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February 28, 2006

Engineering Village 2 Enhancements

.: I'm late getting to this announcement, which is a month old. Check out the "What's New" section of the latest Ei Update, which includes information on the new Ei Patents database, enhancements to the faceted search feature, and improved de-duplication functionality. I've been demonstrating faceted searching in all of the engineering design classes in which I teach library and research skills sessions, and have received positive feedback from students along the way.

From the Ei Update, an excerpt from the news about Ei Patents:

Ei Patents includes bibliographic information from the United Stated Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) dating from 1790, and the European Patent Office database, Esp@cenet dating from 1978. With Engineering Village 2’s unique analysis tools researchers can view at-a-glance, the Document Types (U.S./E.U. applications and Grants), Inventors, Assignees, Patent Codes with descriptions, Country, Year, and Language, of the patents. Search results are presented in clusters, or Faceted Search Results that allow a quick and straightforward view of leading inventors, technologies, countries, etc. Patent searches can be combined with our engineering databases, Compendex, Inspec, and NTIS, to offer unprecedented coverage of engineering information.

By using the facets, researchers can focus a search on U.S. and/or E.U. patents, discover the leading inventor/s, and even see what companies are leading in patents in a given field. This level of competitive intelligence allows researchers to save time and resources by dedicating their efforts on projects that are unique concepts that may lead to their own patents.

Upgrades to the CSA Illumina Platform

.: CSA is upgrading its Illumina platform to include the following new features:

Improved organization of search results
Search results now have an initial selection of tabs for "Published Works," "Scholars," and "Web Sites" with additional selections available under "Published Works."

Improved author profile presentation
Scholar profiles can be filtered using the academic Community Tree to find scholars working in specific fields.

The upgrades were to happen in February, which is over in a few hours. As far as I can tell, the Illumina platform hasn't changed to include them yet.

February 27, 2006

Ei Update

.: The v4 n1 January 2006 issue of Ei Update is available. An RSS feed for the Update is also available.

February 23, 2006

U California Rethinks Its Role in the Information Marketplace

.: This is worth the read, short in length and deep in content. U Cal's Bibliographic Services Task Force completed a review of the services provided by the U Cal library system. The executive summary of the report, titled "Rethinking How We Provide Bibliographic Services for the University of California", outlines the issue (excerpt):

Society is in the midst of learning how to “be” in the information age. The advent of computers and the inclusion of the Web in our work and private lives have pushed innovations and embraced information and access in ways we can hardly imagine. We are living in a complex and challenging digital landscape that changes constantly. On the Library front, our bibliographic systems have not kept pace with this changing environment. The continuing proliferation of formats, tools, services, and technologies has upended how we arrange, retrieve, and present our holdings. Our users expect simplicity and immediate reward and Amazon, Google, and iTunes are the standards against which we are judged. Our current systems pale beside them.

The current Library catalog is poorly designed for the tasks of finding, discovering, and selecting the growing set of resources available in our libraries. It is best at locating and obtaining a known item. For librarians and for our users, the catalog is only one option for accessing our collections. We offer a fragmented set of systems to search for published information (catalogs, A&I databases, full text journal sites, institutional repositories, etc) each with very different tools for identifying and obtaining materials. For the user, these distinctions are arbitrary . Within Library workflows and systems too much effort is going into maintaining and integrating a fragmented infrastructure. We need to look seriously at opportunities to centralize and/or better coordinate services and data, while maintaining appropriate local control, as a way of reducing effort and complexity and of redirecting resources to focus on improving the user experience.

Books are not going away. Traditional information formats are, however, being used in combination with a multitude of new and evolving formats. It is our responsibility to assist our users in finding what they need without demanding that they acquire specialized knowledge or select among an array of “silo” systems whose distinctions seem arbitrary.

The famous sage Howard Cosell once said, “What’s popular isn’t always right. What’s right isn’t always popular.” We suspect when it comes to the Internet and how it has simplified searching, what is popular is also right.

