31 December 2008

More on open access

Peter Suber's newsletter drew my attention to The Coming Change in Humanities Publishing (6): Open Access in Gideon Burton's Blog. Gideon draws attention to the toll access, open access distinction, but somewhat blurs the distinction, giving the impression that all OA journals charge author fees. Peter Suber picks up on this and quotes Harnad on the 'gratis'/'libre' distinction - which doesn't seem to have caught on, and which, in my opinion is unlikely to. The fact is that there is only one form of open access, that is, one that has neither subscription charges, nor author charges - and a significant number of OA journals are truly free. It is not OA that requires a distinction to be made, but Toll Access - of which there are now two types - Author Tolls, and Reader Tolls - neither of which results in truly Open Access.

21 December 2008

Google Chrome

Google's new(ish) browser Chrome was declared to be out of beta, which presumably means that Google is happy with it. True, it's very fast - partly because, compared with Firefox, it is under-featured. Also, its download feature is very clunky - I never know whether the downloaded item is going to be displayed automatically or I have to specifically open it in the relevant application. I do like the combination of address and search bar, however - saves time - and the new page feature, with its mini-versions of regularly used pages is good - but hasn't Opera had that for some time? So how's it doing in the marketplace?
Well, Information Research readers are probably a choosy lot when it comes to browsers and, over the past year, Google Analytics reports the following browser choices:

1. Internet Explorer 428,457 67.45%
2. Firefox 147,886 23.28%
3. Mozilla 31,770 5.00%
4. Safari 15,787 2.49%
5. Opera 7,283 1.15%
6. Chrome 2,245 0.35%
7. Konqueror 696 0.11%
8. Netscape 536 0.08%
9. Camino 215 0.03%
10. Mozilla Compatible Agent 95 0.01%

Down at number 6 on the basis of more than 600,000 visits - some way to go, then.

Google settles with the publishers

Readers may recall that Google raised the ire of the publishers with its Google Library Project. Now, however, given that the publishers are probably going to make some money out of it, all seems to be sweetness and light between the parties.

The result of the negotiations seems to be mainly of interest to Internet users in the USA, at least to begin with, but you can read all about it in an excellent distillation of the more than 200 pages of the agreement at LLRX.com.

20 December 2008

New from Information Age

The industry journal Information Age has some interesting items in the current issue - all of which is on the Web.

First, 'cloud computing' is on the agenda, offering potential for cost cutting in hard times. However, it's likely to be small- to medium-sized companies that adopt first, since:

Certainly, for organisations that have spent thousands of man years and millions of dollars building their own bomb-proof infrastructure to support complex, and often highly regulated systems, there is simply too much at stake for them to abandon this investment in favour of a set of shared resources that are out of their control.

Next there's an article on 'enterprise search', with a couple of interesting case studies that suggest getting the equivalent of a siimple Google search box is simply not on the cards.

Finally, something on the 'semantic Web' - that never-ending fascination with the idea that, somehow, we're going to get some meaning recorded - but don't hold your breath.

18 December 2008

Research Assessment Exercise

Well, the results are finally out for the 2008 exercise - no doubt all those involved will be glad that the waiting is over. However, what the implications may be seems to be open to question. For example, Ian Postlethwaite pro-vice-chancellor for research at the University of Leicester suggests that league tables based on the results cannot be a guide to which are the best research institutions because:

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) made a decision in October not to publish data showing what proportion of academics who were eligible to be included in the RAE were actually entered into the exercise by each institution. But this has left a gaping hole in the information needed to produce accurate league tables.

Be that as it may - the league tables are duly being produced. The two UK institutions with which I'm affiliated are ranked joint 14th (University of Sheffield and University of Leeds - along with Durham, St. Andrews, Southampton and Bristol). Of the two departments I'm associated with, Information Studies at Sheffield scores 2.850 (the highest score in the Library and Information Management group) and the Business School at Leeds scores the same, but that makes it joint 11th in the Business and Management Studies group. Postlethwaite has a point, however, download the data, create a column to multiply the average point score by the number of staff returned and you'll get a rather different ranking :-)

There are some oddities in the category, Library and Information Management, since only eleven of the twenty-one institutions submitting staff to this panel have what we might call 'traditional' library and information management departments. Some have clearly adopted a 'strategic' approach by submitting information systems departments to this panel -
Brunel, Salford, Sheffield Hallam, for example - whereas others submit such units to computer science. Some might call this sharp practice, but then, 'all is fair...' in university financing :-) King's College, London submits a research unit on 'digital humanities', where, again, most of the research appears to be in aspects of computer science, rather than information management, and it clearly disadvantages staff who have both teaching and research responsibilities when they are assessed against staff with only research responsibilities: some weighting ought to be applied, perhaps by treating all research staff as only half of a full time teaching and research staff member.

In other words, everyone is playing games with the RAE, as they have done since the Higher Education Funding Councils adopted the process - what difference it makes to the quality of research is anyone's guess, but some have argued that the increase in the publish or perish syndrome results in a decline in quality.

It is assumed that the next RAE will adopt, at least in part, a 'metrics-driven' approach, i.e., bibliometrics. What the result may be for some can be pursued in a couple of papers in the journal - check the subject index under "Research Assessment Exercise"

17 December 2008

New Issue of Information Research

As my last entry noted - I've been too busy with the new issue of the journal to do much else. However, most of it is now available - and that means all but one of the papers for the ISIC conference, thirteen Doctoral Workshop summaries and, I think, six regular papers, plus the editorial. All now reachable through the top page.

And here's the Editorial:

Instead of concluding with my thanks to others, I shall begin with them. This, as readers will see, is an enormous issue, with the papers from the ISIC conference and summaries of Doctoral Workshop presentations, in addition to the usual clutch of papers. Once upon a time, I could say that the journal was the effort of a single individual: that is no longer the case, and this issue would not have hit cyberspace without the considerable efforts of copy-editors (Amanda Cossham, Peta Wellstead and Lauren Goodchild) and in particular (since she bore the brunt of dealing with the ISIC papers), Associate Editor Elena Macevičiūtė — my thanks to them all. In addition, of course, I have to thank my other Associate Editors for their work in seeing the regular papers through the review process.

In fact, this is probably a good time to say that if there is anyone out there who would like to join the copy-editors, I'd be interested to hear from them. You need to be something of a pedant, with an interest in good writing (able to cut through the jargon and explain to authors that an intelligible paper is best), a sound knowledge of English grammar and spelling (rather than of American English), and a willingness to get to grips with our interpretation of the APA 5th ed. rules for citations and references.

That invitation probably tells you how much care is taken with the papers we publish. The refereeing process is thorough and some submission do not pass that stage, in fact there are also some that never get as far as the Associate Editors, since I reject them on the grounds that they fall outside the scope of the journal (you'd be surprised at the things that are presented - e.g., technical papers on telecommunications!). Following revision by the author, which happens in almost 100% of the cases—sometimes involving another round of refereeing—the papers go to a copy-editor, who reviews the paper in terms of the journal style, intelligibility, readability, etc. and, then, when the xhtml version is delivered by the author, I copy-edit it again, sometimes communicating with the author about sentences that seem ill-worded or that I simply don't understand. Even at this stage, I may make suggestions for minor restructuring. Quite often, in the final preparation, tables need to be tidied up and figures may need reducing in size or otherwise editing. By the time a paper gets into the journal it has had a great deal of attention from more than one person!

In this issue
This issue is in three sections, with three separate contents pages: the regular quarterly issue; the proceedings of the ISIC Conference and the summaries of Doctoral Workshop presentations at that conference. This has created such a volume of work that not all is ready yet, but, as it is publication date, we are opening up the issue to readers. If you note that there are papers missing, don't worry, they'll be there is due course and there will be more book reviews going up, also. The author and subject indexes have not yet been updated but that, too, will happen in due course.

There are rather too many papers in the Proceedings to comment on them all, but there are a number that catch my interest and I'm sure that readers will make their own choices. The keynote paper from Bonnie Nardi is of special interest, since it is a transcription of what she said at the conference, with very little editing, and includes the pictures from her Powerpoint presentation. This makes it something closer to a conference presentation than one normally gets in a proceedings and I think the informality of it comes across.

