Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 12, no. 4, April 2001

Edited by Roy Tennant

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 - http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2001/cc01.12.4.html

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Margaret Gross, Shirl Kennedy, Leo Robert Klein, Eric Lease Morgan, Jim Ronningen, Roy Tennant

Issue Spotlight: Freeing the Research Literature

This topic isn't new, but when Science, Nature, and Scientific American all weigh in on the same topic, you get the sense that something big is afoot. And there is. A number of scientists and researchers are as mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. What are they not going to take? It's probably best to go to the Public Library of Science site and find out for yourself. But in a nutshell, they no longer want to give away their intellectual content to publishers and have publishers lock it up for perpetuity except for those who pay to access it. They're calling for their published work to be freely available six months after publication. Read on to find out more.

Butler, Declan, editor. "Future E-Access to the Primary Literature" Nature (April 27, 2001). (http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/). - This Nature "web debate" and the recent attention of Science and Scientific American on this same topic (see other cites in this issue), means that major scientific publications are waking up to the fact that there is a revolution in their midst. Faculty and researchers are no longer complacent with what one researcher has termed the "Faustian bargain" of giving up copyright in an effort to obtain tenure. Neither are they complacent about the amount of money libraries are being charged to buy back their intellectual effort. I have no idea where the chips may fall, but fall they must, and discussions such as these can only serve to shed light on the possibilities for change and the positions of the antagonists. Be forewarned, this debate has many contributions, from many different perspectives. You could easily spend a day or more reading, sifting, and thinking about what the future may hold for scholarly communication. - RT

Karow, Julia. "Publish Free or Perish" Scientific American (April 23, 2001) (http://www.sciam.com/explorations/2001/042301publish/). - Karow pens a readable and interesting overview of the controversy surrounding the Public Library of Science open letter calling for publishers to make scientific journal articles freely available six months after publication. Read this before diving into the debates in Science and Nature on this issue, and you'll have a good introduction to the players and the issue. - RT

Richard J. Roberts, et. al. "Information Access : Building A 'GenBank' of the Published Literature" Science 291(5512, Issue 23) (Mar 2001): 2318-2319 (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/291/5512/2318a) and The Editors [Science]. "Science's Response : Is a Government Archive the Best Option?" Science 291(5512, Issue 23) (Mar 2001): 2318-2319 (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/291/5512/2318b). - The first piece is a group of scientists calling for free and open access to scientific literature six months after publication, and for the centralization of this material in a common repository. This is not just a small group of scientists calling for this, but as of this writing over 15,000. The "movement" to free the scientific literature is called the Public Library of Science. To enforce their call for change, they suggest a boycott of journals that do not comply. The boycott, scheduled to begin September 2001, would not just include article contributions, but also editing or reviewing for such a publication as well as personal subscriptions. In the second cited piece, the editors of Science suggest a somewhat different strategy to achieve some of the same ends. Rather than having all scientific publishers submit their content to a central repository, the Science editors favor a distributed model, where publishers retain their content but it can be searched at a central location. The editors also predictably raise economic questions and other concerns. Meanwhile, they plan on making the research reports and articles of Science freely available after a year (not the six months advocated by Roberts and his colleagues), on their own web site, not in a central repository. It will be interesting to see what happens come September, but this is a war of unknown duration and it has only just begun. - LRK and RT

Anderson, Kent, John Sack, Lisa Krauss, and Lori O'Keefe. "Publishing Online-Only Peer-Reviewed Biomedical Literature: Three Years of Citation, Author Perception, and Usage Experience." The Journal of Electronic Publishing 6(3) (March 2001) (http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/06-03/anderson.html). - Back in 1997, an online-only section of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was established and made available at no cost on the Internet. In this research study, Anderson and his coauthors analyze Web use statistics, citation data, and author perceptions to gauge how well the online-only section of the journal stacks up against the print section for the period 1997-1999. On the negative side, the results show that the online-only section faces an uphill battle when it comes to author perceptions (e.g., they see it as a "second-tier" publication), online-only articles get fewer citations compared with their print counterparts, and they are not cited any more quickly than print articles. On the positive side, online-only articles were included in authors' resumes, tenure committees accepted them, they were indexed like print articles, their Web use was higher than electronic copies of print articles, their Web use over time decayed in the same way as print articles, and it was significantly cheaper to publish them. - CB

