Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ten Million Records Now in OAISTER

The University of Michigan’s OAISter, one of the world’s largest scholarly databases, recently indexed its ten millionth record. From the press release:

. . . Developed at the University of Michigan's Library, OAIster is a collection of digital scholarly resources. OAIster is also a service that continually gathers these digital resources to remain complete and fresh. As global digital repositories grow, so do OAIster's holdings. . . .

Popular search engines don't have the holdings OAIster does. They crawl web pages and index the words on those pages. It's an outstanding technique for fast, broad information from public websites. But scholarly information, the kind researchers use to enrich their work, is generally hidden from these search engines. . . .

OAIster is good news for the digital archives that contribute material to open-access repositories. "[OAIster has demonstrated that]...OAI interoperability can scale. This is good news for the technology, since the proliferation is bound to continue and even accelerate," says Peter Suber, author of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. As open-access repositories proliferate, they will be supported by a single, well-managed, comprehensive, and useful tool. . . .

OAIster currently harvests 730 repositories from 49 countries on 6 continents. In three years, it has more than quadrupled in size and increased from 6.2 million to 10 million in the past year. OAIster is a project of the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service.

Soil Scientists Renew the Call for Broader Access to Publicly Funded Research

Washington, DC - January 30, 2007 - The National Society of Consulting Soil Scientists, which represents 156 private soil consulting firms in the U.S., has declared its support for the Federal Research Public Access Act. The society is the first to publicly announce its support for the bill.

The Federal Research Public Access Act was introduced in 2006 by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (D/I-CT) and is awaiting reintroduction in the 110th Congress. The bill would require federal agencies that fund over $100 million in annual external research to make manuscripts of peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from that research publicly available via the Internet. (For further information about the legislation, see http://www.taxpayeraccess.org/frpaa/).

Issued on January 24, 2007 via the Society blog (http://consultingsoilscientists.blogspot.com/2007/01/nscss-supports-federal-research-public.html), the statement reads:
The National Society of Consulting Soil Scientists supports S. 2695, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, as introduced, in that it reflects NSCSS goals regarding the free exchange of information, promoting soil science technology...
This will allow unprecedented access to soil science literature. For soil scientists around the world, this could mean the difference between either ready access or no access to the latest knowledge in areas like soil science, biology, hydrology, education, and environmental health. For those in a position to develop soil science education programs in developing countries, this initiative will provide a needed resource to help this to happen.

The statement is also linked on the society Web page at http://www.nscss.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=94.

Monday, January 29, 2007

If the Academic Library Ceased to Exist, Would We Have to Invent It?

There’s an interesting article by Lynn Scott Cochrane in the Jan/Feb 2007 issue of Educause – E-Content arguing that the academic library is far from being a dinosaur and obsolete. The author contends, rather, that if it didn’t exist – and if librarians didn’t exist – that they’d have to be invented or at least re-invented!

Article: If the Academic Library Ceased to Exist, Would We Have to Invent It?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

PR's 'Pit Bull' Takes on Open Access

Nature has published a very disturbing account describing how a group of major publishers hired a well-known public relations figure to discredit the open-access movement.
The author of Nail 'Em! Confronting High-Profile Attacks on Celebrities and Businesses is not the kind of figure normally associated with the relatively sedate world of scientific publishing. Besides writing the odd novel, Eric Dezenhall has made a name for himself helping companies and celebrities protect their reputations, working for example with Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron chief now serving a 24-year jail term for fraud.

Although Dezenhall declines to comment on Skilling and his other clients, his firm, Dezenhall Resources, was also reported by Business Week to have used money from oil giant ExxonMobil to criticize the environmental group Greenpeace. "He's the pit bull of public relations," says Kevin McCauley, an editor at the magazine O'Dwyer's PR Report.

Now, Nature has learned, a group of big scientific publishers has hired the pit bull to take on the free-information movement, which campaigns for scientific results to be made freely available. Some traditional journals, which depend on subscription charges, say that open-access journals and public databases of scientific papers such as the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) PubMed Central, threaten their livelihoods.

