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February 28, 2005

Cites & Incites

:: The March 2005 Cites & Incites from Walt Crawford is available for your perusal.

ACM Launches New Journal

:: As reported by George Porter on PAMNET and elsewhere: ACM Transactions on Multimedia Computing, Communications, and Applications (TOMCCAP) has debuted in the ACM Digital Library. TOMCCAP is one of eight titles originally announced by the ACM for introduction in 2004.

Other titles from that announcement which haven't launched yet are:
  • ACM Transactions on Algorithms (TALG)
  • ACM Transactions on Emerging Technologies in Computing (TETC)
  • ACM Transactions on Sensor Networks (TOSN)>
- George Porter

February 27, 2005

ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman Slams "The Blog People"

:: Michael Gorman, Dean of Library Services at the Henry Madden Library, California State University, Fresno, President-Elect of the American Library Association, and considered by many to be a leader in our profession, is taking a beating online for his Library Journal column, Revenge of the Blog People. The column begins with (and maintains throughout) a condescending tone, as he writes:

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.

Ostensibly, Gorman's column is a response to criticism leveled at him by bloggers for an op-ed piece he wrote for the LA Times ("Google and God's Mind," December 17, 2004), in which he questions "the usefulness of Google digitizing millions of books and making bits of them available via its notoriously inefficient search engine." However, he also chose to use his column to condemn anyone who dares to blog:

It is obvious that the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote. Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.
I do not recall ever reading something so hard-edged and mean-spirited in its dismissal of a new, exciting movement, There is little point in defending Weblog Nation, or the many diverse applications of weblogs being utilized in libraries today. In my library system, at least fourteen blogs are used for applications including dissemination of library news, project management, e-journal maintenance, software working groups, digital projects, management of our knowledge common, and more. My guess is that none of the participants consider him- or herself a charter member of The Blog People. The weblog, for what it's worth, has provided a new way for rapid distribution and exchange of diverse ideas, new ways to communicate, to share information and opinion, and create communities of like-minded librarians interested in sharing their knowledge and experiences with others. (As an engineering librarian, I introduced the weblog as a project management tool in 2004 to a number of engineering design classes in which I teach sessions on library and information resources, and continue to do so this term.)

The larger concern, however, is that he is the next leader of the largest library association on the planet, which means he is moving into a position of major influence in the profession. On his website, he stresses that he hopes to be "an effective advocate for our shared values and a leader who can help the association to seize its opportunities and rise to its challenges." In acknowledging his adamant disdain for weblogs and those who create them, I wonder how he plans to accomplish this without alienating a growing population of intelligent, articulate, and passionate librarians, committed to their profession, and who are already among the converted. I also wonder, what about younger librarians, those new to the profession or about to enter it, what might their reactions be to the dismissal, by one of its noteworthy leaders, of a relatively new but growing component of librarianship?

Of note, Jessamyn West reports that Gorman has since indicated his column was intended to be satirical, but does state that he is not a fan of blogs, and notes that he has "an old fashioned belief that, if one wishes to air one's views and be taken seriously, one should go through the publishing/editing process." Times have changed. That process still exists, and must continue to do so, but it should not be the only way to air one's views and be "taken seriously."

One of my favorite of many responses to Gorman's column appeared on library_grrls:"Despite the fact that this is indeed a satirical piece, I resent being compared to a B movie." Imagine the sequels... The Blog People vs Larry Flynt. 24 Hour Blog People. Ordinary Blog People. The Blog People That Time Forgot. Darby O'Gill and The Little Blog People. The Curse of the Blog People. Games Blog People Play. An Enemy of the Blog People. Where Have All the Blog People Gone? Blog People Who Die Mysteriously In Their Sleep. I Like To Hurt Blog People. Blog People Hate Me and They Hate My Glasses. The Best of the Village Blog People. All Power to the Blog People. Let My Blog People Live. Man of the Blog People. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Blog People. Blog People are Dead. We The Blog People. The War of the Six Million Blog People. OK, enough. Thanks, IMDb.

Jessamyn, who supported Gorman for the ALA Presidency, wrote the following in his website guestbook:"Lovely website, have you considered a blog?" My guess is, no. Then again, who knows?

February 24, 2005

National Digital Science Library - Invitation to Help Build

From a post by John M Saylor on STS-L:

Colleagues- The National Science Digital Library(NSDL) Program was launched by the National Science Foundation in 2000 to establish an online library of resources for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and research. Access to aggregated collections and services began in December 2002 with the opening of the NSDL.org web site (http://nsdl.org)

As part of a phased approach to extend the width and depth of the STEM resources in the NSDL we are now looking for volunteers in the subject areas listed below to recommend resources for inclusion in the NSDL collection. We have developed an automated system called the NSDL Resource Recommendation System (RRS) that is a simple process by which an authorized selector to identifies a resource with a URL, initiates an automated metadata generation process, has the opportunity to edit and augment the metadata if necessary, and then submits it for inclusion in the NSDL.

