Archive for: January, 2010

Comment policy

Jan 30 2010 Published by under Metablogging

I'm getting quite a few more comments here than when I started, which is lovely! To keep the conversation lively and civil, I've put together a comment policy, which you can find on the blog's About page. (I'll link to it from the sidebar momentarily.)

It's mostly common sense. Moreover, I haven't had to edit or delete a non-spam comment here yet. Still, I'd rather have a policy and not need it than need it and not have it. So now it's there.

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Reclaiming ground

Jan 29 2010 Published by under Tactics

(My apologies; this post inadvertently went up prematurely. If you were wondering where I was going with it, please read on!)

I met Steve Koch at Science Online 2010, where he wowed me showing off his students' open-notebook-science work. I love, just love, teachers who do that. I wish the sort of work I typically assign students was appropriate to it.

Because of the interactions Steve had with librarians at that conference, he's going back to talk with the digital librarian at his institution to see what they can do for each other.

I love that, too, though it makes me nervous. Consider a comment I got on a previous post:

I'am afraid the greater part of librarians are staring to their belly-buttons, and do not have the attitude or communication skills necessary to connect with their customers.

Ouch. Nor am I prepared to say that's incorrect. So when I send someone like Steve to meet with a librarian, I have to hope for a fruitful interaction. I can't rely on it.

Wondering where the commenter got that impression? Well, let's consider Steve Koch again. In a comment to another FriendFeed post, he said (quoted with permission; paragraph breaks mine, as FF doesn't let commenters paragraph their own comments):

I'm stoked about partnering with librarians going forward. I'm meeting with our digital initiatives librarian next week to learn what we can do regarding open data / open access / open science.

But a year ago, I was clueless about what university libraries were doing. Definitely a lot of that ignorance was my fault. But it makes sense if you think about my trajectory to current position as faculty. As an undergraduate and graduate student, most of my interactions with the library were moderately helpful at best, and sometimes completely hostile. For example, I had a comical (but infuriating at the time) battle over a $25 fine for using a 2-hour reserve textbook overnight (while the library was closed). And then all the frustration with copy machines & copy cards, etc. Basically, it sucked going to the library, and library & librarian were almost the same word.

So, with the advent of PDF, I was pretty much delighted that I never had to go to the library anymore. I discovered Inter-Library Loan and was proud that I didn't even know where the library was. Clearly all prejudices and a not clever on my part. However, I suspect that similar prejudices are shared by many faculty and other scientists.

I can think of two things that can be done: (1) educate current faculty, and (2) make things more pleasant for current grads and undergrads. In regards to (1), it's pretty tough to achieve. One idea would be to put advertisements in emails that deliver PDFs for ILL: "Do you like ILL? Your library can help you way more than that! email: ___"

Method (2) is likely more productive, IMO. I don't know a lot about it, but I suspect that undergrads and grads still have unpleasant relationships with the library. Making those more pleasant and collaborative will make for better partners in the future. Like I said, I don't know a lot about current state of affairs, and if indeed conditions have improved for students, maybe better advertising of that fact is called for?

What are we to take from this, we librarians, if we wish to regain ground among scientists?

  • We need to address three market segments: young proto-scientists, practicing scientists who have no idea what we do, and practicing scientists such as Steve who have been actively turned off by libraries and librarians. By and large, it seems to me, we're doing quite a bit to address the first group's needs, not much at all for the second—and nothing whatever for the third.
  • It's not enough to "be a library" any more. It has been enough for quite a long time—among other things, libraries were an important source of institutional prestige—but no more. The boundaries of science librarianship in the research institution are becoming the boundaries of the research enterprise. If we're not contributing to the research enterprise, we can expect to be in the gunsights.
  • Patron service matters, if we are not to mint more Steve Kochs by the dozen. Every patron turned away from a library by sticklers for rules or unhelpful service is a spadeful of earth from our own grave.
  • Our sixth column? Information-literacy instruction. Love your library instructors! They mint future academic-library patrons.
  • One more time: we're not going to fix this situation sitting behind desks in a library our target populations don't visit. What Stephanie and Christina and John and Bonnie and Hope and Molly and Paolo and I did to advance librarianship, we did at a science conference.