There are also three papers that deal with the ISIC conferences (a little incestuous, pehaps?): Pertti Vakkari's keynote addresses the changes that have taken place in the nature of the papers between the first conference in 1996 and this year's. Not everyone will agree with Pertti's analysis, I'm sure, but I think it sends a 'wake-up' call to researchers: I, too, sense a kind of torpor in the field, which needs to be addressed. It seems that PhD students are too often advised to deal with the captive audiences in schools and universities to the point at which, as used to be said of psychological research, information behaviour research is becoming research into the behaviour of university students. There's a big world out there and, although research into 'everyday life information seeking' has become more significant, there are many aspects of the working world that are untouched.

The other two ISIC-oriented papers are by Lynne McKechnie and her colleagues on the failure of ISIC authors to communicate their work to practitioners in the field (something to which Pertti Vakkari also draws attention), and by Theresa Dirndorfer Anderson and Jo Orsatti on the place of the conference in information seeking research, which shows that ISIC plays a significant role for the research community.

As for the rest, there is great diversity: from Bonnie Nardi's exploration of information behaviour in the virtual world of gaming to the information barriers faced by Maori secondary school students, and from business information services in Japan to mobile information systems for police in the U.K.

The Doctoral Workshop summaries show a similar diversity: I don't think that all of the students submitted a summary, but the thirteen who did so will probably find that appearance here will make the information research world aware of their work. We have not always presented the summaries in this way, but, when we have, it is interesting how often some of them are cited.

As for the papers in the 'regular' bit of the journal: we seem, accidentally, to have a significant Latin flavour, with papers from Brazil, Mexico and Spain, as well as one from Finland. Their scope is diverse: from the connection between e-mail overload and 'burnout' to the experience of the Open Archives Initiative in Spain.

The open access movement
The open access movement seems to be gaining strength, with a number of interesting developments recently. The business model of author charging is attracting new publishers like e-Century Publishing Corporation, which charges $100 a page, leaves copyright with the authors and publishes under a Creative Commons licence. Established journals are also taking the OA route - the British Medical Journal is now a fully OA journal and many more developments are noted in Peter Suber's excellent Open Access News - if you don't know this source, make sure that you get on the mailing list.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our readers.

09 December 2008

ISIC Proceedings

There's not been much time for blogging recently - even supposing I had something to comment upon - because the next issue of Information Research is a big one. Foolishly, I decided to have all of the papers from the ISIC Conference in one issue - instead of spreading it over two, as usual. Inevitably, there have been delays as last minute problems are tidied up with authors.

However, in order not to slow things down too much, I have uploaded the contents page for the proceedings and those papers that are ready, and they should be available sometime after 22:00 GMT tonight. The remainder will go up as and when they are ready, along with the papers for the regular issue.

01 December 2008

British vs. American English

Jakob Nielsen has an interesting little item in his Alertbox column on when it is appropriate to use British or American spelling on a Website. He makes some interesting points, such as the fact that no one buying, say, a Scottish kilt, on-line is going to be offended by the use of U.K. English, whereas no one booking into a Las Vegas hotel is going to expect the language to be other than U.S. English.

However, Nielsen misses a point and that is one relating to national culture - UK sites, it seems to me, should use British English, not U.S. English. I am offended when I find that long established British publishers publish books and journals with U.S. spelling. Our spelling might be idiosyncratic on either side of the Atlantic, but in both cases, they record the history of the language, which is part of our related but separate cultures.

This is why Information Research uses U.K. English, which is extended to ensuring that colloquialisms are converted to standard English and why jargon and allusions of individual, national relevance are removed. This may well be one of the reasons why readers frequently comment on the readability of the papers in the journal - we know that a significant proportion of our readers do not have English as their first language - or even their second - and we also know that about a third of our readers are non-academic, for whom the arcane language of a discipline would be a barrier to understanding.

24 November 2008

The Delphi workshop

Friday's Delphi study went very well. We held it in Gothenburg, the morning after snowfall, with a temperature of about -2 (that's outside, of course; inside, Swedish offices are well heated!). We had about 15 participants in this final round, to examine the results of the second questionnaire survey (in which they had all participated) and to arrive at a consensus on the priority to be assigned to research areas. We used two rounds of the 'diamond nine' technique, which requires cards to be sorted into priority order and eventually had a short-list of ten items sorted by priority. Considering that we started with 64 areas, this means that all ten are of high priority but, when potential research resources are scarce, further priority setting would be necessary.

All we have to do now is some report writing :-(

18 November 2008

In Sweden again...

...where I'm working, among other things, on a Delphi study on research needs in Swedish librarianship. We have finished the second round of the survey and have a workshop on Friday in Gothenburg to see if we can establish a consensus on the priority to be assigned to different research areas.

We began with a list of 64 research areas (collections of topics on various themes) and, as a result of the first round of scoring, reduced this to 42 for the second round. The second round appeared to produce a slightly higher degree of consensus on the importance of the topics, as measured by correlating the rankings suggested by the scores from different library sectors. We go to the Workshop with a set of fourteen research areas, identified on their appearance in at least two of the top ten rankings from the different sectors. It will be interesting to see what emerges as having top priority.

12 November 2008

Philosophical distinctions

I'd like to recommend a blog item from Jeffrey Bardzell Interaction Culture. It describes the tension in the human-computer interaction community over the different philosophical distinctions that lie behind 'scientific' and 'humanistic' research. Jeffrey notes that objections to a conference paper (which he thought was worthwhile) were raised not on points of logic or method, but on the 'appeal to authority' - which is a fundamental logical fallacy.

I'm sure that, as information research becomes more and more inter- or multi-disciplinary, warning notes like this will be needed more and more.

06 November 2008

The election

I suspect that the world outside the USA was holding its breath until the moment the victory of Barack Obama was certain. The universal sigh of relief was almost audible: the fear that the American people would once again make the wrong choice was palpable. Whether he can can do much to repair things in the short term is debateable, but he is one of very few politicians I have listened to in whose sincerity I can believe and whom I can believe will try. He is clearly one of the most intelligent Presidents the USA will ever have had and he is a striking orator who projects the capability of leading and who knows where he wants to lead. The world of scholarship, that Information Research seeks to serve, is hardly likely to suffer during his administration and I imagine that, by the end of his first term, the global economy will be recovering enough from its present difficulties to enable research and scholarship to benefit.

My one fear, having lived through the early, squandered promise of the Blair years in the UK, is that promises will be difficult to keep and the disappointment we feel will be felt in America. But Obama is a better man than Blair and that fear is modest.

03 November 2008

...and things happen.

While the Weblog has been dormant a number of developments of potential interest have happened. The first I noticed was the decision by the American Library Association to make American Libraries open access. You have to load the ebrary reader (which needs a workaround if you use Firefox 3.0).

The next item to come to my notice was a similar decision by the British Medical Association to make the British Medical Journal (which now seems to be known only by its initials) entirely open access. I imagine this will mean more obscure diseases being reported to GPs by their usual hypochondriacs!

Finally, there's been the launch of academia.edu, a kind of social networking site for academics. It is rather sparsely populated at present with both institutions and people. For example, my old university, Sheffield, appears not be present at all, while the University of Boras, where I now work part-time, is present, but with only one staff member. Perhaps it will grow.

Time passes...

I hadn't realised how long it had been since I posted anything to the Weblog - I've simply been too busy to bother with it. Doing what? Well, shortly after the ISIC Conference, referred to in earlier posts, I had ten days in Sweden where I'm working on a couple of projects. The first is just coming to an end: a Delphi study of research needs in librarianship for the Svensk Biblioteksforening (Swedish Library Association) - we were in the process of getting the second round of questionnaires returned and building another SPSS data file of the returns. The other project is SHAMAN, funded by the European Community and with 18 partners. Not long after the trip to Sweden, the SHAMAN members of Work Package 1 met in Nice to finalise the first deliverable and to discuss relationships between the different work packages. From my point of view, this was a useful meeting which sorted out a number of difficulties I had seen in the work package for which we at Boras have primary responsibility - Demonstration and Evaluation. As for Nice - well, the weather was truly awful - low temperatures and almost continuous rain. However, one plus was one of a number of free concerts being given over a three day period in various venues. This was the concert to celebrate 20 years of the Virgin Classics record label, held in the Acropolis convention, exhibition and concert hall complex. The concert was held in Apollon, the main concert hall, and I would guess that almost all of its 2,500 seats was occupied. The artists performing were excellent and two and a half hours passed very quickly!

