Friday, June 26, 2009

A Model for Alternative Scholarly Recognition Measures in Academic Librarianship?

One of my soap box topics that regular readers are familiar with is the need for academic library promotion and tenure committees to update their criteria to be more accepting of scholarly contributions that appear in alternative formats, specifically in new media. The challenge to date for our organization, and I suspect most others, has been finding an existing model to build from.

Here is one with considering.

The New Media Department and The University of Maine amended their promotion and tenure guidelines (all the way) back in 2007 with redefined criteria in the form of alternative recognition measures. Their documents identify nine alternatives to the standard 'article in a peer-review journal' model. I think the measures can be applied to library science since many aspects of LS has similar accessibility and timeliness requirements for their research/scholarship.

The following measures of recognition are prioritized at U of Maine in the evaluation of candidates (bolding is mine for emphasis):


1. Invited / edited publications

Invitations to publish in edited electronic journals or printed magazines and books should be recognized as the kind of peer influence that in other fields would be signaled by acceptance in peer-reviewed journals.

2. Live conferences

The 2003 National Academies study concludes that conferences on new media, both face-to-face and virtual, offer a more useful and in some cases more prestigious venue for exposition than academic journals:

[The sluggishness of journal publications] is offset somewhat by a flourishing array of conferences and other forums, in both virtual and real space, that provide a sense of community and an outlet as well as feedback[11]....The prestige associated with presentations at major conferences actually makes some of them more selective than journals.[12]

New forms of conference archiving--such as archived Webcasts--add value and exposure to the research presented at conferences.

3. Citations

Citations are a valuable and versatile measure of peer influence because they may come from or point to a variety of genres, from Web sites to databases to books in print. Examples include citations in:

a. Electronic archives and recognition networks, such as the publicly accessible databases.

b. Books, printed journals, and newspapers. These are easier to find now, thanks to Google Scholar, Google Print, and Amazon's "look inside the book" feature.

c. Syllabi and other pedagogical contexts. Google searches on .edu domains and citations of the author's work in syllabi from outside universities can measure the academic currency of an individual researcher or her ideas. In the sciences, readings or projects cited on a syllabus are likely to be popular textbooks, but in an emerging field like new media, such recognition is a more valid marker of relevance.

4. Download / visitor counts

Downloads and other traffic-related statistics represent a measure of influence that has gained importance in the online community recently. As a 2005 open access study[13] concludes:

Whereas the significance of citation impact is well established, access of research literature via the Web provides a new metric for measuring the impact of articles – Web download impact. Download impact is useful for at least two reasons: (1) The portion of download variance that is correlated with citation counts provides an early-days estimate of probable citation impact that can begin to be tracked from the instant an article is made Open Access and that already attains its maximum predictive power after 6 months. (2) The portion of download variance that is uncorrelated with citation counts provides a second, partly independent estimate of the impact of an article, sensitive to another form of research usage that is not reflected in citations (Kurtz 2004).

5. Impact in online discussions

Email discussion lists are the proving grounds of new media discourse. They vary greatly in tone and substance, but even the least moderated of such lists can subject their authors to rigorous--and at times withering--scrutiny.[14] Measures such as the number of list subscribers, geographic scope, the presence or absence of moderation, and the number of replies triggered by a given contribution can give a sense of the importance of each discussion list.[15]

6. Impact in the real world

While magazine columns and newspaper editorials may have little standing in traditional academic subjects, one of the strengths of new media are their relevance to a daily life that is increasingly inflected by the relentless proliferation of technologies. Even counting Google search returns on the author's name or statistically improbable phrases can be a measure of real-world impact[16]. By privileging new media research with direct effect on local or global communities, the university can remain relevant in an age where much research takes place outside the ivory tower.

8. Net-native recognition metrics

Peer-evaluated online communities may invent their own measures of member evaluation, in which case they may be relevant to a researcher who participates in those communities. Examples of such self-policing communities include Slashdot, The Pool, Open Theory, and the Distributed Learning Project. The MLA pins the responsibility for learning these new metrics on reviewers rather than the reviewed.[17] Given the mutability of such metrics, however, promotion and tenure candidates may be called upon to explain and give context to these metrics for their reviewers. Again, efforts to educate a scholar's colleagues about new media should be considered part of that scholar's research, not supplemental to it.

9. Reference letters

Letters of recommendation from outside referees are an important compensation for the irrelevance of traditional recognition venues. Nevertheless, it is insufficient merely to solicit such letters from professors tenured in new media at other universities, since so few exist. More valuable is to use the measures outlined in this document to identify pre-eminent figures in new media, or to require new media promotion and tenure candidates to identify such figures and supply evidence that they qualify according to the criteria above.


I will work on modifying these and publish them in a future post.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

OSUL2013: Agile Organizational Development?

Over the past year I have been involved in a grassroots effort to create a roadmap for organizational change at The Ohio State University Libraries, known as OSUL2013. The purpose of the effort is to help the organization adapt to the changing information, educational, and environmental landscapes.

What has been unique about this process is that while it has been supported by library administration it has been entirely motivated and guided by Libraries staff. For their part, the administration has been actively encouraging staff to participate. I have been impressed by the growing participation considering the timing of the initiative coincided with the Library's move back into it's newly renovated building.

The process began with a full-day workshop on April 1, 2008, attended by 35 OSUL faculty and staff, including myself. The primary outcome of that event was the creation of five task forces, which worked through the summer of 2008 to investigate and create reports on the topics of:
Each of the reports define the topic, provides case studies, outlines a Blue Sky vision, and identifies "quick hits." The quick hits were important since they were seen as small scale projects and efforts which could help lead the organization towards each Blue Sky vision.

