I'll be at the OLA Super Conference tomorrow and Saturday. If you see me at the conference, please stop me and say Hi. I always really enjoy meeting my readers.
There is apparently a blog for the conference, but I couldn't find a link to it on the conference home page. When I figure out what the link is, I'll post it here. Some of the sub groups are also blogging, like on the OCULA blog (also not linked from the conference page).
As usual, I'll be posting some session summaries here once the conference is over, although I may finish posting the Science Blogging Conference session summaries first.
Finally, for those that are interested, I'll be presenting on Saturday morning at 9:05 on My Job in 10 Years: The Future of Academic Libraries. I'll post a link to the PDF version of my presentation later on as well. Given that we're expecting a snow storm on Friday, the early time on a Saturday morning and the fact that I'm up against the OLITA SPOTLIGHT SESSION: Top Tech Trends (featuring Meredith Farkas, Casey Bisson and David Fiander), I'm expecting my session to be cozy (OLA estimates 15, which is actually pretty good considering). As such, I'm hoping to have something pretty informal and interactive with lots of discussion rather than a "sage on the stage" type presentation. Drop by if you can, and we can explore the future together.
Update: Thanks to Carolyne for the info, the link to the Conference blog is here!
Update 2008.02.04: PDF version of slides here.
January 31, 2008
I'll be at the OLA Super Conference tomorrow and Saturday. If you see me at the conference, please stop me and say Hi. I always really enjoy meeting my readers.
January 29, 2008
It's a happy day around here today as we celebrate my older son Sam's 15th birthday. It's kind of hard to believe he's actually 15, but at the same time I'm very proud of the fine young man he's grown into.
And, like the title of the post says, he's become a chip off the old blog! (Thanks to my wife for the little play on words.)
Sam has actually started his very own science blog!
He's currently in grade 9 in the gifted program at Toronto's Northern Secondary School and as part of the program he takes on a two-term project where he explores a particular subject in depth. His topic is the usefulness of human exploration of space. And for the active portion of his project he's chosen to record his thoughts and impressions on his very own blog: Space Exploration and Us. And really, I had nothing to do with that decision, he made it on his very own. Interestingly, according to his prof he's the first student at the school that's used a blog for their project.
The blog has been going for a few weeks now and he's aiming for one or two posts per week. He's now up to six posts so I thought it would be a good time to introduce him to the world.
Drop by, wish him happy birthday, encourage him, leave a comment, enjoy his unique insights.
January 28, 2008
I don't know how I missed this one back in late November when it was announced, but the Stevens Institute Center for Science Writing has published it's list of The Stevens Seventy Greatest Science Books.
[W]e’ve published “The Stevens Seventy Greatest Science Books.” Written primarily by scientists but also by philosophers, historians, journalists and other worthies, these books stand out for their subject matter, rhetorical style and impact on science and the rest of culture. Although our original goal when we conceived this project two years ago was 100 books, we think “Stevens Seventy” has a mnemonic ring to it. Also, we worried that a larger list might seem boastful, like a list of “My 100 Closest Friends.”
Our list includes books published since 1900 (allowing us to include Interpretation of Dreams and Varieties of Religious Experiences but regrettably eliminating the all-time greatest science book, On the Origin of Species). We allow only one book per author, forcing some difficult choices, and exclude books by Stevens employees. Since we want people to read the books, they must be available from Amazon or other retailers, even if they are not currently in print (although most are).
Go take a look. It's definitely a list to debate and get worked up about!
As a passing note, I've posted about the Stevens Institute list before, back when it was supposed to be 100 books. At the time I also highlighted a few other "Best of" science book lists as well as a "Worst of" list. Oddly, that post from way back in November, 2006 is my all time most popular post. The Internet is a very strange place sometimes.
A sad day on campus today as one of Canada's true pioneers in space science has died.
Ralph W. Nicholls, distinguished research professor emeritus (physics) at York University, director emeritus of the Centre for Research in Earth & Space Science (CRESS) and a member of the Order of Canada, has died.
A pioneer in the Canadian space science community, Prof. Nicholls died suddenly and peacefully in his home early Friday morning, Jan. 25. He was 81.
Ralph was a true library supporter and would often drop by the library to chat or to recommend a book for the collection. Always willing to talk or exchange stories, it was a pleasure to run into him on campus. I'll miss those visits and chances to chat.
Another quote from the press release, by York Prof. Gordon Sheppard:
"But Ralph was also a person of great humanity. He understood that his vision would be carried out by people, and so it was, in the process creating careers for energetic young scientists that CRESS attracted, many of whom have made major contributions to space science in Canada and worldwide.
"His greatest pleasure was in helping people, especially young people. This accounts for the enormous number of individuals who are remembering him now, and will do so for many years to come.
"I encountered him first as an MSc student at my first conference; he easily attracted attention. Later he hired me and provided a base for my research at York University; we have been close colleagues for many years. I am one of the many that are indebted to him and I will always remember his enthusiastic encouragement and his jovial laughter echoing in the hallway."
See this autobiographical page from a 2002 workshop for some of Ralph's insights on why he got into space science.
Update 2008.01.31: Globe and Mail notice.
January 27, 2008
Open Science: how the Web is changing the way science is done, written and published. Discussion leader is Dr. Hemai Parthasarathy. Very fine presentation and unconference format discussion. After giving a brief background on her career, the presenter talked a bit about whether or not the subscription model makes any sense any more in the internet age. But, is open access a viable business model either when editorial costs need to be paid up front? The web has transformed all communications business models, so why not scientific communications? Certainly OA has advantages to freelancers, to researchers at small or subject based institutions as they can get access to a wider variety of information that otherwise. It is also possible to rethink the publication process and get some of the waste and duplication of effort out the peer review process as the same papers are reviewed multiple times for multiple journals until they find a home. Perhaps we can de-emphasize where a paper is published.