25 September 2008

New issue of Information Research

The new issue of Information Research is now on the site - I hope all the links are working but if anyone comes across any that aren't please let me know.

The editorial in this issue has a short report on the reader survey we carried out recently, so I'll direct your attention to that.

Apart from the editorial, we have a total of seven papers, covering a wide array of subjects, from the extraction of variant chemical names to students' use of Web literacy skills and strategies. Something for everyone, in other words.

19 September 2008

ISIC Conference - Post conference day trip

About 20 participants summoned up the courage to take a bus trip on a very fine, but bitterly cold day. The wind was coming straight off the Siberian steppes. However, with varying cloud cover, the wind died down and we had a good trip to Trakai, a beautiful little town on several lakes, with an astonishingly located castle. We sampled a local delicacy, the kybyn on the bus on the way to Gruto Parkas, an open air museum of communist-era statuary - fascinating. Then, after lunch, back to Vilnius and goodbye to everyone heading off to New Zealand, Japan, Slovakia, the USA, France, South Africa and other destinations.

See you again in Murcia!

ISIC Conference Day 3

Another chill day, but the rain made it seem a little milder :-) Lithuania has thrown everything at us except sunshine and snow - who knows what tomorrow will bring?

We had another day of diverse topics, with simultaneous sessions in the first part of the morning. One presentation was introduced with Maori chants, which is a first for ISIC, while another was delivered by DVD in the unavoidable absence of the author - another first. Others dealt with matters as diverse as the difficulty of using search engines, the use of Wikipedia, exploring a user perspective on relevance, evaluating search engines from a user-perspective and even exploring ISIC as a professional community.

The day ended with a Panel Session on teaching information behaviour, with, en passant, some excellent demonstrations of teaching techniques.

Tomorrow there is a tour to Trakai and Gruta Park - we are definitely hoping for better weather.

17 September 2008

ISIC Conference Day 2

Day 2 is the busiest day of the conference, since there are no preliminaries and everything kicks off at 9.00 a.m., on a perishingly cold morning - for some reason, Winter has hit Lithuania early and the temperature is at least 10 degrees below normal for the time of year. However, on the principle that more bodies create more heat, this does mean the people are attending the conference instead of bunking off for a look round the town :-)

Fifteen papers were delivered today, starting with Pertti Vakkari's keynote address, which looked at the development of ISIC between 1996, when he founded the conference, and today. Not all of his conclusions were optimistic and he raised some crucial issues for the development of the research area.

Following the keynote, we had papers on a wide variety of subjects, from the role of information in development in South Africa, to the behaviour of Australian online investors and South African consulting engineers, to the users of public business information services in Japan and changes in computer scientists' behaviour over twenty years.

At 17.20 most of the participants went off on a tour of the city - I imagine that they were pretty chilly by the time they finished, but at least they may have seen the hot-air balloons floating over. What they were doing up on a day like this, heaven only knows!

ISIC Conference Day 1

The ISIC conference proper opened today, with an welcome from the Vice Rector of Vilnius University and the Deputy Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament. With the formalities completed the main business got under way with an excellent keynote from Professor Bonnie Nardi on virtual game environments as information places - the extent of the discussion suggested that this was a topic to which the conference will return.

The day's sessions included a considerable number of papers of interest from established researchers such as Carol Kuhlthau, Ross Todd and Jannica Heinstrom from Rutgers University on testing the relevance of Kuhlthau's model of the information search process, to newcomers reporting on the conclusion of their PhD research on topics as various as the role of information in the palliative care of cancer patients to a study of how the writers of policy papers for government decide when they have 'enough' information for the purpose of the paper.

The day ended with the conference dinner in a typical Lithuanian restaurant - at which a number of well established researchers were observed enjoying the polka, to the accompaniment of a Lithuanian folk trio. An excellent time was had by all and our friends from Murcia, Spain, the venue of the conference in 2010, promised us a salsa school before the conference dinner there.

ISIC Conference

Yesterday the ISIC conference opened in Vilnius, Lithuania, with the Doctoral Workshop. We had 15 students from various parts of the world (a strong representation from Canada, interestingly) and a variety of topics. The workshop was organized by Theresa Anderson of the University of Technology, Sydney - who was a Workshop participant in 1998, an interesting example of continuity.

Following a plenary sessions, students presented their projects in small groups and enjoyed the comments from the senior researchers and other students. For those students who are working virtually alone, the opportunity to learn from others that their problems are common is reassuring.

I hope that we shall have a report on the Workshop with the students' papers in a future issue of Information Research.

07 September 2008

Flickr goodies

The photo site, Flickr, is always throwing up new ways of looking at the pictures one puts there. This is one that I only came across today and thought was worth sharing on the Weblog:

digicanon - View my most interesting photos on Flickriver

05 September 2008

Information skills for researchers

I participated in a workshop at Leed University Business School on Wednesday, which was organized on behalf of the Research Information Network, to get feedback on its report, Mind the skills gap, which I had a hand in producing along with colleagues David Allen and David Streatfield. The three of us were involved in the workshop which was managed overall by another colleague, Sharon Markless.
The participants consisted of a mixture of librarians involved in information skills training and other unversity research training staff, which enabled the discussions to take account of different perspectives. This was particularly valuable, since the report drew attention to a lack of communication at all levels in many universities and collaboration was one of the key words that came out of the discussion on how to improve the situation in the future.

OA books from Bloomsbury Academic

An interesting announcement about a new publisher and a new strategy for academic texts. Bloomsbury Academic is a new imprint from the Harry Potter publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing.
According to the press release:
All books will be made available free of charge online, with free downloads, for non-commercial purposes immediately upon publication, using Creative Commons licences. The works will also be sold as books, using the latest short-run technologies or Print on Demand (POD).

The imprint will initially publish in the Social Sciences and Humanities building thematic lists on pressing global issues, with approximately fifty new titles online and in print by the end of 2009.

The new imprint has its own Website where the FAQ contains answers to questions you might think of asking, such as:
Is this like the open access model for journals where authors (or their institutions) have to pay for the publishing process?
No, Bloomsbury Academic finances the publishing process and expects to recover its costs through sales of hardback copies.

This is an interesting development, which we shall watch with interest - Bloomsbury is taking a chance on the potential for profit from demand for print copies, which it will produce on demand. Given the usually small print runs of academic books, and some anecdotal evidence on the scale of this kind of demand, Bloomsbury may well be right.

02 September 2008

Google Chrome

The bloggers are abuzz with news of Google Chrome - the new browser from Google to be released today at, if my reckoning is right, 7.0 p.m. (UK time). The browser is described (in a very techie fashion) in an online comic from Google. There's also a more user-friendly description and some screenshots.

The memory management system would seem to be a big improvement on other browsers, but I suspect that Chrome will not take a big part of the browser 'market' - the vast majority of people still use whatever comes with what they buy, which means Internet Explorer and an increasing proportion use Firefox - 24% of those who access Information Research, for example. So, I think that, in spite of the strong brand association with Google, Chrome will struggle to make much of an impact.

Later note: 45% of readers of this Weblog use Firefox!

Later still: well, now it's out and the bloggers have been furiously testing. The conclusions seem to be that Google has something here (why is that not a surprise?). Chrome is faster to load and does a number of things faster than either Firefox or IE. The memory management seems to be a winner, since when you close tabs in Firefox a lot of memory associated with those tabs continues to be used, but with separate processes controlling separate tabs, when a tab is closed, the associated memory ceases to be used. For me, it does seem to load pages faster and I quite like the rather restrained user interface. It takes a little time to become accustomed to having the tabs right at the top of the screen, and I found myself closing them accidentally but otherwise, I haven't experienced any particular problems. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

And more: one idiosyncratic aspect of Chrome, which doesn't work for me, is its download function. Click on download and a small pop-up appears at the bottome of the screen, which you then click on. The options do not include "Save" - which is simply crazy. I think Google ought to re-think this one - it's messy and counter-intuitive. Perhaps the urge to be different has been taken to far.