If you are a librarian interested in contributing to this effort to recommend resources for inclusion in the NSDL. Please contact me. I will respond with some additional background, explain the criteria, and get you going with the system.

Thank you so much for your consideration and support.

Subject Areas that need selectors (you can be as specific or broad as you like):

Education (General)

  • Instructional issues
  • Careers
  • Educational technology
  • Educational media
  • Integrating technology into the classroom
  • Multimedia education
  • Technology planning
  • Aging
  • Body systems and senses
  • Environmental health
  • Human sexuality
  • Nutrition
  • Algebra
  • Applied mathematics
  • Arithmetic
  • Calculus
  • Discrete mathematics
  • Functions
  • Geometry
  • Measurement
  • Number sense
  • Number theory
  • Patterns
  • Probability
  • Statistics
  • Trigonometry
  • Agriculture
  • Astronomy
  • Biological and life sciences
  • Biology
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Earth science
  • Ecology
  • Embryology
  • Engineering
  • Entomology
  • General science
  • Geology
  • Histology
  • History of science
  • Metallurgy
  • Meteorology
  • Natural history
  • Oceanography
  • Paleontology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physical sciences
  • Physics
  • Space sciences
Social studies
  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Psychology

John M. Saylor
Collection Development
National Science Digital Library
Director (on leave 10/02-9/06)
Engineering Library
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-220
email: JMS1 AT cornell DOT edu
phone: 607-255-4134
fax: 607-255-5196

This is a great idea, but I would like to see engineering removed from "Science" into its own subject area, with the subdivisions of the discipline listed as well.

February 22, 2005

SARA: Scholarly Articles Research Alerting - from Taylor & Francis

:: Taylor & Francis has revised its alert service, SARA - Scholarly Articles Research Alerting:

Taylor & Francis currently publishes over 950 academic peer-reviewed journals across a variety of disciplines. In response to the changing needs of the academic community, we are using the Internet actively to disseminate information about journals in advance of publication.

SARA - Scholarly Articles Research Alerting - is a service designed to deliver by email, tables of contents for any issue of Psychology Press, Routledge, or Taylor & Francis journals to anyone who has requested the information. This service is completely free of charge and you can select to receive alerts by keyword, title, sub-category or *main category.

What seems to be missing from the service are RSS feeds. :-( What is taking publishers so long to offer RSS feeds for tables-of-contents, publisher news and press releases, etc.?

February 18, 2005

The RSS Challenge

:: With the announcement of Engineering Village 2's new RSS feature, the responsibility for getting the word out falls to the practitioners, namely us - the librarians in the trenches. Having confirmed that the EV2 RSS feature is working in Bloglines when off campus, but on a proxy-authenticated computer, I decided to mention it in a class I taught this afternoon to 45 fourth-year chemical engineering design students. When I asked them who knew what RSS is, none of them raised her or his hand. When I asked how many knew about blogs, one student raised his hand, although after the class, it became evident that a few more of them knew of blogs.

Since the fall of 2004, I've mentioned blogs briefly in the presentations I give to students in design engineering classes in mechanical, materials, and chemical engineering. Last fall, seven student groups from Mechanical and Chemical classes approached me for assistance setting up a blog for their design projects. In the chemical engineering class in which I taught this afternoon, I mentioned blogs again, in the context of using them as a project management tool, just as the class was ending (I had run out of time). Afterwards, two groups approached me, each to discuss setting up a blog, and a number of other students took a handout I had cribbed together from notes made in the fall on setting up a Blogger.com blog on the U of Alberta server. The students who spoke with me were keen on trying blogs, and one student remarked that she thought using blogs for design project coordination was a brilliant idea. True, and it would be much easier to spread the blog gospel if our university offered weblogs to its users.

RSS is another issue. That none of the chemical engineering students knew about RSS was to me, not surprising. They are focused on other things. But if we are to begin to make use of RSS in an instructional, research setting such as this class, the question becomes, what might we need to do to establish the awareness of RSS to the undergraduate student in the first place? In tandem with that question, we may also need to consider this: how important is it for librarians to help the undergrad become aware of RSS?

(Instructing in this class, which I've done a number of times before, also served to remind me of the increasing number of resources available to researchers in chemical engineering, and by extension, all other disciplines. The number of resources available seems to be growing at a geometric rate. I'll save my rant on that for another time.)