There needs to be a balance of topdown and bottom-up publishing programs, let the community do the filtering, the paper is just the start of the conversation. But can science really work by crowdsourcing? There are trust issues, we still need to rely on gateways and search algorithms to find the information we need. Some fields may not have the critical mass to get the crowdsourced reviews they need to filter out crackpots and pseudoscience. Perhaps we can use social networks to create a new oligarchy. How to you browse in the new open science/web paradigm? There is also a new kind of open source education getting new ideas in the process, a new kind of citation analysis not just impact factors. Need open data to catch fraud. China is also an issue: the internationalization of science, Chinese are pressured to publish in English. The web 2.0 needs new kinds of incentives to make science work. According to Bill Hooker: "Toll access journals are the walking dead as of today."
Teaching Science: using online tools in the science classroom. Discussion leader is David Warlick. A truly terrific presentation and discussion, with ideas bouncing and crackling back and forth across the room. Warlick did a great job framing the session and guiding the interactions. Probably the best of the sessions I went to.
First of all, we must recognize that what it means to be an educator is changing. We must use new technologies to engage our students, but: How do I manage in large classes, How do I find time to learn & experiment, How do I cope with the very real digital divide, How do I find the open content I want and need? The last 10-15 years have changed the nature of information and how we use it. How does this affect how and what we teach? Three forces are converging on our students/scholars: 1) Dramatically new info landscape, 2) Student social info experience and 3) and unpredictable future. These forces are being mediated by a networked curriculum, social networking tools and a radically different learning style where students must learn how to teach themselves.
Discussion: Science & Religion course: For blog assignments, get students to post, one blog for the class where students comment and post. Only a private blog on Science & Religion course, students really contributed and really engaged.
Bora gave his experience with posting class notes on his blog; unable to get adult students to participate much but notes have had a long life attracting lots of traffic long after they were posted.
What do you tell teachers, how do you turn people/kids into scientists, getting to teaching vs. memorizing and communicating how you learn science. Try teachertube and scivee.
Blog and Media coverage for links to session videos.
January 25, 2008
Janet Stemwedel remarked on her blog that "a good conference feels like home."
I can't argue with that sentiment. The Science Blogging Conference certainly had as much of a family feel as any I've ever gone too, rivaling the best of the sf cons, World Cons and others, that I've attended.
So I thought I'd publish a few more pictures of my extended family. Session summaries, I hope, will come this weekend.
Via BWBK, Classic Rock Revisited gives two nice lists of the Top 50 live albums of all time, giving both their own picks and readers' picks.
I love live albums and have quite a few in my collection. There are many bands that are kind of on the edges of my tastes where I only bother to get a live album or two. Of course, the lists concentrate on classic rock; for myself, a lot that I have in the harder rock part of the spectrum as well as blues and non-classic rock are left off the lists so I'm only at about 12-15 in the two lists. Anyways, take a look at the lists, count your own, argue, dispute and what ever it is you do when confronted with "Best All Time" lists.
January 23, 2008
Every day, thousands of people around the world get up and go to work in a science lab somewhere. Some make major discoveries leading to huge technological advances while others quietly add to humanity’s knowledge of the world and how it works. Labreporter.com provides a unique glimpse into laboratories from around the world, revealing the people who work in them, what they do, how they do it and, most importantly, why they do it.
What up so far are six videos on particle physics, in particular about the LHC. All are hosted in YouTube and can be viewed here on the Labreporter site.
I've watched a couple of the videos so far and can say that they're great. The videos, brief descriptions and related links are here:
January 21, 2008
(I know it's weird to have closing thoughts before the middle thoughts, ie. session summaries, but it's my blog and I'll do it this way if I want to ;-)
As I said in my first post, the conference was truly a great experience. The sessions were mostly pretty good, sure, but it was the company that transformed the conference from good to great. I can't recall meeting so many committed, engaged people in one place at one time, all of whom were so clearly doing something they were totally passionate about.
So, I thought I'd take a moment to point you all to the blogs of some of the people I met for the first time at the conference. This is unlikely to be a complete list, as my memory is imperfect.
I encourage you all to check out their blogs and visit for a while.
In no particular order:
- Jean-Claude Bradley
- Bora Zivkovic
- James Hrynyshyn
- Peter Etnoyer
- Martin Rundkvist
- Tom Levenson
- Ryan Somma
- Virginia Hughes
- Bill Hooker
- Molly Keener
- Salman Hameed
- Deepak Singh
- Eric Roston
- Euan Adie
- Karen James
- Josee-Nadia Drouin & Pascal Lapointe
- Shelley Batts
- Mona Albano
- Jamie DePolo
- Vedran Vucic
And, of course, tons of other non-bloggers too! I really hope to make it to the conference again next year, to renew all these acquaintances and to forge new connections.
BTW, if you're a blogger and you're reading this and you remember that we spoke at some length during the conference but I haven't listed you here, please leave a note in the comments. Really, my memory is faulty and I've just forgotten. On the other hand, if you're on the list and don't remember talking to me, well, insert humourous remark here.
Online participation page for links to session videos.
I'm delighted to say that I've been invited to give a workshop in Montreal this coming February 15th based on my OLA presentation from 2007, "Blogging for Professional Development."
Here's the whole announcement:
McGill's School of Information Studies (SIS), CLA Montreal Chapter, CLA Emerging Technologies Interest Group (ETIG) and the McGill SLA Student Group present:
Web 2.you: A Workshop for Information Professionals
Friday, February 15, 2008
Starting at 9am in Room MS42 at McGill's SIS, 3459 McTavish Street
Map / Schedule / Register
In the spirit of the Web 2.0 movement we aim to bring together a cross-section of participants in a day-long skill share. Those just being introduced to these new technologies would benefit from the experience of presenters and co-participants. Others with more advanced skills will have the opportunity to lead discussions as part of our "unconference" lunch. For all participants this will be an excellent opportunity to reconnect and learn what is being done with emerging web technologies locally, internationally, and in virtual environments.
We are delighted to announce that presenters include Jessamyn West who will present "Web2.0, Library 2.0, and Librarian 2.0" and John Dupuis who will present "Blogging for Professional Development"- view their bios . Rajiv Johal & Beth Dunning will also present “Is Boolean Dead? Researching and the New Web” and Amy Buckland & Janis Dawson will present “A Second Life for your Library”.