It's another wakeup call, reminding us that unless we collectively change with the times, we may fall too far behind to catch up.

Easy Citations on Knovel

.: I missed this one, from the 18 January 2006 v6 n1 issue of Knovel K-News. Knovel has introduced a citation link feature "that allows users to create a properly formatted citation for any reference book or database in the Knovel Library." When using an individual Knovel title, the user clicks on the "Citation" link next to "Title Details", inputs the page numbers, and a bibliographic citation formatted in MLA-style will appear. This is a nifty feature, and will work for any book in the Knovel db, in which page numbers are listed. This option will save the user time to format an individual citation. What I'd like to see added would be extra input space to allow for citing individually authored or co-authored papers within a Knovel publication. Regardless, it is another useful tool in the expanding Knovel arsenal.

February 21, 2006

Hindawi Publishing's Open Access Titles

Hindawi Publishing has embraced Open Access publishing in a major way. Hindawi is an established, low-cost, for-profit STM journal publisher that has decided that OA for-profit publishing is a viable model, both for start-up titles and by converting formerly subscription-based titles. In December 2005, Hindawi had a slate of 12 OA titles. The list has since expanded to 14 titles (8 with content) with the stated intent to grow by another 15 journals by the end of 2006.

Two New IEEE Journals

John Platt, IEEE Business Communications Manager, posted an announcement to numerous discussion lists about the debut of IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security and IEEE Computational Intelligence Magazine.

The first issues of "IEEE Computational Intelligence Magazine" and "IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security" have been published and are now available online through the IEEE Xplore digital library.

Computational intelligence is defined as a multi-faceted discipline dedicated to the shared knowledge of design, theory, development, and application of biologically and linguistically motivated computational models. The first issue of "IEEE Computational Intelligence Magazine" includes features on Evolutionary Computation and Evolvable Hardware.

"IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security" will cover related fields such as digital rights management, content identification, transaction tracking, surveillance, networking, law enforcement, and legal and ethical issues. The first issue includes papers on human identification based on facial animation and signature verification, among others.

The table of contents and abstracts for all papers in these issues can be found in the IEEE Xplore digital library, where subscribers may also access the full text of the articles:

"IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security"

"IEEE Computational Intelligence Magazine"

February 16, 2006

Richard Akerman - Paved Paradise: The Future Of (A Particular Type Of) Research Library

.: Richard Akerman offers another very interesting and thought provoking post on the future of research libraries, this one in reaction to the responses he received to his original post. Excerpt:

In all references to "library" below, I am talking ONLY about a library that serves solely a research community in the anti-social :) sciences: physics, chemistry, computer science, nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetics, astrophysics, ... I think you get the idea. Not a public library, not a university/academic library. It is purely total coincidence that I happen to work at a library that meets that exact description...

And no, I'm not a librarian. Former Computer Science and Physics grad student, current Enterprise Architect. As an Enterprise Architect, I worry about achieving strategic business target state, which for my organization is currently mapped out to 2010. That involves, amongst other things, considering transformational technologies that may present a risk of say, the entire organization no longer existing in 2010.

Below is the comment I submitted to his blog in response to his post:
Apologies for incorrectly spelling your name in my post on STLQ. It has been corrected.

I think you're being hard on those of us who chose to respond to your post, which I found to be thoughtful and challenging. You note that "The other thing I found very striking about the response to my posting is that I held out transformational hope: be an institutional repository, be a data centre, provide advanced research workflow services and... not a single person responded to these ideas. As I read it, the general tone was in the "we currently provide great service, we will continue to provide the same service, all will continue forever into the research library future..." No one talked about the transformational possibilities at all." That none of us responded to your transformational hope doesn't mean none of us agrees with it or doesn't share the same concern. We need to transform what we do on a daily if not hourly basis; this is often easier said than done, given the various restraints within our own institutions, often defined by ambiguity and uncertainty. It's all changing, all the time.

