Archive for: October, 2010

Open Access Week: Principles for Open Bibliographic Data

It's Open Access Week this week and as part of the celebrations I thought I highlight a recent declaration by the Open Bibliographic Working Group on the Principles for Open Bibliographic Data. It's an incredible idea, one that I support completely -- the aim is to make bibliographic data open, reusable and remixable. Creating a bibliographic data commons would lead to many opportunities to create search and discovery tools that would be of great benefit to scholarship, education, research and development.

I won't try and explain the details of the declaration since it's released under a CC-BY license and I can therefore just reproduce it right here for all to see. I'll do that below.

Before I do that, I'll respond to the group's call for feedback. One thing that struck me right away is that it would be great if a project like that could make a mention of the utility of authors making subject bibliographies open as well. I'm thinking here of the kinds of things that you would normally see at the backs of books or review articles.

David Weinberger is a good example. He's looking for a bibliography commons to hold the reading list for his current book project, Too Big to Know.

Ideally, I'd like a site that is an open commons, maintained by an institution that has some legs. It should present my biblio in standard readable and re-citable forms, but should also treat it as data in a database so that it can be refactored. I'd love for it to have LibraryThing's social functionality. And in a perfect world, it'd let me enter just some key data, look it up, and fill in the rest in perfectly formatted form. (Again, LibraryThing does cool stuff in this area, for books.)

A recent example of a book I read with a very interesting and useful bibliography is the novel Swastika by Michael Slade. It had a list of some great resources on Nazi secret weapon programs, a topic I'm interested in professional because of my role as history of science collections development librarian for my library. York also has a course on Science, Technology and Modern Warfare.

Virtually any history book is going to be a great example of this and, of course, many other kinds of books as well, both academic and non-. Whenever I read a book I pay close attention to the bibliography and often use it as a collection development tool. A couple of relatively recent examples of this are the history of spaceflight Countdown and the Isaacson Einstein biography. In both cases, I used the bibliographies to improve our collections in these areas. The Swastika one I'll be looking at pretty soon as well.

As such, I think there would be a lot of value in more explicitly encouraging authors (and others with such subject-based bibliographies) to make their bibliographies for such books openly available; lots of time and effort goes into their creation, distinct in many ways from the value in the book itself. I can imagine people using sites such as LibraryThing, GoodReads and especially Zotero or Mendeley as homes for such things.ots of work go into these and it would be nice if a corner of a project like this could be made available.


Principles for Open Bibliographic Data

For some time now the OKFN Working Group on Open Bibliographic Data has been working on Principles on Open Bibliographic Data. While first attempts were mainly directed towards libraries and other public institutions we decided to broaden the principle's scope by amalgamating it with Peter Murray-Rust's draft publisher guidelines. The results can be seen below. We ask anyone to review these principles, discuss the text and suggest improvements.

Principles on Open Bibliographic Data

Producers of bibliographic data such as libraries, publishers, or social reference management communities have an important role in supporting the advance of humanity's knowledge. For society to reap the full benefits from bibliographic endeavours, it is imperative that bibliographic data be made openly available for free use and re-use by anyone for any purpose.

Bibliographic Data

In its narrowest sense the term 'bibliographic data' refers to data describing bibliographic resources (articles, monographs, electronic texts etc.) to fulfill two goals:

  • Identifying the described resource, i.e. pointing to a unique resource in the set of all bibliographic resources.
  • Addressing the described resource, i.e. indicating how/where to find the described resource.

Traditionally one description served both purposes at once by delivering information about:

  • author(s) (possibly including addresses and other contact details) and editor(s),
  • title,
  • publisher,
  • publication year, month and place,
  • title and identification of enclosing work (e.g. a journal),
  • page information,
  • format of work.

In the web environment the address can be a URL and the identification a URI (URN, DOI etc.). Identifiers thus fall under this narrow concept of 'bibliographic data'.

Furthermore there is several other information about a bibliographic resource which in this document falls under the concept of bibliographic data. This data might be produced by libraries as well as publishers or online communities of book lovers and social reference management systems:

  • Identifiers (ISBN, LCCN, OCLC number etc.)
  • rights associated with work
  • sponsorship (e.g. funding)
  • tags,
  • exemplar data (number of holdings, call number)
  • metametadata (administrative metadata (last modified etc.) probably often created automatically).
  • relevant links to wikipedia, google books, amazon etc.
  • cover images (self-scanned or from amazon)
  • table of content
  • links to digitizations of tables of content, registers, bibliographies etc.