Firefox Plugin for RedLightGreen

:: RedLightGreen is offering Firefox plugin. The "plugin adds RedLightGreen as a choice in the Firefox toolbar search box"

Free Patents Online Database

:: From a post on CHMINF-L this morning, Dana Roth reports the following:


This web site has free PDF downloading (instead of having to page through TIFFs like at the US Patent Office). On the initial text display page, click on 'View Patent Images' and then click on 'View as PDF [1.3M]', to get a PDF of the full patent ...

Having the .pdf of the full patent is a bonus. As Dana notes, not having to page through the .tiff files on the USPTO site would save much research time, and also allows for saving the .pdf file to your computer. There is an Expert Search function that uses the same search syntax as the USPTO.

Patents are available from #4,000,000 forward. There is no explanation or reason given on the site as to how they are able to offer access for free.

University of Alberta Libraries Adds 285 RSS Feeds

:: The University of Alberta Libraries, my home base, has added approximately 285 RSS feeds to include both New Books by Library and New Books by Call Number. For example, the list of RSS feeds for the T Classification. The RSS feeds cover not just the University of Alberta Libraries, but all members of the NEOS Library Consortium, in and around Edmonton.

Kenton Good, who created the feeds, offers an explantion here of how he and his team did it.

February 17, 2005

Subscribing to an Email List (Listserv) Using Bloglines

Randy has asked that I copy this post from BDW into STLQ. I'm glad I wasn't the only one in the dark.

I feel like I just invented water, but a number of people I know as well as myself could not for the life of us figure out how to subscribe to a listserv that required any kind of email to be sent using Bloglines. It was easy enough to understand how Bloglines could generate an email address to include in a web form, but without being able to send from that address, we were dead in our tracks. It turns out it's a dead simple process. For others of you who may be as slow on the uptake as I am...

1) Log into Bloglines

2) Click "Add" (top left-hand corner)

3) Look towards the bottom of the page where it says "Create an Email Subscription"

4) Fill in the blanks (e.g. Name = web4lib; Folder = listservs; ...)

5) Click "Create Email Subscription"

6) NOW, go to the folder that you created and the subsequent title of the feed/page you also just created

7) VOILA. At the top of the page you now have the option to "Send Email" and the ability to include any commands you require (e.g. TO SUBSCRIBE TO WEB4LIB:
Send the message "subscribe Web4Lib your name" to listserv@sunsite.berkeley.edu)

That easy!! You are able to reply, forward and do other standard email functions as well.

As of today, I'm listserv free! Hooray for my inbox!

Google Scholar "Preferences" - Is Our World About to Get Rocked?

:: This is flying around listservs and discussion groups. From a post by Andrew Pace on WEB4LIB this morning:

Anyone seen Google Scholar today? There's a new "Preferences" section. Now if you are lucky enough to have your institution listed, you will get a link to your resolver within your hitlist results. Interestingly, the firefox extension trumps this link, I can't really discern the logic of when the resolver link appears and when it doesn't. I've only been looking at this for 5 minutes, but I don't think I like this direction. Wouldn't it be better if Google simply tried to send back the openURL so that extensions and bookmarklets would work properly? I think they are using DOI and OCLC# to build the links to various resolvers. Are they going to offer every library's resolver here? There's an idea, Google as the authoritative list of link resolvers!
In our office, Geoff noted that "I think this is a rather large signpost, especially for Sirsi et al, that the world of the OPAC is about to get rocked."

What's Up?

:: The February 2005 issue of Walt Crawford's always entertaining Cites & Incites Insights is now available.

:: In the v6 n3 January 2005 issue of The Charleston Advisor, Louise F Deis (Princeton) and David Goodman (Long Island U) review Web of Science (2004 version) and Scopus. Richard T Sweeney and Haymwantee Singh of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, respond to the review.

:: Issue 6.2 of ACS's Livewire is available.

:: EEVL Column: Four Search Engines and a Plaque. Roddy MacLeod looks at some recent developments to the EEVL service.

:: In Péter's Digital Reference Shelf for February 2005, Péter Jacsó reviews RDN - the Resource Discovery Network:

RDN is set up in eight hubs, each of which represents a group of specific disciplines that develop and maintain annotated directories of Web resources in their fields, as well as other educational materials, such as tutorials in digital format for Web distribution.
Among the eight hubs are EEVL and PSIgate, the Physical Sciences Information Gateway.

February 16, 2005

EV2 Rolls out RSS

:: Engineering Village 2 is now including RSS feeds with every search query. It's a brilliant move, and sets a new standard for "current awareness" regarding database searching. From the Ei site:

Engineering Village 2 provides RSS feeds of your search queries. Once you have executed a search, you can post the latest updated records that match your query to your RSS aggregator and share the results with others within your institution. Engineering Village 2 RSS feed includes titles of the records and links back to Engineering Village 2 for the detailed record. You need to be in an IP authenticated environment that has access to Engineering Village 2 to view the detailed record.
What's more, the RSS feeds work in standalone RSS readers like Awasu or Sharpreader, but also in web-based readers like Bloglines or My Yahoo.