The one thing that I found missing in your original post was consideration for the human factor. You wrote, "Research libraries on the other hand, don't play any of these roles. There is no public to serve. There is no community meeting place role. There are no confused or desperate undergrads to help." To me, this is the utopian virtual research library, where none of its users is confused or has difficulty searching for data, articles, patents, standards, conference papers, what have you. I don't know if such a clientele for such a library exists. As far as I know, my colleagues and I, here at the U of Alberta, and at other academic or research libraries, deal with a regular stream of confused or desparate grad students, faculty, post-docs, and research associates on a daily basis! :-) In reality, very few fit such an unforgiving description, but you know what I mean.

You write, "In all references to "library" below, I am talking ONLY about a library that serves solely a research community in the anti-social :) sciences: physics, chemistry, computer science, nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetics, astrophysics, ... I think you get the idea. Not a public library, not a university/academic library. It is purely total coincidence that I happen to work at a library that meets that exact description... " I'm assuming you don't mean anti-social in the traditional sense, but rather in the practical sense. Is this indeed how CISTI's library works? Is there no social role in CISTI's library service?

Understand that I find this fascinating, given that I am now working as the Research Services Librarian for NRC's National Institute for Nanotechnology, on the U of Alberta campus, which means I now have access to all of CISTI's online resources. While I have been working in this position for only three days, I am already sensing that there are some researchers who are comfortable with what access they have to whatever online material they need, whereas there are others who rely on the web, short of the time to do deeper mining into the available resources, but very open to assistance and guidance. Additionally, in either camp, there are major e-resources of which they are not aware exist, now are they aware that they have access to them as well. The real surprise for me so far has been CISTI's e-resources. I was not aware that there is no subject or keyword breakdown of the databases, encyclopedias, etc. Maybe I need to dig a bit deeper myself, but at first glance, it wasn't obvious to me.

Without the human factor, the future completely digitized anti-social research library might as well be serving automatons, replicants or robots. Darla's comment on the LIS post, which summed up the issue for you, really concerns me: "I have found things that they have been doing incorrectly, that have been effecting their productivity and dissemination of their work, and have tried to bring these things to their attention, but they just don't care. They don't care if they do it right or not." Um...hello? If this is true, what does that suggest about the credibility of her research organization? How would other scholars, researchers, faculty, and so forth, working in nano-whatever, think of NINT or any other NRC institute if the researchers there didn't care if they did it right or not, especially regarding the productivity and dissemination of their work? I've worked with engineering faculty and students here at the U of Alberta for 22+ years, and believe me, they care about whether they do it right or not. Three days into my NINT experience, it is my strong sense that the same philosophy applies there as well.

Just my two cents from the Canadian west. Thanks for kicking the dust up about the future of what we do.

February 15, 2006

EPA Set to Close Library Network and Electronic Catalog

.: Cindi Trainor forwarded this to me just now: Bush Axing Libraries While Pushing For More Research. Ironic timing, considering the previous post about the end of the research library in natural sciences. Another very serious example of public information in the USA about to disappear.

Washington, DC — Under President Bush’s proposed budget, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is slated to shut down its network of libraries that serve its own scientists as well as the public, according to internal agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition to the libraries, the agency will pull the plug on its electronic catalog which tracks tens of thousands of unique documents and research studies that are available nowhere else.

Under Bush’s plan, $2 million of a total agency library budget of $2.5 million will be lost, including the entire $500,000 budget for the EPA Headquarters library and its electronic catalog that makes it possible to search for documents through the entire EPA library network. These reductions are just a small portion of the $300 million in cuts the administration has proposed for EPA operations.

One wonders how EPA scientists can be expected to do their research. Research libraries and library systems haven't made it to the point where their services are entirely virtual.