In particular, I'd like to draw your attention to the schedule:
- Welcome by Jocelyne Andrews, CLA Montreal Chapter President, Dr. Henry Kravitz Psychiatry Library, Jewish General Hospital and Prof. France Bouthillier, Associate Professor and Director, McGill School of Information Studies (SIS)
- Is Boolean Dead? Researching and the New Web: Implications for Practice by Rajiv Johal & Beth Dunning, Librarians, Howard Ross Library of Management, McGill University
- Blogging for Professional Development by John Dupuis, Head, Steacie Science & Engineering Library, York University (i.e. me)
- Lunch and Roundtable Discussions
- A Second Life for Libraries by Amy Buckland & Janis Dawson, MLIS '08, McGill SIS
- Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0 by Jessamyn West (yes, that Jessamyn West)
- Closing Remarks by Jambina Oh and Nuna Nishi
In particular I'd like to thank the Montreal CLA chapter and Jocelyne Andrews to inviting me to what looks like a fabulous event. If any of my readers out there are in the Montreal area, I hope you can come to the event and help make it a great success.
January 20, 2008
Wow. I'm back from Raleigh, NC where I spent the day yesterday at the 2nd North Carolina Science Blogging Conference. It was an absolutely fabulous conference and all congratulations to the organizers for putting on a great party. The conference hotel was the Radisson Research Triangle Park, which was a great hotel, if a little oddly laid out. The bar was a cozy setting for late night Friday and Saturday gatherings.
The first omens for the conference were also very positive. The cab ride to the airport on Friday afternoon was one of the fastest ever; not only that, but I cleared check-in, customs and security in a record 40 minutes. At customs there were only six people in front of me in line! With tons of time, I enjoyed a relaxing read of the New York Times. I rarely complain about airport wait times as they are still among the few times where I experience some enforced relaxation. The flight was also without incident; I did end up waiting 40+ minutes for the hotel shuttle at RDU, but that was no big deal as I was in no hurry.
When I got the hotel, I just hung out for a few hours while waiting for the dinner gathering that evening. At 6.30, I went to the lobby and who was there but Christina! As it happens, she'd rented a car for her stay so she ended up driving a few of us to the restaurant. After some navigational adventures, we finally made it to the restaurant, the Town Hall Grill. The food was very fine. I had a salad appetizer, pan seared mahi mahi and a banana pudding desert. The fish was fabulous: subtle and buttery and perfectly done. It was served with some kind of deep fried grits pyramid thing which was also very good, contrasting a crispy outside with a soft inside.
After the dinner, we all headed back to the hotel, this time with no navigational adventures. I ended up at the bar until about 1 am chatting and schmoozing with various bloggers. A great evening!
Below are some pics from Friday. I'll put them into flickr when I get a chance.
Online participation page for links to session videos.
January 18, 2008
Sitting here in my hotel room in at the Radisson RTP, waiting for the pilgrimage to dinner, I ordered both Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples and The Open Laboratory: The Best Science Writing on Blogs 2007.
The newest source of SF snark on the we these days is the io9, brought to you by the same folks as Gizmodo and other such not-so-serious blogs.
So far it's a bit hit-and-miss, as I think they try and post too much every day. There's just not that much worth making fun of in the SF world every day. (OK, maybe there is enough, but they are still probably trying too hard).
Anyways, one real HIT a little while ago was a post Six Reasons Why Star Trek Should Stay Dead. Now, I'm probably a fair bit older that the io9ers, so I remember when Trek was as good as it got for SF tv, so I might have considerably fonder memories than they do. All the same, the post is spot on when it comes to the state of Trek today.
As an example:
5. Obsessive continuity and reveling in cheese. Rumor has it the new Trek movie will feature tribbbles and the Guardian of Forever, and god knows what other callbacks to ancient episodes. Trek also groans under the weight of cliches it can never outgrow, from "beam me up" to "warp nine" to "shields down to 59 percent."
January 17, 2008
Well, it's finally here! Tomorrow I'm heading off to North Carolina for the 2nd North Carolina Science Blogging Conference! I hope to meet a lot of new science bloggers and those interested in science and science blogging and to meet f2f a number of people that I've encountered online.
I'm looking forward to a great program, too. I won't be liveblogging, but I will try and post a bit in the evening tomorrow and Saturday. And I'll have session summaries up here eventually as well. For this conference I'm also taking a camera so I hope to have a few pictures to upload here as well and perhaps on Flickr too.
Here's an updated list of Canadians and library people who'll be at the conference. I hope to meet you all (and maybe even get a few pics).
Canadians (Of course, I can only rely on locations in the registration list -- there may be other Canucks based in other places):
- Jennifer Jacquet, UBC
- Pascal Lapointe, Agence Science-Presse
- Josee Nadia Drouin, Agence Science-Presse
- Ryan Sasaki, ACD/Labs
- Mona Albano
- Christina Pikas, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab
- John Weis, (Info Science student at UNC)
- Rachel Clemons, (SILS PhD at UNC)
- Danica Radovanov, E-LIS
- Berrie Hayes, UNC - Chapel Hill
- Stephanie Holmgren, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
- Douglas Joubert, NIH Library
- KT Vaughan, UNC
- Molly Keener, Carpenter Library, Wake Forest University
And don't forget, there are lots of ways to participate even if you can't make the conference yourself: chat, audio and video streaming and a whole bunch more. Check out the details on Bora's blog!
What a great line!
It's taken from Rob Weir's Learning from Cats article in today's InsideHigherEd. The article is about figuring out what battles we should just call closed and walk away from. Since it's from the faculty perspective, not all of them are all that relevant to libraries. My answers in bold.
The first is a good one, though:
1. What Do We Do About Poorly Prepared Incoming Students? How about teach them? It seems like I’ve been hearing the same tape loop since I was 18 and was told my generation was ignoramus-ridden because it had no training in Latin. Let’s just admit that each generation comes to the table with different skill sets and move on. This is the ultimate lost chase. What students ought to know is irrelevant when faced with a classroom of those who don’t know it.
