Archive for the 'acad lib future' category

Books I'd Like to Read: Making the world a better place

Sep 16 2014 Published by under acad lib future, environment, Politics, science books

It's been quite a long while since I've done a "books I'd like to read" post, that's for sure. This fall seems to be have a particularly exciting list of books so I thought I'd pull some of them together (as well as some older books) here for all our enjoyment. These are all books I don't own yet, so they are not part of my towering to-read list. Yet.

I'm on sabbatical this academic year so I am trying to read and review books more diligently, aiming for about one per week. Maybe some of these will appear reviewed on the blog in the not too distant future.



WTF, Evolution?!: A Theory of Unintelligible Design by Mara Grunbaum

Mara Grunbaum is a very smart, very funny science writer who celebrates the best—or, really, the worst—of Evolution’s blunders. Here are more than 100 outlandish mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, birds, and other creatures whose very existence leaves us shaking our heads and muttering WTF?! Ms. Grunbaum’s especially brilliant stroke is to personify Evolution as a well-meaning but somewhat oblivious experimenter whose conversations with a skeptical narrator are hilarious.


Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow

In sharply argued, fast-moving chapters, Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free takes on the state of copyright and creative success in the digital age. Can small artists still thrive in the Internet era? Can giant record labels avoid alienating their audiences? This is a book about the pitfalls and the opportunities that creative industries (and individuals) are confronting today — about how the old models have failed or found new footing, and about what might soon replace them. An essential read for anyone with a stake in the future of the arts, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free offers a vivid guide to the ways creativity and the Internet interact today, and to what might be coming next.


Bold Scientists: Dispatches from the Battle for Honest Science by Michael Riordon

Michael Riordon asks deep questions of bold scientists who defy the status quo including: an Indigenous biologist who integrates traditional knowledge and a trickster’s wit; an engineering professor who exposes the myths and dangers of fracking; a forensic geneticist who traces children stolen by the military in El Salvador; a sociologist who investigates the lure and threat of mass surveillance; a radical psychologist who confronts psychiatry’s dangerous power; and a young marine biologist who risks her career to defend science and democracy.


This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.

In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.


Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous by Gabriella Coleman

Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set out to study the rise of this global phenomenon just as some of its members were turning to political protest and dangerous disruption (before Anonymous shot to fame as a key player in the battles over WikiLeaks, the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street). She ended up becoming so closely connected to Anonymous that the tricky story of her inside–outside status as Anon confidante, interpreter, and erstwhile mouthpiece forms one of the themes of this witty and entirely engrossing book.


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef.


Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by Christian Rudder

In this daring and original book, Rudder explains how Facebook "likes" can predict, with surprising accuracy, a person’s sexual orientation and even intelligence; how attractive women receive exponentially more interview requests; and why you must have haters to be hot. He charts the rise and fall of America’s most reviled word through Google Search and examines the new dynamics of collaborative rage on Twitter. He shows how people express themselves, both privately and publicly. What is the least Asian thing you can say? Do people bathe more in Vermont or New Jersey? What do black women think about Simon & Garfunkel? (Hint: they don’t think about Simon & Garfunkel.) Rudder also traces human migration over time, showing how groups of people move from certain small towns to the same big cities across the globe. And he grapples with the challenge of maintaining privacy in a world where these explorations are possible.


The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World by William D. Nordhaus

Bringing together all the important issues surrounding the climate debate, Nordhaus describes the science, economics, and politics involved—and the steps necessary to reduce the perils of global warming. Using language accessible to any concerned citizen and taking care to present different points of view fairly, he discusses the problem from start to finish: from the beginning, where warming originates in our personal energy use, to the end, where societies employ regulations or taxes or subsidies to slow the emissions of gases responsible for climate change.


Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall

Most of us recognize that climate change is real, and yet we do nothing to stop it. What is this psychological mechanism that allows us to know something is true but act as if it is not? George Marshall’s search for the answers brings him face to face with Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and the activists of the Texas Tea Party; the world’s leading climate scientists and the people who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals. What he discovered is that our values, assumptions, and prejudices can take on lives of their own, gaining authority as they are shared, dividing people in their wake.