Richard Akerman On The Obsolesence of the Research Library

.: Richard Akerman, of Science Library Pad, is stirring things with his recent entry, "Is the research library obsolete":

  • scientific communication takes place through articles, whether pre-prints or post-prints, journal published or conference presented
  • most articles of scientific value will be subjected to peer review of some form
  • publisher websites provide acceptable access to articles, linked together online
  • articles are also brief enough to be conveniently downloaded (and then typically printed)
Types of library:
  • public library - provides access for general public to books (and secondarily to other published materials as well as transient formats like CDs, video cassettes, DVDs)
  • academic library - provides access for university community to books and academic journals
  • research library - provides access for researchers to books and academic journals
I assert that they public library still has some role to play as a community centre, and also because books are not (yet) convenient in electronic format.

Academic libraries have a role to play because undergrads don't know anything. Every year there are undergrads who need guidance, and the academic library is there to help them. Also, it is a good place to escape roommates, or find new potential bedmates.

Research libraries on the other hand, don't play any of these roles. There is no public to serve. There is no community meeting place role. There are no confused or desperate undergrads to help. So shouldn't a research library just

  1. digitize and index all of its current (out of copyright) paper holdings, and then send the paper into storage in some climate-controlled cave somewhere
  2. provide good licensed access to the necessary publisher websites for its researchers
  3. close down
Does anyone disagree that the traditional role of a research library, that of providing local convenient access to scientific publications, is erased by the presence of publisher websites on the Internet? That being the case, what value is left for research libraries to add? Researchers don't need (or want) the guidance or handholding that undergrads require. Is there anything left for the research library other than inventing new roles for itself? I can only see three roles that make sense:
  1. institutional repository for pre-prints and post-prints of the research organization's publications
  2. data repository for the research conducted at the organization
  3. providing advanced (data/publication/information/discovery/etc.) tools that integrate into the researcher's workflow
The first two roles are very much aligned with library and archiving roles, but may still require a bit of a revolution in how the organization sees itself. To put it more concisely, either your research library becomes part of the E-Science Cyberinfrastructure, or it gets paved over.

How is your research library dealing with this challenge? Have I missed something?

This is a though-provoking post, and the entry on Richard's site has received quite a few passionate comments so far. In one of the comments, he notes, "Yes, I am basically defining research library as a type of special library that serves mainly or exclusively a natural sciences researcher community." This definition is rather narrow to me. Perhaps in this context there is merit to considering Richard's points, but for the sake of argument, why limit the definition to natural sciences? Where does that leave engineering, pure science (physics, chemistry, mathematics), or agricultural research libraries? But Richard states that his argument centres around a very specific kind of library: "Again, I'm making a very specific argument about a very specialized type of library. I'm talking about a research library that supports primarily researchers in the natural sciences. I'm not talking about research library in the same sense that the British Library is a research library. I do agree that researchers in many, many topic areas may use books. I disagree that e.g. particle physicists, chemists, and geneticists are going to be using books (rare or otherwise) heavily as they either plan their research, conduct experiments, or keep up with their field. "

The library in which I work, the Science and Technology Library at the University of Alberta, is an academic library supporting teaching and research in Agricuture, Forestry and Home Economics, Science, and Engineering. If I restrict my observations only to the use of our collections by researchers (not undergrads) in the natural sciences (which I consider to be earth and atmospheric science, zoology, botany, entomology, microbiology, genetics), but also include physics, chemistry and mathematical sciences (which I consider to be the pure sciences, so to speak), I would have to disagree that the research library is obsolete.

While it is clear that most researchers in science, engineering, agriculture, and medicine require access to the most current e-journals and databases, on our campus we have always had researchers in some of these areas, including the natural sciences, who require access to print material, often hundreds of years old. Much of this older material contains hand-coloured images of organisms of interest to these researchers. Yes, this material could be digitized and housed in a climate-controlled environment, but for the nonce, typically researchers want to see the original print, if it's available.

Additionally, and this has been stated in some of the responses to Richard's post, we all have countless brilliant users, but it would require a complete suspension of disbelief to assume these users would be suddenly 100% self-sufficient without guidance and direction from librarians to find whatever it is they were seeking - this is what we do, especially at this level of study.

