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.

The Flickr badge

The new item on the page is the Flickr badge - click on it an you are taken to my Flickr site, where I have some of my photographs - not many at the moment because it takes some time to select them, upload them and then edit the information. However, unless I do something like this, I'll never get the thousands of photos I have organized in any way!

11 January 2008

Downtime at Information Research

Readers of Information Research, and users of other services at InformationR.net will have noticed that the system was down for several days from the 5th January - the reason? Weather! My colleague at Lund, Jörgen Eriksson, tells me:

...there was an "icestorm" on the 5th of Jan, where the rain froze as it hit the ground. Together with a heavy wind this created a general chaos in the communications, lots of broken arms and legs and power cuts. So it took some time to get everything up and running after the power cuts.

So - the forces of nature triumph again :-)

04 January 2008

Curious .doc files

A couple of times recently, I've had Word .doc files sent to me, which Word refused to open: nor could Notepad or Wordpad open the files, but, IBM's Lotus Symphony (beta version) managed to open them without difficulty. Why it does so beats me, since Symphony uses the Open Document Format, but it's useful to know that it works. Once it is in Symphony, you can save as a Word .doc file and Word then copes with it happily.

03 January 2008

Journal ranking disputes

Journal ranking and the use of impact factors and the like does seem to raise the blood pressure :-) The Journal of Cell Biology (v.179, no. 6 pp1091-1092) published an editorial, "Show me the Data", which took Thomson to task over the Journal Citation Reports, claiming that Rockefeller University Press had bought the database and then found that the numbers didn't tally with the published data.

Thomson has now responded with THOMSON SCIENTIFIC CORRECTS INACCURACIES IN EDITORIAL, giving a closely argued and, to me, quite convincing rebuttal of the charges.

However, I doubt the value of 'impact' measures overall: and particularly doubt their value in measuring the 'quality' of a journal and guiding promotion and research assessment exercises. This is partly because like is not being compared with like. Take the 'information science and library science' category used by Thomson (which is then used by other manipulators of the data (such as Eigenfactor.org). In the Thomson database, this category has 53 journals listed: but not all are of the same type, and some are not even part of the designated field. Sixteen of the journals belong elsewhere and are not recognizable as belonging to the field of library and information science - indeed, most of these have their primary listing in other categories. We then have the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, which is a serial, not a journal, and which, because of its character, is widely cited. There is also Library Journal, which might be called the 'trade journal' of the profession in the USA, which has relatively few citable papers, mostly of a non-research nature. Next, we have 20 journals that can be described, on one basis or another, as 'niche journals': such publications as Knowledge Organization, which deals with classficiation; the Law Library Journal; and the Journal of the Medical Library Association. Finally, we have one German language periodical, which has a low impact factor, but which is a highly-rated journal it its own language group.

This leaves us with 14 journals that can be said to be the core journals of the field. Any measure that takes no account of the kinds of differences among journals that I have outlined cannot sensibly be used for any comparative purpose and certainly not for judging the quality of a researcher's work. What would be the point, for example, of criticising a information researcher in the field of law for publishing in the Law Library Journal (impact factor 0.508) instead of in MIS Quarterly (impact factor 4.731)? Comparisons among journals only work if we can assume that any paper is likely to receive the same treatment from each journal - a paper on legal information services operated, say, by voluntary community agencies, is hardly likely to be deemed 'in scope' by the editors of MIS Quarterly.

Also in the news is the SCImago journal ranking system, which I've written about recently: Declan Butler writes about it in Nature News

Google search tricks

Lifehacker has a page of Google search tricks, some of which I'd heard of, others of which were new to me. Some will be quite time-saving: for example, simply putting an appropriate query into the Google search box will bring up a weather report for your post-code, or the exchange value among currencies.

01 January 2008

Journal economics

Quite by chance, I came across The Cost-Profiles of Alternative Approaches to Journal-Publishing by Roger Clarke. The abstract reads:

The digital era is having substantial impacts on journal publishing. In order to assist in analysing these impacts, a model is developed of the costs incurred in operating a refereed journal. Published information and estimates are used to apply the model to a computation of the total costs and per-article costs of various forms of journal-publishing. Particular attention is paid to the differences between print and electronic forms of journals, to the various forms of open access, and to the differences between not-for-profit and for-profit publishing undertakings.

Insight is provided into why for-profit publishing is considerably more expensive than equivalent activities undertaken by unincorporated mutuals and not-for-profit associations. Conclusions are drawn concerning the current debates among conventional approaches and the various open alternatives.

One of the implications of Clarke's analysis is:
As journals have migrated to dual-mode publishing and to purely electronic formats, the advantages originally offered by for-profit publishers have dissipated. The level of professionalism required to operate an eJournal remains significant, but it is not out of the reach of committed senior academics supported by junior academics and students. Acquisition of infrastructure, and management of infrastucture and processes, are less challenging than was previously the case.

Information Research is an example of what Clarke calls the Unincorporated Mutual, Gratis eJournal and its business model is '...a communitarian undertaking, or from an economist's terms a "gift economy".' As Clarke notes, the costs of such journals are essentially zero, since all costs are absorbed by the partners involved. The nearest costed equivalent is the scholarly society producing just a single e-journal, the cost of which is estimated at $22,000 and the cost per paper, if supported by author-charging, $730 - so now all the readers of Information Research know what a bargain they are getting :-)

Happy New Year!

A Happy New Year to all readers of Information Research - we now start on our 13th year of publication, with volume 13 no. 1 to be published in March. [One advantage of the electronic journal is that you can always publish on time, because it doesn't matter how many papers you have in an issue :-)] However, I have been putting papers on the site as they are ready, the first is paper 331 and all you do to get the next one is increase the last digit of the paper number by 1 - the contents page will go on the site in March when everything is ready and the last papers are up. The book reviews are also going up as they are ready and the list of new reviews is being continuously updated.

2007 has been a bumper year for the journal with, according to the page counter, 255,733 page views of the top page of the journal - that's about 100,000 more than my estimate for 2006. (The 2006 counter was only active for nine months, so I extrapolated). The busiest month was October, following publication of Volume 12 No. 4, with the CoLIS conference proceedings supplement - no doubt that boosted usage; and the slackest months are, as you might expect, July and August. Google Scholar tells me that eight of the papers in Volume 12 have already been cited - supporting the notion that open access gets you readers, and, hence citations.

According to Google Analytics, which I use for the InformationR.net site as a whole (which includes the World list of departments..., my home page, etc.), the top ten pages in terms of page views were:

1. Information Research: top page     175,707 page views.
2. Subject index-Information Research     20,010
3. World list... information studies, top page     15,576
4. Electronic Resources for Research Methods     14,162
5. World list of schools and departments - Europe     11,822
6. World list... USA     10,776
7. (Title not given)     10,651
8. Author index-Information Research     7,947
9. Information management (paper in TDW archive)      6,249
10. Alfred Schutz, phenomenology and research (paper in TDW archive)      5,841

I've tried without success, to track down that untitled page, but with almost 3,500 pages on the site, it isn't easy!

I also don't know why there is the discrepancy between the top page count in Google Analytics and that of the page counter - strange...