Monday, December 31, 2007

Experiencing Analog-to-Digital Transition Pains?

In 2003, I bought a new GM vehicle. One of the options I added was the OnStar system. The problem is that the technology they used on the vehicle relied on the 24-year-old analog cell phone network, established back in the day of 'luggable' cell phones. As of Jan 1st, 2008, the OnStar system in my vehicle will no longer work due to the FCC reallocating the frequency spectrum used by the legacy analog system. All services which rely upon analog cell phone systems must be shut down by Feb '08. Others affected by this changeover are those which subscribe to wireless security systems.

Everyone who relies on over-the-air (terrestrial) signals will be also be affected by the FCC mandated analog-to-digital transition of legacy analog television signals occurring Feb '09. One would think there are few households in this age of cable and satellite TV that still rely upon over-the air signals. Some estimates place the number of US households still relying upon over-the-air signals at around 15% (I still do as a backup during rain fade periods). I am also surprised by the number of people I talk to that still do not know what this transition may mean to them. Over the holidays, I must have explained the digital TV change a half dozen times to those in the 'older' generation.

No matter how much prior notice is given to the consumer, the transition from analog-to-digital technologies is painful to many. There are new concepts to be learned, and explained. There are new hardware and software investments to be made. Many wonder why the transition is needed to begin with when what they have used for decades seem to work just fine.

If one were to draw a comparison between changes in consumer technology to those in library technology, one begins to understand why the transition from an analog librarianship to a digital librarianship has also been painful to many in the profession. There are new concepts to be learned, and explained. There are new hardware and software investments to be made. Many wonder why the transition is needed to begin with when what they have used for decades seem to work just fine. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ISI Impact Factor Data Under Fire (again)

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchAn editorial appearing in the Journal of Cell Biology by Mike Rossner, Heather Van Epps, and Emma Hill entitled Show me the data reports the inability for the authors to verify published impact factors using data provided by ISI. While it is common to read about the quirks of the impact factor, the authors question the underlying validity of the data used to calculate those impact factors and therefore the validity of the metrics that are published using it.

The authors, from The Rockefeller University Press, The Journal of Experimental Medicine, The Journal of Cell Biology, highlight their unsuccessful efforts to replicate ISIs published impact factors for these journals, which they serve as directors/editors. They reveal numerous and serious errors in several data sets provided by ISI.
When we requested the database used to calculate the published impact factors (i.e., including the erroneous records), Thomson Scientific sent us a second database. But these data still did not match the published impact factor data. This database appeared to have been assembled in an ad hoc manner to create a facsimile of the published data that might appease us. It did not.

When we examined the data in the Thomson Scientific database, two things quickly became evident: first, there were numerous incorrect article-type designations. Many articles that we consider "front matter" were included in the denominator. This was true for all the journals we examined. Second, the numbers did not add up. The total number of citations for each journal was substantially fewer than the number published on the Thomson Scientific, Journal Citation Reports (JCR) website (, subscription required). The difference in citation numbers was as high as 19% for a given journal, and the impact factor rankings of several journals were affected when the calculation was done using the purchased data (data not shown due to restrictions of the license agreement with Thomson Scientific).

It became clear that Thomson Scientific could not or (for some as yet unexplained reason) would not sell us the data used to calculate their published impact factor. If an author is unable to produce original data to verify a figure in one of our papers, we revoke the acceptance of the paper. We hope this account will convince some scientists and funding organizations to revoke their acceptance of impact factors as an accurate representation of the quality—or impact—of a paper published in a given journal.

If the problems that these editors encountered in their research are indeed accurate and widespread, the qualitative and evaluative decisions that rely in part on ISI's published impact factors (library purchasing; promotion and tenure; hiring; where to submit manuscripts) could now be considered suspect. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 14, 2007

Google's 'knol' Project a New Form of Scholarship?

Earlier this week, Google started to invite a selected group of people to try a new, 'free' tool that they are developing called "Knol."

Knol appears to be a more formalized and authoritative version of wikipedia. The key behind the project is to highlight the authority of content authors. Their idea is not lost on those in libraryland: knowing who wrote what will significantly help individuals make better use of web-published content.

The goal is to create 'Knols; to cover a wide variety of topics ranging from scientific concepts,, to historical, to how-to entries. Readers will be able to submit comments, questions, make edits, and add content. Readers will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. Knols will also include references and links to additional information. There are also plans to create a level of search quality will be to ranked when the Knols appear in Google search results.

Google will not serve as an editor and all editorial responsibilities and content will rest with the authors. Google will not ask for any exclusivity on any of this content and will make that content available to any other search engine.

Since this project is currently vaporware and only screenshots are available (only those select few have access) I have not had a chance to see it live. (Hey, guys, how about an invite!?) I am also curious to read any of the licensing agreements to see who actually 'owns' the content. Chances are it is not the author. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Biomedical Digital Libraries Moves to Open Journal Systems

I just received a message from Marcus Banks, editor for Biomedical Digital Libraries (BDL).

In October, the journal amicably ended its relationship with BioMed Central. BMC's author payment model had become untenable for most of the authors wishing ot publish in the journal. While the BMC site still exists but they can no longer accept submissions.