Of interest to me, of course, is that I am in my first week of working as the Research Services Librarian at the National Institute for Nanotechnology, which has no library of its own within the confines of the Institute itself, nor will it have one when it moves into its new, seven-storey building in May, 2006. NINT researchers have access to the resources of CISTI (where Richard is employed as technology architect and information security officer) as well as the University of Alberta Libraries' online resources - literally the best of both worlds. Is NINT an example of a research library that has "closed down before it ever opened"? I'd have to say no. I've been working half-time at NINT for the better of two days, and while waiting to get set up and running with an office, laptop, etc., have already been helping NINT staff with some basic research problems, all of which I have been able to deal via online resources. However, NINT has been on our campus for five years, during which I have spent time consulting with some of the researchers on their projects, sometimes ordering material in hard copy as required. Rather than choose to set up its own library, NINT decided early on that access to the U of Alberta's collections, in tandem with CISTI's online resources, would be sufficient. What I can confirm is that even with access to perhaps the richest collection of online resources anywhere - the combination of those offered by CISTI and the U of A Libraries - NINT researchers do make use of our print collections when required.

February 12, 2006

UniProt - The Universal Protein Resource

.: The following is of interest to those working in molecular biology and requiring access to protein sequence daabases. The UniProt Consortium is comprised of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB), and the Protein Information Resource (PIR). Until recently, EBI and SIB together produced Swiss-Prot and TrEMBL, while PIR produced the Protein Sequence Database (PIR-PSD). The UniProt databases (UniPARC, UniProtKB, UniREF) are built upon the pooled overlapping and complementary resources, efforts and expertise of these pioneereing efforts; UniProt FAQ

Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics from OSA

From Gregory Faris' debut editorial:

January 2006 marks the debut of a new virtual journal, the Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics, published monthly by the Optical Society of America (OSA). As a virtual journal, each issue provides links to articles that have appeared in conventional journals on a common topic, specifically, biomedical optics. Initially, the virtual journal will collect articles published in OSA journals. The OSA journals with biomedical optics content are primarily Applied Optics, Optics Letters, the Journal of the Optical Society of America A, and the online journal Optics Express. The scope of source journals will be broadened over time.

The term biomedical optics includes a broad range of subtopics. For the virtual journal, biomedical optics is considered to include research involving the interface between light and medicine or biology. This research can involve size scales ranging from submicrometer subcelluar structures to human organs on the scale of many centimeters. The role of light in biomedical optics can vary from that of a noninvasive probe such as for medical diagnostics or cellular studies, to an active tool to performcellular or tissuemodifications or therapies, to a source of stimulus such as for vision research. The virtual journal will also provide select coverage of important developments in optical techniques, methods, light sources, image processing and reconstruction, and related topics that are relevant to research on biomedical optics.

Biomedical optics is an active, diverse, and growing area of research. These aspects create challenges and opportunities for a virtual journal. For example, specialists in novel optical techniques may prefer to see articles grouped by technology, while those with stronger clinical interests would prefer to see articles groups by the application. Fortunately, a virtual journal offers greater flexibility in how articles are accessed. We intend to use this flexibility to allow readers with different research specialties to access articles in ways that match their interests. We expect that this new virtual journal will be a valuable tool for the biomedical optics research community. Comments on how to improve the journal are most welcome.

Virtual, or overlay, journals permit a team of editors to collocate selected published, peer-reviewed content from a variety of journals, as is done by the five AIP virtual journals; i.e., Virtual Journal of Biological Physics Research. Alternatively, an editorial board makes use of the major eprint servers as a manuscript submission mechanism, providing selection and the board's imprimateur without modifying or reformatting the preprint, for instance Geometry & Topology or Advances in Theoretical & Mathematical Physics.

February 3, 2006

OLA Superconference

.: I am in Toronto attending and presenting at the OLA Superconference. My presentation is tomorrow morning at 0905 hrs (sleepy time on Saturday morning!), and is about marketing the academic library from the engineering perspective. Here's a link to the presentation, minus two short videos that will be included tomorrow. One highlight has been finally meeting the delightful and charming Amanda Etches-Johnson, who is also blogging the conference.