Archive for the 'scio11' category

Reading Diary: On the Grid by Scott Huler

In his incredibly wonderful new book, On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work, Scott Huler gives us three essential take-aways:

  • Thank God for engineers
  • Get out your wallet
  • Let's learn to love our infrastructure. (p. 217-225)

In fact, not much more need really be said about the book. In essence it's a kind of tribute and salute to the women and men who keep our highly technoligized society functioning. The people we often forget about, whose glamour pales in comparison to movie stars, singers, politicians, even police and fire departments who have a much higher profile. Huler is really talking about the engineers and technicians and workers who drive buses, build roads, survey new neighbourhoods, keep our lights on and make sure the waste from all of this activity gets carried away somewhere safe.

Of course, the perils of infrastructure are in the news these days, but I think the current troubles in Japan are only more indicative of the need to pay attention to the threads that keep our society running. Huler visits a local nuclear power plant in one of the chapters and I'd be curious about his thoughts on the long term place of nuclear power in a sustainable world energy mix. He does have some thoughts on the infrastructure workers involved in Japan right now.

Anyways, in the book Huler takes us all on tour with him as he explores the various types of infrastructure in his own city and neighbourhood: water, garbage, electricity, telecommunication, transportation, boundaries and surveys. He visits with the people who work on those systems and witnesses the daily work. He struggles with the short- and long-term challenges of keeping the lights on, literally.

And makes sure we start to understand how important it is to keep track of what's going on under the street as much as we keep track of what going on in all the buildings.

And he really makes sure we understand that all of this costs money to do right and that we should be willing to pay for it. And he doesn't shy away from some of the environmental issues either -- the impact our infrastructure choices make beyond our daily lives and on society and the planet as a whole.

I thought it would be interesting to take a sentence or two from each chapter to give a sense of the themes that run through the book -- and the countless little revelations about our infrastructure.

  • Chapter 1: land surveys: [about an old axle used as a place marker on his land] "It's a big, solid piece of iron sticking our of the ground, and it's been there for almost a century." (p. 27)
  • Chapter 2: the hydrological cycle: "So as I looked at the roots of Raleigh's infrastructure, I tried to think like water." (p. 32)
  • Chapter 3: water treatment & distribution: "'The only time customers see when they're gonna be late for work because we've got a backhoe sitting in the middle of the road. The unfortunate thing about our job is that as long as we're doing a good job, nobody notices.'" (p. 69)
  • Chapter 4: waste water: "Until around World War I ... it was understood that watercourses were to some degree self-cleaning, that 'the solution to pollution is dilution.'" (p.92)
  • Chapter 5: roads: "'I'm using physical engineering methods to solve social engineering problems.'" (p. 108)
  • Chapter 6: electricity: "I counted no fewer than 15 electrical wires running up and down my street, not counting telephone and cable TV wires or the guy wires holding up the poles themselves."
  • Chapter 7: garbage: "Landfill entombment raises the prospect of perplexed future archaeologists, who will wonder why we took such enormous care to make sure our trash lasted for, basically, geologic time." (p. 161)
  • Chapter 8: telecommunications: "The complete contents of the Library of Congress would take just under 2 minutes to transmit on a 100 G fiber." (p. 184)
  • Chapter 9: transportation: "With its meandering, car-centered development, Raleigh offers an object lesson for how to discourage transit use." (p. 196)

You get the idea.

This is an important book, one that I would recommend very broadly. It's certainly a great acquisition for any academic library as well as any public library in any sized community. As far as school libraries go, this would be a fine purchase for any high school or even middle school library.

As well:

  • This would be a great "What is engineering really all about?" book for an Engineering 1000 course or any kind of capstone design course. It gives a sense of what engineers really do and the interconnectedness of that work.
  • I'd also recommend this as a book to send to any short-sighted, tax-cutting, worker-bashing politician you happen to know. You might also have a family member or friend who's in that camp as well -- this would make a great gift idea.
  • The book would also make a great "One campus, one book," again since it shows the interconnectedness of so much that we take for granted.

Huler, Scott. On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work. New York: Rodale, 2011. 248pp. ISBN-13: 978-1605296470

(Book provided by the publisher via Science Online 2011.)

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The eBook Users' Bill of Rights

Feb 28 2011 Published by under ebooks, education, scio11

This one is via Christina Pikas, Bobbi Newman and Sarah-Houghton-Jan, who originated it.

It's released under a CC0 license, so please feel free to repost, remix and whatever else strikes your fancy.

This arises from the current controversy in the library world (and beyond) about a particular publisher restricting the number of checkouts a library ebook can have before the library needs to pay for it again. Bobbi Newman collects a lot of relevant posts here if you're interested. I may post about the situation in more detail later this week.

The eBook Users Bill of Rights:

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

Houghton-Jan further comments:

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks. I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users' rights.

These rights are yours. Now it is your turn to take a stand. To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others. Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

Amen to that!

