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May 31, 2005

PNAS Withdraws (For Now) Paper Which Could Aid Bioterrorists

:: Cindi sent a link to this story from NPR, which describes how a preview copy of a paper to be published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was withdrawn after US government officials said that the paper contains information that could aid bioterrorists. The topic of the paper deals with what might happen if terrorists slipped botulinum toxin into the US milk supply?

NPR reporter David Malakoff said that after journalists were sent a preview copy of the paper, PNAS began to receive many questions from reporters and others they (the reporters) had called, including senior officials from the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Department asked PNAS not to publish the paper because the information in it might aid terrorists. For now, PNAS has agreed, but will review the paper again with a commitment to publishing it in the future.

The author of the paper is Lawrence M Wein of Stanford, who was surprised by the decision. Unable to talk about the content of the paper because it has yet to be published, he noted that the paper contains only information readily available to the public, which could help prevent a botulinum attack.

The NPR page provides a link to the audio of the 3'15" report.

Elsevier Responds to IEEE News Release on High Priced Journals

:: As described in a previous entry, Commercial Journals More Than Twice As Expensive As IEEE Titles, a recent IEEE news release said that "studies confirm that IEEE journals, magazines and periodicals are less than half the price of competitive publications." The press release noted that "The Library Journal Periodical Price Survey singled out commercial publisher Elsevier, which has the highest overall median price in each of six subject fields. According to Library Journal, the most expensive journals in 2005 are from Elsevier Science, at an average cost of $1,070."

I received an e-mail today from Ross Graber of Elsevier Engineering Information, who forwarded me the following response from Mayur Amin, Director of Research at Elsevier in the UK. The response is reprinted here with the permission of Elsevier:

Dr. Mohamed El-Hawary
Director & Secretary
IEEE
445 Hoes Lane
Piscataway, New Jersey
08854 USA
secretary@ieee.org

May 23, 2005

Dear Director

We have noted an IEEE press release that is published very prominently on the IEEE home page on 17 May as well as on the IEEE Publications Online site, under the heading "Studies Show IEEE Journals Less than Half the Cost of Commercial Publications".

Your report mentions that, according to a recent article in Library Journal, Elsevier has the highest overall median price in each of six subject fields; and that the most expensive journals in 2005 are from Elsevier.

In quoting this article, and singling out Elsevier for particular mention, you are perpetuating - unwittingly, I imagine - an error committed by its authors, who have failed to realize that the study at the basis of this analysis of prices, which was carried out by the Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) at Loughborough University in the UK, is incomplete and contains errors. (We have contacted the study's authors, outlining our concerns and requesting their comments, as well as the Oxford University Press which commissioned the analysis from LISU.)

Whilst we await LISU's response to our concerns on a number of issues, there are two in particular that we feel that you, your press office, and your members and readers should be made aware of at this stage.

Although the study is described in the Library Journal article as "exhaustive", there are some sizable publishers omitted. The inclusion of these omissions would have yielded very different results.

More critically, closer examination of the list of biomedical journals revealed that the LISU study included 57 Elsevier titles that are not scholarly journals but sections of abstracting and indexing databases or services. This is further compounded by the exclusion of over 290 legitimate biomedical journals. The result is that the median price for Elsevier biomedical journals quoted in the LISU study is overstated by 81%. This has, in turn, introduced major bias into the report's conclusions. Any comparison based on such a huge error is clearly misleading.

In view of the damaging mistakes that invalidate the Library Journal's conclusions and thus the IEEE's own report, please would you give this correction the same level of publicity that you accorded to your press release in explicitly naming our company. I should be grateful for a response to this letter.

Yours truly,

Mayur Amin
Director, Research
Elsevier
Langford Lane, Kidlington
Oxford OX5 1GB
UK

cc: IEEE President's office
Ms Kathy Gentile
k.gentile@ieee.org

Ross confirmed that IEEE has responded to the letter.

Information Today: "Google Library Project Hit by Copyright Challenge from University Presses"

:: From Information Today comes word of the first challenge of copyright violation by Google regarding the Google Print Library Project. Barbara Quint, the author of the article, notes that the challenge is coming from the nonprofit university presses:

May 31, 2005 — Some might say it had to happen. Extending the Google Print program to the digitization of five of the world’s largest university research libraries, including copyrighted as well as non-copyrighted material, would inevitably seem to lead to a challenge of copyright violation. Oddly enough, the challenge has come from the less commercial publishers—the nonprofit university presses. On May 20, Peter Givler, executive director of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP; http://www.aaupnet.org), an organization with 125 member publishers, sent a letter to Alexander Macgillivray, Google’s house counsel for intellectual property. The letter challenged Google to defend its position on what would appear on the surface as a massive copyright violation and infringement on publishers’ rights and revenues. However, in researching this story, the issue of author copyrights has emerged as a possible major factor.
The full article is here.

May 30, 2005

Patently Silly

:: If you need a break from the daily intensity of work, check out Patently Silly, a web site dedicated to, well, silly patents. Daniel Wright, the editor, writer, publisher and coder, is a NYC-based stand up comedian who was once an engineering major in college, but now "he now prefers to make fun of them." Check the archives for silly patents by category.

May 26, 2005

EEVL Launches EEVL Xtra

:: Roddy MacLeod sent a note about the new EEVL service, known as EEVL Xtra:

EEVL Xtra is a brand new, free service which can help you find articles, books, the best websites, the latest industry news, job announcements, technical reports, technical data, full text eprints, the latest research, teaching and learning resources and more, in engineering, mathematics and computing.
EEVL Xtra searches parts of the web that Google doesn't. It cross-searches >20 collections relevant to engineering, mathematics, and computing, including content from >50 publishers and other providers, and "deep mines" these collections. As for full text:
In many cases, the full text of items should be freely available (e.g. from the following databases/collections: arXiv, CiteSeer, CSA Hot Topics, EEVL Ejournal Search Engine, ePrints UK, EEVL Website Search Engine, NACA, NASA, OneStep Jobs, OneStep Industry News).

In some cases, the full items are just details of books or websites (e.g. from the following databases/collections: Copac, EEVL, Pearson Education, SearchLT Engineering) and to get the full text you will need to click through to the website, or find a library which holds the book, or buy a copy of the book.

In some cases, the full text of items may be available to you if your institution subscribes to the publication (and if your institution has something called an OpenURL Resolver, you should be able to click straight through to the full text), or by pay per view. This is the case with the following databases/collections: Recent Advances in Manufacturing, Inderscience, Zetoc.