From e-mails passed to Nature, it seems Dezenhall spoke to employees from Elsevier, Wiley and the American Chemical Society at a meeting arranged last July by the Association of American Publishers (AAP). A follow-up message in which Dezenhall suggests a strategy for the publishers provides some insight into the approach they are considering taking. . . . MORE

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

MediaCommons: A Project of the Institute for the Future of the Book

A multi-nodal scholarly communication network, MediaCommons is described as:
a network in which scholars and students, as well as other interested members of the public, can help to shift the focus of scholarship back to the circulation of discourse. This network will be multi-nodal, providing access to a wide range of intellectual writing and media production, including forms such as blogs, wikis, and journals, as well as digitally networked scholarly monographs.
The idea for MediaCommons came out of a symposium hosted by the Institute for the Future of the Book at the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC, which brought together leading scholars in the humanities to rethink the role of the academic press in the network age.... MORE

SPARC at Ten

The Library Journal Academic Newswire (18 January, 2007) has an overview of the first decade of SPARC: SPARC at Ten: A Decade Later, Organization Still Aims to Be Part of The Solution
What a difference a decade makes. In 2007, SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) celebrates its tenth anniversary, now with an expansive mission to work not only on behalf of libraries but for the welfare of the higher education community at large, and for individual researchers and the public. "It's pretty amazing to me to look back and see how far we've come to with the organization," SPARC Executive Director Heather Joseph, who replaced Rick Johnson in 2005, told the LJ Academic Newswire. "We began with real community-based, grass-roots efforts, like alternative journals. We still do that kind of work but we've branched out more into things like our advocacy program. Today, we spend so much more time talking with policy makers about how to create an overall better climate. The day-to-day work very little resembles what we were doing when SPARC first started.". . . .More

Friday, January 19, 2007

The University of Texas Library Partners with Google to Digitize Books

The University of Texas at Austin is partnering with Google to put at least one million volumes from its collection online. UT Austin is now the 10th institution to sign on with Google's major book digitization project. According to a 19th January, 2007 UT Austin press release:
The University of Texas at Austin has become the newest partner in a broad book digitization project with Google.

The partnership between the University of Texas Libraries and Google is part of the Google Books Library Project, a project started in December 2004, initially to digitize books drawn from the libraries of the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University and the New York Public Library.

In the course of the multi-year project, Google will digitize at least one million volumes from the University of Texas Libraries’ collections, working from selection lists prepared by the Libraries.

“We are excited to join the Google Books digitization effort, and feel it advances the mission of The University of Texas at Austin,” said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin. “Creating digital access to our library collections will enable a great many more scholars and members of the public to locate and use these tremendously valuable materials.”

The digitized books will all be fully searchable through Google Book Search. Google pays particular attention to copyright law and has specifically designed Book Search to comply with it. Anyone will be able to freely view, browse and read the university’s public domain books, including a number of unique treasures in the Libraries’ historic collections.

For books protected by copyright, users will only be provided the basic background information (such as the book’s title and the author’s name), at most a few lines of text related to their search and information about where they can borrow or buy the book. Publishers or authors who wish not to have their books digitized can be omitted from inclusion in the project. . . . MORE

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

U. of Michigan Press, Library, Scholarly Publishing Office Launch Digital Studies Imprint, Web Site

On January, 11, 2007 the Library Journal Academic Newswire reported on an innovative publishing initiative at the University of Michigan:
With its latest venture, the University of Michigan Press is exploring the cutting edge, both in terms of the content it publishes and how it publishes. Under a new collaborative program between the press, the library, and the Scholarly Publishing Office, the UM Press's new Digital Culture imprint will both sell books and offer the full-text of those books freely on its Digital Culture Books website. . . .

As groundbreaking as some of the ideas, however, is the Press's decision to practice what many of its authors now preach, using the Digital Culture imprint to develop an "open and participatory publishing model" that seeks to "build a community" around its content. "Our goal is to give each project a robust online and print presence and to use the effort not only to introduce scholars to a range of publishing choices but also to collect data about how consumption habits vary on the basis of genre, age, discipline," MacKeen explained. "The data will help us to understand more about the economics of digital publishing, and will also, we think, offset any potential economic risks by developing the venture as a research opportunity." . . . . MORE

Friday, January 12, 2007

View From a Provost’s Office

James V. Maher, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor, University of Pittsburgh, recently published “The Research University and Scholarly Publishing: The View From a Provost’s Office” in ARL Bimonthly Report, December 2006.