Libraries as well produce authority files like:

  • name authority files,
  • subject authority files,
  • classifications.

We assert that the information associated with an individual work is in the public domain. It follows that an individual bibliographic entry derived from the work itself is free of restrictive rights as are authority records. This holds true as well for individual authority records. There might only be rights on aggregations of bibliographic and authority data.

Formally, we recommend adopting and acting on the following principles:

  1. Where bibliographic data or collections of bibliographic data are published it is critical that they be published with a clear and explicit statement of the wishes and expectations of the publishers with respect to re-use and re-purposing of individual bibliographic entries/elements, the whole data collection, and subsets of the collection. This statement should be precise, irrevocable, and based on an appropriate and recognized legal statement in the form of a waiver or license. When publishing data make an explicit and robust license statement.

  2. Many widely recognized licenses are not intended for, and are not appropriate for, metadata or collections of metadata. A variety of waivers and licenses that are designed for and appropriate for the treatment of are described here. Creative Commons licenses (apart from CC0), GFDL, GPL, BSD, etc. are NOT appropriate for data and their use is STRONGLY discouraged. Use a recognized waiver or license that is appropriate for metadata.</strong>
  3. The use of licenses which limit commercial re-use or limit the production of derivative works by excluding use for particular purposes or by specific persons or organizations is STRONGLY discouraged. These licenses make it impossible to effectively integrate and re-purpose datasets and prevent commercial activities that could be used to support data preservation. If you want your data to be effectively used and added to by others it should be open as defined by the Open Knowledge/Data Definition - in particular non-commercial and other restrictive clauses should not be used.
  4. Furthermore, it is STRONGLY recommended that bibliographic data, especially where publicly funded, be explicitly placed in the public domain via the use of the Public Domain Dedication and Licence or Creative Commons Zero Waiver. This is in keeping with the public funding of most library institutions and the general ethos of sharing and re-use within the library community. We strongly recommend explicitly placing bibliographic data in the Public Domain via PDDL or CC0.

  5. While we appreciate that certain types of bibliographic metadata do require some extra work in their creation we strongly assert that making these open has major benefits not only to the community as a whole but also to the creator (author, publisher, library, etc.). Benefits include enhanced discoverability widening the potential usage of a work and "save-the-time-of-the-reader". These types include:
    • abstracts (whether generated by author, publisher, library or machine)
    • keywords, subject headings and classification notations (whether generated by author, publisher, library or machine)
    • reviews (either human or machine-generated)

    As a fifth principle we strongly urge that creators of bibliographic metadata explicitly either dedicate this to the public domain or use an open license.

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Friday Fun: The Future of Books According to Science Fiction

Oct 15 2010 Published by under ebooks, education, friday fun

A really interesting article on from this past August by Ryan Britt, A Fondness for Antiques: The Future of Books According to Science Fiction.

In the past few years, media pundits and tech experts have been abuzz with variations on the question: "what is the future of the book?" Luckily, science fiction has been around a whole lot longer than Amazon, Apple, and Google, and as such, might be able to teach us a thing or two about the future of the printed word.

It's a really terrific look at some futurism from the past -- the old "Where's my rocket pack and flying car!" but this time applied to the world of books. Normally, this is the kind of topic I'd address in a serious post rather than a Friday Fun, but really, reading the article I don't see that I have too much to add to the points and that Britt makes.

One point that seems particularly relevant comes from my favourite Star Trek movie:

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock famously gives Kirk A Tale of Two Cities as a birthday gift. "I know of your fondness for antiques," Spock says, heavily implying printed books are like big collector's items in the 23rd century. Prior to this, the 60s Trek crew primarily accessed literature on multi-colored Heinlein-esque record tapes. It is from one of these, that Gary Mitchell quotes "Nightingale Woman," a poem written by an alien, implying poetry is being read and "published" in some form or another in the future and on various planets. This idea of a highly literate future is bolstered by the fact that everyone from Kirk to Doctor Crusher seems to know their Shakespeare.

I actually find that quote to be really inspirational. The future of the book isn't about nostalgia or pining for a lost utopia. At the same time, it's not about disrespecting the past or ignoring the traditions and technologies that have gotten us to where we are today. It's about moving forward, finding what works for real people in a real future.

BTW, in checking out the article you'll see that science fiction has more of less anticipated everything that's going on today from the iPad to Wikipedia!

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Blogging groups and ethics

Oct 15 2010 Published by under academia, blogging, culture of science, social media

The latest Cites & Insights (v10i11) is out and in it Walt Crawford explores some of the recent developments in the blogging landscape in a section called The Zeitgeist: Blogging Groups and Ethics. It's a very good overview and analysis of what's going on both in the science and librarian blogospheres.