More details are available on About EEVL Xtra, as well as the press release.

The individual collections can be searched in different combinations on the Advanced Search page. Results appear quickly, or take a looong time (CISTI and zetoc searches on "martian atmosphere" are still running as I type this!) The Basic Search allows for a simple phrase or word search, and lets you restrict the search by category, such as articles, key websites, books, industry news, etc. I'm tempted to point out shortcomings as compared to other dbs, but considering it's built with a shoestring budget from seven sponsors, I think it's quite the accomplishment of the EEVL'lites! Roddy notes in an e-mail that "I reckon that this service has lots of potential..." and I agree; he also advised that "More databases are due to be added soon. There's a temporary problem with a couple of the larger databases just now, but this should be fixed in the next day or two."

The one thing I can't determine is the difference between EEVL Xtra and EEVL itself. Roddy, care to elaborate, my friend? Hats off to Roddy & Co for creating another useful and innovative information-finding service for engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists.

May 25, 2005

Knovel Web Site Enhancements

:: I'm late posting this, but it's still important news. From Knovel K-News:

New enhancements to Knovel's Web site design and user interface will be released on June 1st. These enhancements will make finding and analyzing information on Knovel faster and easier. In addition to a streamlined interface with new graphics, the main enhancement will be a change in search. Below is an overview of Knovel's new look and powerful new search features. The features that have been substantially updated or are new have been labeled with a NEW icon knew.gif.
More information on the forthcoming changes to the Knovel site is in the K-News May 18 2005 edition.

May 24, 2005

ISTL / Cites & Insights

:: The latest issue of ISTL, Issues in Science & Technology Libraries, n42, Spring 2005, is available. The theme of the issue is open access, and features articles on the publication dilemma of scientific research, the importance and benefits of open access, source and standards for libraries, and global access to Indian research. Also included is a review of CSA's Technology Research Database.

:: Cites & Insights, v5 n8 June 2005, is now available.

More on Chemical Market Reporter

:: Brian Gray, creator of e³ Information Overload - E-Resources in Engineering Education (a blog of which I was not aware), reported the following on CHMINF-L:

I have been working with CMR to get electronic access for my patrons. They have finally worked out the process and asked me to share the newest information. They are eager to hear comments and concerns as they offer this new access. The contact information is included in their announcement.

SPECIAL UNLIMITED ACADEMIC ONLINE ACCESS RATE FOR CMR - ONLY US$415 Access to CMR online will give you: Free online access to the current issue of CMR every Monday morning. So you can read it first - incisive analysis of chemical news and information from the US and globally. With highly respected editorial, expert analysis of the whole industry and dedicated financial coverage.

Free, unlimited search access to our online archive, giving you instantly the chemicals information you need from an entire year's issues of CMR.

Online Pricing Guide - carrying an extensive A to Z listing of over 500 chemical prices. This listing is the most comprehensive and up-to-date, an essential reference tool for any chemical executive.

To get your special rate of unlimited users/ buildings at US$415 or to find out about single access call:
Connie Magner
Subscriptions Sales - ICIS publications
Tel: +44 20 8652 4775

I appreciate Brian's work to help get this sorted out, but I find CMR's solution a poor one. The academic and college libraries already subscribing to the print edition of Chemical Market Reporter are being asked to fork over another $415US (~$525CN) to get online access to something we've paid for in print for years. CMR extracts content from the print edition, moves it online, and wants more money for it? Also, will the archive of chemical prices be available for one year only? How will faculty and students working on research projects requiring historical or retrospective prices find this information otherwise? Professor Jakob Zabicky of the Institutes for Applied Research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, responded on CHMINF-L accordingly:
The apology for CMR seems rather strange. All the goodies offered by electronic-CMR for only $415 may be Delikatessen for "any chemical executive". We used to get them in print for $190 without the frills, which are of low value in academy. So, if ICIS publications reads this, let them know we won't renew the subscription, if not, they'll become aware in due time.
I would tend to agree. The impression we are getting is that CMR isn't aware of the importance and value of its chemical pricing content to students, researchers and faculty. After so many decades of publication, this is rather astonishing. Ben Wagner, U Buffalo, followed Prof Zabicky's comment with one of his own:
Though it does not include the price listing any more, we have depended on third party aggregators for CMR articles as follows:

from 01/27/1992 to present in ABI/INFORM Global
from 11/04/1996 to present in Business ASAP and InfoTrac OneFile

So I would cancel the print subscription if we had one, and I am indeed not happy about loss of access to pricing information.

I agree. I have not heard back from the Editor-In-Chief, Helga Tilton, since she called me on May 19th. For now, I am still willing to give CMR the benefit of the doubt. I hope they bring the prices back to the paper copy, at least on a monthly basis, so that there will be archival access in print, and via the aggregator dbs mentioned above by Ben. And I hope they solve this soon.

May 19, 2005

Netscape 8 Released

:: John Battelle reports that Netscape 8.0 has been released, and that it combines features found in IE and Firefox. PC World calls it a two-headed browser, and gives it a mixed review. The AOL Press Kit for Netscape 8.0 is here, with the actual press release.

Chemical Market Reporter and Chemical Prices - An Editorial Response

:: Chemical Market Reporter dropped the "People and Prices" section from its print contents with the v267 n13, 28 March-3 April 2005 issue. This was reported on CHMINF-L by David Flaxbart (which generateed considerable response), and was followed with a rant of my own on this site.

Afterwards, I waited until we received the paper copy of the issue in question. After examining it and confirming the absence of chemical prices within, I sent a note to faculty members in the Depts of Chemical and Materials Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Alberta, as follows:

Hello to everyone in Chemical and Materials Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. I don't know if you are aware, but with the v267 n13 28 March-3 April 2005 issue, Chemical Market Reporter switched from a tabloid format to a slick magazine format, and removed their weekly chemical prices from the issues. The "People and Prices" section is now available online only, and requires a subscription-based username and password.

As a result, students and researchers no longer have access to the weekly chemical prices. In the engineering library world, we are astonished at this development. Thousands of chemical, materials and mechanical engineering students in universities and colleges regularly use CMR to find chemical prices for their design projects (among other research) - this is no longer possible with CMR's new editorial policy.

I recently wrote a column on chemical and petroleum prices for the SLA Chemistry Division E-Newsletter, entitled A Brief Guide To Finding Chemical and Petroleum Prices and Other Statistical Information (p4-5). The article was set for publication when CMR made its change, and I was able to append my entry, lamenting the loss of access to this very valuable and essential resource.