I agree here 100%. The students are who they are and we just have to deal with it. At the same time, we also have to remember that our job is to help them learn and grow rather than encourage them to be comfortable with their current habits and limitations. An important aspect of this issue is to remember that there still is a huge digital divide amongst our students. By no means are they uniformly tech savvy. By the same token, they are often not as tech savvy as they think they are, they are often quite over confident in their abilities.
And teasers for a couple of others:
- 3. Should the Academy Operate According to a Consumer Model?
A tough one for libraries. We have to walk a fine line between helping students find resources that just happen to be provided by commercial vendors and acting as a conduit, providing eyeballs to vendors for commercial exploitation. Same with the way we implement a lot of the newer tech tools. Our first loyalty is always to our patrons, not our vendors.
- 4. Why Should Faculty Be Forced to Be Tech-Savvy?
Why should librarians be forced to be tech-savvy? Hehe. It's a bit different here, as not all librarians have the same job descriptions, where as all faculty have to teach and interact with students. So, let's just talk public service librarians. First of all, it's unreasonable to expect everyone to be equally tech-savvy. There's going to just be range, and in my experience the range isn't as determined by age as people like to make out. That being said, any reference librarian that can't help a patron with simple questions with Word or Excel is behind the times. Similarly, the use of USB memory sticks is pretty standard now. To help students at the reference desk, we need to have a pretty decent average tech savviness.
Similarly, for instruction we're just going to need to be fairly familiar with the tools of the trade, be it CMSs, wikis or creating web pages, handouts or whatever. As advocates for and stewards of our libraries' online presences, we need to be aware of trends, open to new ideas, willling to experiment and critical of fads and snake oil salespeople.
January 16, 2008
See the announcement at A Blog Around the Clock.
Buy it at Lulu!
Read the story, check out the winning blog posts and all those nominated.
I look forward to getting my copy pretty soon. I'll be ordering it at the same time as another recent Lulu title to (I hope) save on postage.
Having participated in the judging, I've read all the winning posts and can say that they're all great. However, I look forward to reading them all assembled together as a book and reviewing them with the other scitech essay collections for the year, like I did last year.
January 14, 2008
Welcome to the latest installment in my occasional series of interviews with people in the scitech world. This time around the subject is Christopher Leonard, Associate Publisher of PhysMath Central. While I've never met Chris in person, we first became acqainted in the online world when he was doing his Computing Chris blog while at Elsevier, a lively and insightful view into the world of publishing and computer science. His new position at PhysMath Central seemed like a good opportunity to elicit some of those same lively and insightful peeks into the world of open access publishing. Thanks to Chris for his thoughtful responses. Enjoy!
Q0. Hi Chris, tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up as Associate Publisher of PhysMath Central?
It is a strangely circular story. I'm a scientist with an undergraduate degree in colour Chemistry from the University of Leeds. I wanted to do something a bit different to 'plain' chemistry and this was ideal for me. Upon completion of that I did a PhD in photo- and thermo-sensitive coatings, for which I was mainly based in Oxford at the commercial R&D centre of my sponsor. Nearly 7 years of lab work had convinced me that my future lied outside of the lab, but I was still interested in what was happening in research -- which was when I heard of new company starting up which sounded perfect to me.
It was 1997 and the new company was called ChemWeb.com, which was an online community for research chemists and offered a great number of innovative services - such as access to online journals, job listings, free online conferences with simultaneous video, audio and chat, its own webzine, The Alchemist, and even its own preprint server for chemists. Now, more than 10 years later with RSS, blogs, and social networking, much of this sounds mundane, but at the time it was definitely cutting edge stuff.
As part of the Current Science Group, we were based in the (externally) beautiful offices of Middlesex House on Cleveland Street in London. I was there for 2 years until ownership changed and ChemWeb.com and its sister company BioMedNet were sold to Elsevier. Now I had the opportunity to work in the Elsevier headquarters in Amsterdam and jumped at the chance! Initially I was Publishing Technology Manager - maximizing the opportunities of the web and the content of Elsevier journals to create new products, but after a few years I decided I needed to experience life at the coal-face, as it were, in 'real' publishing.
As a publisher in Elsevier I certainly got a feel of the issues facing researchers and librarians very quickly. I was in charge of various portfolios of journals in mathematics, physics and computer science and all of these disciplines had the same concerns - namely the prices of subscription journals, 'big deal' packages for online access and the questioning of the value-add by the publisher -- this by people fully au fait with TeX and the issue of hosting articles for retrieval in a large database.
It didn't take me long to see that Open Access was the future. I was aware that the biosciences were well served by PLoS and BioMed Central, but there were few options for chemists, physicists, computer scientists etc, to get research published in peer-reviewed, open access journals. Then I heard that BioMed Central were looking to expand into exactly these areas. My former colleague at ChemWeb, Bryan Vickery, explained what they wanted to do with PhysMath Central and I was sold. So here I am, back in Middlesex House again, sat next to Bryan again!
Q1. Please tell us a little about PhysMath Central and how it works? What is your vision of a sustainable publishing business model, if I may use that term.
PhysMath Central is based on the same model as BioMed Central - namely that the costs of publishing are covered before publication. This way we can make the article available, permanently, for free. The articles are published under a Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to sue the article freely, so long as the original authors, citation details and publisher are identified. This means that an individual could, in theory, have a copy of all articles published by BMC or PMC, in full, on his hard disk, or even website. It also opens up a host of possibilities with data mining since all our articles are available in full text as XML/MathML.
We also make sure all of our articles are deposited and permanently archived in a number of national archives. For PhysMath Central, this includes arXiv.org, whom we work closely with (indeed authors can submit to us using just their arXiv IDs).
These 3 elements are what I call the ABC's of true open access publishing: Access (immediate and free), Back-ups (permanently archived by third parties) and Creative Commons (copyright model).
As to what makes a sustainable model, that answer will vary slightly from discipline to discipline. BioMed Central are just about to break even after 7 years of publishing with a model which combines institutional prepay subscriptions, payment from author research grants, sponsorship from funding bodies, and many other smaller sources. We also offer waivers automatically to all authors from countries with low-income economies (as defined by the World Bank).
