Archive for: May, 2012

Welcome to Information Culture, the latest blog at Scientific Amerincan

I'd like to extend a huge science librarian blogosphere welcome to Information Culture, the newest blog over at Scientific American Blogs!

This past Sunday evening I got a cryptic DM from a certain Bora Zivkovic letting me know that I should watch the SciAm blog site first thing Monday morning. I was busy that morning but as soon as I got our of my meeting I rushed to Twitter and the Internet and lo! and behold!

Information Culture: Thoughts and analysis related to science information, data, publication and culture.

I'm always happy to see librarians invading faculty and researcher blogs networks and this is no exception.

What's even happier is that one of the bloggers at the new site is Bonnie Swoger, long-time blogger at Undergraduate Science Librarian. Bonnie is a super blogger and a terrific colleague who I'm always glad to see at Science Online. I'm sort of wondering what's taken so long for a blogging network to snap her up and I guess it's not surprising that Bora's the one to finally get it done.

Joining Bonnie is an equally wonderful but new-to-me blogger, Hadas Shema. Hadas is an Info Sci grad student at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and formerly blogged at Science blogging in theory and practice.

Here's what Bora has to say in his Introductory post: Welcome Information Culture - the newest blog at #SciAmBlogs

How to do an efficient search? How can a librarian help you find obscure references? What is this "Open Access" thing all about? Why is there a gender gap among Wikipedia editors? How do science bloggers link to each other? Can tweeting a link to a paper predict its future citations? How to track down an un-linked paper mentioned in a media article? What is going on with eTextbooks?

And from the new blog itself, a taste of the first three posts:

Introduction post - Hadas Shema

Two questions I get asked now and then are A. "What do you study?" And B. "What is it good for? (as in "Why should my tax money fund you?"). Now that I have an excellent platform like this SciAm blog, I might as well take advantage of it to answer at least the first question (I'll let you decide if it's worth the taxpayer's money).

I study Information or Library Science, and my sub-field is what used to be called Bibliometrics, "the application of mathematical and statistical methods to books and other media of communication," (Pritchard, 1969). The term was invented back in 69′, when official scientific communication involved dead trees. The Russian version, "Scientometrics" was coined around that time as well. Today we have a variety of other terms, perhaps more appropriate for the net age: Cybermetrics, Informetrics, Webometrics and even Altmetrics. But for now, let's stick with Bibliometrics.

Bibliometricians measure, analyze and record scientific discourse. We want to learn what impact scientific articles, journals, and even individual scientists have on the world. Until recently "the world" meant "other articles, journals and individual scientists" because it was next to impossible to research the way scientific discourse affect the rest of the world, or even how scientists affect it when they're not in "official" capacity (publishing a paper or speaking at a conference). Now Bibliometricians not only need a new name, but new indices. That's what I (and plenty of other people) work on. We ask what scientists are doing on the Web, how and why they're doing it and the most important thing - can we use it to evaluate the impact of their work.

You have to share (by Bonnie Swoger)

Understanding how scientists share their results is my job. I am a science librarian.

I work with scientists at my college to make sure that they have access to the information they need to do their work. I teach undergraduates - novice scientists - how the scientific literature works: What kinds of information are available? Where can you find what you need? How can you use the different types of information? I work with researchers to help them understand new developments in scholarly communication: What is a DOI and how can it make your research just a bit easier? Are you allowed to post a copy of your recent article on your website and what are the advantages if you do?

And as I work with students and faculty at my institution, this blog will be a place for me to share some of these concepts with you. I'll share tips to help you find information faster, explain basic concepts related to the publication of scientific results and try to figure out how recent scholarly comunication news

*snip*

It's hard to stand on the shoulders of giants if the giants are hiding under the bed.

Understanding the Journal Impact Factor - Part One (by Hadas Shema)

The journals in which scientists publish can make or break their career. A scientist must publish in "leading" journals, with high Journal Impact Factor (JIF), (you can see it presented proudly on high-impact journals' websites). The JIF has gone popular partly because it gives an "objective" measure of a journal's quality and partly because it's a neat little number which is relatively easy to understand. It's widely used by academic librarians, authors, readers and promotion committees.

Raw citation counts emerged at the 20′s of the previous century and were used mainly by science librarians who wanted to save money and shelf space by discovering which journals make the best investment in each field. This method had a modest success, but it didn't gain much momentum until the sixties. That could be because said librarians had to count citations by hand.

Run on over and say Hi to Bonnie and Hadas!

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Around the Web: It doesn't matter what e-books cost to make, Harvard & MIT's edX and more

May 05 2012 Published by under around the web

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Friday Fun: Jedis disappointed with new "energy-saving" lightsabers

May 04 2012 Published by under friday fun, science fiction

This seems like a fun one for May the Fourth: Jedis disappointed with new "energy-saving" lightsabers

Jedi knights have expressed anger at plans to phase out traditional lightsabers in favour of new, more environmentally-friendly models.

'These new lightsabers are rubbish,' complained Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. 'They take ages to light up and when they do you can barely see anything with them.'