The editor of CMR, Helga Tilton, welcomes feedback on the new format. Her e-mail address is helga.tilton AT icis.com. My guess is that CMR does not focus on educational institutions, but on the industry primarily, and did not take into account the impact of this decision. I urge you to contact her to express your views regarding this change, which many of my colleagues and I view as a step backwards.
Following my e-mail, a post-doctorate fellow in our Dept of Chemical and Materials Engineering responded with a passionate e-mail to Ms Tilton, expressing her concern that it is now impossible for the average science and engineering student or researcher to access chemical prices. I was very happy to receive her support to get the chemical prices reinstated or made accessible to our students and researchers.

So imagine my surprise as my phone rang yesterday, and when I answered it, Ms Helga Tilton, Editor-in-Chief of Chemical Market Reporter, was on the other end of the line! She told me she had just finished speaking at length with the chemical engineering researcher, Dr Christina Faitakis, and wanted to speak to me as well. We had a candid and frank discussion about how critical it is to students, scientists, researchers and engineers in education institutions to have access to weekly chemical prices. I explained how our engineering students work in teams on their design projects, and cited examples of why chemical prices are a key component of these projects.

Another point is one I continue to hammer home with Standards Developing Organizations, which is this: it is critical for trade publications like Chemical Market Reporter to remember that the students in universities and colleges who make use of their publications on an ongoing basis are their future customers. While the number of educational subscriptions may pale in comparison to the number from industry, the impact of a publication like CMR on students is just as critical as with front-line engineers.

Ms Tilton was very receptive to our concerns, welcomed our feedback, and was pleased that we cared enough to respond to the change in policy. I told her I was extremely grateful that she would take the time to respond personally to our concern with a phone call. She told me that CMR is looking a couple of options regarding chemical prices: return the prices to the print edition, but on a monthly basis, and/or make the online "People and Prices" section available in an IP-protected environment without the need for an ID and PW. Neither option is guaranteed, but at least CMR is considering this, and that is all we can ask. Regarding the latter, there is also the concern about archiving the pricing data, and also, how would one cite the section if it only exists online, and is not part of the paper issue?

This morning, another University of Alberta chemical engineering professor wrote to Ms Tilton in support of this issue. To librarians in similar subject environments, please consider advising your faculty members of this development, and encourage them to write to Ms Tilton if they are so moved. Maybe we can make a difference.

May 18, 2005

Two Fascinating Posts From Sitelines

:: Rita Vine, of Workingfaster.com, writes and maintains the weblog, Sitelines - Ideas About Web Searching. Two recent entries on Sitelines are worth mentioning here.

"Two Articles on the Negative Impacts of Technology" links to the April 2005 issue of CIT InfoBits, to a post called Read EMail, Lose IQ Points? The CIT entry in turn links to two pieces. The first is a press release from Hewlett-Packard, "Abuse of technology can reduce UK workers� intelligence", which reports on research revealing that 62% of adults are addicted to checking messages while away from the office or on holidays. Also of interest is this:

In a series of tests carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson, Reader in Personality at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, an average worker�s functioning IQ falls ten points when distracted by ringing telephones and incoming emails. This drop in IQ is more than double the four point drop seen following studies on the impact of smoking marijuana.
The other piece mentioned in the April 2005 issue of CIT Infobits refers to the article, "Knowing When to Log Off" by Jeffrey Young (The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 51, issue 33, p. A34, April 22, 2005). Young quotes David M Levy, U Washington Information School:""We're losing touch with the contemplative roots of scholarship, the reflective dimension . . . . When you think that universities are meant to be in effect the think tanks for the culture, or at least one of the major forms of thinking, that strikes me as a very serious concern." It's an analysis of information overload caused by email, blogs, and websites, and the negative effect these can have on scholary research.

The other post from Sitelines is rather ironic, given what I just posted above this paragraph, and is fuel for further study, discussion, discourse, and beyond. The entry is called "If Weblogs Have Limited Impact on Public Discourse, Should We Bother Reading Them?", and is worth reprinting here:

As part of an online course that I teach on keeping current in library science, the class is asked to search and identify weblogs that are valuable for professional reading. It's amazing how uniform the class's feedback has been about how little most weblogs add to either knowledge or discourse. Most weblog watchers will agree that the VAST majority of weblogs (not just in library science, but pretty well any topic) simply restate news and information, without much analysis from individual weblog writers.

So it's particularly interesting that the latest research from Pew Internet, titled "BUZZ, BLOGS, AND BEYOND: The Internet and the National Discourse in the Fall of 2004" concurs with my students' informal findings. Despite the current buzz out there promoting blogs as the "new" journalism, and ascribing to bloggers the power to influence the world's take on events, Pew's findings suggest otherwise. Instead, the report suggests that any evidence that bloggers affect decision-makers is circumstantial; and that bloggers are as much "buzz-followers" as they are "buzz-makers".

Although this is early-stage research, the results beg the question -- should serious searchers bother searching the blog literature? Sure, there are a dozen or more blog search tools (e.g. Bloglines), and some meta-search tools (e.g. Clusty.com) are devoting parts of their meta-search tabs to blog search tools. But really, if the content is so lacklustre and barely differentiated from the other noise on the web, is blog searching worth the effort?

Food for thought? I love the mention that most blogs simply restate information and news, without much analysis from the writers. Fair enough, but in many cases, that may be the function of the blog. Consider the first entry: I linked to Rita's post, which linked to the CIT Infobits post, which in turn linked to the Hewlett-Packard and Chronicle of Higher Education posts - in effect, my post is three steps from the original items of interest. But if I wasn't subscribing to Rita's site via Watch That Page, I wouldn't have necessarily learned about these items.

With exceptions like this one, most entries in The SciTech Library Question are, I hope, of interest to those working in science and technology libraries. Most of what I post is information from elsewhere, but I also write short reviews and rants, like the recent one on Chemical Market Reporter.

That Rita's library science class finds little on library-related weblogs of value as "professional reading" doesn't surprise me, nor do I think it should be cause for alarm. The weblog is one more way to communicate, and in one sense, levels the playing field for participants. Finding the gems is the hard part. It's also worth noting that the Pew report cited in Sitelines "studied the impact of political blogs on the national agenda during the last two months of the 2004 presidential campaign."

The only thing that never changes is the number of hours in the day.

