Archive for: April, 2014

Reading Diary: Darwin: A Graphic Biography and Mind Afire: The Visions of Tesla

Apr 28 2014 Published by under book review, reading diary, science books

Two recentish entries into the growing field of graphic novel scientific biographies, both very good, both suitable for a wide audience: Darwin: A Graphic Biography by Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr and Mind Afire: The Visions of Tesla by Abigail Samoun and Elizabeth Haidle.

If I had to count one of these a little bit better than the other, I would give that edge to the Byrne & Gurr's Darwin biography. It has a very amusing "Ape-TV" wrap around story conceit where an ape television program tells the life story of that strange human, Charles Darwin. As a result, the story never sags, the main points are told in a very engaging and entertaining way. Especially when you consider that the target audience for the book is probably middle school and slightly older and younger kids, the clear artwork and straight-ahead story telling work well. There's a bit of info-dumping at times, but the writing is clear and engaging. Overall, readers will get a very solid introduction to the life of Darwin with hopefully the more avid readers going the next step and seeking out more detailed information.

Samoun and Haidle's Tesla biography is also very good but not really aimed pre-teen or early teen readers. It's not a comics narrative to the same extent the Darwin book, more of an illustrated biographical essay. It works because the art is so gorgeous and Nikola Tesla's life was so bizarre and colourful. And the text is really just the right length: long enough to get a sense of Tesla's life and work but short enough to get through in one or two sittings. While the art is beautiful and perhaps the best thing about this book, the weakest is likely the decision to letter it in a fairly small cursive style. While it might have added to the old-timey feel of the book, it did make it more that a bit harder to physically read.

At the end of the day, both these books would be suitable for public library collections. Both books I would recommend for high school libraries while only the Darwin book would be suitable for middle school or younger children. Neither would fit that well in college or university libraries unless they were very serious about building a science graphic novel collection.

Byrne, Eugene and Simon Gurr. Darwin: A Graphic Biography. Washington: Smithsonian Books, 2013. 96pp. ISBN-13: 978-1588343529

Samoun, Abigail and Elizabeth Haidle. Mind Afire: The Visions of Tesla. Sonoma, CA: Electric Pen, 2013. ISBN-13: 978-1-60104-120-6

Other science graphic novels I have reviewed:

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Around the Web: 16 recent reports relevant to higher education, libraries and librarianship

Apr 25 2014 Published by under acad lib future, around the web

I'm always interested in the present and future of libraries. There's a steady stream of reports from various organizations that are broadly relevant to the (mostly academic) library biz but they can be tough to keep track of. I thought I'd aggregate some of those here. Of course I've very likely missed a few, so suggestions are welcome in the comments.

I did a similar compendium about a month ago here.

As usual, if I forgotten anything recent please let me know in the comments.

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Around the Web: Publishing may be a button, but publishing isn’t all we need and more on scholarly communication

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Around the Web: Up to here with trolls?

Apr 17 2014 Published by under acad lib future, around the web

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Digital Canada 150: Wasted opportunity

As part of the celebrations for Canada's upcomming 150th birthday, the Canadian federal government has released its Digital Canada 150 strategy paper, and while it`s not all bad, at the same time there is not an awful lot to recommend it. Especially considering it was four years in the making.

My sense is that its main purpose is for the Harper Conservative government to be able to say it has a digital strategy during the next election campaign in 2015. The most telling thing about the strategy, of course, is which department it originated in: Industry Canada. Not Culture, not Heritage, not Science and Technology. Industry. This is all about advancing the government's economy at all and any costs agenda and it really shows that on every page.

I'm not going to get into too much detail on my critique of the paper at this point in time as that will be forthcoming, but I do want to point out a few of the most salient items on the science side of things.

First of all, they do have an appropriate nod to the Tri-Agency Draft Open Access Policy in the Digital Government section, "We will develop Open Science to facilitate open access to the publications and related data resulting from federally funded research." But the wording is so tortured and bizarre that I'm left to wonder if anyone connected with science or the Tri-Agencies had any input into the strategy at all. Open Science, of course, is the broader category that OA falls under. But the Tri-Agency draft policy doesn't mention the broader goal of open science at all, so I wonder if they just pasted that in to make it sound better. The draft policy only specifies Open Data for CIHR funded research rather than for all federally funded research which is what the strategy implies.