It's well worth checking out. Some highlights:

Blogging Groups and Ethics

Do you blame Roy Tennant when the Annoyed Librarian writes posts that undermine librarianship and libraries?

I'm guessing you don't. Whoever the Library Journal incarnation of the Annoyed Librarian might or might not be, I'm certain Roy isn't part of it. But his blog is part of the same group--the group of paid blogs on the LJ website. Does that result in guilt by association?

The ScienceBlogs Flap

A three-day wonder? Not so much. I didn't pick up on it until mid-July, and the consequences of that briefly present ad/blog continue through this writing, at least indirectly. A few items:

  • Some SB bloggers left or threatened to leave, making their reasons very clear. It appears that more than a quarter of the Sciblings departed within a day or two, including some of the highest profiles. Many have now joined new science blog groups, one of them--Scientopia--formed as a collective of science bloggers, many if not most of them bloggers who left SB. You'll find a good set of early links on departures and changes at and an interesting piece of inside-baseball humor at
  • Dorothea Salo founded a new blog, The Book of Trogool, on SB during the brief period I was there--and wrote "Small fry, blogging networks, and reputation" on July 8, 2010 at that blog. At the time, she and her cobloggers hadn't made a decision--but eventually they did. She has much to say about blogging within librarianship--and it's sobering, if not directly related to this flap:

    [L]ibrarianship is a very difficult profession to blog in. It doesn't like blogs or bloggers, or social media generally, much less trust them or those who engage with each other and the world using them. Because libraries and librarians feel beleaguered, they especially don't like discourse critical of libraries or librarianship in social media coming from one of their own. Library vendors aren't fond of critical discourse in librarian blogs either. For individual librarian bloggers or public social-media figures, this has absolutely meant trouble at work. I'm one example, but very far from the only one--and I earned my problems more than most folks I know in similar straits.

    This leaves the beleaguered library blogger who wishes to continue to blog with a few options. One is to be part of a group blog to create strength in numbers; In the Library with the Lead Pipe is a sterling example (and a fabulous blog; if you're interested in libraries from the inside, this is not one to miss). Another is to adopt some of the trappings of the formal library professional literature, such as length, exclusivity, and beta-reading-oops-I-meant-peer-review. ItLwtLP does this as well. A third option is to find a blog home with enough accumulated strength of character and good reputation as to afford some protection--and now you know why I chose ScienceBlogs.

    Should Liblogs Have Groups?

    Would a liblog group make sense? How would it work? What advantages would better-known and lesser-known liblogs see in a group? How would it be administered? What would make it worthwhile--for bloggers and for readers?

    I don't have answers. Maybe there aren't any. Apparently lots of readers had the ScienceBlogs "last 24 hours" page as a home page of sorts, going there to see what's new in science blogging. When I want to see what's new in liblogs, I bring up Google Reader (I much preferred Bloglines, but that's gone away), usually finding 40 to 80 posts over the last 24 hours--from a range of some 500 blogs. Would I switch to a group page? Would you?

    Awards and Lists

    Some of us who appear on these lists believe that the lists primarily exist so that we'll link back to them, thus bringing lots more people to these sites touting for-profit colleges. I've never provided that link love but many have, and quite a few who aren't on the lists seem to think the lists are meaningful and link to the posts.

    Is this an ethical issue? I'm not sure. I've seen enough dead and nearly-dead blogs on some lists to suspect they're not the result of painstaking current evaluation and research (and, frankly, I'm unwilling to buy that some of those on the April 2009 list could be part of The top 50 liblogs, if such a beast existed). I regard it as a form of linkspamming; others clearly do not.


    I like the idea of "Library Blog Huzzahs." I'm generally unhappy with "The Top X Blogs" lists on for-profit educational affiliate blogs. I don't believe there's any way to avoid rankings and grades: that's the way the world works, and I've done my part. But my liblog studies specifically point out blogs that stand out in one particular metric; there isn't, and shouldn't be, any sense of "these are the best blogs" or "these are the most important blogs." Indeed, one metric that I've carefully avoided listing blogs for is Google Page Rank (I say how many liblogs have high values, but not which blogs those are), and that avoidance will continue.

    Blogging Ethics and Considerations

    Should you think about ethical considerations for your blog? Probably, at least once in a while. Should you state those considerations? Couldn't hurt--as long as you're telling the truth. Should you pledge to follow somebody else's set of ethics--and display a badge or ribbon or something to indicate that pledge? That's a different issue entirely, one that comes up from time to time and always makes me uneasy.