SLA Conference Blog

:: Special Libraries Association has been running the SLA 2005 Conference Blog since May 3rd. It is not clear how members were selected to contribute to the blog, but it is great to see an SLA conference blog nonetheless.

May 17, 2005

STLQ Subscription Problems

:: I've received e-mails from some who subscribe to STLQ via Bloglet. I've been checking my Bloglet account every day, and find that the the service continues to disable STLQ on a daily basis. I don't know how to fix the problem, and the Bloglet site hasn't been updated for over a year. I suspect it's dormant. As such, I have migrated subscribers to the Moveable Type notification feature for the time being, and removed the Bloglet subscription option from the STLQ site. The other option is to subscribe to the RSS feed, and use a reader like Bloglines. Here are the available STLQ feeds via Bloglines.

My apologies for this little snag, and my thanks for your patience while I attempt some repairs. To those of you who will now be receiving notifications, if you wish to be removed from the list, please let me know, and I'll do so.

Thanks - Randy

May 16, 2005

Commercial Journals More Than Twice As Expensive as IEEE Titles

:: From a news release from the IEEE site:

May 2005 – Two new studies confirm that IEEE journals, magazines and periodicals are less than half the price of competitive publications.

The annual Periodical Price Survey published in the 15 April issue of Library Journal averaged the prices of 4,893 titles documented in three Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) databases. Based solely on price, the survey reveals that the average cost of an engineering journal in 2005 is $1,683, and the average cost of a math and computer science journal is approximately $1,262. Using the same calculation method, the average price of an individual IEEE Journal is just $549.

In addition, the 2005 edition of the annual IEEE Journal Pricing Study, released this week, finds that based on a statistically average 500-page journal, commercial scientific publishers charge an average of $896 per journal, compared to an average price of $387 for IEEE journals.

"According to this study, IEEE publications are 57 percent less expensive than those of commercial publishers," reports William O'Connor, IEEE Director of Marketing Operations, whose office conducts the annual IEEE study.

"In addition to total journal price, we also looked at the average price per page," said O'Connor. "IEEE journals in this study averaged $0.68 per page, while the average commercially published journal averaged $1.59 per page."

The IEEE study also found that the average 2005 journal price from other non-profit publishers is $460, and the average price for all commercial and nonprofit scientific journals combined is $695.

The Library Journal Periodical Price Survey singled out commercial publisher Elsevier, which has the highest overall median price in each of six subject fields. According to Library Journal, the most expensive journals in 2005 are from Elsevier Science, at an average cost of $1,070.

I was unable to find a link to the 2005 IEEE Journal Pricing Study.

From the Library Journal article, "Choosing Sides--Periodical Price Survey 2005":

Despite years of outrageous periodical prices in some fields, the data on the extent of the problem continues to mount-and continues to shock. An exhaustive study commissioned by Oxford University Press (OUP) and conducted by a British university, Scholarly Journal Prices: Selected Trends and Prices reveals great disparity among the pricing behaviors of 12 prominent scholarly publishers (http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/dis/lisu). The report gives five years of pricing data, publisher by publisher and comparatively across six broad subject fields.

Some interesting factoids: Elsevier has the highest overall median price, based on its entire portfolio of journals. Cambridge University Press has the lowest. Elsevier also has the highest median price in each of the six subject fields, though Kluwer and Sage come close to Elsevier's median price in the social sciences and humanities. Sage achieved the dubious distinction of highest overall rate of price increase between 2000 and 2004 (94%). Librarians looking for comprehensive cost/value analysis for journals in biomedicine will find a wealth of data in the report.

On Open Access, the article reports:
Despite rumors to the contrary, the OA movement remains a powerful catalyst for change. The number of journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals stood at 1,463 in February, double that of a year ago, with substantial numbers of peer-reviewed titles in fields like biology (61), chemistry (40), general medicine (164), neurology (31), public health (58), geology (22), philosophy and religion (48), education (110), and computer science (45). An ISI study found that the open access journals it tracks for impact are doing well, even when compared with very well-established traditional journals. As other studies of OA vs. toll-access articles emerge, indications are that OA literature will exceed toll-protected literature in both citations and downloads.

There are signs that commercial publishers are willing to experiment. OUP switched to an open access business model for Nucleic Acids Research, a top-rated journal. A number of hybrid OA experiments are underway that give authors a choice about when and how to make their articles free and open on the web, usually but not always based on an author's willingness to pay up front. Blackwell's Online Open service and Springer's Open Choice program are two early examples.

Cell Press is representative of another type of hybrid. Starting in January 2005, it is offering free access to the content of its e-journals once they are 12 months old. HighWire Press and others have been doing this for a long while, but it's the first time an Elsevier journal with the cachet of Cell Press has done so. These initiatives seem designed to keep authors within the folds of the traditional publishers rather than lose them to emerging journals that are fully open access.

More On The ACS - NIH/NCBI Chem Abs/PubChem Story

:: OK, that headline was a mouthful, I know. Previously I posted Gary Wiggins' commentary on ACS, PubChem and open access. A quick browse throught CHMINF-L led me to a number of other posts which may be of interest to you. First up is a link to the article in the 25 April 2005 issue of Business Week, called "Whose Molecules Are These?". The article notes:

The National Institutes of Health thought it had a great idea for advancing science -- but its concept is threatening the world's largest scientific society. The plan: Put information about a vast number of molecules, which could be used to probe genes and biological functions, into a public database, dubbed PubChem. Scientists then could use the data to uncover new knowledge or new drugs. The information would come from other public databases,scientific papers, and publicly funded research.

But the project has run into fierce opposition from the 158,000-member American Chemical Society (ACS). The nonprofit group has its own database of 22 million molecules, the Chemical Abstracts Service, that typically costs thousands of dollars to access and accounts for more than half of the society's $421 million annual budget.

Another article appeared in ACS's hometown newspaper, Columbus Dispatch. In early May, an article appeared in Science, Vol 308, Issue 5723, 774 , 6 May 2005, called "Chemists Want NIH to Curtail Database". The article describes how the ACS has enlisted the Governor of Ohio and Ohio's state delegation to push its case against NIH.

For more CHMINF-L posts on this developing story, go to the CHMINF-L Archives search page, search for "pubchem and acs", and restrict your search from April 2005 to the present.

May 15, 2005

U Texas Austin Moving Books Out, Digital Access In

:: Interesting article in the May 13 2004 edition of NYTimes. Called "College Libraries Set Aside Books in a Digital Age", the author, Ralph Blumenthal, writes that the University of Texas at Austin plans to disperse most of its Undergraduate Library's 90,000 volumes to collections elsewhere on campus, later this summer. In their place will be a 24 hour information commons, that will include "software suites" and centres for writing instruction and computer training, assistance and repair.

