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October 31, 2003


New: CINDAS (Purdue University's Center for Information, Numerical Data Analysis and Synthesis) LLC database has been released on CD-ROM or as a licensed web-based product. Read more from NewsFactor SciTech.

October 30, 2003

Using Blogs in Student Projects

:: It is becoming more evident to me that students working in groups can make good use of a blog as a project management tool. Two weeks ago I helped a 4th-year mechanical engineering student create a blog for his design project group (four students). To date, he has uploaded URLs, meeting minutes, patent links, links to companies producing devices related to their project, and more. It's a simple and effective way for the team to stay in contact with each other.

We are experimenting with an onsite reference service in the main engineering building, which began in late September. This afternoon while working in the engineering lab providing reference service, I helped three more students in the same course set up blogs for their design groups as well. We ran into some glitches, but I solved them before I left for the day. Afterwards, I considered how offering blogging assistance to students could consume large amounts of my time both in the lab, and back in my office as well. I want the students to be able to make good use of blogs as a project management tool, and therefore want to ensure that they begin using them properly by giving good instruction from the outset.

The logical step: for the University of Alberta to make the creation of blogs a one-step process by offering such a service to its students and staff. It's happening already at Harvard and MIT.

October 28, 2003

New URL for SciTech Library Question On Its Way

:: To our loyal readers: We've purchased a new domain name for this weblog, http://stlq.info, and hope to have it functional within a few days. When the new domain gets "turned on", the old URL, http://podbaydoor.com/engine, should automatically redirect users to http://stlq.info.

We'll let you know when this happens.

PLoS Interview

:: Laura Lynch of Creative Commons interviews Michael Eisen about the launch of the new open-access peer-reviewed journal, PLoS Biology.

October 23, 2003

Call for Boycott of Cell Press Journals

:: A call for a boycott of Cell Press Journals has been written by two important researchers from UCalifornia San Francisco, Peter Walter and Keith Yamamoto. The call to boycott has made it to the SPARC-OAForum and is being republished on blogs, such as -=(In Between)=-. So far, I have found one response to their plea, from Stevan Harnad, U Southampton, UK.

Here is the text of their letter:

    Dear colleagues and friends,

    We are writing to ask your help with an issue that concerns scientists at
    all University of California campuses. In this century, we all rely on
    electronic access to the literature, not only for speed and convenience,
    but increasingly for supplementary methods and data, videos and the like.
    Moreover, at some sites, such as our new UCSF campus at Mission Bay, we
    rely exclusively on electronic access. UC has successfully negotiated
    contracts for almost every on-line journal. The glaring exceptions are the
    Cell Press titles: Cell, Molecular Cell, Developmental Cell, Cancer Cell,
    Immunity, Neuron.

    Since 1998, UC has tried without success to reach a deal with Cell Press
    for electronic access (1). Cell Press is owned by Elsevier, the largest
    science, technology and medicine journal publisher in the world, reporting
    34% and 26% profits in 2001 and 2002, respectively, for its science and
    medicine enterprise (2). In 2002, the University of California paid
    Elsevier $8 million for online access to its journals, 50% of the total
    budget for all online journals in the UC libraries. Elsevier now seeks a
    new contract with annual increases several times above the consumer price
    index, plus an additional levy for the Cell Press titles that rapidly
    reaches $90,000 per year, with hefty annual increases thereafter. After
    exhaustive negotiation, the UC libraries, with the recent support of the UC
    Council of Chancellors, has declined to accept these rates.

    By denying institutional electronic access for the last five years, Cell
    Press has enjoyed a bonanza of personal subscriptions. They now cite the
    potential loss of personal subscriptions as the basis for setting a high
    institutional price.

    It is untenable that a publisher would de facto block access of our
    published work even to our immediate colleagues. Cell Press is breaking an
    unwritten contract with the scientific community: being a publisher of our
    research carries the responsibility to make our contributions publicly
    available at reasonable rates. As an academic community, it is time that we
    reassert our values. We can all think of better ways to spend our time than
    providing free services to support a publisher that values profit above its
    academic mission. We urge four unified actions until the University of
    California and other institutions are granted electronic access to Cell
    Press journals:

    i) decline to review manuscripts for Cell Press journals,
    ii) resign from Cell Press editorial boards,
    iii) cease to submit papers to Cell Press journals, and
    iv) talk widely about Elsevier and Cell Press pricing tactics and business

    If you agree, please let Cell Press know why you take these actions. Our
    goal is to effect change, but to be effective we must stand together.

    Peter Walter and Keith Yamamoto
    On behalf of the UCSF Mission Bay Governance Committee, Genentech Hall

October issue of What's New @ IEEE for Libraries

The October issue of What's New @ IEEE for Libraries has been released and
is available to read on the Web at:


Stories in this issue include:

1. Sign Up for London Luncheon: "Patent Citations Prove R&D Value"
2. IEEE Authors Win Nobel Prize in Medicine for MRI Development
3. New IEEE Journal Seeks Submissions
4. IEEE Xplore Adds New Way to Access IEEE Spectrum
5. Visit IEEE at Internet Librarian & Charleston Conferences in November
6. The Institute Adds Coverage from What's New @ IEEE
7. Emerging Medical Imaging Technology Trends Revealed in IEEE Journal
8. IEEE Spectrum Identifies Top 100 R&D Spenders
9. Bioinformatics Proceedings Now Available
10. IEEE Press Publishes First Comprehensive History Of Information Age
11. Valuable Business Information Offered to IEEE Members at Discount

[posted on STS-L]

October 21, 2003

U Alberta Mech Engineers Make Important Energy Breakthrough, More on PLoS Biology

:: University of Alberta mechanical engineering professors Dr Daniel Kwok and Dr Larry Kostiuk (additional information here), working with two graduate students, Fuzhi Lu (L) and Jun Wang (R), have discovered a new way to produce electricity, the first such discovery in 160 years.