    Did I mention mommyblogs? Meredith Farkas wrote "This is not my blogosphere" on November 22, 2009 at Information Wants To Be Free discussing these blogs and the extent to which they're being corrupted by compensated reviews, that is, bloggers being paid (by a company) to try out a product and write about it. When she read a post with a disclaimer about being a "compensated" review ("paid" is such a harsh word), she was stunned to find that comments weren't from people horrified by the practice--they were people wanting their own freebies and compensation.

    Is Blogging Journalism?

    Just to make questions of formal blog guidelines more complicated, consider that question. Is it? Some bloggers claim it is--and if it is, shouldn't they be expected to follow at least as rigorous ethical codes as professional journalists?

    Eric Schnell asks "Do conference bloggers and tweeters need to follow media rules?" in a June 4, 2009 post at The Medium is the Message. He notes a report from ScienceInsider that Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is amending its policy for meetings to require that scientists who are bloggers follow the same rules as reporters--which, among other things, requires that they get a presenter's OK beforehand if they plan to blog or twitter about a presentation. Schnell quotes a scientist-blogger, Andrew Maynard, on his own considerations and thoughts on the issue. Maynard doesn't believe that bloggers and Twitterers are generally acting as journalists--but does suggest reasonable guidelines for when it is and isn't OK to tweet or blog. It's a complicated issue, particularly given conference presentations that discuss unpublished research results: Is it inappropriate for a blogger to write about such results, but legitimate for the researcher or their institution to issue premature press releases?

And much, much more. Go on over and read the whole thing -- it's a very worthwhile snapshot of the current environment.

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Around the Web: Science education, mobile library apps, iPad reference management and more

Oct 12 2010 Published by under around the web

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Friday Fun: Historians Admit To Inventing Ancient Greeks

Oct 08 2010 Published by under friday fun, history

Ah, The Onion. I haven't used them in a while for my Friday Fun and it was feeling like it was way overdue.

As usual, classic stuff: Historians Admit To Inventing Ancient Greeks:

A group of leading historians held a press conference Monday at the National Geographic Society to announce they had "entirely fabricated" ancient Greece, a culture long thought to be the intellectual basis of Western civilization.

The group acknowledged that the idea of a sophisticated, flourishing society existing in Greece more than two millennia ago was a complete fiction created by a team of some two dozen historians, anthropologists, and classicists who worked nonstop between 1971 and 1974 to forge "Greek" documents and artifacts."

And lest people think that this frivolous article has no bearing on the weighty issues of the day in terms of scholarly communications...

"Honestly, we never meant for things to go this far," said Professor Gene Haddlebury, who has offered to resign his position as chair of Hellenic Studies at Georgetown University. "We were young and trying to advance our careers, so we just started making things up: Homer, Aristotle, Socrates, Hippocrates, the lever and fulcrum, rhetoric, ethics, all the different kinds of columns--everything."

See! They were driven to perpetrate the greatest hoax of our times by research metrics!

And there's even science-y content too:

"Geometry? That was all Kevin," said Haddlebury, referring to former graduate student Kevin Davenport. "Man, that kid was on fire in those days. They teach Davenportian geometry in high schools now, though of course they call it Euclidean."

(As a counterpoint to this article, check out this slightly older Onion piece: Archaeologists Unearth Lousiest Civilization Ever.)

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Reading Diary: The Walking Dead, volumes 1-12 by Robert Kirkman

Oct 06 2010 Published by under book review, reading diary

This graphic novel series is simply amazing. It's some of the best graphic pure storytelling I've come across in a very long time -- I just can't recommend it enough. The story is perfectly paced: slow when it needs to be but mostly taut and exciting, pulling you from episode to episode like a freight train. The art is short on comics rockstar fireworks but is serviceable and supports the story completely.

So, what's it about?

Zombie apocalypse.

The series follows one man, a cop, who wakes up from a coma and finds himself in a world full of zombies. A world with very few survivors. He searches for his family, tries to survive, forges alliances, takes risks, does some really bad things and somehow manages.

The coolest thing about this series is that it tries to be as realistic as possible. If there was a zombie apocalypse, this is probably how it would really go down. There's very little of the typical comics/Hollywood crazy heroics or lame, improbably plot points -- only death, despair and limping, strained, difficult survival. Lots of death. Surprising, shocking, out of the blue. Characters who you were sure would survive. Dead. Again, just like it would really happen. People don't survive disasters just because they indulge in the most amusing snappy patter of the group.