Until this morning (now Feb 18), the only glitch was that it wouldn't work outside of an IP-authorized environment, even with proxy authentication. However, in the past 15 hours, the wizards at Engineering Information upgraded the functionality of their RSS feature, so it now works when you are off-campus, or away from your IP-authorized location. From off-campus, authenticate using your institution's protocol(s), check your EV2 RSS feeds in Bloglines, click on any entry from a feed, and it opens another window with the Detailed Record. Score another coup for EV2!

Free Resources Containing Searchable Abstracts in Science, Technology and Engineering

:: Earlier this month on ELDNET-L, Sarah A.V. Kirby advised that she was "compiling a list of free resources that contain searchable abstracts for multiple science/technology/engineering journals, magazines, and government publications. The abstracts have to be free, but the articles do not. Site registration is o.k., so long as it's free."

Sarah received a number of responses to her query, and finished compiling her list, available here in Word document format. Sarah can be reached at sarah AT vandeventer DOT net or sarah DOT kirby AT att DOT net, should you be interested in sending her comments and feedback. The list is made available here with her permission. Thank you, Sarah.

February 14, 2005

ASEE - ELD Hosting a Duplicates Exchange

:: The Engineering Libraries Division of the American Society for Engineering Education hosts a Duplicates Exchange on the Internet. It is not a listserv; lists are sent to the coordinator and are distributed to the current members of the exchange.

Engineering librarians who would like to get the lists or submit their own lists should send lists and/or e-mail addresses to me, the coordinator. Lists should be sent as e-mail messages and include a statement that tells users how to obtain issues and whether postage will need to be reimbursed.

For more information see the enclosed Microsoft Word document or go to the ASEE/ELD Duplicates Exchange web page: http://eld.lib.ucdavis.edu/duplicates.php

Please contact Orion Pozo if you or someone at your library would like to receive and/or submit lists of engineering-related duplicates.

Orion Pozo, Coordinator
ASEE/ELD Duplicates Exchange
NCSU Libraries, Box 7111
NC State Univ., Raleigh, NC 27695
Email: orion_pozo AT ncsu DOT edu
AOL IM: FOrionPozo
tel: 919-515-7557 fax: 919-513-1108

Proceedings of Science - New Open Access Initiative to Publish Conference Proceedings

:: I read this on PAMNET-L, and think it's a brilliant idea:

Dear colleagues,
I would like to inform you about a new, online service provided by SISSA - the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste - to the scientific community, called PoS - Proceedings of Science.


PoS publishes online, at moderate rates for organizers, conference proceedings in the fields of Astronomy, Biophysics, Mathematics, Neuroscience and Physics and Science communication. Access by the readership is OPEN ACCESS, without registration or charge. Moreover, the online publication procedure is fast and user-friendly thanks to the software system that runs the entire editorial procedure. I think that including this open resource, which publishes highly rated conferences, in your databases could improve the service offered by your library. Given its low rates and its easy use I think that you could recommend this service to conference organizers in your institution.

Best regards
dott. Andrea Wehrenfennig; SISSA Library Head
tel. 0039-040-3787523; fax 0039-040-3787528
andreaw AT sissa DOT it; http://www.sissa.it/library

Royal Society of Chemistry Announces Three New Book Series

:: From a post on CHMINF-L:

2005 sees exciting times for RSC book publishing, with the launch of three new series.

Firstly, Biomolecular Sciences is a new series of research level books, covering the areas of structural biology, chemical biology, informatics, drug discovery and development, and biophysical chemistry. Ideal for academics and professionals, either with a chemical, biochemical or biological background, conducting research in appropriate chemical and biological science disciplines.

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, a series edited by Nobel prize winner Harry Kroto and Paul O'Brien, will also be launching. This book series will cover the wide ranging areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology. In particular, the series will provide a comprehensive source of information on research associated with nanostructured materials and miniaturised lab on a chip technologies. This series will provide an accessible reference for professionals and researchers in academia and industry.

The field of toxicological research is rapidly expanding and diversifying driven by the need to understand the human and ecological risks of exposure to chemicals and other toxicants. Our third new series, Issues in Toxicology is devoted to coverage of modern toxicology and assessment of risk and is responding to the resurgence in interest in these areas of scientific investigation. Written by expert scientists from academia, government and industry, each book will serve as a reference and guide to investigations in toxicology, biomedicine, biochemistry, forensics and environmental/pollution sciences.