In addition, in physics we are witnessing the birth of an exciting project called SCOAP3, which intends to centralize library budgets in high-energy physics to pay for open access to every paper in this field.
In other areas, research grants are typically either non-existent or very small. Here it is unreasonable to assume a grant-paying model will work, and as such we will investigate other options for covering open access charges. A central fund for an institute, or a whole field (as with SCOAP3), or even sponsorship would be a more likely way to achieve sustainable open access for these disciplines.
Open access publishing doesn't cost more than traditional publishing (indeed, it is much less), but we need to be able to redirect the available resources to make sure that money spent today is freeing research to the whole world - rather than it funding barriers to its access.
Q2. How's the new PhysMath Central blog going? What do you think the importance of blogging is for a publisher?
The PhysMath blog is something I was very keen on starting when I started here. It is a way to keep people informed, a little more informally, about what is happening with various projects behind the sciences, and also allows me to chip in with my 2 cents on major topics in physics or open access in general. As a new publisher with no published articles until around a year after we started the company, it was essential that people could see we were busy behind the scenes and getting things ready for launch with mock-ups, editorial appointments and various other mini-projects.
For a more established publisher, I still think blogs are an invaluable 'other' way of keeping in touch with your readers/authors/librarians etc. I'm well aware that only a small fraction of the online public regularly read blogs though, and so we also spend a lot of time with traditional outreach methods such as advertising, conferences, email promotions etc.
Q3. And by the way, I sorely miss your old Computing Chris blog...Any chance of reviving something along those lines?
I started that blog whilst at Elsevier after having being inspired by Robert Scoble, then of Microsoft. He wrote an entertaining, authoritative and personalized view of things happening behind the scenes at Microsoft and had transformed the company's image amongst developers. It had a history of monopolistic bullying, but Scoble had made it appear marginally but noticeably less evil to the outside world. I thought, if it can do that for Microsoft -- what can it do for Elsevier? We could do with a humanizing face to our authors and readers, so I started the blog off. It became quite popular in a very short time frame, but I had a feeling that others in the company didn't appreciate this direct line with the outside world, and indeed when I left it was closed down.
The style of writing was very conversational, and subject matter sometimes completely unrelated. I haven't adopted that style fully with the new blog as it feels wrong to have a publisher blog, closely related to and accessible from the site, report on what I had for lunch or a funny sign I saw on holiday. However, that may change. I am currently spending most of my time on getting new journals up and running and reporting on that rather than being entertaining. Besides, with a young baby at home, my extra-curricular activities would quickly become boring to readers not interested in diapers or wine!
Q4. You have user comments on papers -- any other web 2.0 functionality coming in the future?
I am hesitant to push all things web 2.0 as it seems that uptake from authors is inversely proportional to how difficult something is to set-up. Commenting on a paper is a relatively simple way to get a 2-way conversation going on the site, which could have scientific merit and is reasonably well-used. We have also recently implemented the facility to save an article to the social bookmarking site of your choice, including Facebook, where we are also examining what we can do with Groups.
We are experimenting more with the concept of a journal than with the bells and whistles around it. For instance we have recently launched BMC Research Notes, which aims to provide a home for short publications, case series, incremental updates to previous work, results of individual experiments and similar material that currently lack a suitable outlet. The intention is to reduce the loss suffered by the research community when such results remain unpublished. We also have the Journal of Medical Case Reports, which publishes open access case reports across all medical disciplines, which will be aggregated into an online, fully searchable database, creating a valuable resource for clinicians and researchers.
Q5. First it was BioMed Central, then Chemistry and PhysMath Central, what's next? Is computer science going to be included in PhysMath Central? It seems that the engineering disciplines are particularly poorly served by Open Access.
We certainly plan to launch our first computer science journals in 2008, so yes, computer science journals will be included in PhysMath Central, but given the name of that platform, it may make sense to have a dedicated computer science platform instead. Expect to hear some news on this before the summer.
You are right in saying that Engineering is not well served by Open Access - although Hindawi have some titles in this area. However once central funds for open access are in place, you will see an expansion of journals in all areas, including engineering and the humanities.
Q6. What do you see as the future of scientific publishing? Will we even be able to recognize something called a journal (or even a journal article) in 5 or 10 years?
Personally, I think at some point in the future, journals will cease to exist as we know them, but will still exist as a 'brand'. The holy grail for scientific publishing, at least as far as users are concerned, would be an open access database containing all scientific articles ever published (including grey literature and preprints), all cross-linked and cross-referenced. All the usual metadata would be interoperable, searching would cover everything, raw data would be just a click away. However, in order to sort the wheat from the chaff, peer-reviewed articles would be identified as being peer-reviewed. Which editorial board approved the peer-review for a certain article would also be shown. This means that a journal 'brand' could live on as the editorial board reviewing and approving certain articles in the database.
Technically, I think we could do this now. Whether the political and economic conditions for it to happen within 10 years will occur, I doubt. But it will happen eventually.
It is tempting to think of journal articles evolving over time too, but the versioning of each new amendment or addition would need to be peer-reviewed too, to keep up editorial standards. For instance it is easy to think of a wiki-type journal where the authors (or any authorized person) can all amend the document over time. But if an original version had passed a rigourous peer review process and it had then been rewritten in part or in whole, are those amendments correct and of a standard of the original text?
I think that comments and notes on the original text, but which preserve the original text, are therefore more likely to be the future -- and indeed this is exactly what we have with PhysMath Central.
There is also the issue of how articles are authored. Authors in our field are still very wedded to the idea of authoring documents for print presentation in TeX, no doubt due to the influence of arXiv. I would hope that the benefits of online publishing become apparent to authors within the next few years. Documents which combine text with interactive formulae, video, audio, raw data sets should become the norm.
Q7. Is there an Open Access tipping point in the near future, where suddenly all sane scientists will suddenly think to themselves, "Of course! It all makes sense now! Why would I ever publish in a journal that wasn't Open Access?"