Some of the volumes are like the calm before the storm and others are like all hell breaking loose. Like the way being a soldier is supposed to be, short bursts of shear terror interspersed by periods of fearful and expectant anxiety. And of course, being a comic book series that needs to be both exciting and suspenseful, even at the most anxious, you never have to wait long between bursts of terror. The boring bits are left out of the telling of the tale.

I read these 12 collected volumes over the course of a couple of weeks and that was really the best way to read them, as one long story. You really get the full sweep of the tale, both as a post apocalyptic epic and as an intensely personal tale of sorrow and pain.

Who would I recommend this too?

Any library for an institute of higher education that makes any attempt to collect graphic story-telling really needs this series in it's collection. As for public libraries, this series might be a bit too intense for a kids section but adults and young adults that are into graphic novels will really enjoy it and should be considered. For school libraries, it's hard to imagine collecting this for kids below the high school level and even then it might be hard to justify to skittish parents or administrators. Although, of course, high school and middle school kids will just love this series -- they'll probably have to get it on their own.

I also want to mention that it was my two sons who really got me into this series. For a couple of years we'd been getting them collections for birthdays, etc, and they'd always been telling me how good it was and that I should give it a try. I'd certainly meant to read it all along, but somehow didn't want to start a long series from the beginning. Eventually this past summer, I did relent and pretty well immediately bought the last few collections so I could read them. This, of course, made us all happy.

The Walking Dead series is being adapted for TV by AMC. The first episode is this coming Halloween. I can't wait.

Kirkman, Robert, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.The walking dead. Orange, CA: Image, 2004-2010.

  1. Days Gone Bye
  2. Miles Behind Us
  3. Safety Behind Bars
  4. The Heart's Desire
  5. The Best Defense
  6. This Sorrowful Life
  7. The Calm Before
  8. Made to Suffer
  9. Here We Remain
  10. What We Become
  11. Fear The Hunters
  12. Life Among Them
  13. Too Far Gone (forthcoming)

(Yeah, I know. I'm still a bit blocked as far as even vaguely substantial or library/future-related posts are concerned. Bear with me.)

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Around the Web: Innovation, Open textbooks, Suber on self-archiving and more

Oct 06 2010 Published by under around the web

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From the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

This year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing took place this past week in Atlanta, GA.

I thought I'd gather together some small part of the blog posts I've been seeing floating around the Internets on this wonderful event.

Most of the blogs I link to have made multiple posts about the GHC -- poke around and check those out too.

The conference is on Twitter here and this year's hashtag is #ghc10 and the conference blog aggregation page is here.

It's definitely a conference I'd love to get to one of these days!

If I've missed any good posts, please leave the links in the comments.

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Around the Web: Publishing data, personal librarians, student research habits and more

Oct 04 2010 Published by under around the web

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Friday Fun: Whale snot, slime mold and #$%^&*!@#!!!!

Oct 01 2010 Published by under culture of science, friday fun

You can always tell it's Nobel season -- because that's when the Ig Nobel prizes are announced!

The 2010 laureates have been announced. Here are some "highlights:"

ENGINEERING PRIZE: Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico, for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.

REFERENCE: "A Novel Non-Invasive Tool for Disease Surveillance of Free-Ranging Whales and Its Relevance to Conservation Programs," Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse, Agnes Rocha-Gosselin and Diane Gendron, Animal Conservation, vol. 13, no. 2, April 2010, pp. 217-25.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse, Agnes Rocha-Gosselin, Diane Gendron

TRANSPORTATION PLANNING PRIZE: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi of Japan, and Dan Bebber, Mark Fricker of the UK, for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks.

REFERENCE: "Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design," Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Dan P. Bebber, Mark D. Fricker, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi, Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Science, Vol. 327. no. 5964, January 22, 2010, pp. 439-42.
[NOTE: THE FOLLOWING ARE CO-WINNERS BOTH THIS YEAR AND IN 2008 when they were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for demonstrating that slime molds can solve puzzles: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero]

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Kentaro Ito, Atsushi Tero, Mark Fricker, Dan Bebber

PEACE PRIZE: Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK, for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.

REFERENCE: "Swearing as a Response to Pain," Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston, Neuroreport, vol. 20 , no. 12, 2009, pp. 1056-60.


BIOLOGY PRIZE: Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, and Shuyi Zhang of China, and Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol, UK, for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats.

REFERENCE: "Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time," Min Tan, Gareth Jones, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, Shuyi Zhang and Libiao Zhang, PLoS ONE, vol. 4, no. 10, e7595.


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