Such digital learning laboratories, staffed with Internet-expert librarians, teachers and technicians, have been advancing on traditional college libraries since appearing at the University of Southern California in 1994. As more texts become accessible online, libraries have been moving lesser-used materials to storage. But experts said it was symbolic for a top educational institution like Texas to empty a library of books.

The trend is being driven, academicians and librarians say, by the dwindling need for undergraduate libraries, many of which were built when leading research libraries were reserved for graduate students and faculty. But those distinctions have largely crumbled, with research libraries throwing open their stacks, leaving undergraduate libraries as increasingly puny adjuncts with duplicate collections and shelves of light reading.

On my campus, we dispersed our undergraduate library collection amongst the other major subject collections some 12-15 years ago, for a number of reasons, including the need to free up space for the second largest map collection in Canada. The difference here is that U Texas Austin's UG collection will not be replaced with a different set of books, but with computers. It will be interesting to see how the librarians and associate staff are redeployed in the new environment.

May 13, 2005

Open Access, ACS Archives, PubChem, and the CAS Registry File - Commentary by Gary Wiggins

:: The following commentary by Gary Wiggins, Director, Program in Chemical Informatics and Interim Director, Program in Bioinformatics, Adjunct Professor of Informatics School of Informatics, U Indiana, appeared on the CHMINF-L discussion list today. My thanks to George Porter for bringing this post to my attention. It's well worth the read:

Dennis P. Curran, coeditor of Organic Syntheses, writes in the May 9, 2005 Chemical & Engineering News (pp. 3-4) that Organic Syntheses provides a model for free open access. Since the Web version of that well-respected tool at http://www.orgsyn.org can be accessed by anyone at no cost, his comments have some bearing on the current debate on open access, not to mention the threat of a lawsuit by the American Chemical Society (ACS) against the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for creating PubChem.

Curran attributes the capability to give away Organic Syntheses to the fact that the nonprofit corporation was so successful in selling the product throughout the years, "primarily to libraries," that the board of directors decided to give it away. He says, "In essence, the revenues of yesterday help bankroll the operations of today." He labels this the "endowed publication" model.

That reminded me of an argument I made some years ago when complaints about access to SciFinder Scholar by small academic organizations were much more in evidence than they seem to be today. I suggested that Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) allow the larger academic institutions of the world to subsidize the smaller schools by purchasing additional seats that would be pooled and shared by the small schools. If enough of the large schools bought into this, the less-well-endowed schools, in effect, could have had "free" access to SFS. Of course, we are in a different budget era now, and I am sure that with the new options available from CAS for small schools to license SFS, there is surely little need for such altruism (and even less ability of the large schools to afford it), right?

Bill Carroll (an Indiana University alumnus, adjunct professor, and current President of the ACS) was in Bloomington when he was running for office. He took the opportunity to hold a couple of open forums in order to gain more input for his three-year stint as President-elect, President, and Past-President of the society. At one of those, I raised the issue of free access to the ACS journal archives after the initial costs had been recovered. Bill's answer should have been anticipated,given what I know about the overall funding of the ACS. He tied the revenue from the Publications Division to society programs in general and justified the continued charge on that basis. [I'm sure that everyone on this list knows that in a normal year, the combined income from the CAS and ACS Publications Divisions exceeds their operating expenses by several million dollars, all of which goes into the general income flow of the society.]

My point to Bill and one that I would like to share with you is that chemistry has an opportunity to join the bioscience community in making a statement about the general good of sharing scientific knowledge with all people in the world. I believe that the tarnished image of chemistry among the general public has not improved significantly in spite of efforts to show that we are really good guys who just happen to have had a few unfortunate past events (Bhopal, Love Canal, Hanford, etc., etc.). What better way to say to the world that we believe chemistry, like the life sciences, exists for the benefit of humankind than to put the public record of that science on the Web for all to see?

There is a past cost, and likely to be a substantial ongoing cost to continue the ACS archive (and other journal archives). As members of the ACS who are most knowledgeable about the difficulty of obtaining continued funding for scientific materials, librarians ought to be able to advise ACS on the best route to fund the ongoing costs of publication-related expenses. Tacking the costs of the archive on to the current subscriptions is the only option that makes sense to me. Wouldn't it be interesting if ACS, like the producers of Organic Syntheses, priced this surcharge in such a way that would allow them to say to the world some day, "Those who buy our publications believe strongly that chemical knowledge belongs to everyone and they, by renewing their subscriptions each year, give to the world the access to the backfiles of the world's premier chemical journals, those published by the American Chemical Society." Maybe such a line of reasoning might even be followed by another major division of the ACS concerning at least a portion of its product line, thus sparing us as ACS members the cost of a protracted lawsuit on the one hand and as taxpayers the cost of the construction of a service with public funds that some would claim is a major threat to the existence of the society as a whole.

Why is PubChem such a threat to the American Chemical Society? Because there is no "free" Registry File. Because we as ACS members have acquiesced over the years in allowing the major publications of the society to fund ACS services to such an extent that the income from the ACS Publications Division and Chemical Abstracts Service is now indispensable. My old mentor, Herb White, used the phrase "ingratiated irreplacability" in other contexts. Maybe it is appropriate here as well.

Gary Wiggins
Director, Program in Chemical Informatics
Interim Director, Program in Bioinformatics
Adjunct Professor of Informatics
School of Informatics
901 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47408-3912
Phone: 812-856-1086
Fax: 812-856-4764
E-mail: wiggins at indiana.edu

May 12, 2005

The Declining Number of Entry Level Jobs in Librarianship

:: Rachel Holt and Adrienne Stock, writing in Library Journal, describe the very sad and sorry state of the library job market for new graduates:

Data from the library job market and mounting anecdotal evidence show that there is cause for alarm. The number of full-time, professional positions in libraries is dwindling, salaries continue to be depressed, more entry-level positions are being liquidated or "deprofessionalized," and qualified job seekers are having trouble securing work. Meanwhile, an industrywide MLS recruitment drive is in full swing, ensuring another large crop of graduates will be spilled out into the job market each year. Even with this bumper crop of new professionals, library administrators complain about the lack of qualified applicants for available positions.
Following their analysis of the current situation, they conclude the following:
While there is an intense, ongoing campaign to recruit new MLS students, there is no concerted effort to hire them once they've graduated. It is unreasonable to invite an influx of new colleagues into the profession without making room for them. It is unfortunate that those entering the profession are being told that there is a current shortage of library workers, since this is not entirely true. Schools recruit an excess of people into MLS programs. While some who are recruited will fail to finish their degrees and others are already working in libraries, there will be a large number who would make excellent librarians given the right opportunities. They reach the job market and discover there are far fewer options than they had anticipated; they conduct lengthy job searches, settle for underemployment in paraprofessional or part-time positions, or, if they're fortunate, find a professional position. Some of them move to nonlibrarian work that pays better and carries more authority and prestige.

