December 21, 2005

A holiday break

We all deserve a nice holiday break, a chance to read some books for fun for a change. I hope to do plenty of that (Yay!) and to catch up on the considerable posting backlog for the other blog. See you all in the new year.

Women in computing

A bunch of posts on women in computing, mostly about how the numbers have actually declined recently:

Dover, PA

Great news. The decision (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) in the Dover case on teaching evolution in the classroom has been released and the judge basically called the supporters of ID a bunch of liars:

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy
I haven't read a lot of legal decisions in my time, but this is certainly going to be one of them. Solid coverage at Wikipedia, of course.

Update: Via EvolutionBlog, a very good summary of the decision by Jason Rosenhouse.

December 20, 2005

Your resume says you're some kind of intermediate species

A very funny Dilbert cartoon.

Google Librarian Newsletter

The first Google librarian newsletter is out, with a feature article on How does Google collect and rank results? with some nice info on their crawling and relevance ranking techniques.

The Access Principle

A nice interview (with discussion in the comments) with John Willinsky, author of The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship.

A taste:

Q: Many publishers argue that journals and materials for which one must pay are somehow by definition of higher quality than various open models. How do you respond?

A: The empirical evidence argues otherwise: For example, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology, a relatively new open access journal that operates on author fees, has the highest “impact factor” (number of times articles are cited) by a considerable margin among biology journals indexed by the ISI Web of Science. But that is only part of the quality story. The majority of journals now allow their authors to “self archive” their published articles in open access institutional repositories (usually located in the author’s university library). But note that in all cases, someone pays, though it is not necessarily the reader, and these alternatives are greatly increasing access to this knowledge.

December 16, 2005

In defence of Wikipedia

The Wikipedia/Britannica comparison in Nature has been much in the blogospheric news lately (here for example), and Will Richardson points to a very nice summary of the main issues by Danah Boyd. I'll quote the paragraph before Richardson quotes:

I am worried about how academics are treating Wikipedia and i think that it comes from a point of naivety. Wikipedia should never be the sole source for information. It will never have the depth of original sources. It will also always contain bias because society is inherently biased, although its efforts towards neutrality are commendable. These are just realizations we must acknowledge and support. But what it does have is a huge repository of information that is the most accessible for most people. Most of the information is more accurate than found in a typical encyclopedia and yet, we value encyclopedias as a initial point of information gathering. It is also more updated, more inclusive and more in-depth. Plus, it's searchable and in the hands of everyone with digital access (a much larger population than those with encyclopedias in their homes). It also exists in hundreds of languages and is available to populations who can't even imagine what a library looks like. Yes, it is open. This means that people can contribute what they do know and that others who know something about that area will try to improve it. Over time, articles with a lot of attention begin to be inclusive and approximating neutral. The more people who contribute, the stronger and more valuable the resource. Boycotting Wikipedia doesn't make it go away, but it doesn't make it any better either.

I must admit I'm on the Wikipedia side for this one. No reference source is perfect, the all have some bias, some inaccuracies. It seems to me if all the world's experts actually contributed to Wikipedia instead of complaining that it isn't any good...

The Patent Librarian

Via Eldnet-l, Michael White of Queens University has started up a blog, The Patent Librarian, for academic librarians who use patent information:

I'm still tweaking the format, but the content is aimed at academic librarians who work with patent information. My hope is to create a forum for exchanging ideas and information related to patent data and documentation, search tools and techniques, free and commercial databases, patent statistics, training tips, USPTO information dissemination policy, and other related topics.
Yet another scitech librarian blog by a Canadian...must be something in the water.

December 8, 2005