Archive for the 'literature roundup' category

Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Summer 2011: E-Science Librarianship: Field Undefined

Another issue full of interesting articles:

If I may highlight one of the articles this time around, I think the E-Science Librarianship: Field Undefined is an interesting and worthwhile examination of job ads for (broadly defined) e-science librarian positions to try and get a handle on what exactly e-science librarianship is and what people in this newly defined area actually do.

The results confirm a definition of e-science librarian: someone who works collaboratively, and uses technology and library skills within the domain of science. Yet this definition is so vague, it does little to answer the question of "what is an e-science librarian" in terms of the actual roles, tasks, and positions of librarians involved in e-science. In fact, by taking a closer look at the job titles and the breakdown of positions in the sample, it becomes clear that e-science librarianship is not a defined field.

*snip*

This breakdown into categories raises further questions; Will the number of data oriented librarian positions grow or will a hybrid data and subject librarian position become more common? Will the responsibilities currently handled by subject librarians increase to the extent that they become their own position? Will e-science be a standard means of science information work and its features become subsumed by existing positions so that no specific e-science position ever becomes defined? How will and to what extent will e-science methods grow and become universal? These of course are conjectures about the future, with no immediate answers. The answers depend on e-science itself and they will affect libraries and librarian training.

*snip*

Even if e-science is being applied, whether or not librarians have a role in it and the type of role they have is still unclear.

*snip*

Currently, it is impossible to know the degree to which e-science will be used and thus how much of a need there will be for anyone, including librarians, to engage e-science.

*snip*

Organizations thinking of hiring an e-science librarian need to assess what e-science duties current staff can fill, what amount of data is being produced, and if it will need to be or will be required to be shared. Additionally, the state of e-science must continue to be monitored and studied so that those considering it can proceed in a smart and efficient way. E-Science may provide potential for librarians to branch out beyond the bounds of traditional library practices, while still dealing with the information management that characterizes library science. Yet, because e-science is not yet common practice, the library field must proceed into this new territory with caution.

(Emphasis mine.)

I'm not sure if I have anything profound to add to the above other than that none of it really surprises me.

My only worry is that the library field will enter this area with too much caution and just be totally too late to the party, irrelevant and unwanted. Of course, there are equal risks in entering the field, knocking on a bunch of doors, launching a bunch of initiatives and still being viewed as irrelevant and unwanted. It's the kind of thing where a bunch of places need to try a bunch of different things to see what sticks and hopefully why, allowing others to learn and perhaps replicate successes.

But I don't know about you, I'd rather die storming the mountain than sitting quietly in the base camp.

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Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Spring 2011

As usual, a wealth of interesting articles in the latest ISTL:

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Computer Science, Web of Science, Scopus, conferences, citations, oh my!

The standard commercial library citation tools, Web of Science (including their newish Proceedings product) and Scopus, have always been a bit iffy for computer science. That's mostly because computer science scholarship is largely conference-based rather than journal-based and those tools are tended to massively privilege the journal literature rather than conferences.

Of course, these citation tools are problematic at best for judging scholarly impact in any field, using them for CS is even more so. The flaws are really amplified.

A recent article in the Communications of the ACM goes through the problems in a bit more detail: Invisible Work in Standard Bibliometric Evaluation of Computer Science by Jacques Wainer, Cleo Billa and Siome Goldenstein.

A bit about why they did the research:

Multidisciplinary committees routinely make strategic decisions, rule on subjects ranging from faculty promotion to grant awards, and rank and compare scientists. Though they may use different criteria for evaluations in subjects as disparate as history and medicine, it seems logical for academic institutions to group together mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering for comparative evaluation by these committees.

*snip*

Computer scientists have an intuitive understanding that these assessment criteria are unfair to CS as a whole. Here, we provide some quantitative evidence of such unfairness.

A bit about what they did:

We define researchers' invisible work as an estimation of all their scientific publications not indexed by WoS or Scopus. Thus, the work is not counted as part of scientists' standard bibliometric evaluations. To compare CS invisible work to that of physics, mathematics, and electrical engineering, we generated a controlled sample of 50 scientists from each of these fields from top U.S. universities and focused on the distribution of invisible work rate for each of them using statistical tests.

We defined invisible work as the difference between number of publications scientists themselves list on their personal Web pages and/or publicly available curriculum vitae (we call their "listed production") and number of publications listed for the same scientists in WoS and Scopus. The invisible work rate is the invisible work divided by number of listed production. Note that our evaluation of invisible work rate is an approximation of the true invisible work rate because the listed production of particular scientists may not include all of their publications.

A bit about what they found:

When CS is classified as a science (as it was in the U.S. News & World Report survey), the standard bibliometric evaluations are unfair to CS as a whole. On average, 66% of the published work of a computer scientist is not accounted for in the standard WoS indexing service, a much higher rate than for scientists in math and physics. Using the new conference-proceedings service from WoS, the average invisible work rate for CS is 46%, which is higher than for the other areas of scientific research. Using Scopus, the average rate is 33%, which is higher than for both EE and physics.