Berkman, Eric. "When Bad Things Happen to Good Ideas" Darwin (April 2001) (http://www.darwinmag.com/read/040101/badthings_content.html). - Coincidence? Irony? It seems like the phrase "knowledge management" started its ascent into the realm of corporate buzz just about the same time many companies were downsizing and/or eliminating their libraries. This article provides some insight into how these phenomena might be related. As the author explains, by way of cruising the exhibit floor and commenting on products being hawked at the KMWorld2000 trade show, "In many cases KM devolved into a purely technical process, resulting in expensive software implementations sitting unused by oblivious, fearful or resentful employees." Executives watching this happen have become increasingly wary of the whole KM concept, perceiving it as overhyped and/or "a total bust." The article goes on to describe the evolution of knowledge management as a discipline, and suggests that one big reason it has failed to perform as anticipated is because IT departments have been put in charge, resulting in a technical rather than a user-oriented focus. - SK

Berners-Lee, Tim, James Hendler, and Ora Lassila. "The Semantic Web" Scientific American 284(5) (May 2001):35-43 (http://www.scientificamerican.com/2001/0501issue/0501berners-lee.html). - Imagine the following reference question. "I met a person at ALA. Their last name was Cook, but I don't remember their first name. I do remember they worked for an ARL library and their son attends my alma mater, Bethany College. What is Cook's email address?" In order to answer this question with the given information you would need to know the email address of all the Cooks at ARL libraries who also have a son at Bethany College. According to Berners-Lee, the Semantic Web would be able to answer such a question. "The Semantic Web will bring structure to the meaningful content of Web pages, creating an environment where software agents roaming form page to page can readily carry out sophisticated tasks for users." It sounds like science fiction, but through the use of ontologies — a document or file that formally defines the relationship between terms — interconnections can programmatically be made between Web pages and conclusions can be drawn. These ontologies are implemented in the Resource Discovery Framework (RDF). For me, the process is similar to library work. First we collect data and information. Second, we classify the it using our own ontologies and make the materials available to users. Finally, we access a particular piece of this information and find similar pieces through the use of the classification scheme. The key is a thorough classification system and its implementation. The Semantic Web is a proposal for this sort of implementation on a much wider scale. It is not really cataloging the Web. Rather, it is describing items on the Web using a uniform syntax (RDF) and a variety of classification schemes agreed upon by discrete populations (ontologies). This article is a good read; it provides an interesting spin about the Web for librarians and librarianship. - ELM

Broughton, Kelly. "Our Experiment in Online, Real-Time Reference" Computers in Libraries 21(4) (April 2001) (http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/apr01/broughton.htm). - A report from the front lines, this article describes the system used and what it's like to be expected to respond right now, without the benefit of face-to-face signals. At Bowling Green State University, where the author is a reference coordinator, they chose HumanClick to begin their experiment with online chat reference. A major problem was system incompatibility for users on Macs; a major benefit was a feature HumanClick added recently which allows the reference staff to briefly "can" messages and draw upon prepared responses (only when appropriate, of course, but it must be tempting to abuse this feature). Also, the author liked the ability to send chatters the appropriate web pages so they can be seen as they would in a reference session at the library. The fact that this was all free was very attractive, but after HumanClick announced fees, they shopped around and bought the Virtual Reference Desk package, and will come online with it any time now. A good case study for library organizations kicking this idea around. - JR