BDL is in the process of transferring information about the journal to the Open Journal Systems (OJS) platform, which will enable the journal to accept submissions at no cost to authors. The new site should be available in January.

Open Journal Systems (OJS) is a journal management and publishing system that has been developed by the Public Knowledge Project through its federally funded efforts to expand and improve access to research. It operates through a partnership among the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia, the Simon Fraser University Library, the School of Education at Stanford University, and the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University. The OJS assists with every stage of the refereed publishing process, from submissions through to online publication and indexing.

OJS Features

  1. OJS is installed locally and locally controlled.
  2. Editors configure requirements, sections, review process, etc.
  3. Online submission and management of all content.
  4. Subscription module with delayed open access options.
  5. Comprehensive indexing of content part of global system.
  6. Reading Tools for content, based on field and editors' choice.
  7. Email notification and commenting ability for readers.
  8. Complete context-sensitive online Help support.
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Capturing Blogs Citing Peer-Reviewed Research

About a month ago, I discussed my involvement as a member the BPR3 (Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting) team. The primary goal of BPR3 to to create a service which allows researchers to discover blog posts about peer-reviewed research. It offers a way to distinguish serious posts from general news and what the family pet did last night.

Dave Munger, the team lead, is in the process of filling out the paperwork to establish the organization as a non-profit. As a part of the legal process he describes the purpose of the organization:
  • To establish standards for online discussion, cataloging, and citation of peer-reviewed research;
  • To improve the visibility and status of weblogs and other sites that thoughtfully discuss peer-reviewed research;
  • To produce and manage a central web site where readers can locate weblog posts, online discussions, journal articles, and other information about academic research, and which other institutions can use to provide other services to the public and the research community;
  • To provide a forum for researchers and the public to discuss and collaborate on research projects;
  • To promote the discussion and dissemination of peer-reviewed research;
  • To educate and inform the public about academic research;
  • To engage in other activities related to the discussion, dissemination, and education about peer-reviewed research.
There are indeed other services out there exploring similar approaches, such as Postgenomic (supported by the Nature Publishing Group). There has also been discussion on how to include citation metadata when creating blog posts. The fact there are several groups looking at a way to capture this information only adds support to the argument that blogging can add value to academic discourse, when done with a scholarly approach.

The BPR3 service is currently in beta and the developers are working hard to make sure it is stable before the formal rollout, scheduled for very early in '08. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Android and Libraries

Android is an open, and free mobile application platform developed by a group of more than 30 technology and mobile companies that make up the Open Handset Alliance.

OpenAndroid was built to enable developers to create mobile applications that take full advantage of the features of a mobile device. As a result, an application built on the platform could call upon any of the phone's core functionality such as voice calling, text messaging, or build in audio/video. A developer can combine information from the web with data on he device such as contacts, calendar, or GPS location to provide a customizable user experience. Since Android will be open source; it can be extended to incorporate technologies as they emerge.

I think that Android will bring us into an interesting future of mobile communications. Anyone can develop and install and develop applications and customize their mobile device to do what they want it to do.

The potential impact of these developments on libraries will be interesting to watch. I had high hopes when I saw Robin Ashford post Google's Android and Libraries in Academic Libraries. While she brings up many good points, they can be applied to mobile devices in general and not specific to Andriod.

As an example of the possibilities, imagine and Andriod WorldCat client. With GPS built into a device, one could do a search where ever they are physically and the results could be mapped to a library near you, much in the way WorldCat now identifies locations by IP addresses. Mash those results with Google Maps and one can create a complete resource discovery experience by navigating the customer directly to the library location.

Developments like Andriod also mean that the move towards a more Service Oriented approach in the design of library systems becomes even more critical. Instead of creating systems which work though a web interface, we may need to build standalone applications that on the customer's side uses a mobile interface but on the backside interacts with our existing systems and databases. Each library system could (should) have an Andriod application that is customized to access local content. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, December 03, 2007

Give an Open Source Gift

The folks over at Make have made their 2007 open source hardware gift guide available.

Open source hardware refers to computer and electronic hardware that is designed in the same fashion as open source software. The hardware is available under a license that permits customers to re-engineer and improve the hardware and then redistribute it in modified or unmodified form. A detailed article is available. The kits and projects included open source 3D printers, TV-turn-off devices, iPod chargers, music players, and a tube-based micro guitar amp.

There are many interesting open hardware projects out there that one should be paying attention to, such as Open OEM, which is trying simputer deviceto create an open computer where all of the specifications are available and there are no restrictions upon its use.

OpenBook is a project which wants allow tablet usage to masses by high volume by to creating specifications for a tablet PC positioned somewhere between between the One Laptop Per Child $100 laptop and consumer Tablet PC.

The goal of the Simputer project was a low cost portable alternative portable device designed to run on Linux and use the XML-based Information Markup Language (IML).

When you're thinking of giving a gift this year to your techie friend or family member give the gift of open source. For those who are supporters of open source software, it may be time to begin to think about supporting hardware developers that are out challenging the way technology is made and distributed.

Sphere: Related Content