The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

In their new book, Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan provide a vivid record of the events, conflicts, and social movements shaping our society today. They give voice to ordinary people standing up to corporate and government power across the country and around the world. Their writing and daily work at the grassroots public TV/radio news hour Democracy Now!, carried on more than a thousand stations globally and at, casts in stark relief the stories of the silenced majority. These stories are set against the backdrop of the mainstream media’s abject failure, with its small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, attempting to explain the world to us and getting it so wrong.


What else should I be reading?

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Around the Web: A Creative Commons Guide to Sharing Your Science and more

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Open Access Rants: On the wagon with Henry Ford & Steve Jobs

Yes, it has become a trilogy. The two Twitter rants I recapped here sparked more angst and anguish in me, prompting me to write a third rant.

As it became ready for Twitter publication and approached 800 words, it also became clear that this particular rant was fast outgrowing what I could reasonably expect people to follow on Twitter, easily over 40 tweets worth of text. As many epic fantasy series can attest, these things can get out the control of the author quite easily. At least I'm not pulling a GRRM and taking 6 or more years in between installments!

I did sent out a tweet last night asking for advice and it was unanimous. Go straight to the blog version.

So here it is. While not unleashed on Twitter, I hope it's taken in the same spirit of fast and loose commentary. With an edge, yes, but also open to discussion and debate. Not a final word, not even necessarily exactly what my own final thoughts will be on the subject, but quick and dirty meant to start rather than end the discussion.

Here goes, exactly as it would have appeared on Twitter:

Initiate final installment in the Open Access Rant Trilogy.

How do we hang together on the goddam bus? How do we start getting from here to there? What roles do the different stakeholders need to play for a truly open scholarly communications system to become a reality? There are already lots of organizations holding lots of meetings every year, all with the goal of making OA a reality. There are also already lots of organizations holding lots of meetings each year hoping to to keep things from happening, or at least slowing down progress.

Sadly, bringing all those people together and making universal OA happen is way above my pay grade.

But I think I can at very least share some small bits of half-baked semi-rational “advice” for the various stakeholders.

Funders: The golden rule. You have the gold, you can make (or at least nudge) the rules. The key is to find a way to aggregate the funds coming from different sources and make sure it ends up supporting the ecosystem not the rent-takers. Biggest problem? Disconnect between how money gets to publishers etc via libraries etc vs how research itself is funded. APCs solve some of that but create other problems too.

Scholarly societies: It seems to me that OA is something where you should absolutely be world-beating leaders, not foot-draggers. Lead, don’t follow. That’s what your membership (and scholarship and society) deserves even if they don’t articulate it that way. Virtually every society mission statement has something about the public good. C’mon, do some good!

Academic libraries/librarians: We’re in a tough spot. If all goes well, our currently well defined role in scholarly publishing (ie. wallet) will largely disappear. We need to find a new role, whether that’s some other kind of wallet, host, archive, publisher, navigator, guide on the side or likely some combination of all of them. My advice? We need to reconcile ourselves to wanting the old wallet role to go away because that’s just best for everyone. Think of it as those stages of grief, playing out over the next 5-10 years. It’s too easy to be in denial or anger, we need to bargain our way into the bigger conversation with the other stakeholders and get to acceptance.

Authors: It’s hard to remember sometimes that the real reason for research isn’t to advance our careers but rather advancing our careers is a by-product of doing good work that advances the human condition in some way. Authors *are* the academy and can work towards saner research reward & incentive systems in academia.

Institutions: Have institutional OA mandates. Support funder mandates. Make it easier for *all* your faculty and researchers to follow the various mandates, full time and part time. Work with *all* your scholars to make tenure/promotion/career path management incentives and rewards more open-friendly.

Commercial publishers: Be the mammals, not the dinosaurs. There’s plenty of money to be made in scholarly publishing. But you knew that already and the smartest among you are already reimagining what open business models can look like.

Publishing pundits & consultants: The good ones see the writing on the wall. Resist the temptation to take your clients’ money for fear, uncertainty and doubt. Get in the business of transforming dinosaurs into mammals.