Now if they'd wanted to make the broader case for Open Science in the strategy, I think it might have been hidden in there already among all the other stuff about open government data and open data in general, but they missed the opportunity and ended up tripping over their own two feet. And that is probably because they didn't see the science case for Open Science, only the business case, resulting the threads getting scattered around the rest of the document. Which is representative of the rest of the document as well -- kind of scattershot.

(And don't get me started on the how none of this squares with how the government has treated science, libraries, the census...)

The second thing I'd like to point out is that they really emphasize the transformation of the NRC into an industry concierge service in the Economic Opportunities section, signalling even further that they aren't really interested in basic research at all into what a Digital Canada could be at its 150th birthday, but rather how to use the strategy to advance their narrow goals, mostly about puffing up their economic record for the next election campaign. It's all about serving industry, not the broader public interest.

In any case, here's a sampling of the commentary on the document around the web. It's mostly cautious-to-negative but quite a bit of it is positive, especially from industry groups. I`m thinking that is because they want to curry the government`s favour over the next couple of years so don`t want to rock the boat. After all, the document is much more about their needs rather than the needs of Canadians as a whole.

Michael Geist's commentaries are perhaps the most on point overall. Being a science fiction fan, I do also like this quote from Peter Nowak:

As a whole, there is one other way in which the Digital Canada 150 is similar to Star Wars. George Lucas at least had the good sense to sell Star Wars to Disney and allow someone else to have a crack at producing something that fans might be able to appreciate. With the thoroughly lacklustre digital strategy taking four years and three different industry ministers to produce, it’s looking increasingly clear that this is not the government to take Canada forward into a digital future. Observers interested in such matters can’t be faulted for hoping that someone else takes up this task.


As usual, if I've missed any commentary that you think I should include, please include it in the comments or let me know by email at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.

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Friday Fun: 5 Reasons The Future Will Be Ruled By B.S.

Apr 11 2014 Published by under acad lib future, friday fun

Oh, Cracked, you are so funny. So funny it just really hurts sometimes. And these so definitely apply to the pickle that libraries and other cultural/content institutions and industries find themselves in as we try and find our place in a future that is very different from the past.

5 Reasons The Future Will Be Ruled By B.S.

  • A Star Trek-Style Utopia is Already Here ... Sort Of
  • To Stay Afloat, Businesses Have to Pretend Unlimited Goods are Limited

    To keep all that stuff up and running, the publisher is resorting to what experts call FARTS--Forced ARTificial Scarcity. Or they would call it that, if they were as awesome at naming things as I am.

    Mark my words: The future will be ruled by FARTS.

    Remember the debut of Sony's futuristic Matrix-style virtual world, PlayStation Home? There was a striking moment when the guys at Penny Arcade logged in and found themselves in a virtual bowling alley... standing in line. Waiting for a lane to open up. In a virtual world where the bowling alley didn't actually exist. It's all just ones and zeros on a server--the bowling lanes should be effectively infinite, but where there should have been thousands of lanes for anybody who wanted one, there was only FARTS.

  • Arbitrary Restriction of Goods Is the Future
  • The Future Will Turn Us All Into Lars Ulrich
  • Only Bullshit Will Save Civilization

Don't forget to read the whole thing!

By the way, as I noted on Twitter, every single presentation and article on THE FUTURE OF LIBRARIES from this moment onwards should be entitled ONLY BULLSHIT WILL SAVE CIVILIZATION.

(via @janeschmidt)

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Around the Web: April Fools' Follies!

Apr 02 2014 Published by under around the web, friday fun

Yesterday was April Fools' Day, a day I enjoy immensely. I even contribute to the fun every now and then. This year the crop among the science/scholcomm/library community seemed especially strong so I thought I'd share.