Chapman, Stephen. "Content Follows Form: Preservation via Systems Design" Microform & Imaging Review 30(1) (2001): 14-20. - One day recently I was listening to my local public radio station, and heard an "interview" (love-fest is actually more like what it was), with Nicholson Baker -- a library gadfly who, among other things, protested the destruction of card catalogs as if they were vast treasure trove of unrecoverable information. Now he has moved on, and is presently attacking the practice of replacing decaying newsprint with preservation microfilm. His new book Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper apparently reads like a who-dunit, complete with theories of conspiracy and evil intent. I say "apparently" beause I haven't yet brought myself to buy it, and thereby sending royalties in his direction. But I digress. The reason I bore you with this (although stay tuned, Baker's book may be reviewed in a future issue of Current Cites) is that Chapman's article landed on my desk the next day and seemed to be a near-perfect antidote to Baker's polemic. In his usual thoughtful and learned style, Chapman investigates territory that few have seen, let alone explored. He discusses the differences between the artifact and the intellectual content the artifact holds, and the impact on preservation decisions. He asserts that decisions on what constitutes object integrity should be based on functional characteristics as opposed to physical attributes. So much so, that "it must be acceptable for an 'authentic' copy to have an entirely different look and feel from the source item." Going even further, Chapman makes a reasoned statement that must surely drive Nicholson Baker up the wall, "If the goal of preservation is persistent utility, then functionality rather than aesthetics should drive system design." - RT

Fishman, Stephen. The Public Domain: How to Find Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More. Berkeley, CA: Nolo, 2001. ISBN 0-87337-433-9. - If you have tried to obtain the rights to digitize a currently copyrighted work, you can easily understand why so many digitization projects focus on public domain works instead. Forget about the knotty technical problems involved in creating digital libraries; the really tough problems involve intellectual property rights issues. So, it should be easy to identify public domain materials to avoid these problems, right? Well, maybe not. How about a photograph of a drawing? The photograph may be in the public domain, but the drawing may not be. What happens if a work is in the public domain in the U.S., but not in another country? Was the copyright of a foreign work that had been in the public domain in the U.S. prior to 1996 restored by the GATT treaty? What you need to sort out these issues is a book, written by an knowledgeable attorney, that provides detailed background information about the public domain and discusses specific problems associated with different types of materials (e.g., artworks, architectural documents, choreographic works, databases, films, maps, sheet music, sound recordings, television programs, photographs, software, and written works). Stephen Fishman has written such a book, and, like other Nolo publications, you don't need to have a law degree to understand it. - CB

Guevin, Carole. "Visual Architecture: The Rule Of Three." Digital Web Magazine (April 10, 2001) (http://www.digital-web.com/features/feature_2001-4.shtml). - Been burned by numbers lately? Are all the "rules" of Ten or Seven or Three starting to add up to numeric overload? If so, don't let this prevent you from having a look at Visual Architecture : The Rule of Three by Montreal-based designer, Carole Guevin, which appeared recently in Digital Web. This short yet effectively illustrated article focuses on how meaning is conveyed through visual representation and through the arrangement of objects in print or on a web page. The author notes that as users rely more on scanning rather than on thoroughly reading a page to ascertain its value, the visual cues provided by designers become proportionally more important. - LRK

Katz, Richard N. "Archimedes' Lever and Collaboration : An Interview with Ira Fuchs" EDUCAUSEreview 36(2) (March/April 2001): 16-20 (http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0120.pdf). - Most people have a pretty good idea about why they're in higher education but for those plagued by doubts or for those who just need something convenient to point the in-laws to, help is on the way in the form of this interview. The interview gives Fuchs, vice president for Research IT at the Mellon Foundation, an opportunity to discuss his views on the current and future role of information technology in higher education. Fuchs argues that the ability to openly collaborate and to share information is one of the chief strengths of not-for-profit institutions and that these institutions can use this strength as a lever like Archimedes of yore to "move the earth". - LRK