For more information about these new additions to the RSC book portfolio go to http://www.rsc.org/is/books/series.htm

Heather Ellicott, Trade Marketing Manager Royal Society of Chemistry, Thomas Graham House, Milton Road, Science Park, Cambridge CB4 0WF, UK Tel +44 (0)1223 432257, Fax +44 (0)1223 426017 http://www.rsc.org and http://www.chemsoc.org

While posting this, it occurred to me (again) how frustrating it is to have to find such press releases via listservs rather than the publisher's home site. I checked the RSC Press Releases Homepage, and as of today, Feb 15, nothing has been added since a Feb 3, 2005 notice. In addition to the above post on CHMINF-L, another post about RSC lauching OpenURL linking appears on CHMINF-L. Neither of these releases in on the RSC Press Release Homepage. More frustrating is that RSC does not have RSS embedded into their press release or news pages! Argh.

So the rhetorical question is: what is taking publishers so long to see the value of RSS, and add it to pages on their sites that are regularly updated, especially press release pages??? I don't have the time to start trolling publishers' sites, in an attempt to confirm which publishers are or are not using RSS. If you know of and STM publishers using RSS, please let me know.

February 9, 2005

Dana Roth on "Using the Mathematics Literature", edited by Kristine K Fowler

:: Dana Roth sent the following comments about the new book, Using the Mathematics Literature, edited by Kristine K. Fowler:

As a 'chemistry' librarian, I am obviously not qualified to give a complete review of 'Using the Mathematics Literature', edited by Kristine K. Fowler.

However, I would like to express my appreciation and admiration for the excellent introduction she (and Molly White) provided in Part I (Tools and Strategies).

Kristine offers a very informative and instructive introductory chapter on the 'Mathematics Culture', which is followed by a chapter on 'Tools & Strategies for Finding Mathematics Information. Molly White's chapter on 'Tools and Strategies for Searching the Research Literature' completes Part 1.

The chapter on 'Mathematic Culture' certainly helped this librarian develop a new appreciation for the unique world of mathematicians and the recurrent themes in mathematics. Writing vs doing, creativity vs deduction, beauty, art vs science, pure vs applied, truth, discovery vs invention are a sample of the topics developed. Kristine also provides an extensive list of both print and online resources for further reading.

The second and third chapters provide an annotated listings of basic works that all science librarians should become familiar with.

Kristine's chapter is especially helpful, with sections covering common reference questions, such as: definitions, finding tables of integrals, biographical information, interpreting references, finding English translations, finding/verifying quotations & anectodes, and recreational mathematics.

Molly White's chapter is an excellent review of the various online and print indexes, followed by a discussion of web based resources and current projects and concluding with examples of how to find a specific reference.

These three chapters should be essential reading for all science librarians.

I thank Dana for the brief review, and note the coincidental timing of this post, only a day after the entry about the new book by Martha Tucker and Nancy Anderson. My guess: both books are of the highest quality, and worth adding to your collection if your library includes a substantial mathematics collection.

Google Launches a Map Service

:: From CNET News, word that Google has "quietly" launched a beta map service:

In its latest play in the ongoing search wars, Google on Tuesday quietly launched a beta site for a new map service.

Google Maps offers maps, driving directions and the ability to search for local businesses. The search giant appears to be working with TeleAtlas for the mapping products. Neither Google nor TeleAtlas could be reached for comment.

The service offers a few tweaks to standard mapping products. Someone using the service can click and drag the maps, instead of having to click and reload, for example, and magnified views of specific spots pop up in bubbles. The new map service supports Internet Explorer and Mozilla browsers. It covers the United States, Puerto Rico and parts of Canada.

Any new online map functionality would be of interest to those of us in libraries covering geography, geology, civil engineering, to name a few. The library in which I work houses the second largest map collection in Canada.

February 8, 2005

Guide to Information Sources in Mathematics and Statistics

:: Catherine Lavallée-Welch posted information on the new reference book by Martha Tucker and Nancy Anderson. The book is called Guide to Information Sources in Mathematics and Statistics:

This book is a reference for librarians, mathematicians, and statisticians involved in college and research level mathematics and statistics in the 21st century. We are in a time of transition in scholarly communications in mathematics, practices which have changed little for a hundred years are giving way to new modes of accessing information. Where journals, books, indexes and catalogs were once the physical representation of a good mathematics library, shelves have given way to computers, and users are often accessing information from remote places. Part I is a historical survey of the past 15 years tracking this huge transition in scholarly communications in mathematics. Part II of the book is the bibliography of resources recommended to support the disciplines of mathematics and statistics. These resources are grouped by material type. Publication dates range from the 1800's onwards. Hundreds of electronic resources-some online, both dynamic and static, some in fixed media, are listed among the paper resources. Amazingly a majority of listed electronic resources are free.
Purchasing this for our collection is a no-brainer; without seeing it, I know the book will be of the highest quality.