Their research was the front page story in today's Edmonton Journal, and received coverage elsewhere on the Internet.

More information is available on the University of Alberta Express News site. The news of this discovery was also of personal interest to me, as I am the librarian responsible for mechanical engineering here at the U of Alberta.

Their research appears in the November 2003 issue of Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering:

    Research published today by the Institute of Physics journal, Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering reveals a new method of generating electric power by harnessing the natural electrokinetic properties of a liquid such as ordinary tap water when it is pumped through tiny microchannels. The research team from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, have created a new source of clean non-polluting electric power with a variety of possible uses, ranging from powering small electronic devices to contributing to a national power grid.

    The research was led by Professor Daniel Kwok and Professor Larry Kostiuk from the University of Alberta. Professor Kostiuk said: “This discovery has a huge number of possible applications. It’s possible that it could be a new alternative energy source to rival wind and solar power, but this would need huge bodies of water to work on a commercial scale. Hydrocarbon fuels are still the best source of energy but they’re fast running out and so new options like this one could be vital in the future”.

Reference: Yang J, Lu F, Kostiuk LW, Kwok DY J Micromech Microeng 13 (November 2003) 963-970.

:: Expanding coverage of PLoS Biology: articles have appeared in EContent and CNET News.com.

October 18, 2003

PLoS Biology Makes Major Impact On Its First Day

:: On Oct 13, 2003, the first day of online availability to the world, the new open-access journal PLoS Biology had already had a dramatic impact in scholarly publishing. As reported in The Mercury News, a research article by Duke University scientists Miguel Nicolelis, Jose Carmena and seven others, caused a stir:

    Duke University researchers Miguel Nicolelis and Jose Carmena reported that they had successfully trained monkeys with brain implants to move a robot arm with their thoughts -- a key advance by researchers who hope one day to allow paralyzed people to perform similar tasks.
In the hours following the posting of the article, the PLoS servers crashed, with the article having received half a million hits and 80,000 downloads:
    By Monday morning, the Duke paper was rendered inaccessible by a crush of traffic from interested readers that crashed the Public Library's servers. The site received 500,000 hits in the hours immediately after the paper was posted and some 80,000 downloads occurred, prompted by worldwide media coverage.

    "Nothing else has ever argued so strongly for open-access publishing,'' said Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher Michael Eisen, who co-founded the nonprofit organization along with Nobel laureate Harold Varmus and Stanford University biochemist Patrick Brown.

It will be fascinating to see what impact, if any, PLoS Biology will have on the scholarly publishing world. (With thanks to Terry Donovan for bringing this to my attention.

:: BTW, please note the times I've posted recently are incorrect, off anywhere from 6-8 hours into the future. I don't know yet how to fix the problem.

October 15, 2003

PLoS Biology Is In The House, China Is In Space

:: PLoS Biology, "the premier open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science", made its debut yesterday. PLoS "is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource." The first issue is v1 n1, October 2003. What's cutting edge about PLoS Biology, of course, is that all works published within are open access, available without cost to anyone, anywhere, who wishes to read or download for their own use. The PLoS Open-Access License provides more detail.

The appearance of this peer-reviewed, scholarly journal marks the beginning of a new era in scholarly publication, one in which a research journal of the highest quality and standards is made available without cost to the reader. It remains to be seen what the long term effects will be, and whether or not any impact will be felt in the for-profit scholarly publishing business.

:: China became the third country to send a human into space, as it launched its first manned mission this evening (9:00 pm EDT). The "taikonaut" is named Yang Li Wei, and he will be in space for 21 hours.

October 10, 2003

DASER Summit - Digital Archives for Science & Engineering Resources

:: Registration has opened for the Digital Archives for Science & Engineering Resources Summit, to be held 21-23 November 2003, MIT, Cambridge MA.

October 8, 2003

Stuff You Don't Learn In Engineering School, and What To Expect Beyond

:: The Sept 2003 issue of IEEE Spectrum features the first of a series of articles by Carl Selinger, called "Stuff You Don't Learn In Engineering School." As John Dupuis suggests, there is a role that engineering librarians can play in teaching some of that "stuff", including research and library skills. Yesterday I spent 50 minutes with 155 Mechanical Engineering 465 design students, and did my best to impress upon them the importance of developing these skills for use beyond their capstone design projects, i.e., in the field, when they are employed as full-time engineers.

One approach I take is to highlight examples of why they will need research skills, such as failure analysis, technology integration, developing new products or upgrading existing ones, developing intellectual property, confirming existence of studies or experiments to avoid duplication of effort, locate licensable technologies, etc. This information, and more, is extracted from the following article, which I distribute to each student in their handout package. I recommend it highly if you are interested in getting engineering students to begin thinking of life beyond the classroom.

October 3, 2003

Elsevier Over The Top?

:: The Elsevier title, Surface Science Reports, will publish 4 volumes and 32 issues in 2003 (and again in 2004). A few eyebrows have been raised with the publication of Volume 51, which has been assigned 8 issues at once (v51, n1-8), and features but one, 149-page article. The annual subscription cost for this journal is $1,449US ($1,939CDN), making the cost of this single article $362US, or $484CDN. Ridiculous.

October 1, 2003

Interview with Tim Berners-Lee

:: Tim Berners-Lee is credited with inventing the world wide web in 1989. He shares his ideas of a more "intelligent" web in this interview from the BBC.

:: Today's website is from the Life Sciences Libraries at the University of British Columbia. Today's resource guide is "Agriculture: Guide to Library Resources & Information" from Pendergrass Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Library, U Tennessee.