CS researchers' practice of publishing in conference proceedings is an important aspect of the invisible work rate of CS. On average, 82% of conference publications are not indexed in WoS compared to 47% not indexed in WoS-P and 32% not indexed in Scopus.

And a bit about what they suggest:

Faced with multidisciplinary evaluation criteria, computer scientists should lobby for WoS-P, or better, Scopus. Understanding the limitations of the bibliometric services will help a multidisciplinary committee better evaluate CS researchers.

There's quite a bit more in the original article, about what their sample biases might be, some other potential citation services and other issues.

What do I take away from this? Using citation metrics as a measure of scientific impact is suspect at best. In particular (and the authors make this point), trying to use one measure or kind of measure across different disciplines is even more problematic.

Let's just start from scratch. But more on that in another post.

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Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Winter 2011

As usual, a bunch of great new articles from the most recent ISTL!

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Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Fall 2010

As usual, lots of terrific articles are included in this issue. More and more, I wonder why a scitech librarian would publish their articles anywhere else, especially in a toll access journal.

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The Journal of Electronic Publishing on Reimagining the University Press

A terrific new edition of The Journal of Electronic Publishing (v13i2), focusing on the future of university presses and, by extension, of scholarly publishing as a whole.

A lot of terrific-looking articles:

There's some interesting commentary on the issue out there already, here and here.

The previous issue of JEP (v13i1) also has some relevant articles.

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Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Summer 2010

The latest issue of ISTL has just been released and, as usual, it's filled with very interesting-looking articles.

The table of contents is below:

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Cool posts from InsideHigherEd

Usually every day brings one or two interesting things at InsideHigherEd, but today is a bonanza.

  • The Ed Tech Sonic Boom

    Today, we are able to leverage a set of well-developed and stable technologies to build in pedagogically advanced active learning methods into a wide variety of courses and modes of instructional delivery. To be a great teacher it is no longer a prerequisite to be a dynamic and gifted lecturer. Rather, faculty can partner with learning designers, librarians, and teaching specialists to create dynamic, student-centered courses that allow students interact and create with the curriculum in ways that were impossible before the advent of technology enabled and supported classes.

    However, these improvements in course quality made possible by the pairing of learning design methods and technology have brought with them a new set of challenges....

  • Let's shift some paradigms is the first post from the new blog Student Affairs and Technology which shows a lot of potential.

    A couple of years ago I was a participant for a conference panel on student affairs and technology. The evaluations were less than positive. Almost all of the comments shared a common theme: "be less technical and explain the basics." Fortunately, there was one comment that has stuck with me and that I use as a call to action: "Helping me to boldly go where I've never been before." It gives me hope as a student affairs techie that we as a profession have not lost our willingness to learn, to explore, and to stay positive about new technologies. Let's push the envelope. Let's shift our professional paradigms. Let's make technology (and learning about new technologies) a part of our daily practice in student affairs.

  • Whither the Wikis?

    Of all the Web 2.0 tools that have become de rigueur on college campuses, wikis fundamentally embody the Internet's original promise of pooling the world's knowledge -- a promise that resonates loudly in academe.

    And yet higher education's relationship with wikis -- Web sites that allow users to collectively create and edit content -- has been somewhat hot-and-cold. Wikipedia, the do-it-yourself online encyclopedia, vexed academics early on because of its wild-west content policies and the perception that students were using it as a shortcut to avoid the tedium of combing through more reliable sources. This frustration has been compounded by the fact that attempts to create scholarly equivalents have not been nearly as successful.

  • Google and the Digital Humanities

    For humanities scholars, having all the world's writings available in a digital format opens up an entirely new realm of quantitative research to supplement the qualitative research that, because of limitations inherent to the print medium, has historically been their sole dominion, say Google officials.

    "Traditionally, the conventional model of humanities research is that a professor has his graduate students do deep readings on a relatively small number of texts," says Orwant. "Now, for the first time, we have so many books online and so many useful data mining techniques that it becomes possible, instead of reading 10 books deeply, to read 10,000 books shallowly."

  • 'Elegance in Science'

    Q: How do you define "elegance" in the context of your book?

    A: The dictionary definitions of elegant -- graceful, tasteful, of refined luxury -- are useless here, because scientists tend to use the word in peculiar ways. Rather than starting with a formal definition, then, I have remembered Wittgenstein's advice -- that "the meaning of a word is its use in the language" -- and I spend the first chapter of the book discussing mathematical or scientific proofs, or theories or experiments, that are generally regarded as elegant, sometimes contrasting them with those that are not. I begin with mathematical examples since it is mathematicians that get most enthusiastic about elegance, and there are some very pretty examples that are easily accessible to non-mathematicians. I then proceed to the physical and biological sciences, ending the chapter with a description of the experiment, published by William Harvey in 1628, proving -- what was then not known -- that the blood in our bodies circulates; an experiment that required only a bandage and that could have been done at any time in the past.

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Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Spring 2010

Another terrific issue. I'm going to list everything but the book & database reviews & reports so as not to clutter the post too much.

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Recently in the ACM: Computer Science Education

A small selection from some tables of content from a few recent journals and proceedings. These will require subscription access to the ACM Digital Library.

Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education

Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, v25i4

SIGCSE Bulletin, v41i4

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