Monday, March 30, 2009

Twitter Lag Disrupts Virtual Conference Attendance

I spent a good chunk of today 'attending' the Computers in Libraries conference by keeping up with the  #cil2009 infostream while listening to  TWiT live via ustream. Around 1:40p (in the east)  I saw someone in TWiT chat screen a mention that they just felt an earthquake in San Francisco. 

Indicative of how my information seeking behavior has changed, the first thing I did was perform a Twitter Search. Within 20 seconds of my initial search, which had hundreds of results, over 1500 additional results were available. The number of updates increased rapidly

Around and hour later the infostream from Computers in Libraries virtually stopped. There was initially a 21-minute update gap between 2:46p and 3:07p . I thought maybe it was time for a coffee break at the conference. Eventually, Twitter began to back fill those posts with a delay of 15-minutes. By 4:15p the delay dropped to around 5-minutes.  A similar delay was occurring with the #earthquake posts.  Until I hear another explanation, I will attribute the delay on the increased number of updates about the earthquake putting a heavy load on the system. 

It also highlights the reality that we need to be careful about the increased reliance on this single system.  A 10-minute update delay in my virtual conference attendance is nothing when compared to the potentially devastating effect of such a system overload if relied upon for real time communication of emergency situations. 
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Monday, March 23, 2009

It’s Time to Embrace Newer Forms of Scholarly Communication

I decided to write a letter to the promotion and tenure committee after being tenured back in 1997. I had completely forgotten about the letter until I recently uncovered it.  In re-reading it, I do not know if I'm more surprised about my insightful comments 12-years ago, or more disappointed that all of the issues I presented are STILL issues. From my letter:
" The fact that my web publications are not in the traditional peer-review mold may mean they hold little weight in the tenure process. This perception comes from the fact that no reference them appeared in my tenure review letter...

"I certainly understand the importance and significance of peer-reviewed, paper-based publications. The growing number of traditional publications in my dossier should demonstrate this understanding. However, electronic communication is becoming a significant part of the library profession. Just as technology is changing the manner in which we perform our jobs it is also changing how we communicate our theories, ideas, and concepts. As a profession, librarianship needs to adapt to these changes for our scholarly communications to advance...

"Finally, I have had discussions with tenured and nontenured library faculty that real a need for an open dialog regarding electronic publications and resources during the tenure and promotion process. I encourage the Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure Committee to begin considering how such a dialog can begin so future candidates will understand how electronic publications will be recognized."
Yes, these issues are not only still on the table but are discussed in an article by Sarah Kubik entitled Getting Serious About Research Online appearing in the March 20, 2009 edition of Inside Higher Ed. Kubik is an associate faculty member in visual communications and design at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Kubik makes the argument that while it once made sense to equate print with quality, it’s time to embrace newer forms of scholarly communication as being valid. She points out that even the new Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers no longer recognizes print as the default medium. 

Issue: academics still care about the output delivery method when it should be all about the content. 

Important scholarly communications are now being delivered using any number of personal communications conduits including blogs, online journals, e-mail, forum posts, podcasts, Twitter tweets, text messages, or instant messages. Still, academics dismiss this type of content as being less valuable.  From Kubik:
"If the Tribune Company decides to lessen its production of printed papers because they are too costly, does this mean that they are implying that printed content is less intellectual than Web content? Of course not. But academic circles are not all following suit. Online-only journals often have no impact factor scores, yet the students who use Google will find these journals pop up more frequently than the traditional publications. Perhaps this move toward paper-free publications will speed up the process of submitting an article, waiting for the first review, re-submitting the article with changes, waiting for the next review, (hopefully) getting the article accepted, and then waiting to have the article printed in the journal."
For promotion and tenure purposes it is still all about about print. Nothing more needs to be said.

Issue: Even when academics do recognize the value of electronic content, there is a tendency to use the lack of a traditional peer-review process to devalue it.  

Yes, we now have to be able to judge the quality of online content. Yes, a quality filtering process is needed. Yet, I do not think such a process has to be in place before there can be a wider acceptance of scholarly communication in all its form. The mindset that processes for identifying content quality and peer-review have to be in place before the content can be accepted may be the single reason we are no closer to a solution then when I addressed the issue up 12 years ago. 

At least some institutions, such as Oregon State University, have begun to address both these issues in their criteria
While the kinds of scholarship for faculty across the range of positions at the University will vary, the requirement that the significance of the scholarship be validated and be communicated to publics beyond the University will sustain a uniformly high standard. In some fields, refereed journals and monographs are the traditional media for communication and peer validation; in others, exhibitions and performances. In still other fields, emerging technologies are creating, and will continue to create, entirely new media and methods. In consideration for promotion and tenure, scholarship and creative activity are not merely to be enumerated but are to be carefully, objectively, and rigorously evaluated by professional peers, including ones external to the University.
While open to interpretation, one can say that not only does (the other, other) OSU support scholarship in all of its possible forms, but that scholarship should be evaluated in the context of the communication method. More importantly, scholarship must be "communicated in appropriate ways so as to have impact on or significance for publics beyond the University, or for the discipline itself." 