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On women science bloggers, in chronological order #scio11

The women science bloggers conversation is getting so long and elongated, I thought it would be interesting and, I hope, useful to put all the posts in rough chronological order. By rough I mean that I haven't attempted to order the posts within each day of publication. Perhaps I'll take another pass at the list later on for that.

The original list of posts is here.

Yes, I'm a librarian and I do occasionally get these weird manias.

If I've made any mistakes or missed any posts that should be included here, please let me know in the comments.

Update 2011.01.31: Added "Women Science Bloggers" post.

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Around the Web: On women science bloggers

Jan 28 2011 Published by under blogging, scio11, so'11, social media, women in science

Since the Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name panel at ScienceOnline 2011 there's been quite a bit of commentary floating around the science blogosphere about how women are represented within that community.

A kind of introduction:

The perils women sciencebloggers face are not that different than those we face in the real world... though the exposure of the internet can occasionally make it less safe. And the risks that women avoid out in the world, are not unlike those we avoid in the blogosphere. That was one of many important conclusions made in the panel Sheril Kirshenbaum, Anne Jefferson, Joanne Manaster and I ran for the Sunday midday panel entitled "Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name." I believe Sheril was the one who first suggested the topic.

This panel ended up being a great experience, for several reasons. First, leading up to the session, I had the opportunity to meet with other women at the conference and discuss the topic. I found myself in large, women-only groups on a number of occasions (though I just realized, this happens to me a lot at academic conferences too: I think I avoid schmoozing with men more than I realize, a point I will return to later). Each time, I brought up the panel to hear what they had to say, and they made beautiful points, expressed legitimate frustrations, shared both good stories and horrible ones, and in general kicked ass. There were some seriously smart and savvy women at Science Online 2011.

I think the extended discussion across a whole range of blogs is interesting and valuable and well worth reading beyond the science blogosophere.

I've picked up as many of the posts as I could find, most of them from Kate Clancy's post. Thanks, Kate!

If you know of any posts I missed, please let me know in the comments.

FWIW, my list of science & technology librarian blogs is here (Friendfeed) and the Friendfeed group aggregating Women Scienceblogs here.

Added 2011.01.28:

Added 2011.01.30:

Added 2011.01.31:

Also worth noting, there's a page on the ScienceOnline 2011 wiki keeping track of these posts as well.

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ScienceOnline 2011 Debrief Part 3: Some session ideas for #scio12

A few days ago I posted some thoughts on the programming of the recent ScienceOnline 2011 conference and yesterday I posted some thoughts about the more social and fun aspects of the event.

In this post I like to look forward to next year's conference and start thinking about some of the sessions I might like to organize. My very early thoughts are coalescing around undergraduate education around. I have a couple of ideas which I think might be interesting to pursue.

First of all, I'm interested in collaborations around teaching undergrads about the scholarly information landscape. On the one hand, this is about making sure students can find the information they need for their school work, both formal sources like journals and informal sources like blogs. And this brings up the problem of how do we get them to think about what formal and informal really means? Students don't just arrive at university with that knowledge built in. We might like to think they do, we might hope they do, and certainly the ones we like to hang around with at conferences already do. But, trust me, most of them don't know much about scholarly communications in their fields when they arrive on campus for the first time.

So, how do we work together to teach students to navigate the disciplinary landscape and become productive and critical consumers of and contributors to their disciplinary conversation. Not surprisingly, this seems like an opportunity to practice some stealth librarianship.

My second idea is related to the first (and perhaps really it's just one great big idea): how do we teach students about the great big wide world of open science? How do all the various players in higher education make sure that the incredible depth and complexity of what going on out there is communicated to the next generation? How do we raise the next generation of Cameron Neylons, Steve Kochs and Jean-Claude Bradleys (not to mention the next generation of Dorothea Salos or Christina Pikases)?

There's a lot to cover here: blogs, blog networks, blog aggregators, open access, open data, open notebooks, citizen science, alt-metrics and all the rest. I guess the central tenet of stealth librarianship in the ScienceOnline world is to demonstrate that libraries and librarians are researchers' most natural collaborators in advancing and promoting open science. I've done some things along these lines myself already, but it would be interesting to see what others have done. And it would be valuable to talk about what we can do together to advance the open science agenda.

These thoughts are, of course, very preliminary but I'd definitely like to hear feedback both in terms of the ideas themselves and if there's anyone out there who'd like to join me.

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ScienceOnline 2011 Debrief Part 2: Swag, Science comedy and #ihuggedbora

Jan 23 2011 Published by under scio11, so'11

A few days ago I posted some thoughts on the programming of the recent ScienceOnline 2011 conference. In this post I like to do some quick takes on some of the more pleasurable aspects of the conference.