When the hiring crisis finally arrives, administrators will look down their hiring ladders and realize that they have very few qualified library professionals to promote into leadership posts. They will consolidate or liquidate their open positions, or they will hire from outside the profession. This will leave even fewer openings for new MLS graduates, and we will find ourselves right back where we started.

How do we correct this course? Begin career training for all graduating MLS students. Create formal networks for mentoring new professionals. Establish partnerships between schools and local libraries to provide apprenticeships to recent graduates. Make library experience a prerequisite for graduation from MLS programs. And, finally, find ways to ease experience requirements to allow new professionals to find good jobs. Get excited about welcoming new librarians into the work force. Let our new colleagues know that we appreciate them as agents of change, or we will risk losing the very people best positioned to carry the library into the future.

PNAS Backfile Completed at PubMed Central

:: As reported by George Porter on a number of discussion groups:

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) is a long running (1915+), highly regarded journal [ISI Impact Factor 10.260-10.896 (1999-2003]. PNAS was one of the early collaborators with the National Library of Medicine in the creation of PubMed Central. Backfile digitization has been completed at PubMed Central for PNAS; previously the first 40 or so years of the journal were only available online by subscription through JSTOR.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) Fulltext v1+ (1915+) 6 month moving wall http://pubmedcentral.gov/tocrender.fcgi?journal=2&action=archive
Open Access articles (239, as of 10 May 2005)
http://pubmedcentral.gov/tocrender.fcgi?iid=13407
Fulltext v59+ (1968+) 6 month moving wall http://www.pnas.org/
Fulltext v1-99 (1915-2002) 2 year moving wall; updated annually [subscription required] http://www.jstor.org/journals/00278424.html
Print ISSN: 0027-8424 | Online ISSN: 1091-6490

[Thanks to Carol Myers, PubMed Central Digitization Project, via the PMC-News mailing list <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/mailman/listinfo/pmc-news>.]

George S. Porter

May 11, 2005

Lipstick on a Pig: The Sad State of Library OPACs - Roy Tennant

:: Geoff has blogged this already, and I hope the thread is making its way around the library weblog community. Roy Tennant, writing in Library Journal, has summed up, very articulately, the problem with library OPACS:

Recently I viewed a library catalog redesign before it went public. This was the first major change in many years, and it turned out to be quite an improvement to the look and feel of the system. But despite this, it still sucks. Badly.

I don't know how much time was spent on this cosmetic facelift, but until the deeper problems that plague this system are addressed, users will remain poorly served. Librarians appear to be afflicted with a type of myopia. We see only minor, easy-to-make corrections instead of changes that will truly affect the user experience. We ask our vendors to tweak this or that to make our lives easier, while the users are left to founder on an interface that only a librarian could love.

What's useful

One of my pet peeves about the catalog is that we can't keep it straight between fielded searching that is helpful and how and when it gets in the way. For example, nearly every library catalog that offers the opportunity to search ISBN or ISSN numbers requires the user to choose a specific ISBN or ISSN index.

Searching on a number like 1594290202 across the full text of every record in any given catalog (even WorldCat) will return a very small number of hits. So why do we insist that the user specify a particular field? Presumably to allow us to create specific indexes that speed up searching, right? But how hard would it be to extract any set of numeric digits into a generic number index? Then, when someone enters a search consisting of numbers, the number index is searched. This would put the complexity in the back end—where it belongs—rather than in the user interface.

Meanwhile, specifying a certain field often doesn't work the way the user might expect. Let's take author, for example. When you search for books by an author, why do many catalogs return books about that author's work? You guessed it: the added entry. Sure, there are times when users want to get books about that author and their works, but rather than keeping these two categories of search results separate, we nearly always present them in a jumbled mess. Can this ever be even remotely useful?

The ISBN example is but one of many. Searching for standards by their number, like an ANSI-approved standard such as ASME A17.2.2-1997, can be a royal pain.

I've seen many references to Amazon's search engine, which offers a few options for searching (books, dvds, etc.), and when you search the entire site, returns faceted results, allowing you to narrow your search by format, such as those listed above. Even more impressive: move the cursor over new titles, and an "Inside This Book" dialog box appears, that offers options such as:

  • Concordance - 100 most frequently used words in the book; click on a word, it will list all occurrences of that word in the book, and list each of them
  • Text Stats - data on readability, complexity, number of (characters, words, sentences), and fun stats
  • Citations - number of books cited by the book
  • Browse Sample Pages
  • Search Inside The Book
Are these examples of features users might find when they search a library OPAC? The other question might be: are we approaching the twilight of library online catalogues? Tennant suggests that libraries need to think big:
Think big

Libraries with sufficient resources should experiment with other methods of making their collections searchable. High-profile experiments in bibliographic database search systems may help point the way for vendors not eager to perform major redesign projects. A prime example is the Research Library Group's RedLightGreen, a beacon of hope in a sea of library catalog disasters. OCLC is also pushing the envelope, as a recent blog posting by Lorcan Dempsey, the OCLC director of research, illustrates.

So what can most of us do? We need to focus more energy on important, systemic changes rather than cosmetic ones. If your system is more difficult to search and less effective than Amazon.com (and whose isn't?), then you have work to do. Stop asking for minor tweaks from vendors. After all, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still very much a pig.

May 10, 2005

Ovid Adds Petroleum Abstracts

:: From Information Today:

Ovid Technologies (http://www.ovid.com), a provider of electronic medical, scientific, and social sciences information solutions, announced that Petroleum Abstracts’ TULSA database is now available through the Ovid Web Gateway. Ovid is an operating company of Wolters Kluwer Health, a division of Wolters Kluwer, the multinational publishers and information services company.