*snip*

'I refuse to switch to these new low energy sabers,' said a typically petulant Luke Skywalker. 'By the time they've reached full brightness you may have already had your hand chopped off by a man you didn't even realise was your own father.'

However, intergalactic environmentalist George Monbiot disagrees. 'The old lightsabers may look impressive but they are very energy inefficient. Jedis need to appreciate that The Force is a finite resource and that we need to conserve it - at least until we develop environmentally sustainable solar wind farms.'

It's very funny. Go on over and read the whole thing.

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Around the Web: The ethics of tweetbombs, Canadian copyright, eBook appetizers and more

May 04 2012 Published by under around the web

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The Canadian War on Science: Stop muzzling Canadian scientists!

May 03 2012 Published by under Canada, education, Politics

The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression has just awarded the Harper Conservative government here in Canada a failing grade in promoting free expression.

Federal scientists' freedom of expression: F

  • Canada's control over the communications of federally funded scientists is alarming. Climate change science coverage in the media has plummeted by 80 per cent since 200, drastically reducing information available to Canadians. Some scientists have been denied permission to talk to the media about their research even after it was published in peer-reviewed journals.

Not to mention that the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom has awarded the Canadian Science Writers Association (CSWA) and the Association des communicateurs scientifiques (ACS) their annual Press Freedom Award "for their work in exposing government restrictions on federal scientists that prevent or delay the free communication of public science through the media."

CCWPF member Bob Carty says his committee selected these associations for its prize to send a message to the Harper government that "Canadians have the right, through the media, to access the expertise of publicly funded scientists, and those federal scientists have the right to freedom of expression."

"Science is critical to Canadian society. From climate change to oil pipelines, from epidemics to the safety of our food and water, we need to know the results of the scientific work our taxes support. We need our media to be unencumbered by needless government delays and ideological filtering," Carty says.

And we can certainly see the evidence about the government's disdain for scientists and information in general in some recent media reports:

Scientists are told how to behave and what to say at conferences.

Harper government 'muzzlers' are on the prowl at an international polar conference about everything from seabirds to arctic ice.

According to an article by PostMedia News, media instructions have been sent to the Environment Canada researchers attending the week long meeting in Montreal.

"If you are approached by the media, ask them for their business card and tell them that you will get back to them with a time for (an) interview," the Environment Canada scientists were told by email late last week.

"Send a message to your media relations contact and they will organize the interview. They will most probably be with you during the interview to assist and record," says the email obtained by Postmedia News.

The memo, signed by Kristina Fickes, an Environment Canada senior communications adviser, goes on to say that recordings of interviews are to be forwarded to the department's media relations headquarters in Ottawa. Fickes signs off with a signature tagline that says: "Let the sun shine in :)"

Which somehow the Minister of the Environment thinks is a totally normal practice among the science community. Or something.

Controlling the free speech of Canadian scientists who work for the government is an "established practice," says Environment Minister Peter Kent.

Responding to a Postmedia News report, Kent suggested that the government was doing the right thing.

*snip*

"There is nothing new in the email that was sent to attendees," Kent said in the House of Commons on Monday, in response to questions from NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie.

"It is established practice to coordinate media availability. In fact, many of our younger scientists seek advice from our departmental communications staff."

*snip*

"Where we run into problems is when journalists try to lead scientists away from science and into policy matters," Kent said. "When it comes to policy, ministers address those issues."

*snip*

"What we did expect, given your distinguished and extensive background in journalism, was that when a reporter questioned you about the present muzzling of federal scientists by the Conservative government, the 2012 incarnation of the man who was recipient of the 2006 President's Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association of Canada would have said that not only are you against it, but that if the muzzling doesn't stop, you will be submitting your resignation to the Prime Minister," said the letter.

And yeah, the very same minister used to be an award-winning journalist.

Minister Kent, people are noticing that it's happening. And people, citizens of Canada, know and understand why it's important to stop muzzling scientists and let them speak freely about what they have discovered.

What does this say about us as a society?

For some, there's far more at stake here than a simple opportunity for a biologist or a climatologist to talk about viruses or the ozone layer.

"If scientists working within government are not free to discuss their science and the potential implications of it, then what does that say about us as a society?" asks Jeffrey Hutchings, a professor and Canada Research Chair in Marine Conservation and Biodiversity at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

*snip*

It is, as he puts it, that "we have somehow deemed it OK or permissible for an Iron Curtain to be drawn across the communication of science in this country."

*snip*

"We are now seen on the international stage as a pariah and five years ago, or maybe six, that was not the case," Pedersen says.

"Canada was praised internationally for its scientific efforts and its openness as a society. And now we seem to have turned our back on that."

Yup, Canada is a scientific pariah on the international stage.

Some previous blog posts related to this topic:

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Around the Web: From jerk to troll in three easy steps, Your Roger Corman Future and more

May 02 2012 Published by under around the web

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Know more about the world and lessen the suffering of others

A fantastic quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson:

The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.

The source of which seems to be here.

It's hard to imagine two philosophies more suited to the mission of libraries and librarians in the world.

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