Online Access to Complete Archive of AIP Journals

:: The American Institute of Physics is offering online access to the entire backfile of AIP journals. From the AIP site:

All subscriptions to AIP journals at the institutional rate include access to a five-year online backfile. In 2005, we’re offering extended access to all AIP journals back to Volume 1, Issue 1. This lets you provide your patrons with thousands of additional articles online.

For an annual maintenance fee of only $95 each ($130 for The Journal of Chemical Physics, Journal of Applied Physics, and Applied Physics Letters), your patrons can now access the entire backfile of AIP journals — a significant increase over the number of articles available online with a regular subscription. Complete backfile access is also included with select AIP combination subscriptions. While research in many scientific disciplines rapidly becomes obsolete, the results obtained in physics often remain sought after for many years.

- via Online Insider

February 7, 2005

Dialog Divides into Sci-Tech/Intellectual Property and Business/News

:: Today's ITI NewsBreaks has a few items of interest:

Dialog Divides into Sci-Tech/Intellectual Property and Business/News - "Dialog and DataStar will shift to Thomson Scientific & HealthCare. Its general manager will be David Brown, who will report to president and CEO Vin Carraher. The remaining units (NewsRoom, NewsEdge, Profound, LiveNews, and Intelliscope) will stay as part of Thomson Legal & Regulatory. Its general manager will be Ciaran Morton, who will report to president and CEO Steve Buege. The general managers will remain at their present physical locations—Brown in Cary, N.C., and Morton in London. The general manager title seems a bit of a comedown from their previous job titles of senior vice president and executive vice president, but Thomson’s take is that the titles reflect their new “wall-to-wall operating responsibilities.”"

Three other items of interest are covered in the Weekly News Digest:

1. USPTO Makes Trademark Application File Available - "The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says that now—for the first time via the Internet—anyone can use its Web site (http://www.uspto.gov) to review documents in the official trademark application file, including all decisions made by trademark examining attorneys as well as their reasons for making them. The system, known as Trademark Document Retrieval (TDR), offers the public an advanced electronic portal to PDF viewing, downloading, and printing of an array of information and documents for more than 460,000 trademark applications totaling more than 8 million document pages."

2. Techstreet Offers Free Standards Tracking - " Techstreet (http://www.techstreet.com), a business of The Thomson Corp., announced that it will offer free, unlimited standards tracking at Techstreet via “the Online Standards Superstore.” The service is designed for engineers, corporate librarians, and technical professionals who need to stay on top of the ever-changing rules for product design, testing, safety, compliance, and quality control. Users can browse and click to create a custom list of industry standards important for their work; they will receive automatic e-mail notices when any of those standards are revised or amended."

3. Ovid Introduces Statistics Reporting Tool - " Ovid Technologies, Inc. (http://www.ovid.com), a provider of electronic medical, scientific, and academic information research solutions, announced a new statistical reporting tool, Ovid Stats, for the Ovid Web Gateway interface. Ovid Stats is designed to provide administrators with a reporting tool that allows for quick and efficient usage monitoring of their Ovid databases, books, and journals. With detailed usage information, administrators can make better informed content purchasing decisions."

February 4, 2005

Engineering Village 2 - Minor Anomalies With Truncation

:: In a previous post, I waxed eloquent about the new changes to EV2, unveiled last month by Engineering Information Inc. One of the (very welcome) upgrades I noted was the ability to truncate to a single character, using the wildcard character, "?", i.e., search equation?, and EV2 would return results with equation or equations in the records.

Upon closer inspection, however, I discovered that the wildcard is used to replace a single character only, rather than allow for zero-to-one character replacement. From the EV2 site:

Use wildcard (?) to replace a single character.
This morning, I was helping a chem eng student search for the phrase, osmotic virial equation, using Easy Search. The phrase returned 117 records in a combined Compendex and Inspec search. Assuming the "?" would return both equation and equations in the results, we searched the phrase, osmotic virial equation?, in Easy Search. The resulting set was 80 records, much to my surprise. We checked the 80 records, and discovered that each of them had the word "equations" somewhere in the record. However, the remaining 37 records did not, confirming that the "?" is always searching for one extra character, not zero or one extra character.

To add to this equation (no pun intended, I think!), EV2 has an autostemming feature that can be turned on or off - it defaults to on - which seems to mimic the truncation symbol, "*". EV2 describes the truncation function as:

Use truncation (*) to search for words that begin with the same letters.
comput* returns computer, computers, computerize, computerization
EV2 describes the autostemming function as:
Terms are automatically stemmed, except in the author field, unless the "Autostemming off" feature is checked.
management returns manage, managed, manager, managers, managing, management
I don't see a difference between the two functions, which I believe could cause some confusion for the user.