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The reverse-AOL maneuver and possible futures for serials

Jan 26 2010 Published by under Open Access

Back in the day, Time Warner merged with AOL. It turned out to be one of the worst merger ideas in the history of merger ideas, and I believe the evidence suggests that most mergers actually turn out to be clunkers!

AOL was simply at the top of its orbit, nowhere but downhill to go.

I wonder, I do, whether Time Warner learned from that experience, and that's why they started shopping exclusive deals to aggregators. (For the record, exclusive deals aren't new in this market.) Grab all the money you can with the exclusivity flag—before the market value of your product declines with a vengeance. Sort of a reverse-AOL maneuver!

I won't recap the death-of-journalism battles here; the basic question "is news being Clayton-Christensen–disrupted by search engines and blogs?" is well-known. I'll just ask you to look over the stable of periodicals at stake in the EBSCO exclusivity deal and form your own conclusions about their future. If I'm right (and I don't know that I am, of course), EBSCO and Gale will wind up with all sorts of egg on their faces.

So, remembering that the news-magazine and scholarly-publishing markets are rather different, can we take any additional lessons about potential publishing-market disruption from this? Perhaps.
The Scholarly Kitchen recently posted an entry arguing (my paraphrase; apologies for any inadequacies therein) that scholarly-journal publishing has avoided an attempted Clayton-Christensen–style market disruption by the open-access movement by fruitful and timely adaptation.

My knee-jerk response at the time that was posted was "So far." Market disruption may seem quick in hindsight, but can take time; OA has had less than a decade (dating from the Budapest Open Access Initiative in early 2002) to make a dent in a rather conservative, traditionalist market whose hegemony has been formed over three centuries or thereabouts. I genuinely believe it's much too early to call this one.

In fact, I'd lay cautious odds on the scenario following:

  1. Now that libraries have well and truly run out of Big Deal money, the big publisher-aggregators will have to look around for ways to keep their profit margins fat.
  2. One obvious way is to eliminate small, low-profit journals and their associated production and overhead costs. Some of these journals will just plain fold (not necessarily a bad thing!). Others will find a way to move open-access, setting up potential market disruption (arguably, this is already a "move upmarket" for open access compared to the typical open-access journal).
  3. More to the point, libraries will protest that they aren't getting as much product as they were for their Big Deal dollar and insist on lowered prices.
  4. At this point the cycle repeats, destructively from the point of view of a big publisher-aggregator or a low-profit journal. If this cycle really gets going, the resulting bloodbath in journals could be tremendous.

Science Online, the EBSCO furor, and the reaction to my previous posts made me rethink things a bit. My question now is "Which market are we talking about here?"

The scholarly publishing enterprise comprises two markets. (Maybe more than two, but let's stick with two for simplicity's sake.) One is where all the money is sloshing around: libraries, publishers, aggregators, societies, Big Deals, et cetera. The EBSCO-Time Warner market. The other is a prestige market, with different players and different rules.

Why do researchers publish articles? "To communicate their results" is the facile but wrong answer. I know any number of researchers who would be happy to be left alone in their labs to do experiments without having to write those pesky papers. They can't get away with that, though, and that's because they have to prove their worth to their institution and (if they rely on grants) their funders if they wish to remain employed, much less be promoted. In other words, they publish for prestige.

Now, prestige used to be almost entirely subjective. If you were on the tenure track, you went to your mentor or observed your departmental colleagues' publication patterns to sort out where to publish. If you were evaluating a colleague for tenure, you looked down their list and compared it against your mental rankings.

Aside from costing a lot of time and effort to accomplish, this process is messy, as subjectivity tends to be, and messiness in a career-life-or-death tenure situation breeds lawsuits and other such unpleasantness, and who needs that? So along came Thomson/ISI with the "journal impact factor," based on how often a given journal is cited, and researchers all over the world breathed heavy sighs of relief. Here was a number they could use to gauge the importance of a journal, and by extension, the researchers who publish in it.

(The parallels with the role of the FICO score in the US credit bubble are left as an exercise for the reader.)

I cannot overstate the bogosity of the journal impact factor. It is ridiculous, especially as a yardstick for an individual researcher. It should be banned. (Seriously, accreditors, why haven't you told departments that being dumb enough to use it in tenure and promotion decisions counts against them?) But just at present, it has cornered the prestige market. What that means is that the journals it favors (and one important reason the impact factor is bogus is that the way it's calculated is heavily tilted in favor of certain classes of journals, and even certain kinds of articles) have also cornered the prestige market.