01 September 2008

Research assessment and bibliometrics

The Higher Education Funding Councils in the UK have issued an announcement on a pilot excercise (involving twenty-two UK universities) on the use of bibliometrics in the new "Research Excellence Framework", which will take over from the Research Assessment Excercise now underway.

[As an aside, it looks as though the marketing men have infiltrated the HEFC - "Research Assessment Exercise" was obviously far too explicit for them and so it has to be something new that completely hides what is actually going on - just as the "Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals" became the totally fuzzy "Universities UK"! Makes one wonder about the intelligence of those at the top of the academic tree.]

However, back to the message. The announcement points to another document, Bibliometrics and the Research Excellence Framework. This tells us how the exercise will actually be carried out. Research output data will be collected from the participating institutions (why is this necessary, given that the HEFC already has such data for the current RAE?) and processed by Evidence Ltd., a data processing company based in Leeds.

Both documents express caution in using bibliometric indicators and the point is specifically made that journal impact factors will not be used. The bibliomtric indicators for each institution in each field will be 'normalised' by comparison with the "field norm", that is "the average number of citations for all papers published worldwide in the same field, over the same period". This is where Evidence Ltd. will need to be very careful indeed, since what constitutes the "same field" is open to wide interpretations. It will be especially risky to rely upon the journal groupings used by Web of Knowledge and SCOPUS to defined the "field". I referred in my earlier Weblog to this problem as far as defining the field of "Information Science & Library Science" is concerned, and I have no doubt that similar problems exist in other fields.

"Bibliometrics and the Research Excellence Framework" also notes that, because of the difficulty of using bibliometric indicators across all disciplines, "other indicators" will also be used. But we are not told what these "other indicators" might be - perhaps they don't actually know yet? The document also proposes the use of a "citation profile" which will show how the papers produced by a particular institution relate to "worldwide norms", so that papers are labelled, for example, "Below world average" or "Above world average". Quite what this means is difficult to understand - does HEFC seriously believe that this would be anything other than a completely arbitrary measure? Especially in social science fields, which are very much culture-bound, comparison of work done in the UK, with work carried out "worldwide" - which would actually mean (because of the volume of output) "carried out in the USA" - would simply result in nonsense.

Having retired from having anything to do with the administration of higher education I shall gaze on, fascinated, by what might emerge :-)

12 August 2008

Citations and performance evaluation

Gerry McKiernan has drawn attention on the BOAI discussion list to a special issue of Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, devoted to 'The use and misuse of bibliometric indices in evaluating scholarly performance'. All of the papers are open access and the authors include Philip Campbell, Editor in Chief of Nature on escaping from the Impact Factor and concluding, Although the current system may be effective at measuring merit on national and institutional scales, the most effective and fair analysis of a person’s contribution derives from a direct assessment of individual papers, regardless of where they were published; Peter Lawrence on how measurement harms science; Anne-Wil K. Harzing and Ron van der Wal on Google Scholar as a new source for citation analysis; and Stevan Harnad on Validating research performance metrics against peer rankings. There are fourteen papers in all including the introduction to the issue and all are worth at least dipping into.

The Harzing and van der Wal paper is likely to be somewhat contentious, since other research into the use of Google Scholar has downplayed its value. I first raised the question of using Google in performance measurement in a message to the JESSE mailing list in 2002. I commented that:
My most cited paper is "On user studies and information needs" (1981) - a Web search (using Google) revealed 118 pages that listed the title. The pages were reading lists, free electronic journals, and documents that would never be covered by SSCI, such as reports from various agencies. SSCI revealed, if I recall aright, 79 citations of the paper. The question is: is the Web revealing impact more effectively than SSCI? Citation in scholarly papers takes a variety of forms and much citation is of a token variety - x is cited because x is always cited. On the other hand citation on reading lists implies some positive recommendation of the text, and mention in policy documents and the like, implies (at least in some cases) that some benefit has been found in the cited document.

This led to an extended and interesting discussion. It was followed by a paper on the subject in JASIST by Vaughan and Shaw (Volume 54, Issue 14, 1313-1322) and by a comparison of Google Scholar and Web of Science by Peter Jasco in Current Science, v.89, no. 9, 1537-1547 - incidentally, Harzing and van der Wal reply to some of Jasco's criticisms of Scholar.

All of this suggests that interest in the application of 'metrics' in performance measurement is growing and, perhaps, there is also a growing awareness that the impact factor provided by Web of Knowledge is not necessarily the only tool that can be used. We have also seen the emergence of the Scimago analysis of impact, which I have referred to earlier and these developments, as well as providing for a new academic industry of papers on Web citation, are likely to bring about a re-assessment of metrics for performance measurement and, perhaps, greater wariness about their use than is currently shown by some administrators.

09 August 2008

Open access and scholarly neglect

Thanks to Peter Suber's OA News for drawing attention to a forthcoming Communications of the ACM paper, 'Open access publishing in science: why it is highly appreciated but rarely used', by Florian Mann and colleagues. And what is holding things back? According to Mann et al. it is the "short-term performance related concerns and the wait and see attitude of the majority of researchers". One can understand, at least in the UK - because of the impact of the Research Assessment Exercise, the concerns over performance, but I am less impressed by the wait and see attitude. It speaks of a total lack of concern over the wider dissemination of scholarly information that says more about ego than it does about social responsibility.

It is not entirely clear what Mann and co. mean by the Golden route to open access: once again, as so often, there is a suspicion that they mean the use of author charging to subsidise publishers. The position would be made much clearer if the notion of the Platinum route was separated from author-charging, and, of course, by Platinum I mean publication in journals that are open access and free of author charges. Only the Platinum route gives truly open access, since it is 'open' at both ends of the process - no author charges and no subscription charges. If all the resources that are currently, in my view, wasted on supporting repositories and author charging were put to the development of Platinum journals, true open access would rapidly become the dominant mode of scholarly publishing. However, it is not likely to happen as long as university administrators remain ignorant of the potential and as long as the scholarly community remains in a wait and see posture. If you believe that open access is beneficial to society, why are you publishing in restricted journals? Instead of waiting and seeing, start getting out and doing!

02 August 2008

Another OA categorisation

Peter Suber, whose Open Access Newsletter is a great source for anyone interested in OA has come up with a new classification of types of open access - he suggests the term 'gratis' where 'price barriers' are removed, and 'libre' for the removal of 'permission barriers'. However, since both words mean "free", I'm not sure that the distinction would be retained in general parlance.

However, I'm not sure it is necessary - the aim seems to be to overcome the problem that so-call "Gold OA" (in terms of journals) can mean those that are completely free, like Information Research, and those that use author charging to enable free access. I distinquish between these by reserving "Gold" for the author-charging mode, since it is that mode that has become associated with the notion in the mind of officialdom, and use "Platinum" for what Peter would now call "libre Gold" (or "Gold libre") - I think :-)

The situation is confused by the association between open access publishing and institutional or disciplinary repositories. While the latter provide open access to a proportion of the total literature in any field they are at present a somewhat disorganised collection of sources - some of which provide good coverage of an institution's output, some of which merely skim the surface. A couple of years ago I surveyed the repositories in the UK and found, for example, that although the University of Cambridge had more than 30,000 items in its repository only 16 were preprints of scientific papers. I regard repostitories as an interim solution: the future, inevitably, will be the "Platinum" publishing mode. The economics will drive inexorably towards this mode of scholarly communication - not, perhaps, in what is left of my lifetime, but inevitably.

31 July 2008

Google competitor - really?

A new search engine called "Cuil" - the names get weirder and more unpronouncable! - is getting some publicity at the moment. It's been on the BBC Technology site and now Jack Schofield of the Guardian has an article on the subject. The article has generated quite a lot of discussion, which is worth having a look at. I can't say that I'm impressed: I've just tried searching for "information research" and it comes up with 'No results were found for: "information research"' Very strange! When I remove the inverted commas, I get results, but some of them are odd and I wonder if Information Research is actually scanned by the service. This feeling is increased when I search for titles of papers in the journal and find nothing - so perhaps the vaunted "biggest search engine" isn't really doing a very good job? There are also weird things going on, for example, a photograph is attached to the entry for this Weblog, but it isn't a picture of me! In fact, the same pictures are placed on the page in other places in relation to completely different topics - I've no clue as to what is going on here, but it doesn't fill me with either confidence or enthusiasm. I'll stick to Google.

