25 October 2010

Norman Horrocks

I was saddened to learn of the death of Norman Horrocks, a man of wide experience and great kindness. I had been in contact with him only recently, as Norman took it upon himself to advise me of changes in the Web sites of US library and information schools, so that I could update the World list... Norman, born in Manchester, England, had worked all over the world, before settling down at the library school of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and it was in Halifax that he died, at the age of 82.  Norman had worked for military intelligence during the Second World War and he recounted something of his time in that role in a chapter in "Covert and overt", published by Information Today.

22 October 2010

Microsoft Academic Search

I see that MSoft have quietly re-introduced their Academic Search - at least I think it is a re-introduction. The original was launched in 2006 and then was closed down in 2008.  I used it originally in Information Research's "Find other papers..." box, but then it disappeared and I changed first to "Live" and then to  "Bing" - which must be just about the silliest name for a search engine that anyone could dream up.

I have no idea when Academic Search was re-introduced and I'm not sure what Microsoft intends with the new offering, other than to directly compete against Google Scholar.

One visualisation feature that does persist is an author time-line - however, this is deeply flawed, since it appears to be unable to separate people with the same name.  So, when I click on my own name as the author of a paper, the author time-line that pops up is for a "Tom Wilson" at the University of Stirling. Not really very helpful :-)  The other result of this is that "Tom Wilson" is wrongly linked to co-authors of "T.D Wilson" (i.e., me) and is credited with more publications and citations than is warranted. At least eight co-authors don't belong to "Tom Wilson" at all.  The further difficulty is that there is also another "T.D. Wilson" and one of my co-authors is credited to him. Finally, the homepage indicated for the Stirling "Tom Wilson" is for another "Tom Wilson" entirely.

It ought to be possible for Microsoft to clean up its act, since standard information extraction procedures ought to be capable of associating papers, authors, journals and co-authors in an intelligent fashion, but, until the situation is remedied don't expect the information you find about authors to be entirely accurate.

15 October 2010

A busy time

The last month has been a pretty hectic one.  I was in Murcia, Spain for the ISIC conference from 26th September to 1st October, during which the University of Murcia held a special ceremony to present me with a Doctor Honoris Causa - since all the conference participants had reserved places, it will probably go down in conference history as quite an unusual event!  The ceremony followed what is known as the "Salamanca Protocol", with academic dress clearly derived from that of 17th century clerics - the tasselled hats, in particular, brought some humorous comment.

Apart from this occasion, the conference was interesting, as usual, but with a lower than usual number of participants - clearly, academic institutions around Europe and N. America are already feeling the pinch.

After a couple of days back home, I flew to Seoul, S. Korea for the 40th anniversary conference of the Korean Society of Library and Information Science to give a keynote on library research.  For this, I used data from the Delphi investigation into the research needs of Swedish librarians.  I stayed a week in Seoul, although the conference lasted only one day, and can report that the kindness and hospitality shown to the foreign speakers (such luminaries as Carol Tenopir, Ross Todd, Wayne Wiegand, and Annemarie Lloyd) was outstanding.