Petroleum Abstracts (PA) is a service of The University of Tulsa. Its TULSA database contains more than 800,000 records dating back to 1965. The references are derived from more than 300 journals published worldwide, proceedings from 250 annual petroleum conferences, patent gazettes, books, dissertations, government reports, and other sources. Approximately 500 new entries are added weekly; more than 25,000 are added annually. The TULSA database is indexed by petroleum engineers and geoscientists using PA’s controlled vocabulary of index terms from the Petroleum Abstracts Exploration & Production Thesaurus and Geographic Thesaurus. Each entry also includes a PA accession number, which can be used to order a full-text copy of any available document from the Petroleum Abstracts Document Delivery Service (PADDS).

[Editor’s Note: TULSA is also available on the Dialog and Questel•Orbit online services.]
Source: Ovid Technologies, Inc.

Petroleum Abstracts has always been an index and database of contradictions: great content combined with poor accessibility, either through its print indexes, CD-ROM, or the current platform it offers, which allows no printing, downloading, selection of records, etc. Hopefully moving it to Ovid will change that.

More on Wondir

:: My previous entry on Wondir resulted in an e-mail from Allen Searls and a post on the Wondiring blog. In response to my query about what other librarians might be thinking about the service, he posted these two links to comments by Gary Price and Teresa Hartman. Barbara Quint also reviews Wondir at Information Today.

Here are a couple excerpts from Allen's e-mail, which provide more detail about Wondir:

  • "Wondir actually allows people to ask questions without registering. It's just as easy as typing in a search at Google. However, registering greatly increases the likelihood that you'll see your response (registered members get an email-alert when someone answers)."
  • "All in all, we’re trying to build a new kind of platform- free, live, open Q&A for everyone, and we're hoping to engage the librarian and information sciences community to help—registering as members, filling out detailed profiles and answering questions in their spare time at Wondir. Have you tried the New Question alerts? It's part of the "My Wondir" section at the site and allows you to sign up to get email alerts when anyone asks a question containing keywords you've specified. This makes the process much more efficient."

Comment Problems 2

:: Comment function is not working. Again. I'll try to fix it soon. My apologies. Again. Argh.


:: Update - comments working again.

Articles of Interest

:: Bonnie Osif, Librarian at Penn State Engineering Library, has an article in the latest issue of the Journal of Engineering Education. The article is co-authored with Gül E Okudan, and the title is: Effect of Guided Research Experience on Product Design Performance. Here is the abstract:

Designing, generally, requires a team effort. Consequently, several variables affecting team performance have been studied, such as team composition, female/male ratio in the organization, and teamwork skills training. This study furthers this effort by investigating the effect of guided external research during the concept generation phase of the design process. The premise of the study is that as resources increase in number and complexity, and time constraints pressure an overcrowded curriculum, professors are challenged to find new methods to train students in the skills needed for the constantly changing workplace.

One technique to address this issue, a creative collaboration and its impact on design team performance, is discussed in the paper. First, the approach for incorporating guided research into curriculum is explained, and then the results of the study are presented, which indicate that a higher design performance can be achieved when guided research is added to design teaching.

Okudan, Gül E., and Bonnie Osif, "Effect of Guided Research Experience on Product Design Performance," Journal of Engineering Education, v94 n2, April 2005, pp. 255-262. A preprint of the article is available here.

Yours truly has a column in the latest issue of the SLA Chemistry Division E-Newsletter. The article is called A Brief Guide To Finding Chemical and Petroleum Prices and Other Statistical Information, and is available for viewing on the SLA Chemistry Division site.

Reichardt, Randy, "A Brief Guide To Finding Chemical and Petroleum Prices and Other Statistical Information," SLA Chemistry Division E- Newsletter, v19 issue4, Spring 2005, pp. 4-5.

:: My apologies (again) to those who subscribe to STLQ via Bloglet. Once again, unannounced, the Bloglet function disabled itself some time ago, but should be ok now. My thanks to Joe Kraus for sending me an e-mail about this.

May 5, 2005

Wondir - A Real Time Q&A Service

:: Rafael forwarded a link recently to Wondir, a service which provides real time answers to questions submitted by registered users:

Wondir is designed to help people find practical, focused answers to questions, with an emphasis on connecting people who have questions with other people who can provide needed help. These experts, tutors, mentors, enthusiasts, and peers might be volunteering on their own or as part of an organized online help program, such as an AskA service, government or social service, corporation, civic group, professional association, university, school or library.

In addition to live resources, Wondir utilizes FAQs, stored Q&As and other searchable web resources. Relevant human resources are integrated into the results and featured.

We think of Wondir as the blending of a universal search engine and a universal message board enlivened with real time communication. Wondir is uniting Search and Community - two pillars of the Internet that have not yet lived up to their potential - by making human help accessible and as simple as asking a question of a search engine.

There is no fee for the service. I submitted a general question about open access journals, and received a response within 10 minutes, which had some information that would provide some help to a novice user. In addition, when you ask a question, Wondir checks for related questions with answers, and web resources which might be useful. The related question to my query was about the Open Directory project, and among the web resources returned was SciCentral, whose homepage includes a link to "Journals", which in turn has a list of resources for "Free Full-Text Online Journals."

John Battelle comments on Wondir, noting that the site is answering 6-7,000 questions a day, and recently answered its one millionth question. The quality of the questions submitted seem to range from good to bad, or rather, serious to silly. I'm not sure how Wondir handles questions like, "is there any computer experts out there?", "what do dolphins drink?", or "why did the Flames lose the Stanley Cup to Tampa?"; many questions like this seem to be ignored by the respondents. Users of Wondir can change the "View" from "Mild" to "Wild". The "Mild" setting allows users "to choose a view that presents questions that are unlikely to be annoying or offensive to anyone."

Another way to submit or search is by Category, which eliminates peripheral and unrelated questions. Categories of interest to STM librarians include Computers, Science & Tech and Education, Homework & Reference. Librarians will be interested in Wondir because in effect, it is a form of reference service, available to anyone. I'd be curious to know if others have used Wondir, and what opinions scitech librarians have as to its potential use in our work.

Discussion List for SLA Conference in Toronto

:: David Hook, on a number of SLA discussion groups, posted the following:

For those of you planning on attending the Toronto conference: it appears that there isn't a conference attendees discussion list set up for this year.

So, as an alternative many people are subscribing to the Toronto Chapter discussion list and posting their questions/requests for recommendations there. There have been some questions posted already about recommendations for live music venues, upcoming plays/musicals, etc.

If you are planning on attending the conference, I'd recommend joining the discussion list (for which you can sign up at http://lists.sla.org).