Marsan, Carol Duffy. "Faster 'Net Growth Rate Raises Fears About Routers" NetworkWorldFusion (April 2, 2001) (http://www.nwfusion.com/news/2001/0402routing.html). - Geek pundits periodically fret about the demise of the Internet; every so often, we read somewhere that the whole works is going to implode, a victim of its own staggering growth rate. This article directs your attention to "an obscure statistic that indicates the 'Net is growing — in size and complexity — at a faster rate than today's routers can handle." That statistic is the number of entries in the Internet backbone's routing table; routing table size and traffic is a key indicator of overall Internet health. Over the past six months, "the size of the routing table and traffic in it exploded," and the necessity for frequent updates by network managers has created infrastructure instability. Much of this activity upsurge can be attributed to "multihoming on corporate networks" — where a single Internet server may be connected to two or more ISPs "for improved reliability and redundancy." And this means...? Large companies may need to up their spending for more powerful network gear. Routing information may be much slower to propagate across the Internet. And ultimately, the Internet Engineering Task Force may have to hammer out a new routing framework. - SK

Thelwall, M. The Responsiveness of Search Engine Indexes Cybermetrics 5(1). paper 1 (2001) (http://www.cindoc.csic.es/cybermetrics/articles/v5i1p1.html) (HTML) and (http://www.cindoc.csic.es/cybermetrics/articles/v5i1p1.pdf) (PDF). - Cybermetics (ISSN1137-5019) is subtitled: International Journal of Scientometrics, Informetrics, and Bibliometrics. This web-only journal is "devoted to the study of the quantitative analysis of scholarly and scientific communications." As such, commonplace topics such as the strengths and weaknesses of search engines are given scholarly treatment and are subject to review before publication. Given that search engines are a significant tool in mining the web for information, it is important to understand how search engines select the URLs for inclusion in their respective databases. There are three primary methods: 1. yield of URLs from crawling the web; 2. extraction of links from authoritative web pages (i.e., whom do they link to); and 3. the submission of URLs by website owners. Most search engines employ one or several of the above techniques. However, another important method is the examination of the quality, reliability and quantity of sites that link to a given site. This article details an experiment undertaken to determine whether the quantity of links to a site will affect the likelihood of its inclusion in search engine databases. The methodology employed to obtain data is described. The search engines selected for the comparison are Alta Vista, HotBot (uses Inktomi spider), and Yahoo (switched from Inktomi spider to Google). Google follows links to sites that it spiders, and is thus fairly responsive to the existence of new sites. However, the algorithms used by most search engines to add and/or delete sites are proprietary secrets. The author concludes that because of varying spider algorithms, no one search engine is all inclusive. In order to retrieve the most comprehensive resource yield, several search engines must be consulted. Furthermore, due to the lack of knowledge about proprietary indexing criteria, it is a good idea to manually submit new site URLs to multiple search engines. - MG

United States General Accounting Office. Electronic Dissemination of Government Publications (GAO-01-428) March, 2001 (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01428.pdf). - This GAO report represents the latest government efforts to deal with a basic problem: the fragmentation of the federal government publication system which formerly functioned as a comprehensive method for getting government information to the public, but since the rise of digitization has been beset with a loss of control over how publications are disseminated. The advantages of online access to public documents are obvious, but serious questions remain about archiving and the accessibility of print versions for the unwired. Unfortunately, the GAO report is less about electronic dissemination than it is about bureaucratic reorganization; specifically, the proposal to transfer responsibility for the Depository Library Program from the Government Printing Office to the Library of Congress. This isn't just negligible administrivia, though, because reading this report and particularly its appendices gives the status of the depository system and the current state of debate. And now that I've whetted your appetite for more government information policy, check out the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science report, "A Comprehensive Assessment of Public Information Dissemination," (http://www.nclis.gov/govt/assess/assess.html) which creates a much bigger context for the many factors involved. - JR


Current Cites 12(4) (April 2001) ISSN: 1060-2356
Copyright © 2001 by the Regents of the University of California All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2001 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Document maintained at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2001/cc01.12.4.html by Roy Tennant.
Last update April 26, 2001. SunSITE Manager: manager@sunsite.berkeley.edu