29 July 2008

Speed reading

Digg has a notice of a new 'speed reading' site, spreeder.com - paste in a block of text and spreeder will present it a word at a time at a given speed. Personally, I doubt that this will work - scientific evidence on 'speed reading' apprears to be, at best, equivocal and there's a lot to suggest that we recognize blocks of text rather than individual words. Looking at other sites, I took a test and found that I was currently reading at more than 700 words a minute and I very much doubt that reading faster would do me any good at all. I recall that, years ago, a colleague of mine went on a speed reading course and, on the first test of reading speed and comprehension, was performing better than the targets for the end of the course! One of the contributors to the discussion on Digg suggests a package called EyeQ which does use blocks of text and appears to work by training the eye to take in larger blocks - after following the trial I found that text presented at 1,400 words a minute was readable - though I doubt I'd want to read at that speed normally! And I certainly don't want to pay $250.00 to learn how to do so!

Ranking universities

Wouter on the Web draws attention to the latest webometrics ranking of world universities, rightly noting that "at the moment we have to take these results with a spoon full of salt rather than a pinch".

I have to agree that this measure, whatever is doing, is hardly likely to be a measure of academic quality. Can one really believe, for example, that Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College in the UK are really no where in the top twenty on the basis of quality? Or that the University of Minnesota ranks 34 places above the California Institute of Technology?

So, what is this webometrics ranking doing? Well, a number of measures are taken to identify the extent of the Web presence of the University: the size of its presence in Web pages, the extent to which external sites link to it, the number of so-called 'rich files' (i.e., pdf, ps, doc and ppt files) on the site and the number of papers and citations in Google Scholar. In other words it is simply a composite measure of the size of the institution's Web presence.

The danger, of course, is that as in the case of citation measures, university administrators will see the magic word "ranking" and assume that there is some need to rise up the ranks. Quite the opposite is necessary; they should ignore this kind of thing - quite how anyone can find the time to devote to it, instead of doing something useful, I'm at a loss to understand!

23 July 2008

Google's "Knol"

Today, Google has announced the public availability of "Knol" - described as a Web authoring system for creating longer length and, by implication, more serious bits of writing than are created on Weblogs.

The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It's their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good.

With Knol, we are introducing a new method for authors to work together that we call "moderated collaboration." With this feature, any reader can make suggested edits to a knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public. This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content. After all, their name is associated with it!

The items on the home page seem to show a bias towards medical issues, with articles on Carpal tunnel syndrome, Chronic stomach pain and Thoracic outlet syndrome. However their are also links to more mundane things, such as how to install a kitchen tap. The general idea seems to be that all is grist to the Knol mill.

Articles are signed and may be edited - but any edits have to be approved by the author(s). The obvious comparison is with Wikipedia and Citizendium - Knol appears to be more like the latter than the former and I imagine we may see the same persons contributing to all three. Of the three, however, Citizendium seems to have the better editorial control - which is why my own developing article on Information Management is there.

21 July 2008

OA Bibliography

Peter Suber's Open Access News points out that Charles Bailey's Open Access Bibliography has now been transferred to the Open Access Directory, which is a wiki-based site. Readers are encouraged to add to the bibliography: this will be essential if its currency is to be maintained, since the work was frozen in 2004.
So, if you know of items have been published since 2004, do contribute!

20 July 2008

Has the Internet degraded scholarship?

An article in Science, Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship, by James A. Evans is causing a certain amount of interest (unfortunately, not it's not openly available, so you'll have to check out your institution's subscription to read the July 18th 2008 issue). One of the suggestions made by Evans is this:
I show that as more journal issues came online, the articles referenced tended to be more recent, fewer journals and articles were cited, and more of those citations were to fewer journals and articles. The forced browsing of print archives may have stretched scientists and scholars to anchor findings deeply into past and present scholarship. Searching online is more efficient and following hyperlinks quickly puts researchers in touch with prevailing opinion, but this may accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas built upon

Bill Hooker in his blog, Open Reading Frame takes issue with some of what Evans discovers. In particular he notes Evans's statement:
I show that as more journal issues came online, the articles referenced tended to be more recent, fewer journals and articles were cited, and more of those citations were to fewer journals and articles.

and he comments:

OK, suppose you do show that -- it's only a bad thing if you assume that the authors who are citing fewer and more recent articles are somehow ignorant of the earlier work. They're not: as I said, later work builds on earlier. Evans makes no attempt to demonstrate that there is a break in the citation trail -- that these authors who are citing fewer and more recent articles are in any way missing something relevant. Rather, I'd say they're simply citing what they need to get their point across, and leaving readers who want to cast a wider net to do that for themselves (which, of course, they can do much more rapidly and thoroughly now that they can do it online).

Well, I think I am with Evans here - would it were true that authors are not ignorant of earlier work. In my experience as an Editor and a PhD supervisor, I am continually amazed at the extent to which authors and students are unaware of pre-WWW work. It seems that if the work was done before 1995 it is assumed to have no relevance to the present day. In many cases, of course, that will be true and in some cases the research record is a record of building upon earlier work. In the case of many subfields in information science, however, it isn't the case. A great deal of work was done in the 1970s, which is now completely ignored. Researchers rediscover wheels again and again, when a search of the earlier literature would have revealed that what they think of as novel, was novel 50 years ago!

I believe that everything we do needs to be rooted in the historical context, without it we assume that everything that has gone before has nothing to teach us, whereas the reality is that much has been done that could be of relevance, if only it was known about.

To take just one example, a project at Hamline University in the USA in the 1970s explored how librarians could support teaching. Assistants were appointed to work closely with teachers, sitting in on courses, identifying material that was often of more use to undergraduates than the research papers the teacher was citing, and generally performing the kind of 'information scientist' role that Jason Farradane (another forgotten name?) promoted in industry. The report demonstrated the efficacy of employing librarians in this role but also pointed to the economic costs and, as a result, the initiative was abandoned and the report forgotten. But that report says more about how to engage with teaching and how to support the learner than the vast majority of publications on 'information literacy' do today - sadly, it is never cited :-)

19 July 2008

Google search technology

The Technologies Behind Google Ranking are the subject of an item in the Official Google Blog. The title is a little misleading, since the article tells us what the technology does rather what it is :-)

16 July 2008


Thanks to Jim Till's Weblog for drawing my attention to Gunther Eysenbach's paper at the E-PUB conference on WebCite. Readers of Information Research will probably be aware that we now ask authors to archive any referenced Web documents to WebCite to avoid the common problem of "link rot". Eysenbach's paper is a useful account of WebCite and of its plans for the future.

05 July 2008

A vote for Opera

In Thursday's issue of the Technology supplement to the Guardian newspaper, Andrew Brown promotes Opera as his browser-of-choice over Firefox. Brown likes the fact that:
"It does the two things that I really need in any browser, which are tab management and ad-blocking, very well indeed. It has a crude but effective note facility which can be synchronised across computers. The bookmarks and the history are both indexed and can be searched almost instantaneously"

He also likes the mail client incorporated into Opera and, from his description, if you want to keep your e-mails on your own hard disc, Opera would seem to have things to recommend it.

Before Firefox came along, I often used Opera in preference to IE, and, of course, Opera introduced a number of features (such as tabs) which many now associate with Firefox. However, I'm now permanently hooked to Firefox and, although I have tried out the latest version (Opera 9.5) I think I'm pretty unlikely to go over to it now. But, you never do know...

The IR reader survey

This little widget tells you how many people have responded to the readership survey:

online surveys

The curious thing is that people appear to drop out without completing the survey. So, as of now, 455 people have answered question 1, but only 428 are shown as having completed, and by the time we get to the final question, only 421 are shown to have answered. If anyone has experienced difficulty in completing the questionnaire, please let me know.

Report on open access

Peter Suber's regular report on the state of open access deals this month with "Open access and the last-mile problem for knowledge". The last mile problem is "the one at the end of the process [of research and scholarly communication]: making individualized connections to all the individual users who need to read that research". The point of OA, of course, is that as it grows, the 'last mile problem' reduces, since all one requires for access is an Internet connection. A very interesting and thoughtful piece.