How does this affect the money market? Simple. It's extremely hard for a library to cancel a high-impact-factor journal, or get rid of a Big Deal if there's an EBSCO/Time-like exclusive-online-access deal involved on a high-impact-factor journal. The price can go through the roof; libraries' hands are—if not tied, certainly encumbered.

So, the Scholarly Kitchen maintains that the money market in scholarly publishing hasn't been disrupted. What about the prestige market?

Well, one argument in favor of open access is that open-access articles are cited more often than those available only through payment. There are plenty of disputes ongoing about whether and why this may be true, but whatever its truth value (I tend to believe it, based partly on my own experiences), there's no denying that this is an argument aimed directly at the prestige rather than the money market.

Has it been disruptive? … Not so much, really. A few savvy scholars use green open access plus publishing in high-impact-factor journals to raise their personal citation numbers, but only a few. I argued in an article of mine (does this link make me a savvy scholar? perhaps!) that the open-access advantage is counterintuitive to researchers, who want (rather naively) to believe that prestige measures correlate highly to quality rather than to icky questions like money or access.

So much for increased citation impact as a disruptive force. Maybe it should work, but it hasn't.
Smart publishers (both toll- and open-access) and open-access repositories report article download numbers for articles online, because that's another number, and numbers have a hypnotic effect on the psyche. I have heard stories of download counts showing up in tenure portfolios, and I have also heard opposition from health researchers to the NIH Public Access Policy on the grounds that openly-available articles reduce download counts from publishers.

Again, we're firmly in the prestige market here… but notice one difference. Impact factor is a journal-level measure. Downloads are reported by article (or sometimes by author, via elementary addition).

Aha. Could that small change, from journals to articles as the unit of measure, be disruptive to the prestige market? It certainly could. What researcher wouldn't be more interested in his or her own results than in a journal-level proxy? Moreover, some bibliometric investigations have suggested that journal impact factor mostly doesn't derive from the general quality of the published content as a whole, but from a few superstar must-cite articles. Once article-level statistics make that clear, it's a significant blow to the journal impact factor and potentially even to journals as brands.
How does that work? Well, in the current environment many researchers, willingly or forced, chase high-impact journals and journal brands at all costs, ignoring other competitive factors like reach, quality of service, speed of publication, excellence of text artisanry, and so forth. Once the impact factor's back is broken by article-level statistics (should that happy day ever arrive), those other factors return to the playing field. If your vaunted "brand" didn't get my last article read, says Dr. Helen Troia, up-and-coming basketologist, why should I bother submitting my next article to you and waiting a year and a half for it? The New Journal of Basketology has a six-month turnaround!

Has anyone else cottoned on to the potential disruptive force of the article-level measurement? Why, yes, as a matter of fact PLoS has! (Genius move, PLoS, by the way. Kudos.) I can't imagine that BMC and Hindawi and others of the gold-open-access ilk won't follow suit; it's too obvious a competitive advantage. Likewise, nothing's stopping toll-access journals from hopping on the bandwagon—adapting, in Scholarly Kitchen's parlance—save perhaps the fear that the numbers would be ugly by comparison, which for some journals wouldn't surprise me at all.

Toll-access publishers of high-impact-factor toll-access journals then find themselves in a bind. If they don't provide article-level metrics, they've fallen behind the state of the art, and will hemorrhage authors to journals that do. If they do, they dissuade more Helen Troias, and given the current problems of access, they may measure up fairly poorly against open-access competitors, at which point they hemorrhage even more authors, not to mention their prior prestige.

And at some point, I should think, the prestige market feeds into the money market. Subscriptions decline, rent-seekers locking up knowledge from readers looks more and more like a losing proposition… utopia? Well, maybe not, but certainly a much more level playing field for gold open access.

For my own part… I published an article last year in Cataloging and Classification Quarterly. You can find its postprint Open Access (see, there I go again!), but that's not because Taylor and Francis usually allows this; it was a special deal, struck when another of the authors in the issue pointed out that it was downright weird for a themed issue on open access not to, er, allow open access.