Open Access pundits: Leadership without the “dancing on the head of a pin” and “my way or the highway” arguments would be nice even if sometimes the fine points are important. Let’s find a way to lead people forward, recognizing that a common goal doesn’t need a common path to get there. I like some of the Bolman/Gallos ideas on political & symbolic academic leadership.

To all the stakeholders: if you imagine that your constituencies aren't ready for this, or that it’s not really in their best interest or whatever rationalization you use to hang on to the status quo just a little longer, just remember what Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Or if you want the same idea from somebody who’s a lot more post-industrial, Steve Jobs, “People don't know what they want until you show it to them.”

This ranty list of likely irrational suggestions is only my own and therefore must be biased, incomplete and at least partially blind. I see myself in many of my suggestions to the various stakeholders. I admit to not being immune.

I welcome all your additions and corrections.

Hanging together on the goddam wagon with Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.

What’s got me all worked up right now? These two: &

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Open Access Rants: Hanging together on the goddam wagon

Twitter is a great place to rant and rave sometimes. You can feel free to let loose and say what you're thinking without necessarily feeling that you need to have completely well-formed ideas. The enforced brevity can sometimes also be a plus, as it forces you to distill what you want to say to the bare minimum. It it possible to string together longer thoughts across multiple tweets but it becomes a bit awkward to read.

I let loose a couple of Open Access related rants over the last few days and I thought I'd share them here, slightly cleaned up to make them more readable. Both are fairly short but ended up stretching across 15 or so tweets.

The first one was inspired by a recent trend I've seen in anti-OA commentary, largely at the Scholarly Kitchen but pretty pervasive.

OA rant initiated.

Lots of the anti-OA commentary I’m seeing online these days is of the “Gee it would be nice if it could work in some ideal world but it just can’t in our hard, practical, fallen world. You OA advocates just don’t understand” type. Very condescending, very “little pat on the head there there poor dear.” But it’s not OA advocates that have the problem. It’s not us that don’t understand.

The truth is that there is a way to make OA work, for all the warts and two-steps-forward-one-step-back we see here in very early days of science on the web. There’s plenty of money in the system right now to publish quality science to the web for all to read. Look at arxiv, PeerJ, PLOS, SCOAP3. We just need to put the past aside, get all the stakeholders together, and find a way to make it happen, to get the money from where it is to where it should be without all the rent-taking intermediaries.

At the end of the day, publishers, libraries, scholarly societies exist to disseminate science and serve their constituencies: scholars, funders, society as a whole. Not the other way around. The burden on those institutions is to “add value” to the processes the true stakeholders really value.

As Faulkner said, “Them that’s going get in the goddamn wagon. Them that ain’t, get out of the goddamn way.”

Here’s a couple of the commentaries I mention above, very offhand dismissals of OA:

The Faulkner quote is inspired here:


The second rant is related to the first but is more directed to specific "OA skeptic" rhetoric that I see that we can't have OA because it threatens publishing revenue at scholarly societies and small journals and hence their viability.

Initiate Open Access Rant #2

This time inspired by this: & some of the feedback on the Draft Tri-Agency OA policy:

As well, I’m adapting a bit from a comment I made on Friendfeed.

So, societies are worried about OA mandates. Hey, you societies should concentrate on the value you provide to your members not to mention your lofty missions/goals about promoting scholarship & the common good. What you shouldn’t be doing is using publishing revenue (ie. public money via library subscriptions) to subsidize member programs.

Same with how governments use tax revenues to fund research. They don't fund research for the sake of supporting society or commercial publishers' journal programs. They fund research for lots of reasons, but none of them involve making sure that publishers are taken care of. As a result, government OA mandates shouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about how mandating OA is going to affect the publishing ecosystem.

It's up to publishers (and libraries) to figure out how they are going to add value in a changing landscape. Sure, governments can have programs to support publishing ecosystems (added: and contribute to institutional overheads which may end up supporting libraries), especially in a small country like Canada. In particular they should support transitioning to online/OA. But those should be totally separate from the funding of the research itself.

Rant over. Please resume your previously scheduled daily activities.

As kind of postscript: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." - Ben Franklin


Yes, rants. Perhaps not entirely fair. At the same time, I'm willing to stand by what I say here. It's time to start hanging together on the goddam wagon.