BBC News has a nice roundup of how some tech firms celebrated the day while Scientific American does a bit of a historical recap of their own April Fools' Follies.

I'm sure there are a bunch of other good ones out there that I missed. Please feel free to add your favourites in the comments.

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My exciting new job: Chief Advisor on Science Libraries for the Government of Canada!

Apr 01 2014 Published by under Canada, Canadian war on science, Politics

Added: Please note the date this post was published on.

After a couple of years of implementing some really amazing and progressive change at Elsevier, I've decided to refocus some of my advisory efforts over the next few years. As a result, I'll be taking on a senior advisory role for the Government of Canada. I'm thrilled to announce I'll stepping into a new position created just for me: Chief Advisor on Science Libraries.

In this capacity I'll be reporting directly to our brand new Minister of State for Science & Technology Ed Holder and one of my chief roles will be liaising with Library and Archives Canada to make sure we coordinate our efforts to advance the corporate resource extraction innovation agenda in Canada while at the same time rationalizing our plans to digitize, destroy, outsource, collect and preserve Canada's scientific, historical and cultural heritage.

Taking my direction from the recent necessary and successful expansion and consolidation of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Library system, my goal will be to apply the successful strategies from that service expansion exercise to all the scientific and technical libraries that contribute so wonderfully to the activities of the government of Canada. One could almost think of the current proposal to outsource Canada's national union catalogue, AMICUS, as a precursor of the extensive Open Access document digitization work I intend to undertake.

My initial strategic planning process will involve consulting widely with all the relevant stakeholders within both the library and scientific communities to establish what the priorities should be.

As such, the first course of action that I will undertake in my reign will be to use the successful DFO reorganization as an template to re-brand and right-size all the science library document services to reflect their ultimate purpose in promoting innovation and economic development. For example, I propose we rename the Environment Canada Libraries after the major firms in the natural resource development industry. I also propose that some random summer students scan the complete corpus of government scientific and technical documents that we have collected over the generations and put them on DVDs that I can then hide under my desk until someone asks for them. As if.

But the most important mission for the first year in my new role will be to set up an Library Advisory Board to engage all the major stakeholders of government science libraries. The charge of this group will be both to guide the re-branding effort and to help me come up with a strategic plan for maximizing the economic synergies and job creation potential inherent in the information that is stored in the science libraries that are part of the government of Canada and in outsourcing, rightsizing and re-skilling the staff that are required for the remaining physical and virtual collections and services.

I am pleased to be able to announce the Board. Many thanks to those able to participate.

Jane Slick, CEO, Enbridging Oil (co-chair)
Roberta Cadillac, Mayor of Toronto (co-chair)
Douglas Cadillac, Brother of the Mayor of Toronto (secretary)
Kevin Strawberry, Host, Coach's Penalty Box, Hockey Night in Canada
Dan McAlear, Sidekick of Kevin Strawberry
Donald Norac, former head of Library and Archives Canada
Hubert Lepage, CEO, Barents Mining Canada
Sarah Costalotoplous, Owner, Scanotron Scanning by the Barrel
Mary Herring, President, Fisheries Industry Cabal of Canada,
Robin Ashton, CEO, Empire Tobacco Canada
Chip Awais, CEO, Temporary Foreign Workers R Us.
Angela Lee, CTO, TrashCo Document Shredding Company of Canada
Jimmy Washington, Used Booksellers Association of Canada
Pamela Brossard, Former Senator
Patrick Walloon, Former Senator
Matt Daffy, Former Senator
Nigella Wrong, Former Chief of Staff, PMO
Dim Soudasopolopolous, Former Executive Director, CPC

You all can't believe how much I look forward to challenges and rewards of this new position! Housing allowances, luxury travel opportunities to international gatherings of bureaucrats, not to mention a limo and driver on duty 24 hours a day! Serving the best interests of the ruthless indifferent corporate taxpayer, here I come!

"And now...let the wild rumpus start!"

Added: I just realized I have an open spot on the Advisory Board. Please feel free to apply in the comments.

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