In this short though interesting report on scholarly publishing Provost Maher strikes a provocative note when he refers to what he terms “the intimidation of faculty that has gone on by some of the journals. I know that attempts to get the faculty engaged and to use the faculty’s inherent strength to deal with problems of scholarly publishing—in particular, access constraints due to the common practice of transferring copyrights to publishers—have really been thwarted by the faculty’s fear that the journals would not publish their work and that, particularly, they wouldn’t be able to get their work into the right journals. But many faculty have tried, albeit fitfully, to have an influence, and their positive results are most evident in the improved cooperation exhibited in recent years by many of the scholarly societies. Intimidation of the faculty is a real thing and must be dealt with by anyone who sincerely wants to work on this problem and who wants to try to work with the faculty to solve these problems.” Click here for the full article.

MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion

In December 2006 The Modern Language Association of America issued an important report: MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion. The following is an extract from the Executive Summary:
In 2004 the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association of America created a task force to examine current standards and emerging trends in publication requirements for tenure and promotion in English and foreign language departments in the United States. The council’s action came in response to widespread anxiety in the profession about ever-rising demands for research productivity and shrinking humanities lists by academic publishers, worries that forms of scholarship other than single-authored books were not being properly recognized, and fears that a generation of junior scholars would have a significantly reduced chance of being tenured. The task force was charged with investigating the factual basis behind such concerns and making recommendations to address the changing environment in which scholarship is being evaluated in tenure and promotion decisions. . . .
While publication expectations for tenure and promotion have increased, the value that departments place on scholarly activity outside monograph publication remains within a fairly restricted range. Refereed journal articles continue to be valued in tenure evaluations; only 1.6% of responding departments rated refereed journal articles “not important” in tenure and promotion decisions. Other activities were more widely devalued. Translations were rated “not important” by 30.4% of departments (including 31.3% of foreign language departments), as were textbooks by 28.9% of departments, bibliographic scholarship by 28.8% of departments, scholarly editions by 20% of departments, and editing a scholarly journal by 20.7% of departments. Even more troubling is the state of evaluation for digital scholarship, now an extensively used resource for scholars across the humanities: 40.8% of departments in doctorate granting institutions report no experience evaluating refereed articles in electronic format, and 65.7% report no experience evaluating monographs in electronic format.

Among the Report’s 20 recommendations:

3. The profession as a whole should develop a more capacious conception of scholarship by rethinking the dominance of the monograph, promoting the scholarly essay, establishing multiple pathways to tenure, and using scholarly portfolios.
4. Departments and institutions should recognize the legitimacy of scholarship produced in new media, whether by individuals or in collaboration, and create procedures for evaluating these forms of scholarship.
16. The task force recommends establishing concrete measures to support university presses.
Click here for the full Report.

Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics – A New Ambitious Project

On 3 November, 2006 CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, issued a press release detailing plans to establish "a consortium of major particle physics funding agencies, aimed at guiding a transition of the current subscription model for journals to a more stable, more competitive and more affordable future for the dissemination of quality-assured scientific information adapted to the era of electronic publishing."
Geneva, 3 November 2006. The first meeting of European particle physics funding agencies took place today at CERN1 to establish a consortium for Open Access publishing in particle physics, SCOAP32. This is the first time an entire scientific field is exploring the conversion of its reader-paid journals into an author-paid Open Access format.
Open Access is a policy that could revolutionize the academic publishing world and have a great impact on research. By changing the traditional model of financing publications through reader subscriptions, the publications will be free to readers and financed by funding agencies via laboratories and the authors. This new concept in publishing will broaden opportunities for researchers and funding agencies in achieving greater benefit from unrestricted distribution of the results of their publicly funded research. . . . MORE