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Around the Apocalyptic Web: 7 Things Librarians Are Tired of Hearing and much, much more

Aug 26 2014 Published by under acad lib future, around the web

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The bad news is "AAAS Names New Science Publisher", the good news is Walt Crawford's Open Access Trilogy

It seems that the American Association for the Advancement of Science has just announced the new publisher of it's flagship family of Science journals:

AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner today announced the appointment of Kent Anderson, a past president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SPP), to serve as Publisher of the Science family of journals.

Anderson, who in 2011 received the SPP's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, will assume the role of Science Publisher as of 3 November.

Currently, he is the CEO and Publisher of STRIATUS/The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery in Needham, Massachusetts, where he oversees a staff of directors in advertising, marketing, business development, administration, product development, and product line management.

"AAAS and Science have held to high standards while pursuing the vanguard of scientific communication worldwide," Anderson said regarding his appointment. "I am extremely proud to join such a talented, thoughtful, and ambitious organization. I look forward to helping to move the Science family of journals further into the vanguard of scientific communication, with an immediate goal of supporting the launch of the association's new, open-access, online-only journal, Science Advances."


Among Anderson's initial challenges as Science Publisher will be the launch of the nonprofit association's first open-access title, Science Advances — a strategy for increasing the volume of peer-reviewed research published by AAAS. As a member of the AAAS leadership team, Anderson also will play a key role in the association's Transformation Initiative, a far-reaching effort to enhance engagement with members and to ensure that the Science journals continue to provide leadership in science communication.

I also note that little bit at the end of what I quote, that one of Anderson's initial challenges will be the launching of open access journal Science Advances.

My post title frames this announcement as bad news, which on the surface is a bit odd as the launch of on OA journal from the AAAS should be good news. However, what would otherwise be happiness is tempered by worry. New publisher Kent Anderson is most well known in the open access world for his role at the Scholarly Kitchen group blog where he has flown the anti-OA flag pretty consistently over the last several years. Zen Faulkes has a bit more on that here.

Needless to say, the reaction on Twitter has been pretty negative.

I guess there are two ways this could go, of course. One being a "fox in the chicken coop" scenario where any open access initiatives at the AAAS will be delayed, discounted or sabotaged. As well, my fear is that the tenor of OA commentary at an important outlet like the Science journals could be even more poisoned than it already is (more on that in a moment). Science is hugely important and for many very busy researchers it might be one of the only places they get commentary of scholarly communications issues.

Of course, the other option is a mythical "Only Nixon could have gone to China"-type revolution at Science where OA will blossom as never before. Like all mythology, I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to come true.

The good news is that there is a lot of very good commentary about open access out there, an awful lot of it by Walt Crawford in his online publication Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large.

So by way of antidote, I thought I'd highlight Crawford's very fine research and commentary on OA -- including his recent demolishing of the Bohannon OA sting published in Science a while back. Which brings us back to the first part of this post. Science and it's role in spreading OA fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Personally, I think a good first step for Anderson might be some honest reflection and commentary about the sting in light of the reaction it has provoked.

And here's Walt Crawford's Open Access Trilogy: Two taking a critical look at the idea of predatory open access journals and one exposing the "sting":

Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall (direct link)

The saga of Jeffrey Beall going from self-appointed investigator into “predatory” open access publishers and journals (and, notably, only OA journals) to ludicrous analyst of serials pricing and the reasons for OA–and beyond that to denouncing OA and its advocates? It’s an odd story, and my version includes some really good ideas on avoiding sketchy journals (mostly from a notoriously worthwhile pseudonymous feathered library type) without buying into vigilantism.


Ethics and Access 2: The So-Called Sting (direct link)

John Bohannon wrote a news article in Science that either shows that many open access journals with APC charges have sloppy (or no) peer review…or shows almost nothing at all. This story discusses the article itself, offers a number of responses to it–and then adds something I don’t believe you’ll find anywhere else: A journal-by-journal test of whether the journals involved would pass a naive three-minute sniff test as to whether they were plausible targets for article submissions without lots of additional checking. Is this really a problem involving a majority of hundreds of journals–or maybe one involving 27% (that is, 17) of 62 journals? Read the story; make up your own mind.