There was an excellent 'guerilla' project in some major US university libraries recently where students placed stickers on journals informing the reader of the price of a subscription to that journal. When you're suddenly confronted with the fact that your Nuclear Physics A subscription costs the library $25000, that's a shock the system.
I think every researcher who has ever published has tried to access an article from a subscription journal and been thwarted at some point. That is annoying for them, but for people in developing countries, it is an everyday occurrence seriously hampering the rate of development of research.
I think the big tipping point, however, may be a financial one. As library budgets plateau or decrease, the 'big deal' packages simply become unaffordable. Having access to 1000s of journals switched off overnight may jolt people into realizing that open access isn't an option anymore, it's the only way which makes sense.
Q8. Who do you see as your main competition? Or is it even meaningful to talk about competition for an OA publisher?
I don't spend a lot of time thinking about 'the competition'. In one sense we are in competition with commercial publishers, but since we offer very different services, maybe not really. We are more obviously in competition with other OA publishers, but there are still a lot of articles published in the world and only a small, though increasing, proportion are published in open access journals. Until everyone is publishing in OA journals as a matter of course, we are all happily coexisting for now!
Q9. How about the recent push back from some of the commercial publishers, like the all the fuss about the PRISM Coalition?
I view a lot of this 'push back' with nagging sense of unease and disappointment. Of course directors of multi-million pound companies are going to defend their positions, but to do so with a disinformation campaign with the aim of spreading Fear Uncertainty and Doubt, leaves a sour taste in one's mouth. I think the number of publishers who have publicly dissociated themselves from PRISM is a sign that they seriously misjudged the mood of most of their members -- and the majority of scientists, if number of blog postings is anything to go by.
Thankfully with people like Peter Suber on our side, the open access movement is always ready to strike back with some facts. As each day passes it seems to me that open access for all areas of research is inevitable and unstoppable. My favourite quote on open access actually predates the movement and is from Albert Einstein: "The free, unhampered exchange of ideas and scientific conclusions is necessary for the sound development of science, as it is in all spheres of cultural life". Open access publishing is huge step forward to make this happen sooner, rather than later.
January 11, 2008
Or at least lands in Scientific American.
SciAm is trying out a really interesting experiment. One of their journalists, M. Mitchell Waldrop, has written an article on Science 2.0, which is timely but not revolutionary. What is a bit revolutionary is that they've mounted a draft of the article on their web site and are inviting readers to comment on it, shaping the tone and content of the final version which will appear in the print mag. As of today, there have been 24 comments, some positive, some skeptical, some ranting. But, hey, that's web 2.0 for ya.
A taste of the draft version:
The technologies of Web 2.0 open up a much richer dialog, says Bill Hooker, a postdoctoral cancer researcher at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland, Ore., and the author of a three-part survey of open-science efforts in the group blog, 3 Quarks Daily. "To me, opening up my lab notebook means giving people a window into what I'm doing every day. That's an immense leap forward in clarity. In a paper, I can see what you've done. But I don't know how many things you tried that didn’t work. It's those little details that become clear with open notebook, but are obscured by every other communication mechanism we have. It makes science more efficient." That jump in efficiency, in turn, could have huge payoffs for society, in everything from faster drug development to greater national competitiveness.
The article concentrates on open notebook science, the use of wikis and blogging mostly, but also mentions social bookmarking and peer review experiments. As can be expected, a lot of the usual suspects are interviewed: Jean-Claude Bradley, Bora Zivkovic, Timo Hannay (my interview), Bill Hooker and others.
Overall, I think it's great that SciAm is giving such good press to these new ideas and new ways of doing things. Perhaps it would have been nice if they'd covered social bookmarking or eprint servers a little more. Also, they could have talked more about the possibilities of social networks like Nature Network. On the other hand, I realize that you can only cover so much in a short article and they probably made the right choices about what to talk about.
I plan on using the article as a way of introducing some of these ideas to the faculty and administration here. Who knows what could happen!
First noticed in Corie Lok's Blog.
Update 2008.01.12: Updated wording a bit in one sentence to say what I really meant instead of the exact opposite.
A nice little note from Syed Karim:
I'm a master's student in the University of Illinois LIS program. I got a little bored over the weekend and called up some friends to put together a literacy-promoting parody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It", except in our case it's called "Read It". It may have been awhile since you last saw the original Beat It video, so in order to get the full effect of the parody, you might want to watch both videos at the same time in separate browsers. The video was just posted in this week's ALA Direct and I think the SLA is going to put it in their next issue of Connections. I thought that you and your readers might get a kick out of it.
The link to the original Beat It:
The link to our version--Read It:
The video is absolutely hilarious. Well worth checking out.
January 8, 2008
The latest ISTL is out with a couple of articles on bioinformatics:
- "See a Need, Fill a Need" -- Reaching Out to the Bioinformatics Research Community at Iowa State University by Andrea L. Dinkelman
This article describes my efforts in organizing the "National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI) Field Guide" workshop in March 2006 and four NCBI mini-courses in April 2007 at Iowa State University. It also includes an overview of academic libraries that are providing bioinformatics support and summarizes library involvement in hosting NCBI courses. A discussion of how hosting the NCBI courses has influenced my collection development, instruction, and liaison activities and suggestions to librarians about how to get involved with bioinformatics is also included.
- Entrez and BLAST: Precision and Recall in Searches of NCBI Databases by Tina O'Grady
This project analyzes the results of searches for genes and proteins in the NCBI databases Gene, RefSeq RNA and RefSeq Protein. Corresponding searches were performed using the search programs Entrez and BLAST, and search recall and precision were calculated. The findings demonstrate the different types of result sets that can be expected from using different search programs and settings. Also, some unexpected results indicate that the default search settings are not optimal for all searches; an important aspect of searching which information professionals should remember and communicate to researchers.
Both these articles are valuable and interesting, particularly the Dinkelman article because it can easily function as a solid introduction on how to serve a bioinformatics research community. And bioinformatics is certainly a discipline where the plethora of resources and databases can be overwhelming and confusing. Of course, I would have liked to see more on the data mining and computing side of the bioinformatics multidisciplinary mosaic, but I guess those areas would be enough for another article on it's own.