The journal has another CFP out. I have an idea I really like for an article written to that theme, right down to a gimmicky title stemming from devouring a lot of Fables graphic novels all at once.
But rather than go through negotiations with Taylor and Francis again—and the last time I had to remind them that they'd decided to allow the SPARC Author's Addendum for that issue—or accept preprint-only OA, I think I'll write the article and send it to D-Lib instead.

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More on serials

Jan 26 2010 Published by under Open Access

It's odd to wake up in the morning to discover that I've earned a new Nerd Merit Badge. I for one welcome our new Boing Boing overlords readers, and I thank the marvelous Jessamyn West for the shout-out.

Now. To clear some things up.

It was pointed out in a lengthy comment to the BoingBoinged post that publishers aren't doing this because they're evil; it's Just Bidness. Well, yes, it is. That doesn't require me to refrain from pointing out that Just Bidness in the monolithic-publisher toll-access serials industry is squeezing libraries, destroying university presses and responsible small journal publishers, and locking up knowledge. I don't have to put up with that quietly, and in fact, I myself am in the open-access business, hoping to make a saner, less destructive scholarly-publishing industry so that we in libraries can get on with our jobs.

It's nothing against publishers. I used to work in scholarly publishing, in fact. It's just business.

It was also pointed out that the comparison of the Time and Forbes empire to scholarly publishing is flawed. Absolutely correct. For mass-market news and entertainment publications, writers and readers are not the same people. A few people write; many people read. For scholarly journals, all writers are also readers and quite a lot of readers are writers. (Students, clinicians, and such of the interested public as can manage to climb the barriers to access are usually not research-article writers.) This means that if researchers-as-readers get upset about lack of access, they have power besides market power to rectify the situation: they have their writing, peer-reviewing, and editing labor, which they can withhold.

Thus far, they've mostly been unwilling to use that power. (There are exceptions.) The dominant (though certainly not the only) reason for this unwillingness is the power that influential journals wield over tenure and promotion decisions in academia (which is a long and painful story I won't go into just now).

A wise comment to the Boing Boing post asked about consortia and buying power, remarking that library consortia seemed small and (vis-a-vis market muscle) ineffectual. Well, size and bargaining skill vary, but in the main, the commenter is correct. Libraries, individual and collective, have mostly not used their market power to ameliorate the serials crisis. I'll try to explain why not from my academic librarian's perspective, remarking before I begin that I don't necessarily approve of all these reasons—this post is not a library apologia!—but they're accurate to the best of my understanding.

One reason is that the focus of any good academic library has traditionally been serving the needs of its local population. This inward focus is great for building sensible, well-tailored collections. It tends to obstruct collective action, however. Academic libraries don't think of themselves as a collective; each one thinks of itself as an arm of its parent institution. So outside of some high-flying "memory organization" rhetoric, academic librarians just don't think about the impact of their individual collection decisions on the general scholarly-communication scene.

On my first library-job hunt, I heard "The Big Deal has been very good to us. We can give our faculty much more material than we ever could before," from a library director at a place I was interviewing. Aside from being somewhat short-sighted—I wonder what that library director is thinking now, five short years and at least one renewal cycle later!—it completely shrugs off the damage that the Big Deal has caused in the rest of the system. That, I am sorry to say, is fairly typical librarian thinking.

Another reason is that academic libraries collaborate uneasily and compete fiercely, especially at the research-intensive institutions. Consortia don't exist because libraries like them. Consortia don't exist because libraries want to speak with a powerful uniform voice. Consortia exist only because libraries couldn't function without them. Again, this is a barrier to collective action.

A third reason is that faculty raise holy hell with their librarians when their favorite journal is cancelled. They don't care why. Unlike librarians, they are for the most part completely ignorant of how money sloshes around in the system; practically nobody teaches that in grad school. Like librarians, they also tend to ignore their role in the system, as well as their power to change it, and (I can say from much sad experience) they resist any and all attempts at education. They just want what they want when they want it. You can imagine the power relations there, I'm sure; I'll just say that hell hath no fury like a faculty member who thinks he's been scorned by a mere librarian. "The library is using its market power to punish bad actors and lead eventually to a more equitable and affordable system of scholarly communication" goes over like a lead balloon.

Finally, there's the problem of choked-off information flow in this market. Non-disclosure clauses come standard with journal agreements these days. Libraries often cannot legally tell each other what they're paying for a given journal, package, or database. Of course that's fertile ground for price-gouging. There have been some nudges to this system recently, in the form of public-records requests with which the libraries in question gleefully complied, but the problem remains.