Journals, “Journals” and Wannabes: Investigating the List (direct link)

Jeffrey Beall’s 4P (potential, probable, possible predatory) publisher and journal lists total 9,219 journals in early April 2014.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) totals 9.822 journals as of early June 2014.

9,219 is 93.9% of 9,822.

But: 90.8% of the journals in DOAJ are not represented in Beall’s lists.

A paradox? Not really.

This special issue does something I don’t believe has ever been done before (and is unlikely ever to be done again): looks at every journal from every publisher on Beall’s lists to see whether they’re plausible predators–whether they could reasonably attract any sensible author.

Yes, I even used a control group: members of the OASPA. And two subject groups from DOAJ as secondary control groups.

What’s here? A discussion of my methodology (of course); the results; the control-group results; the subject-group results; some notes on “the name game” (anyone want to help start up International Journal of International Journals?); a few notes from some “publisher” sites; some comments on fee vs. free; discussing real and possible predators–and a list of potentially predatory characteristics of subscription journal publishers; a couple of other issues; and some conclusions, including a new and faster “Is this a reasonable journal?” methodology.

There are also related materials from Crawford available through Cites & Insights Books.

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John Scalzi (sort of) on the relationship between libraries and publishers

Aug 01 2014 Published by under acad lib future, open access, scholarly publishing

In a recent post on his Whatever blog, science fiction writer John Scalzi makes some very fine points related to the ongoing controversy surrounding the way Amazon treats various publishers and how this affects authors.

He makes great points throughout the post and with a little tweaking we can very easily apply his remarks to libraries and publishers.

Here's my tweaked version:

I really really really wish publishers would stop pretending that anything they do is for the benefit of libraries. They do not. They do it for their own benefit, and then find a way to spin it to libraries, with the help of a coterie of supporters to carry that message forward, more or less uncritically.

Libraries: publishers are not your friend. Neither is any other vencdor. They are all business entities with their own goals, only some of which may benefit you. When any of them starts invoking your own interest, while promoting their own, look to your wallet.

From the original, I've adapted the first paragraph of item 5 as well as the last paragraph of the post.

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Around the Apocalyptic Web: The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

Jun 30 2014 Published by under acad lib future, around the web

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Around the Web: MOOCs: Expectations and Reality and other recent reports

Jun 26 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've done similar compilations recently here and here.

  1. MOOCs: Expectations and Reality: Full Report
  2. Trends in Digital Scholarship Centers
  3. Sustaining the Digital Humanities
  4. Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Art Historians
  5. A Guide to the Best Revenue Models and Funding Sources for your Digital Resources
  6. Sustainability Implementation Toolkit
  7. A Scalable and Sustainable Approach to Open Access Publishing and Archiving for Humanities and Social Sciences
  8. White Paper: Reimagining the Georgia Tech Library: Defining the Technological Research Library for the 21st Century
  9. The Internet of Things Will Thrive by 2025
  10. AAU/ARL Prospectus for an Institutionally Funded First-book Subvention
  11. A Rational System for Funding Scholarly Monographs: A white paper prepared for the AAU-ARL Task Force on Scholarly Communications
  12. Students' experiences and expectations of the digital environment
  13. New York Times Innovation Report 2014
  14. Driving with data: A roadmap for evidence-based decision making in academic libraries
  15. Report of the Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language and Literature (2014)
  16. Learned Society attitudes towards Open Access: Report on survey results
  17. The Survey of Library & Museum Digitization Projects, 2014 Edition (Not a free report)

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Around the Web: Your university is definitely paying too much for journals

There's been a lot around the intertubes the last few months about journal pricing and who pays what and why and reactions all around. I thought I'd gather a bit of that here for posterity, starting with the Timothy Gowers post on the UK Elsevier Big Deal numbers up to the most recent item in PNAS about US numbers. In both cases, they authors dug up the numbers using Freedom of Information requests to the various institutions.

Needless to say, I'd love to see these kinds of numbers for Canada and if anyone out there is interested in working on such a project I'd love to hear from you.

The title of this post is inspired by this one.

There's obviously much more about all these topics out there, so any other links that readers might suggest are welcome in the comments.

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