that first choice science applications are up over last year while engineering is a bit down. Overall, science is down about the same as the decline in applications overall bit while engineering is down about double that. I would be interested to hear from librarians in other districts to see if similar stats are kept.

February 4, 2005

In the Beginning was the Command Line

One of the best books I've ever read about the computer person mindset is Neal Stephenson's In the Beginning was the Command Line. It really frames what the "operating system" wars were/are all about and, more importantly, how the techie approaches technology versus the normal person. Well, the book has long been online, but now there's a new twist. Here you can find an online version with extensive, approved-by-the-author annotations by a reader (Garrett Birkel) who is also very well versed in all things techie. The annotations expand and illuminate the original, but not in an overly reverential way. They can certainly snarky and sharp, but I'm sure Stephenson have enjoyed them. A must read for those that want to understand the CS community. via BoingBoing.

Pathfinder terminology report

Also from UC Berkeley, this report on a user survey investigating what terminology should be used in library pathfinders.

Get those covers framed

Via Lisnews, a science librarian at Berkeley has taken to framing and displaying the joural covers when one of the institution's scientist's work is featured on the cover. Check out the story at the UC Berkeley News.