By the way, there was one very interesting exception to the "libraries have just sat there and taken it" rule. In 2003, Cornell University's libraries started a small insurrection against the Big Deal generally and Elsevier specifically, which was followed up by several of Cornell's peer libraries. I was mightily encouraged by this! … But no further market-level actions happened. Saddening.

And there the situation rests churns uneasily, teetering on the edge of breaking down altogether.

By way of epilogue, I'll mention that being BoingBoinged closes a curious circle for me. About a decade ago, when I was a mere conversion peasant, I turned a couple of Cory Doctorow's books from ASCII into HTML so that he could freely distribute them that way (as well as in the then-crop of HTML-based ebook readers). I actually met Cory last year at the Access 2009 conference, and to my considerable surprise and delight, he recognized my name immediately and remembered what I'd done.

Cory is a Good Egg and on the side of the angels. So is Jessamyn. And I'm honored and grateful for the link!

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What do you people do all day, anyway?

Jan 25 2010 Published by under Praxis

I don't hear as much curiosity from the research community as I'd like to about what a librarian knows and does, but I do hear some.

For that some, I suggest poking through the fourth annual iteration of Librarian Day in the Life. A wide variety of librarians blog, tweet, photograph, and vid about what their day is like.

Don't just pay attention to the research-related ones, either. The more people who understand in their bones what public librarians, school librarians, and special librarians add to the communities they serve, the better off everyone is, librarian and community alike.

So go on, find out what we do all day! Hint: It ain't reading books. Or shelving them.

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Tidbits, 22 January 2010

Jan 22 2010 Published by under Tidbits

Because I scanted you on tidbits for quite some time, have a second tidbits post in a single week!

Finally, I want to call out the excellent Data Dimensions: Disciplinary Differences report from Key Perspectives. "Data management differs by discipline" is a skeletal truism; Key Perspectives puts some meat on the bones.

It also contains throwaway gems like "It is worth noting that researchers expected their own institutions to be able to provide affordable managed storage, technical support and a preservation facility – but few institutions appear to be able to offer such services at this point." (p. 10)

Incidentally, authors, this institutional-repository administrator's answer to the question "Will institutional repository administrators in a university setting be willing or able to comprehend the details of data formats and metadata schemas across a whole range of disciplines?" (p. 3) is an emphatic "You bet! Bring it on!" Metadata is my business. I'm less bad at it than you might think.

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Science Online 2010: thoughts for librarians

Jan 21 2010 Published by under Tactics

Again in no particular order, some thoughts and ideas that came to mind during Science Online 2010:

  • I did quite a bit of library advocacy during the conference, and not just during the session dedicated to it! I noticed that I had the best luck when I could define a library service in terms of outcomes that would be useful to the person I was talking to. Not "IRs are great! Open access now!" but "if your interns deposit their presentations into the IR, your program will build institutional memory, and the interns themselves will build identities as researchers." Seems obvious enough, but the sticking point (at least in a sprawling research library) is that every librarian who deals with patrons would need to understand every service the library offers, to be able to offer the right service at the right psychological moment. I don't think that's often the case, honestly; I certainly wouldn't claim that much knowledge.
  • I become more and more convinced that if research libraries don't rescue the bits of the internet we're interested in, nobody else will. I love Open Notebook Science, but it also scares me to death. How will I rescue a lashed-up mashup of in-browser apps?
  • "If it's not online and immediately available, I won't read it." The sequel to that sentence was (my paraphrase) "I don't mess with ILL. Takes too long, and those forms…" The first library that makes a bookmarklet that automagically sends the current web page being browsed to ILL along with the user's identification information wins.
  • If "library as place" is on the decline—and among working scientists it surely seems to be—how far could libraries go with "the world is my library"?
  • Peter Binford of PLoS suggested that as article-level metrics catch on, there is a market opportunity available in aggregating usage statistics from the various places an article might be found, from journal websites to databases to repositories, and presenting those metrics usefully to authors (and, one presumes, their tenure and promotion committees). My question to libraries: why should we let the next Thomson walk away with this (and mess it up as badly as they've messed up the impact factor)? Let's do it ourselves! It's a natural outgrowth of the faculty-bibliography efforts we're engaged in.