Using a different example, consider the word cat, which can cause all kinds of problems for the searcher. In a db where the "?" truncates zero or one character, a search on cat? would return cat or cats. Where the asterisk returns zero-to-unlimited characters, search cat*, and the results would include cat, cats, cathode, catalysis, catastrophe, catch, catalogue, catatonic, cattle, etc.

I searched cat on EV2 (Quick Search, Compendex/Inspec combined) in the following ways, with the following results:

  1. cat - Autostemming on: 166108 records found in Compendex & Inspec for: ((cat) WN All fields), 1969-2005
  2. cat - Autostemming off: 164303 records found in Compendex & Inspec for: ((cat) WN All fields), 1969-2005
  3. cat? - Autostemming on: 9893 records found in Compendex & Inspec for: ((cat?) WN All fields), 1969-2005
  4. cat? - Autostemming off: 9893 records found in Compendex & Inspec for: ((cat?) WN All fields), 1969-2005
  5. cat* - Autostemming on: 818875 records found in Compendex & Inspec for: ((cat?) WN All fields), 1969-2005
  6. cat* - Autostemming off: 818875 records found in Compendex & Inspec for: ((cat*) WN All fields), 1969-2005
What is evident from the results is that use of either the truncation or wildcard symbol overrides the autostemming function.

Of note is that the use of the wildcard function as a single character replacement, rather than a zero-to-one character replacement, is not endemic to EV2. CSA – Cambridge Scientific Abstracts – uses it the same way, as does Web of Science. However, Web of Science allows for all three options:

The asterisk (*) represents zero to multiple characters.
The question mark stands for one character. The dollar sign stands for one character or no characters.
The SilverPlatter WebSPIRS platform uses "*" for zero-to-unlimited truncation, and the "?" for zero-to-one character truncation. The OVID platform also allows for the three options, but with a different character set (dollar sign, question mark, hash mark.)

Comments: Truncation and wildcard functionality are important options for searchers. In my experience though, most students and researchers seldom use truncation, because generally they aren't thinking of plurals or variant spellings of words, or are not aware the option exists in the database they are searching. As such, I'd like to see a simplification of truncation/wildcard functionality in EV2, and by extention, in most if not all databases. (I know, that is truly wishful thinking!)

Options to consider for EV2:

  • Allow the wildcard symbol, “?”, to work as a zero-to-one character function, or introduce a third symbol to do this, if it is considered important to retain single-character truncation;
  • Reconsider the autostemming function. How valuable is it to the user if the user does not know it is working, or does not know what its function is from the outset of the search? I don't believe the average user twigs to this option, even if it is already on;
  • Eliminate left-side, or prefix truncation. It would never occur to me that $catal would return catalyis, catalyses, catalytic, etc.
  • Allow for the use of the same truncation/wildcard functions across all three EV2 search options, Easy, Quick and Expert.
Of course, this is just my opinion, I could be wrong. :-)

Despite the foregoing observations, I very much like the new changes to EV2, especially the faceted searching, which will expand to Quick Search and Expert Search sometime in the near future. I demonstrated faceted searching yesterday afternoon to 70+ graduates and faculty in Chemical and Materials Engineering on campus, and they were suitably impressed. I have more suggestions for improvements to the search function on EV2, but that can wait for another post sometime soon.

Combined Chemical Dictionary Expands Its Content

:: The Combined Chemical Dictionary, available via CHEMnetBASE, expanded its content today. From an e-mail from Dr Fiona Macdonald, Publisher, Chemistry, Taylor and Francis Books:

Changes include:
  • Addition of 5,900 new compounds
  • Now contains 188,000 natural products, 46,000 drugs, 276,000 organic compounds and 103,000 inorganic/organometallic compounds
  • Literature coverage to mid -2004
We purchased CHEMnetBASE many moons ago, and were happy to stop using the CD-ROM equivalents. Note that "Searching each Chemnetbase product is completely free of charge - you can browse, perform searches and view search hitlists. If you want to view or print the full product entries you will need a current subscription."