28 June 2008

Preliminary report on the reader survey

With more than 200 responses so far, there’s enough information for a preliminary report on the reader survey. But please continue to complete the survey!

26.64% of you have been reading the journal for more than five years.
22.69% found the journal in the course of doing a literature search
40.64% of you only read occasional papers of direct interest to you
31.17% use the journal to help them in their research (and 24.68% use it for personal professional development)
78.35% find the journal Easy or Very Easy to navigate
33.79% rarely use the author index
33.48% occasionally use the subject index
33.64% occasionally use the search page
32.87% never use the Google site-search box

The areas of most interest to you are, in rank order:

1. Information behaviour
2. Information retrieval
3. Internet research
4. Everyday information seeking
5. Information management
6. Digital libraries
7. Web searching
8. Web design and development
9. Information systems
10. Electronic publishing

You live and work in…

21.97% United States of America
16.59% United Kingdom
5.38% Australia
4.48% Canada
4.04% Spain
3.59% Brazil
2.69% Finland
2.24% India
2.24% Ireland
2.24% Netherlands

27 June 2008

Information Research readership survey

If you are a registered reader of Information Research you will have already received an invitation to participate in our readership survey, so you can ignore this post. If you aren't a registered reader, but would like to participate, please go to the survey site and complete the brief questionnaire (only ten questions).

22 June 2008

Presentation on OA

Thanks to Peter Suber's blog for drawing attention to the presentations given at a session of the ARMA/INORMS congress in Liverpool earlier this month.

The presentations are by Matthew Cockerill of BioMed Central on why sustainable funding streams are needed for the OA publishing model (it would be more accurate to say that sustainable work streams are needed - but, then, Cockerill doesn't take into account the Platinum mode of publishing, which relies on voluntary work). Then we have Stephen Pinfield on setting up an OA publication fund - that is, not how to set up a fund for the publication of Platinum OA journals but a fund to continue to subsidise the commercial publisher. Thirdly, Margaret Hurley and Nicola Perrin of the Wellcome Trust explore the Trust's OA policy, that is, meeting the costs of author charging, or requiring deposit in an appropriate repository. Finally, Bill Hubbard on 'building repositories'.

Generally, it will be seen that these authors assume that (apart from repositories) the only true 'publication' route is through author charges. A rather sad reflection on what the different agencies ought to be doing.

20 June 2008

Open access to open access information

David J. Solomon - author of one of the case studies in Information Research - has announced that an abridged version of his book "Developing open access journals:
a practical guide" is now available on open access. Nice move, David!

15 June 2008

Why is Harvard Business Review so bad...

...at observing bibliographical standards? Suppose you have a reference to, say, Davenport's "Competing on analytics", which appeared in the January 6th edition of the journal, and you want to find volume number, part number and pages. The obvious place to go to is the HBR site - right? Wrong! The HBR site is designed to sell you offprints, it is not designed to help you, the author, find the bibliographical details for any of its articles. So much for having a role in scholarly communication, when the Trustees don't even care whether or not anyone can find a specific paper. Sadly, this is symptomatic of much Web publishing - bibliographical standards fly out of the window in the face of the marketing director.

07 June 2008

Firefox heads to version 3

Firefox has made Release Candidate 2 of Firefox 3 available for download I've been using this version since its release and it seems to be very stable and various commentators are lauding its speed and new features. I don't experience much of a speed change and I imagine it is micro-seconds of difference over version 2. However, if you are using an old browser, you'll probably see the difference. A key new feature is an improved location bar with an auto-complete feature that pulls in links from your bookmarks and history, so that you are able to select the appropriate link from a wide assortment. The results are ranked according to frequency of use, so if you use a link often, it will come up first. There's a full "What's new" page on the Mozilla site.

27 May 2008

Microsoft blinks

So MSoft can't do everything after all. An article posted by the Website design company, Bluhalo, reports that the giant is giving up on the digitization of books for its version of Google's book search. This could put the Internet Archive in difficulties, since the Archive has been doing the digitization. No confirmation of this from anywhere, as far as I can see, so who knows?

22 May 2008

Confusion reigns

Peter Suber has an interesting item in his Open Access News, referring to a report from the Research Information Network in the UK on the costs of OA publishing vs. the current "pay to read" model.

As Peter points out, a glaring false assumption of the report is that the only alternative to "pay to read" is "pay to publish" or author charging. This gives point to my insistence that to lump all OA publishing under the one label of "Gold OA" leads to this kind of assumption, since it is in the interests of publishers to pretend that author charging IS the only alternative. Let us talk of "Platinum OA" when we mean "free to publish and free to read" - the model of Information Research and many more OA journals. As Peter again points out 67% of journals in the DOAJ make no author charges.

One example of the impact of the false assumption is the calculation that the savings to libraries of a move to e-publication only would be offset by the need to pay 17.5% VAT on the subscription. This amounting, according to the report, to £5million. But "Platinum" journals incur no VAT, since there is no subscription - and, given the low costs of self-publication by universities or consortia of universities of e-journals, a true analysis would ask, "How many free journals could the UK University system publish with £5million?" I think it would be more than one or two!

Until universities break free of the false assumptions under which this report has been written, they will be locked into commercial relationships with publishers that will inevitably limit access to scholarship and research.

19 May 2008

The message (on OA) is getting through.

Prompted by Peter Suber's blog, I disvoered a College and Research Libraries article by David W. Lewis, dean of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Library, which proposes a strategy for moving library funds from journal purchase to OA support and preservation of the book-buying budget. The logic is inescapable - university libraries are even less able to continue to put up with journal price increases than they were (and if that is a problem in the USA, what is it like anywhere else?) and with repositories growing in number and in number of items held, the grip of the commercial publisher cannot be maintained.

However, the article doesn't really go far enough. Action by libraries without further action by the parent institutions will not resolve the issue: if OA is regarded as the "Gold" of author charging, the institution, in one way or another will have to fund the submission of papers. The only sensible strategy is collaborative, subsidised, freely available OA publishing. Imagine a journal published by a consortium of major US universities - some of the Carnegie Research I group, for example, which covers all the major research institutions - it is likely that such a journal would be rapidly accepted as a major outlet for research and if those universities required that faculty offer their papers first to that journal, it would soon become essential reading in its discipline and it would rapidly shift awareness of the value of OA. Tinkering around with the present system through repositories and author charging will never bring about the necessary changes to make access to scholarly research available freely to all. A much more radical break with the past is necessary.

17 May 2008

The downside of electronic theses

An interesting item in the Chronicle of Higher Education draws attention to a dispute at West Virginia University about their electronic dissertations policy. This policy applies across the university but has not, until now, affected students in the creative writing programme.

Naturally enough, the students (supported by their professor) do not want their creative works on the Web, since they might well seek a commercial publisher for the output. This seems to be one of those foggy areas of copyright law - a creative work is clearly that of the author and, presumably, copyright rests with the author, not with the institution - such authors are not in the same position as employees of the organization, for whom the situation might be different.

Apparently, this dispute echoes across the US, with other universities experiencing the same dispute.

31 March 2008


I've been too busy to give much time to the Weblog recently, and from today, I'll have even less, since I shall be as those annoying notices say, "Out of the office". There may be the occasional word from me over the next month, but don't be surprised if nothing turns up :-)

24 March 2008

You might not have noticed...

...but I think we're in the middle of another Internet boom. The number of new "Web 2.0" applications coming on stream is amazing. Of course, as in the first boom (followed by the dot.com collapse), most of these ventures will fail and only one or two will actually find either an established place in the market or, more likely (and perhaps more hoped-for) will be bought up by MSoft, Yahoo, Google, or any other big players to become part of those companies' Web 2.0 efforts.

This post is prompted by a series of posts in the Webware blog covering Blist (a database), SlideRocket (presentation software), Orgoo (one-stop for messaging, e-mail and other accounts), Vello (VoIP conference calls), Nuconomy (site statistics), Cozimo (image annotation collaboration), Liquid Planner (planning software), Slide Share (sharing PowerPoint presentations), and that's just a few of them. I liked the presentations on Blist and SlideRocket - but I really can't see myself using any of these. The Web 2.0 notion seems to have spawned the notion that if you think of any conceivable application you can produce "software as a service" to present it over the Web. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

22 March 2008

Information literacy overload?