I am now the Chair of the P&T Committee I sent my letter to 12-years ago. I have found, however, that getting a dialog going is much easier said then done. I now realize the foundation of the culture of scholarship lies at the full professor level. Still, I was able to get a dialog moving by arranging the first ever meeting between P&T and the full professors. Hopefully, changes will not take another 12 years.      

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Transitioning to the Digital Dossier

The past few years have been filled with numerous analog to digital transitions. Why not propose another?

Each year I am responsible for generating a Faculty Annual Report (FAR). The FAR is essentially a core dossier that contains narrative focusing on my activities over the past year. 

In 1994, my FAR was generated by photo copying documents from one year to the next and adding new items in with a typewriter (!). The image on the right is my first FAR. Word processing templates were phased in a few years later which allowed me to cut and paste content electronically

My dossier and associated CV are used as documentation of my activities for the purposes of promotion and tenure review. More specifically, they provide critical information for external peer-reviewers.  

While the dossier I create is technically digital, the processes used to communicate and distribute the document treat it as if it were analog.  External reviewers receive a print dossier along with printed copies of scholarly materials via snail mail. Since the dossier is a flat text file, even if sent has an attachment the reviewer still needs to cut and paste URLs. 

With all the connectivity to content that we now have, academia really needs to rethink the dossier paradigm and transition it from analog to digital. I speculate that this transition WILL happen in the next few years anyway, why shouldn't academic librarians be the first? 

  • The only information that would be sent to an external reviewer would be a single URL. I think I'm making a reasonable assumption here that MOST academic librarians are online and would prefer digital rather than have a stack of paper. The reviewers could generate the paper versions, if that is the format they prefer.  
  • All network-based content (e.g. web sites, blogs) would be hyperlinked and navigated to though the digital dossier. This would allow certain scholarly communications to be viewed and interacted with in their native formats (side bar: I once had an interactive web site printed off and sent to external reviewers).  
  • Traditional content would be made accessible through the use of any combination of OpenURL / Link Resolvers / DOI. Most academic librarians have online access to a growing amount of published literature. Why print content off when it can be linked?
  • Content in open access publications or stored in institutional repositories could also be linked.  
  • Presentation materials stored on services such as SlideShare could also be linked. 
  • Sure, the evaluation of monographs would be a problem - in the short term.  
Over the past few years, Ohio State has been developing an expertise system called OSU:Pro. Your university may have built a similar system to store and build dossiers. The wonderful thing about OSU:Pro, and other expertise solutions, are their potential  to create a digital dossier. 

We aren't there - yet.  All the materials are still printed off and sent through the mail. The argument I hear is that paper is provided for the convenience of the reviewer. They can throw it in their briefcase and take it with them. I think the ubiquity of the Internet pretty much cancels out that argument these days.  

Serving as an external evaluator takes a good deal of time. I know I would be more willing to serve if it were easier to access all the supporting documentation online.  However, the barriers to the digital dossier are primarily of a cultural, historical, and work flow nature - not technical. 
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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Repurposing 23 Things for Health Sciences Educators?!

"23 Things" is a library staff development learning concept centered on social collaboration tools. It was conceived by Helene Blowers in 2006, and libraries and library organizations of all sizes and types have adapted the idea for their own staff. The focus of the program is a hands-on, self-directed, and innovative way to introduce staff, volunteers, trustees, and others to Web 2.0 tools like blogs and wikis.

This afternoon I 'attended' a 2-hour 23 Things Summit that had over 250 participants. The summit consisted of 'presentations' from several successful programs who shared their best practices and lessons learned. I am not going to spend any more time on the summit since you can revisit it here. (Note: the number of attendees Twittering the event made the summit a trending topic on Twittersearch and Twittergrid, )

I think we now have enough anecdotal and survey evidence to say that the program is a success in the library community. Both the technical knowledge and technology learning behaviors of participants does change by the end of the program. Great job to all!

As an academic librarian, however, I have noticed that the same concerns and issues that lead to he development of 23 Things within the library community also exist in colleges and departments across our campus. Colleges and departments are being pressured more and more to include social and Web 2.0 technologies into their educational experiences. In fact, I have a introductory meeting tomorrow to discuss a 'social networking strategy' for our college of medicine.

My first response to the meeting request that I received last week was essentially "it is great to have a strategy, but it will not be effective if the faculty don't understand or know how to use the tools. We need to come up with a way to get them engaged."

About 90 minutes into the summit a light bulb went off. It was was an exciting 'AHA' moment.

What I will be discussing at the meeting tomorrow is the idea of '23 Things for Health Sciences Educators.' It will essentially be a re-purposing of the 23 Things concept for the continuing education of health sciences faculty. What's that? Sure, library staff can participate as well!

The more I think about it I think this is an idea worth pursuing grant funds for. I also felt that idea is the way to go once I realized something. The audience I am looking at is the health sciences. The program is called 23 Things. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. I see the logo now, a double helix. With such a neat theme the program would have to be successful!

If this is such a good idea, why am I telling you and giving away my great idea? Perhaps, it is to find some possible collaborators to move this idea to a state, NLM midwest region, or national initiative? At the very least, it is to document the idea... Sphere: Related Content