For what they're worth…

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Scientists: why your access to the literature is about to get worse, and what you can do about it

Jan 20 2010 Published by under Open Access

Making headlines in libraryland is EBSCO's announcement of exclusive access to several popular periodicals in electronic form. (See also this reaction, which includes a partial list of the publications that will be exclusive to EBSCO.)

Essentially, libraries who want their patrons to be able to access Time, New Scientist, and other such publications will have two choices: buy an EBSCO database subscription, or buy the publications in print. If print is undesirable, EBSCO is the only choice.

It doesn't take a Nobel-level economist to guess what this monopoly on popular content will do to EBSCO's database pricing. In libraries, we don't have to bother guessing: we have been living this problematic process for decades. We call it the "Big Deal," a phrase coined by University of Wisconsin-Madison General Library System director Ken Frazier in this much-cited D-Lib article from 2003.

The process is simple: buy up popular journals (or arrange exclusive access to their online contents, as EBSCO has done), bundle them with less-popular journals, then sell the whole for much more than you could get if you sold all of them, good journals and bad, separately. (The situation is much more complicated than that, but I'll spare you further details. Ask a librarian if you want the whole story!)

Here's the kicker. Libraries are out of money to spend on these deals. Seriously, there is no more. We have banded into consortia to improve our buying power. We have cancelled lesser-used unbundled journals by the hundreds. We have plundered monograph budgets (and destroyed many university presses in the process, to our earnest dismay). We have pleaded for better funding. We have substituted document delivery and interlibrary loan, neither of which is free, but both of which improve access. The well is bone-dry… yet the prices keep going up.

The situation has been bad for a long time, honestly. In my judgment, it's about to get considerably worse, economic pressures being what they are. However many journals you currently have access to, you can expect to have access to many fewer in the next one to three years. I'm not close enough to serials purchasing to guess percentages; comments are open to librarians with better-educated guesses than mine.

"If I can't get it right away online, I don't read it," said a chemist at Science Online 2010. (Names omitted to protect the guilty!) Expect "right away online" to become "in a day or three" or even "not at all" much more often. Likewise, expect the number of your disciplinary colleagues who read your published work to decline, possibly precipitously depending on your publishing and archiving decisions.

Not a pretty picture, is it? Here's what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Talk to your librarian now, not later. If you need to protect access to a particular journal, the time to talk to the bibliographer/selector/liaison/serials librarian responsible for decision-making in your area is now. After a journal is cancelled is too late.
  • Self-archive. You need those citations, especially as article-level metrics begin to thrive, and some citations come from people for whom if it's not online and immediately available, it doesn't exist.
  • Choose, use, and evangelize open-access journals. If you're going to wind up limited substantially to what you can find freely online, isn't it to your advantage to increase the amount of material available freely online?
  • Support open-access policies where they're in play. Whether at your institution, in your scholarly society, or nationally, open-access policies are springing up like weeds. Support them. Vocally. If they're not happening where you are, you can start the ball rolling!
  • Be aware of what's going on where you publish, and where your scholarly societies are positioning themselves. A librarian can help you with this, saving you research time.

Researchers could, if they chose, control the system that disseminates their findings. They have not thus far chosen to do so. As a librarian, I want to see that change, not least because I think change is necessary for the continued progress of science.

Too many barriers. Too much money. Too little change!

16 responses so far

Tidbits, 20 January 2010

Jan 20 2010 Published by under Tidbits

I'm a bit late with these! Sorry about that. Bit busy around me just now.

As always, you can email me or tag something "trogool" on to bring it to my attention for a tidbits post.

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Science Online 2010: Lessons for IRs and data curators

Jan 17 2010 Published by under Open Access, Praxis

One way and another, I heard quite a lot of talk at Science Online 2010 relevant to the interests of institutional-repository managers and (both would-be and actual) data curators. Some of the lessons learned weren't exactly pleasant, but there's just no substitute for listening to your non-users to find out why they're not taking advantage of what you offer.
In no particular order, here is what I took away:

  • The take-a-file-give-a-file content model for IRs is much too limited and limiting. Real live scientists are mashing up all sorts of things as they do their work; one wiki-based lab notebook demoed during the Open Notebook Science session contained LaTeX markup, embedded video, embedded images, and an embedded Google Docs spreadsheet. DSpace is utterly helpless faced with this situation. So is Fedora. I suspect EPrints doesn't fare much better, though I could be wrong. Yet science is done this way (among other ways, of course). We have to learn how to collect the results if we are serious about the preservation of the scholarly record.
  • The butterfly-pinned-to-wall content model for IRs is much too limited and limiting. Science isn't a bas-relief figure on a frieze. It's active. It's changing. It's alive! Rooted in the idea of the fixed, unchanging scholarly article, the IR does not respect the way science is done. This vitiates the IR's usefulness to science.
  • Content will not come to IRs; therefore, IRs must be prepared to go and get it. Cameron Neylon and I chatted a bit about potential interactions between IRs and (for example) SlideShare. How can Cameron upload a slidedeck to SlideShare and have SlideShare pass it invisibly to his IR? Multiply that by a great many services, on-campus and off-, and you begin to see the scope of the challenge. Honestly, it's not a new problem; it's an offshoot of the same old "scientists won't come to libraries; libraries must go to scientists" problem. It needs solving, though, and the sooner the better.
  • Restrictive content policies for IRs are counterproductive. The more restrictive, the more counterproductive. A scientist in my session on libraries told me that his IR had rejected diverse materials of his because they weren't peer-reviewed journal articles. How many peer-reviewed journal articles has he submitted to that recalcitrant IR? None, of course. How many does he plan to submit? None, of course. If you smack down someone who approaches you, they'll stop approaching you. Obvious, not so? We must therefore ignore the hardheaded individuals who refuse to participate in IRs because they aren't sure of the quality of the content. Honestly, they probably wouldn't participate anyway. On balance, IRs will do better—certainly win more adherents and supporters—the more open they are to many sorts of content.
  • As research moves OA, particularly toward gold OA, the IR future is in locally-produced gray literature. To some extent this is a corollary of the previous lesson, but I feel it strongly because it squares with my nearly five years of experience running IRs. The California experiment merging IRs with publishing services is all well and good, but there are plenty of ways to do publishing, and none of them really need IRs. Theses and dissertations need IRs. Working papers and technical reports need IRs. Conference proceedings need IRs. Posters and slidedecks need IRs. Student research needs IRs. Campus history needs IRs. (Grateful hat tip to Bonnie Swoger of SUNY Geneseo and Molly Keener of Wake Forest, who helped me think and talk this through.)
  • Pay attention to access statistics, and the combinations of statistics from various sources. I particularly enjoyed Peter Binfield's demo of PLoS's new article-level metrics. I believe that this level of granularity of measurement is the future; it will inevitably displace the (feared and loathed) journal impact factor for the simple reason that scientists are (necessarily) egotists, so why would they settle for journal-level metrics when they can evaluate the fate of their very own published corpus? For institutional repositories, the lessons are that statistics are not optional (which we've known for a while, I think) and that an API to statistics on a per-article and per-author level will soon become a requirement as well.
  • Dividing user-facing interfaces from back-end datastores is a necessity. The IR-as-silo phenomenon is perfectly useless from a scientist's point of view. Contrariwise, librarians (self included) are appalled at the cavalier way scientists entrust their digital work to random online services with no guarantees of persistence or clear exit strategies. The way to meet in the middle is for libraries and IT to provide the rock-solid, well-curated back-end storage solutions atop which individual labs (among others) can then build or graft the researcher-facing services they need. Islandora is a fine example of this approach.
  • Enterprise-level storage provided by campus IT is vastly too expensive. I heard this many times, and it squares with my own experience as well. If we want scientists to move away from the poorly-managed, un-backed-up, under-the-desk Linux server (and oh, boy, do we!), we have to offer alternatives within their means.
  • The maverick IR manager does not scale. A successful IR needs the entire library, particularly its collection developers, to own it. Rather to my surprise, it seems quite possible that IRs will shortly find that instead of the enormous effort they've had to expend to attract a mere trickle of content, they will be expected to deal with tremendous floods of it. Particularly if they are expected to go out, find, massage into shape, and deposit these materials on behalf of faculty, assigning one person to do this for the entire campus (or worse, consortium of campuses) makes the desired result a manifest impossibility. Collection developers, bibliographers, liaisons, this is to your address! What are your departments producing locally that the IR ought to have? How are you going to make sure it gets there?

There's more to say about several of these points, but isn't this enough of an infodump for the time being?

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