I don't know why, in 2005, SLA didn't set up a discussion list for their conference this year, but David offers a good alternative. More information on subscribing is available on the Toronto Chapter web site.

May 4, 2005

Speaking of New Technology...

:: Also via Denise's blog, the May 2005 issue of MIT's Technology Review features 10 Emerging Technologies. The article introduction explains:

Of the numerous technologies now in gestation at companies and universities, we have chosen 10 that we think will make particularly big splashes. They're raw, but they'll transform the Internet, computing, medicine, energy, nanotechnology, and more.
Among the new words I learned today: metabolomics and biomechatronics.

BTW, which of you out there is Skyping? Anyone? Someone must be, because as I type this, there are 2,401,544 Skype users online, right now.

U Liverpool's Sci-Eng/Med-Vet Library Opens 24/7

:: Interesting item via fellow U of A colleague Denise Koufogiannakis's Librarians' Rx:

This is the opposite of what's been happening in my neck of the woods. From the UK:

The University of Liverpool's science and engineering, medical and veterinary collections library, is undergoing a trial period of 24-hour opening. An exerpt:

"Phil Sykes, head of the University's library service, says the extension of hours has had a minimal financial impact as the students are asked to check out their own books under the watchful gaze of night-time security staff Mr Sykes opted to run the trial after a survey showed around 300 students visit between 10pm and 3am. He was just beaten to the post to become the first Russell Group-run library in the country to do so by Sheffield University, which started a trial two weeks earlier."

Read the full article in graduateengineer.com and the blurb on the University of Liverpool Library News.

I don't know of any other STM libraries that never close. A portion of the Information Commons at the University of Calgary's Mackimmie Library is open 24 hrs a day from Sunday to Thursday during fall and winter terms.

I Remember When It Was Called Library Automation...

:: Subscribe to enough sites via Bloglines, and the impression one gets is that there are new applications and programs appearing by the hour. Combine that with the enthusiasm accompanying many of the posts, and my sense is, unless we all jump on every techno-bandwagon, we're falling behind. I don't know if it's coincidence, but Richard Ackerman's 4 March 05 post, technology and your library, addresses my previous rant on techno-overload in libraryland.

Ackerman hits two nails on the head when he writes: "So there you have it, a ton of technology being pondered, just in a few days' worth of blog postings. Here's the key: pick what's useful for you." The first nail: megatons of techno discourse in a very short span of time. My response: how can anyone process it all unless they 1) don't sleep, 2) don't work a steady job, or 3) are an alien life form. The second nail allows a bit of mercy those who us who can't process it all: find what's useful and stick with it.

It's a question of balance, to paraphrase the Moodies, and with much happening around me lately, said balance has been somewhat unsteady. For those who can keep up, we salute you (what's with the music metaphors?), and hope that you can keep up the pace.

Oh Wiki, yer so fine, yer so fine you blow my mind, hey Wiki...hey Wiki...

Now back to work...

May 3, 2005

Confessions of a Drowning Librarian 2

:: "Flickr, del.icio.us, Yahoo 360, LISNews.com, my own wiki, (hell, my own *stylesheet*!), moblogs, blogdigger, lisfeeds.com, skype, social networks, social software, Vivisimo, Feedster, Technorati, Google Scholar, Google Local, SMS, picture phones....

GAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!"

I didn't write that. Cindi wrote that. Cindi rocks. You see, I need to read her entry every so often to remind myself that I can't keep up anymore with every development even remotely related to what we do as librarians, and to also remind myself that I'm the only one feeling that way.

I was in Jasper on the weekend, attend ALC. I did not check Bloglines for four days. I returned to literally thousands of new entries among 141 feeds. I won't get to read most of them, let alone process the information in most of them.

So forgive me if I don't include entries about tagging wikis, wiki-tagging, copyfitting, feedmarking, dashlogging, feed filtering, consensus conference tagging, and so on. At least not this week. I don't know what any of those terms means, anyway...

Cites & Insights May 2005

:: The v7 n7 May 2005 issue of Walt Crawford's entertaining and thought-provoking Cites & Insights is now available.

Engineering Design Classes - Jeanine Williamson

:: Jeanine Williamson, Engineering Librarian at Hodges Library, U Tennessee, recently surveyed other engineering librarians regarding resources they use when preparing for and instructing in engineering design classes. Here is her report:

Design Classes

Often different teams in a design class have different information needs. It may be best to talk with team leaders one on one.

One library assigns LIS graduate students to each design group to help them with their information needs.

Types of information used include patents, standard databases like IEL, INSPEC, e-books, and data handbooks; industry standards, trade catalogs, handbooks, demographics.

Sites to look at:

www.library.ualberta.ca/subject/chemicaleng/chemguide/index.cfm
www.library.ualberta.ca/subject/materialseng/materialsguide/index.cfm
(Randy Reichardt, University of Alberta)
http://sirsi-rooms.bucknell.edu/rooms/portal/media-type/html/user/anon/page/ChemicalEngineering.psml/js_pane/P-fe20781409-10402
(Jim Van Fleet, Bucknell University)
http://web.library.uiuc.edu/grainger/top.asphttp://web.library.uiuc.edu/grainger/top.asp
(Linda Ackerson, UIUC)
http://g118.grainger.uiuc.edu/engdesign
(William Mischo, UIUC)

Patents, Industry Standards, Trade Catalogs, Handbooks, Demographics (population, consumption, market data),
(Sharon Shafer, UCLA)

Patents
http://patents.uspto.gov/index.html
USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office
http://www.freepatentsonline.com
FreepatentsOnline
http://ep.espacenet.com
European Patent Information (US/WO/JP Patents Search)
http://www.depatisnet.de/
DEPATISnet information:
http://www.surfip.gov.sg/sip/site/sip_home.htm
SurfIP

Industry standards
http://www.global.ihs.com/

Trade Catalogs
e.g. McMasterCarr etc.
http://www.mcmaster.com/
GlobalSpec
http://www.designinfo.com/
industrial ebay (http://business.stores.ebay.com/)

Demographics

LexisNexis Statistical
MarketResearch.com
RAND
STAT-USA
TableBase
World Development Indicators (CD-ROM)
Indicators Online

www.library.ubc.ca/scieng/toolkit
(Kevin Lindstrom, University of British Columbia)

My guess is that this is just the tip of the iceberg of resources developed and used by engineering librarians throughout the continent. Thanks to Jeanine for allowing me to post her results here.