I also think that these articles (and ISTL in general) serve as good reminders of what functions the journal literature can serve in an era where the action always seems to be in the blogosphere: striking a balance between timeliness and comprehensiveness, reporting on significant research projects.
January 7, 2008
Knowing and Doing by Eugene Wallingford is one of my favourite CS faculty blogs. His commentary is always interesting and relevant; a bonus for us librarian types is that he often gives keen insight into the minds of working CS faculty, how they think, the problems they face and mostly, what they're thinking about.
Way back in November (yes, I know, I'm still recovering from all the posting about science books) he published a series of conference reports on the SECANT 2007 Workshop. The workshop topic was Science Education in Computational Thinking, in other words, how computational methods have infiltrated the practice of science at all levels. An important topic and one that I find very interesting and relevant.
Eugene was kind enough to publish a table of contents post of all the workshop-related posts, which I am sort of reproducing below. I've taken his TOC post and to each entry I've added a brief quote from the relevant post. Nevertheless, please visit a couple of Eugene's post and check out the details. As well, what he's done here is really a model for blog-based conference reporting, one of, if not the best, examples I've seen. I am certainly going to try and model my own conference blogging after what Eugene has done here.
- Workshop Intro: Teaching Science and Computing (on building a community)SECANT's goals are to build a community that is asking and answering questions such as these:
- What should science majors know about computing?
- How can computer science be used to teach science?
- Can we integrate computer science effectively into other majors?
- What will the implications of answers to these questions be for how we teach computer science and engineering themselves?
- Workshop 1: Creating a Dialogue Between Science and CS (How can we help scientists and CS folks work together?)The second speaker was Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor in earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue. He views himself as a modeler dependent on computing. In the last year or so, he has collected 55 terabytes of data as a part of his work. All of his experiments are numerical simulations. He cannot control the conditions of the system he studies, so he models the system and runs experiments on the model. He has no alternative.
Diffenbaugh claims that anyone who wants a career in his discipline must be able to do computing -- as a consumer of tools, builder of models. He goes farther, calling himself a black sheep in his discipline for thinking that learning computing is critical to the intellectual development of scientists and non-scientists alike.
- Workshop 2: Exception Gnomes, Garbage Collection Fairies, and Problems (on a hodgepodge of sessions around the intersection of science ed and computing)This list tied well into the round-table discussion that followed, on what computational concepts science students should learn. I didn't get a coherent picture from this discussion, but one part stood out to me. Bruce Sherwood said that many scientists view analytical solution as privileged over simulation, because it is exact. He then pointed out that in some domains the situation is being turned on its head: a faithful discrete simulation is a more real depiction of the world than the closed-form analytical solution -- which is, in fact, only an approximation created at a time when our tools were more limited. The best quote of this session came from John Zelle: Continuity is a hack!
- Workshop 3: The Next Generation (what scientists are doing out in the world and how computer scientists are helping them)From these two talks, it seems clear that domain scientists and computer scientists of the future will need to know more about the other discipline than may have been needed in the past. Computing is redefining the questions that domain scientists must ask and redefining the tasks performed by the CS folks. The domain scientists need to know enough about computer science, especially databases and visualization, to know what is possible. Computer scientists need to study algorithms, parallelism, and HCI. They also need to take more seriously the soft skills of communication and teamwork that we have encouraging for many years now.
- Workshop 4: Programming Scientists (should scientists learn to program? And, if so, how?)And, yes, I do think that science students should learn how to program, for two reasons. One is that science in the 21st century is science of computation. That was one of the themes of this workshop. The other is that -- deep in my heart -- I think that all students should learn to program. I've written about this before, in terms of Alan Kay's contributions, and I'll write about it again soon. In short, I have at least two reasons for believing this:
- Computation is a new medium of communication, and one with which we should empower everyone, not just a select few.
- Computer programming is a singular intellectual achievement, and all educated people should know that, and why.
- Workshop 5: Wrap-Up (on how to cause change and disseminate results)On how to cause change. At one point the discussion turned philosophical, as folks considered more generally how one can create change in a larger community. Should the group try to convince other faculty of the value of these ideas first, and then involve them in the change? Should the group create great materials and courses first and then use them to convince other faculty? In my experience, these don't work all that well. You can attract a few people who are already predisposed to the idea, or who are open to change because they do not have their own ideas to drive into the future. But folks who are predisposed against the idea will remain so, and resist, and folks who are indifferent will be hard to move simply because of inertia. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
- A Program is an Idea (going farther on why scientists, and everyone else, should learn to program)A scientist can communicate an idea to others with a program, but they can also think better with a program. Graham captured this from the perspective of the software developer in the article I quoted earlier:
Your code is your understanding of the problem you're exploring.
Every programmer knows what this means. I can think all the Big Thoughts I like, but until I have working a program, I'm never quite certain that these thoughts make sense. Writing a program forces me to specify and clarify; it rejects fuzziness and incoherence. As my program grows and evolves, it reflects the growth and evolution of my idea. Graham says it more strongly: the program is the growth and evolution of my idea. Whether this is truth or merely literary device, thinking of the program as the idea is a useful mechanism for holding myself accountable to making my idea clear enough to execute.
January 4, 2008
With all the book list posting in December, the drafts of "real posts" have been piling up quite a bit. So, it's time to do a bit of catch up!
Preparing Students for Jobs by Michael Mitzenmacher at My Biased Coin starts a really interesting discuss about how a CS education works as a job strategy. He asks CS students to comment based on the following question:
Please tell me, in your experience, did your education prepare you for your life after in the real world. (For current students, you can comment on how you feel your education is preparing you.)
Twenty-five responses so far, mostly pretty revealing, coming down on both sides of the practical vs. theoretical. One example:
While in university I was constantly made to believe by professors and colleagues that to get the really good jobs you only need to be smart, and specific skills don't matter because you can learn them on the job. The atmosphere was that you don't want the job if they have the nerve to ask you about programming in the interview (because you are supposedly too good to be asked about programming skills).