This is prompted by an announcement of yet another journal devoted to 'information literacy' - the new Nordic Journal of Information Literacy in Higher Education, which starts publication in November.

There does seem to be overkill in this subfield of librarianship (or, perhaps, these days, of education?). We now have in addition to this new Nordic Journal:

Journal of Information Literacy
Communications in Information Literacy
SIMILE (which hasn't published an issue this year, so far).
International Journal of eLiteracy (nothing published since 2005)

In addition to these, we have journals such as JOURNAL OF ACADEMIC LIBRARIANSHIP, PORTAL-LIBRARIES AND THE ACADEMY, REFERENCE & USER SERVICES QUARTERLY, LIBRARY & INFORMATION SCIENCE RESEARCH, COLLEGE & RESEARCH LIBRARIES, ELECTRONIC LIBRARY, HEALTH INFORMATION AND LIBRARIES JOURNAL - all of which published papers on the subject in 2007 and, of course, the occasional special issue of other journals, such as ITALICS

I wish the Nordic Journal every success, particularly as it is open access, but in this rather cluttered area it may have some difficulty in attracting submissions.

21 March 2008

Defining knowledge management

If you thought you'd managed to get a grip on what 'knowledge management' might mean, think again - and while you are thinking, take a look at Ray Sims's Weblog. Ray analyses fifty-three definitions of knowledge management. He comments:
General observation: this again illustrates the definition diversity. It is not like these are 53 definitions with slightly different word choice. These are substantially different. There are only five attributes that are seen in 30% or more of the definitions: KM is a process, it is targeted at the organization (company), it deals with knowledge, sharing is part of the story, and the definition includes a “why.”

And in spite of all this he still calls 'knowledge management' a discipline!

Arthur C. Clarke

I suppose that, like many others, my introduction to the work of Arthur C. Clarke was through his science fiction, rather than his science popularisation. I suspect that it was his Childhood's End that I read first and I read many more of his more than 100 titles subsequently. He was never my favourite SF writer, however, I think that Ray Bradbury filled that role for me, although H.G. Wells would have been a strong contender.

Aged 90, he has now moved on and the Official Google Blog has a very nice appreciation of him from Vint Cerf, along with a video of a short farewell statement, which he made just before his 90th birthday. One can tell that, though he was wheel-chair-bound, his mind was as active as ever.

Firefox screen territory

For those for whom Firefox is the browser of choice (and what sensible person uses anything else? ;-), there's a bunch of good ideas on shrinking various menus, etc. at Makeuseof.com

Planning ISIC

It's been a while since my last post - for the past week I've been in Vilnius, Lithuania, for a meeting of the Permanent Committee of the ISIC Conference, which will be held in the city in September. It looks as thought we shall have a bunch of very interesting papers and this will be an opportunity for researchers from the region (for whom there is a special conference fee) to catch up with the latest research on information behaviour.
Vilnius is a fascinating city and if you'd like to see a few pictures of the place, check out my Flickr site - there's a set of pictures labelled 'Lithuania' and most of them are of Vilnius, some taken during a performance of the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra. More will be going up over the next few days as I find time to upload them.

11 March 2008

Wall Street Journal favours Open Access

Wow! What a headline (mine - not that of the WSJ). In fact the import of Daniel Akst's article, Information liberation is even more surprising. The WSJ is a bastion of conservatism in the USA and yet they publish this piece, which, in the context of the actions of NIH and Harvard University, notes:
Other than in the realm of life-saving medicine, why should any of this matter to nonacademics? Well, for one thing, barriers to the spread of information are bad for capitalism. The dissemination of knowledge is almost as crucial as the production of it for the creation of wealth, and knowledge (like people) can't reproduce in isolation. It's easy to scoff at the rise of Madonna studies and other risible academic excrescences, but a flood of truly important research pours from campuses every day. The infrastructure that produces this work is surely one of America's greatest competitive advantages.

So there are limits to capitalism after all! That must be a shock to corporate America - or perhaps the problem is that some of the major players are European?

Firefox 3 Beta 3

I'm now using the newly released Beta 3 of Firefox and it seems to be doing well. One of the gains reported is better memory management and that seems to be working. I haven't done a comparative test, but a quick look at test manager tells me that the seven tabs I have open are consuming 85 Mb of memory and that is much less than was the case with earlier versions.

There's a long (four-page) article about the new release on the Mozilla.org site - it has the curious title of "Firefox 3 Beta 4 The Review" - so I imagine that there'll be another beta release before too long :-)

Another article on ZD Net tells us that the main gain in Beta 4 is on speed - Firefox runs five times faster than IE7

05 March 2008

Surely it's too early to be celebrating?

From the Guardian's UK news-feed:
Guardian Daily podcast: Clinton back in the race plus 24-hour drinking in Warrington

What is Web 2.0?

Lorcan Dempsey has an interesting analysis of Web 2.0 on his Weblog. Noting that the term is a fuzzy one, he points out that it is associated with 'diffusion' (think wikis, blogs, social networking, etc.) on the one hand and, on the other, with 'concentration' (think of the Library of Congress and Australian National Library cooperation with Flickr). This is an interesting analysis, well worth a look.

27 February 2008

Library architecture

Slate magazine has an interesting slide show on library architecture, asking the question, 'How do you design a public library in the age of Google?'

15 February 2008

Howard Rheingold

Howard Rheingold of Smart Mobs and The Virtual Community fame has a presentation on the TED site. The programme notes say:
Howard Rheingold talks about the coming world of collaboration, participatory media and collective action -- and how Wikipedia is really an outgrowth of our natural human instinct to work as a group. As he points out, humans have been banding together to work collectively since our days of hunting mastodons.

Well worth viewing, as usual with the TED presentations

11 February 2008

New issue of Journal of Electronic Publishing

The latest issue contains the following papers:
William Y. Arms - Cyberscholarship: High Performance Computing Meets Digital Libraries
Jeremy Birnholtz - When Authorship Isn’t Enough: Lessons from CERN on the Implications of Formal and Informal Credit Attribution Mechanisms in Collaborative Research
G. Sayeed Choudhury - The Virtual Observatory Meets the Library
Amy Friedlander - The Triple Helix: Cyberinfrastructure, Scholarly Communication, and Trust
Karla L. Hahn - Talk About Talking About New Models of Scholarly Communication
Charles Henry - Can Universities Dream of Electric Sheepskin?: Systemic Transformations in Higher Education Organizational Models
Ronald L. Larsen - On the Threshold of Cyberscholarship
Stephen G. Nichols - "Born Medieval": MSS. in the Digital Scriptorium
Kathlin Smith - Institutional Repositories and E-Journal Archiving: What Are We Learning?
Peter Suber - Open Access in 2007
Judith A. Turner - Editor's Note
Donald Waters - Open Access Publishing and the Emerging Infrastructure for 21st-Century Scholarship

09 February 2008

Curious notion of a digital library

"A new digital library, covering 80,000 square meters, is being built to add 2,900 seats to the current 5,000-seat library." So says a report on China's National Library on China View I love the idea of increasing the number of seats in a 'digital' library - watching the signals whizzing by: Whoops! There goes Darwin's origin of the species! Boing! Einstein's first paper on relativity speeds on its way! Crunch! There goes Bush's state of the nation speech! Seats in a digital library must have a grandstand view of cyberspace!

06 February 2008

More on Firefox

The news site, Ars Technica reports on a study by a French Web survey firm, XiTi Monitor, to the effect that across Europe, Firefox now has more than 25% market share. The country differences are interesting: Firefox has 45.4% of the market in Finland, but only 14.7% in the Netherlands. The UK is also low down on use of Firefox, with 17.2% - who knows why?