Some random observations:

  • Amazing organization. What more can be said about Bora Zivkovic and Anton Zuiker and all the rest of the great people they've attracted to the ScienceOnline cause? Not much. They all did an amazing job. Bravo! And yes, #ihuggedbora!
  • My Librarian Superpower. The highlight of the Book Fair on Friday night was getting to pick one of the wrapped books from one of the tables. Of all the amazing books from all the amazing authors present at the conference, the one I'd sort of identified as the one I really wanted to try and get was Scott Huler's On the Grid. I'd seen it in the bookstores and I sort of had an idea of the size and shape. So, faced with a pile of wrapped books I had to try and pick that one out. And guess what? I did it! (And think about it -- someone wrapped 200+ books in brown paper for the event. Wow.)
  • Local Beer. Unlike the hotel from past years which only stocked commodity beers, the bar at the Marriott this year, as well as the venue for the Happy Hour Book Fair and the restaurant I ate at on Friday all had a good selection of local beers. Most of which I enjoyed so much I can no longer remember their names.
  • Friendliness. The great atmosphere of ScienceOnline can't be overstated. The conversations at the social events, at the lunches and in the halls between sessions are one of the highlights. And there's no real "pecking order" at the event. Pretty well anyone feels comfortable talking to anyone else. My older son, Sam, 17, has been coming with me to the conference for the last three years and he feels really welcome and accepted at the conference even though he's "just" a high school student.
  • OMG Swag, or Free Books FTW!. Here's a nice pic of all the stuff in the swag bag. There were also piles of free tshirts, pens, magazines and even a few books to be had. By various means, my son and I ended up taking home 5 or 6 books between us.
  • Up in a Tree. At the Saturday evening banquet Margaret Lowman gave a talk that was both hysterically funny and incredibly inspirational about her work on treetop ecosystems.
  • Science Comedy. Science Comedian Brian Malow also performed Saturday evening and he was just plain hilarious. Check out his stuff and YouTube and be prepared to laugh.
  • The Twitter Firehose. A week after the conference ended and there's still a fair bit of chatter on Twitter. It was simply amazing the comment and interaction online both during and after the conference.
  • The Canadian Invasion. Wow, there were a lot of Canadians at the conference, fourteen of them according to the stats. I won't try and name them all because I'm sure I'll miss a few but it was fantastic to see so many.

Coming up, Part 3 on #scio12!

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ScienceOnline 2011 Debrief Part 1: ebooks, blogs and stealthy librarians

Yeah, I'm talking about you, #scio11. The conference that still has significant twitter traffic three days after it's over. I've been to conferences that don't have that kind of traffic while they're happening. In fact, that would be pretty well every other conference.

Every edition of ScienceOnline seems to have a different virtual theme for me and this one seemed to somehow circle back to the blogging focus on earlier editions of the conference. Of course, the program is so diverse and the company so stimulating, that different people will follow different conference paths and perhaps sense different themes or perhaps no theme at all.

This post will contain some fairly disconnected thoughts, mostly directly connected to the program sessions themselves. I'll have another post up soon concentrating on the non-panel parts of the conference.

  • Stealthy Librarians. In the past, the sessions that the library invasive species contingent have organized have often been a bit sparsely attended by non-librarians. Even though we've tried to orient them towards a broader audience, they've usually had the L-Word in the session title. Unfortunately, there's nothing that'll turn off a bunch of savvy online science types faster than the library stuff. They'll tend to feel that it's stuff they've already mastered -- and most of them are certainly self-sufficient in their online activities.

    But, along comes librarian superheroes Molly Keener and Kiyomi Deards and scientist superhero Steve Koch to organize a session on Data Discoverability: Institutional Support Strategies. Essentially the session was about scientists and librarians collaborating to find a way to manage and make accessible large amounts of research data. And it was really well attended, provoked very lively discussion on a lot of important issues. To make things better, I think it got a lot of people thinking that the library is a natural ally in open science.

    By far, this was the best and most successful "library" session at any ScienceOnline. Bravo!

  • eBooks & the Science Community. This was my session, which was organized by Carl Zimmer and also included Thomas Levenson and David Dobbs. Once again, this was a case of a stealthy librarian (i.e., me) getting into a session that's not really about library issues and, I hope, getting some good points in about the things we worry about. Like sustainable business models that work for both content creators and consumers, preservation, open standards and, of course, the mutualized community sharing that are the whole point of libraries when it comes to the content we license and purchase.

    I somehow seem to recall referring to the emerging app ecosystem as "The Dark Side." I may have gotten carried away. Anyways, it was a great session and I'm really glad to have been part of it. Carl Zimmer and Christina Pikas have good summaries of the main points and Christina also has a post with some very kind words of commentary.

  • ScienceSeeker. Dave Munger and Anton Zuiker gave a session introducing the successor to, It seems like a fantastic project about aggregating science blogging content. Run on over and submit and/or claim your blog now.

    It's corrects the main fault with in that in accepts independent blogs and not just network-affiliated ones. My only hope is that they ultimately release the data they aggregate under a CC0 license, which seemed to be a point of some discussion in the session itself. At very least, they should make the data freely and openly available to those that wish to use it for research purposes.

Of course, there were a ton more sessions that I attended and they were mostly all very good. Watch the conference site and blog as a bunch of them were steamed live and will be made available for viewing.

All in all, this conference just gets better and more successful every year. Here's to #scio12!

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