This is BS. For the best jobs you are competing with people who are just as smart and know how to program. And, if you are not a very good computer scientist (in the practical sense), they might as well hire a physicist or a mathematician (who actually *know* math).
Your employer will give you time to learn what is specific to the company or the job, not to fill the gaps in your basic education.
Of course, that's an eternal struggle in any academic program, balancing teaching students to "think like a computer scientist" (or librarian or whatever) versus teaching them some of the practical skills that will help them get their first job. Thinking back to my own final semester at McGill, I recall taking two courses, one on Business Reference Sources, one on Personnel Management and combining those with a full course Practicum placement at the McGill Physical Sciences & Engineering Library and a reading course with Dr. Andrew Large on Digital Libraries. I still have the DL paper I wrote kicking around somewhere. I should brush it off and see if it still makes any sense. (Note: the McGill PSEL is now the Schulich Library of Science and Engineering)
Kathryn Cramer and David G. Hartwell are well known editors in the science fiction field, producing numerous anthologies together including two long-running best-of-the-year collections. David is also an editor at Tor Books. I've read and enjoyed their varied output quite a bit over the years and am always happy to run into them and chat at sf cons (although it has been a while at this point).
Little did I know about David's Cluttered Office Syndrome:
So this afternoon, I was prowling through his office in search of something-or-other when I noticed little piles of cat food peeking out from beneath the books and papers. Mice. I investigated further and discovered the bed in the cat-free space of his office had become the scene of a Mouse Festival.
Read the full story, The Fate of Mice, at Kathryn's blog.
January 3, 2008
The nominations have closed, the voting has been completed and the editors (Bora Zivkovic and Reed Cartwright) have made their final choices. We now know which 52 posts (50 + 1 poem and 1 cartoon) will be in the book due out in time for the 2008 North Carolina Science Blogging Conference!
I certainly can't wait for the final product so I can read all the great posts in their final form and full in-print glory. I intend to review the book here as part of a group post with other scitech essay anthologies, like I did last year.
For the record, I nominated a dozen or so posts, mostly CS-related, as well as self-nominating two of my own posts, neither of which were selected. This year I was also lucky enough to be asked to be one of the judges and take part in the voting on the 486 posts that were nominated. I read nearly all the posts and probably voted on at least 400 of them. It was a great experience, adding quite a few new blogs to my already groaning Bloglines account. I definitely want to thank Bora and Reed for this wonderful opportunity to contribute to a great project.
Next year? Well, let's just say I'm already tagging posts for nomination!
January 1, 2008
I've noticed a few other people around the blogosphere publishing the list of all the books they've read during 2007, including a few librarians too. (Sorry, I haven't bookmarked those that I've seen...)
I thought I'd do the same and encourage all of you out there with blogs to do the same. It's fun and easy!
After the list, I'm also going to list the 5 notable fiction and non-fiction books for me for the past year. It's worth noting that the list of notable books is drawn from books published in any year, not just 2007. (Note that I've published the naked list on the other blog as well.)
- Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer
- The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney
- Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
- Over My Dead Body by Lee Server
- The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2006 edited by Brian Greene
- The Best American Science Writing 2006 edited by Atul Gawande
- Demons by John Shirley
- The Open Laboratory: The Best Writing on Science Blogs 2006 edited by Bora Zivkovic
Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels by David Pringle
- Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities by Jeffrey S. Rosenthal
- It by Stephen King
- The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time by David Vise & Mark Malseed
- Witness to Myself by Seymour Shubin
- Lady Yesterday by Loren D. Estleman
- Follies of Science: 20th Century Visions of Our Fantastic Future by Eric Dregni & Jonathan Dregni
- Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Fabulous Riverboat by Philip Jose Farmer
- The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next by Lee Smolin
- Still Life with Crows by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
- Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change by Walt Crawford
- The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak
- The Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli
- You'll Die Next by Harry Whittington
- Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir by Matthew Chapman
- Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger
- Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy
- Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
- Days of Infamy by Harry Turtledove
- The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by David Malmont
- The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
- The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
- The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester
- Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry
- The Boy who Would Live Forever by Frederik Pohl
- Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages by Alex Wright
- Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature by David Quammen
- The Wrecking Crew by Donald Hamilton
- 13 Bullets by David Wellington
- The Year's Best Science Fiction: 22 edited by Gardner Dozois
- Dinner with Dad: How I Found My Way Back to the Family Table by Cameron Stracher
- Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
- The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror: 16 edited by Stephen Jones
- The Last Colony by John Scalzi
- Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts by John McCain, David Dunbar, and Brad Reagan
- The Best American Science Writing 2007 by Gina Kolata
- Dead Man's Song by Jonathan Maberry
Notable non-fiction, in no particular order:
- Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg
- Balanced Libraries by Walt Crawford
- Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger
- The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin
- The Best American Science Writing 2006 edited by Atul Gawande
Notable fiction, in no particular order:
- The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror: 16 edited by Stephen Jones
- The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
- Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry
- The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by David Malmont
- Still Life with Crows by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
It was a great year for me in non-fiction reading, probably my best ever. Because of my sabbatical I really concentrated on reading a lot of high-quality science and information science books and was well rewahttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.italic.gif
insert italic tagsrded by those efforts. On the other hand, I obviously read a lot less fiction that is normal for me -- usually I read about 90% fiction -- and in fact I felt that I didn't read many novels this year that really connected with me.
In any case, I'm a bit behind in my science book reviewing on this blog these last few months and I will try and catch up with that this month, perhaps with the help of a group review post coming up soon for some of the less "significant" books I've read.
What's coming up in science books in the next little while? I have reviews coming for Wikinomics and Glut. I'm just getting into Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson as well as 75% though Morville's Ambient Findability.
Also coming up, before I even think of any 2008 books, are:
- Pursuit of Genius: Flexner, Einstein, and the Early Faculty at the Institute for Advanced Study by Steve Batterson
- The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston
- Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart by Ian Ayres
- The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
- Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think edited by Andy Oram and Greg Wilson
Not to mention numerous year's best anthologies on science, technology, nature and science blogging!