05 February 2008

Firefox 3.0 beta 2

For the past couple of weeks I've been using the latest beta of Firefox 3.0 and, for a beta, it has been pretty well trouble-free. Firefox 3.0 is built on a new version of the Gecko engine and the changes that are likely to affect the average user are listed as:
* Star button: quickly add bookmarks from the location bar with a single click; a second click lets you file and tag them.
* Tags: associate keywords with your bookmarks to sort them by topic.
* Location bar & auto-complete: type the title or tag of a page in the location bar to quickly find the site you were looking for in your history; favicons, bookmark, and tag indicators help you see where results are coming from.
* Smart Places Folder: quickly access your recently bookmarked and tagged pages, as well as your more frequently visited pages with the new smart places folder on your bookmark toolbar.
* Bookmarks and History Organizer: advanced search of your history and bookmarks with multiple views and smart folders to store your frequent searches.
* Web-based protocol handlers: web applications, such as your favorite webmail provider, can now be used instead of desktop applications for handling mailto: links from other sites. Similar support is available for other protocols (Web applications will have to first enable this by registering as handlers with Firefox).
* Easy to use Download Actions: a new Applications preferences pane provides a better UI for configuring handlers for various file types and protocol schemes.

The production version is due some time soon, so watch out for announcements.

01 February 2008

Microsoft makes a bid for Yahoo

After playing footsie for 18 months, Microsoft has come out with an offer of $31 a share for Yahoo in a letter to the Yahoo Board, according to ZDNet.
Clearly, things could get interesting on the search front as a result of this, but I suspect that MSoft is after Yahoo's visibility in the consumer market. If ZDNet is right, then going after Google, in search terms, isn't the primary motive:
Specifically, Microsoft says the combined companies can target the following areas:
* Scale economics driven by audience critical mass and increased value for advertisers;
* Combined engineering talent to accelerate innovation;
* Operational efficiencies through elimination of redundant cost;
* And the ability to innovate in emerging user experiences such as video and mobile.

Note that Blogger doesn't let me use Yahoo's exclamation mark :-)

Search behaviour

There's an interesting article on the Boxes and Arrows site: Search Behavior Patterns, by John Ferrara. The article drew my attention to a new(ish) search engine called "Easy Search Live", which offers a 'live view' feature. Click on "live view" beside any item and a window opens to show you the site. Quite a neat feature for finding useful sites within the search output, rather than clicking and opening a new tab or window for the site.

31 January 2008

Open access physics

Fans of OA for books will be charmed by Motion Mountain - a free textbook of physics.
I like this month's puzzle on the site:
A hunter leaves his home, walks 10 km to the South and 10 km to the West, shoots a bear, walks 10 km to the North, and is back home. What colour is the bear? You probably know the answer straight away. Now comes the harder question, useful for winning money in bets. The house could be on several additional spots on the Earth; where are these less obvious spots from which a man can have exactly the same trip that was just described (forget the bear now) and be at home again at the end?

Photo copyright problems

Came across an interesting article on photo copyright and its infringement (along with advocacy of Creative Commons) via a Flickr discussion list. The article gives an account of the trials and tribulations of photography Robert Burch who found that a travel agency was using his pictures without payment.

24 January 2008

Structured abstracts

Readers of Information Research will be aware that we use 'structured' abstracts, introduced as a result of contact with Jim Hartley of Keele University. Jim is doing a study on the subject and has asked me to post a notice:

Jim Hartley, Professor of Psychology at Keele University in the UK, is carrying out a study of the readability of structured abstracts. He would be most grateful if you would be willing to take part.
To read more about it please go to here
The study should take no more than 10 minutes of your time, and your help will be much appreciated!

Project signing in Boras

I spend a chunk of time every year in Sweden at the Swedish School of Librarianship and Information Science. Over the past few months, I've been developing a proposal for a Delphi investigation into research needs in Swedish libraries and today we had a visit from the Svensk Biblioteksförening to sign a contract funding the project. A news story on the project was on the SBF site practically before the meeting was over. Not a very flattering photo!

22 January 2008

Google book scanning...

...is the subject of an item at abc news, along with a video shot at the University of California. A couple of students praise the system for enabling access to research materials for which they would otherwise have to travel, and the librarians draw attention to the preservation function in California's disaster-prone environment.

19 January 2008

SCImago journal ranking - again

Wouter Gerritsma has picked up on the existence of the SCImago journal ranking system (based on SCOPUS) and has referenced a couple of earlier posts on this Weblog. He compares the SJR with the Web of Knowledge JIF and discovers that they are quite closely correlated. I wonder if this is not altogether to be expected? The JIF is based on citations to papers in the journal, while the SJR is based on something similar to the Google page rank algorithm - page rank is based on links to sites by other sites, which is, in itself, a form of citing. Wouldn't we expect the two modes to be closely aligned?

Universal Digital Library

I see that the Maryland Daily Record has picked up the story of the Universal Digital Library and noted its major drawback - the fact that it uses TIFF images of the pages. So user-unfriendly that one can't imagine anyone actually using it. Word is that they propose to convert the TIFFs to pdf files and in my book that is not much better.

Lawrence Lessig open access

Jack Schofield's blog at the Guardian has an announcement about the free availability of Lawrence Lessig'g book, The future of ideas. Go get it!
The book was published in 2001 and perhaps other authors should note that free availability of a text on the Web can promote a jump in the sales of the printed version. I've no doubt that will happen with this one.

"Advanced search"

Stephen Turbek has an interesting post in his Weblog on the 'advanced search' function found with many search engines.
Advanced search is the ugly child of interface design -always included, but never loved. Websites have come to depend on their search engines as the volume of content has increased. Yet advanced search functionality has not significantly developed in years. Poor matches and overwhelming search results remain a problem for users. Perhaps the standard search pattern deserves a new look. A progressive disclosure approach can enable users to use precision advanced search techniques to refine their searches and pinpoint the desired results.

Designers of library catalogues please note!

17 January 2008

Library of Congress joins Flickr

The Library of Congress has announced a joint venture with Flickr:
The project is beginning somewhat modestly, but we hope to learn a lot from it. Out of some 14 million prints, photographs and other visual materials at the Library of Congress, more than 3,000 photos from two of our most popular collections are being made available on our new Flickr page, to include only images for which no copyright restrictions are known to exist.

This should be a significant development for historians and others looking to illustrate papers, etc. with appropriate photos.
This is part of Flickr's 'Commons' project - which, among other things, allows Flickr users to add tags to the pictures: the effect of this is evident as far as one picture is concerned - it has more than 60 tags in at least three languages! Allowing anyone to tag means that either, a) this picture will pop up for a much wider range of search enquiries (for example, in a search for 'smoke' as well as for 'railway'); or, looked at from another perspective, too many pictures will be retrieved!

13 January 2008

Bridging the virtual and the real

Under a rather misleading headline (Library of Congress goes virtual) PC World has an article on an agreement between Microsoft and the L of C to enable the online visitor to get directions to exhibits, etc. when visiting the L of C in reality.
I say 'misleading' because, of course, the Library of Congress has had a digital library element for some years now, including, for example, its American Memory section.

12 January 2008

Ted Nelson's 70th birthday

The University of Southampton has a video of a lecture given there by Ted Nelson on the occasion of his 70th birthday. I met Ted Nelson probably about 20 year ago or so during one of his visits to the UK, possible for the Online Conference, or some other meeting and I wondered then if his ideas would ever be implemented. So far, they haven't been and, honestly, I don't see much chance that they will be. They are, I suspect, too idiosyncratic: they define what Ted wants of systems, but not necessarily what everyone else wants, or would even be happy to work with. However, watch the lecture - it is a rather rambling two hours' worth and you can skip chunks if you wish. It moves from a consideration of note-taking (or, rather, the way Ted takes notes - does anyone else have millions of them stored in various places around the world?) and on to education (where he has clearly not heard of A.S. Neill and Summerhill, since he claims that no one has ever implemented the model he prefers, which, as far as I can see, is something close to the Summerhill model), and on from education to the origin of languages and their distribution (again, somewhat suspect ideas, if the review of many literatures found in the brilliant "The origins of the British" by Stephen Oppenheim is to be trusted), and then on to the eruption of Thera (Santorini) and the rediscovery of writing, back to Project Xanadu (which is about "handling documents they way they should be" - or, more correctly, the way Ted would like to be able to handle, but which I suspect would drive the rest of humankind crazy) and, via "General Strategics", to a closing comment on the teaching of mathematics.