February 2, 2005

Chemical Industry Responds to Authors of "Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution"

:: Legal action has been launched by twenty US chemical companies to discredit the authors of the book, "Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution":

Twenty of the biggest chemical companies in the United States have launched a campaign to discredit two historians who have studied the industry's efforts to conceal links between their products and cancer. In an unprecedented move, attorneys for Dow, Monsanto, Goodrich, Goodyear, Union Carbide and others have subpoenaed and deposed five academics who recommended that the University of California Press publish the book Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, by Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner. The companies have also recruited their own historian to argue that Markowitz and Rosner have engaged in unethical conduct. Markowitz is a professor of history at the CUNY Grad Center; Rosner is a professor of history and public health at Columbia University and director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia's School of Public Health.
The authors of the book are Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner. From the U California Press site:
Deceit and Denial details the attempts by the chemical and lead industries to deceive Americans about the dangers that their deadly products present to workers, the public, and consumers. Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner pursued evidence steadily and relentlessly, interviewed the important players, investigated untapped sources, and uncovered a bruising story of cynical and cruel disregard for health and human rights. This resulting exposé is full of startling revelations, provocative arguments, and disturbing conclusions--all based on remarkable research and information gleaned from secret industry documents.
Via Bob Michaelson on CHMINF-L.

February 1, 2005

RealClimate - Climate Scientists Use The Blog

:: RealClimate is new blog, launched in December 2004 by a group of concerned climate scientists, which describes it as a commentary site:

RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.
Nine scientists contribute to the blog - er - commentary site, and do so of their own volition, as expressed in this note on the page:
The contributors to this site do so in a personal capacity during their spare time and their posts do not represent the views of the organizations for which they work. The contributors are solely responsible for the content of the site and receive no remuneration for their contributions.
RealClimate was covered in Nature, v432, n7020, December 2004. In the editorial, "Welcome climate bloggers: A group of just nine climate scientists is trying to change the media coverage of their discipline. Thanks to an ongoing revolution in electronic news, they might just succeed", the Nature applauds the group for using the blog format as a means to provide quick rebuttals to groups such as think tanks, who consistently downplay the concerns of global warming. The contributors must use caution, however, not to oversell their own opinions on issues which divide scientists. In other words, the editorial concludes:
The site needs to balance speed with objectivity, readability and accuracy. That’s no mean feat. Fail, and the blog will be dismissed as no more trustworthy than the myriad lobbying groups already writing on climate.But if the site’s founders pull it off, they could change the coverage of climate change for the better. Good luck to them.
Another article in the same issue of Nature, "Climatologists get real over global warming", by Jim Giles, repeats the concern for caution mentioned in the editorial. Will the site begin to appear as a "party line", and what of the peer-review process, absent from the comments posted? Another concern raised is, will respected scientists who disagree with global warming concerns be able to join the group? As for the absence of the peer-review process, of the site's founders, Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York notes "that postings are not academic papers and so do not need full peer review. Comments are instead e-mailed to researchers contributing to the site, and their suggestions are incorporated before the piece is uploaded." Peer-review was address on RealClimate in two posts: Peer Review: A Necessary But Not Sufficient Condition, and in a followup post. Check both posts, and note that each post includes references to peer-reviewed journals. Very cool. I do not recall seeing a blog post which included references. Also of interest, check out selected posts, all of which are open to comments (which will allow dissenters to opine at will); note that many of the comments include a response in the same comment from one or more site contributors - again, a novel approach.

I am not a scientist or engineer (and I don't play one on tv either), so cannot comment on the scientific content of the posts on RealClimate. Nonetheless, it is interesting and encouraging to see scientists seize upon the blog and use it as a means for rapid communication and exchange of ideas. How long will it take for more blogs with a solid scholarly foundation to appear?

Inside Higher Ed

:: Bob Michaelson, writing on CHMINF-L, reports the following:

There is a new free online journal (though part blog), called Inside Higher Ed

Currently in beta, with some content but anticipated to grow significantly, this is something like Chronicle of Higher Education online, only free and born online -- and is structured more for the online environment. Note that the February 1 issue has science content: an interview with "rising faculty star" Alison Farmer, a fifth-year astrophysics graduate student at Caltech who will be taking a postdoc at Harvard.

(By the way, I learned of this at the blog Crooked Timber, which is a very interesting site too!).

More information is available on the Inside Higher Ed website:
Welcome to Inside Higher Ed, the online source for news, opinion and career advice and services for all of higher education. Whether you're an adjunct or a vice president, a grad student or an eminence grise, we've got what you need to thrive in your job or find a better one: breaking news, provocative daily commentary, blogs, discussion areas, practical career columns, and a powerful suite of tools to help higher education professionals get jobs and colleges identify and hire employees.

Today, the site contains only a fraction of the features and services that you'll find here soon, but we wanted to introduce ourselves.

Inside Higher Ed was founded in 2004 by three executives with decades of expertise in higher education journalism and recruitment. We believed that higher education was evolving quickly and radically, and that the time was right for new models of providing information and career services for professionals in academe.

They plan to offer daily e-mail reports soon, to which I respond: RSS feeds as well, please?