To continue the process, the task forces recommended an Implementation Phase. This phase began late last fall and concluded at the end of May. The Implementation Phase focused on a handful of quick hit projects projects and was managed by an Implementation Team, on which I served. An Implementation Community (made up of nearly 30 staff volunteers) was created to serve as a very important support unit. They acted as a sounding board and a source of new ideas. Community members were also active participants in several brainstorming sessions. Many also served on project teams.

The Implementation Phase final report (found here) summarizes the process, the projects, and recommended a new group be identified to continuation of the process. It calls for the creation of a working group starting in August '09 and continue through the fiscal year. That group would have several roles:
  • serve as a peer source of information and support for staff and faculty interested in pursuing innovative projects;
  • test and promote an appreciative model for group-based work based on facilitation, encouragement, and constructive feedback;
  • assess the progress toward the goals;
  • propose the next phase of the 2013 process
The activities associated with the next phase of OSUL2013 would be built from five high-level goals:
  • Library as Commons: Provide physical and virtual space for collaboration and communication
  • Empowered Staff and Focused Leadership: Encourage staff and faculty to take initiative to assess and to innovate
  • User-Centered Organization
  • One Library System: Facilitate and encourage communication and collaboration between individuals and units
  • Leadership in Scholarly Communications: Lead innovative efforts in the creation, distribution, and management of scholarship in all formats.
So, what does the title of this post come into play? As I was finishing up this summary I began to realize that the process that we have been unknowingly using could be characterized as being agile organizational development. We have been moving from phase to phase with only a half-baked notion of what we were going to do next. Each phase was an iteration on the previous with mid-process corrections being made based on our experiences and feedback.

While our report recommends that the next phase should last until next June, I have been thinking as I write this that it should last only until the end of the calendar year. We could squeeze two iterative phases in during that time period rather than just one.

Participating in OSUL2013 has been interesting experience for me, considering that I work in the Health Sciences Library which is technically not a part of OSUL. Not only has the OSUL organization embraced my involvement, but HSL leadership has been very supportive and encouraging. I will continue to be involved in the process going forward, but I haven't decided at which level of participation. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 12, 2009

Academic Mobbing: Dirty Politics or Animal Instincts?

An article entitled "Mobbing' Can Damage More Than Careers, Professors Are Told at Conference" appeared in the June 12th e-edition Chronicle of Higher Education. By the title alone, I thought the article was going to be about flash mobs. I became very curious how they could affect a professor's career.

In fact, what the article was about was the phenomenon of 'academic' mobbing. Mobbing in this sense refers to members of a department gang up to isolate or embarrass a colleague. I was able to uncover web sites, blogs, various articles, and books on the topic. Yes, mobbing also happens in libraries.

The practice of mobbing was recently reported in the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Ed of how Oxford professor Ruth Padel effectively engineered the mobbing of Nobel laureate Derek Walcott when they were competing for a coveted Oxford poetry professorship. Southern Illinois University Carbondale has been criticized in the past for having a culture where academic mobbing occurs.

From my perspective, academic mobbing is simply intelligent academics playing dirty politics or being reduced down to their animal instincts:
When songbirds perceive some sign of danger — a roosting owl, a hawk, a neighborhood cat — a group of them will often do something bizarre: fly toward the threat. When they reach the enemy, they will swoop down on it again and again, jeering and making a racket, which draws still more birds to the assault. The birds seldom actually touch their target ... The barrage simply continues until the intruder sulks away. Scientists call this behavior "mobbing."
The June 12th Chronicle article highlights the work of Kenneth Westhues a professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo, who discussed his studies of academic mobbing with The Chronicle in 2006, and created on the 16 indicators of mobbing.
  • The first stage of a mobbing is a period of increasing social isolation. At this point the 'target' is left off of committees or not invited to certain meetings. Colleagues begin to roll their eyes at them during meetings and there is a growing sense that more people dislike them than they once thought.
  • The next stage is one of petty harassment. Administrative requests are delayed or misplaced. They are made to follow the rules and processes while others are able to get around them. A research grant is squelch.
  • The third stage is the "critical incident." It is when significant accusations are made; a charge of plagiarism, a surprise audit. In the eyes of the mob, the critical incident demands swift administrative action and it is use to reinforce what they have always suspected.
  • The next stage is adjudication. At this point, the mobbing escalates to the administrative level, where it is either legitimized or stopped short.

And then, Mr. Westhues says, chances are the 'target' leaves. Whether they are dismissed or fully reinstated, whether it is due to exhaustion, or illness they cut their losses and get out.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Do Conference Bloggers and Tweeters Need to Follow Media Rules?

Science Insider reports that Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is amending its meetings policy so that participants who plan on blogging and tweeting must also adhere to the rules set for members of the media. The article states that bloggers and tweeters, in addition to the media, will need to notify CSHL ahead of time if they plan to cover the meeting and must receive permission from the speaker or poster author before reporting on what's presented.

The post highlights the case of Daniel MacArthur from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, United Kingdom. MacArthur wrote several on the spot blog posts at The Biology of Genomes meeting that covered advances being discussed by the participants. The news service Genomeweb complained.

When should someone feel free to blog or tweet? Andrew Maynard posts some guidelines:

In general: Irrespective of the setting, I tend to ask whether the information being presented is confidential, whether it is sensitive in any way, and whether others would benefit from reading about it on Twitter or 2020science. There has been at least one occasion where I decided not to live-tweet from a public meeting because I thought it would embarrass the speakers unnecessarily. There have been other occasions where I have live tweeted to provide people not at the meeting a sense of what someone is saying, as they say it.

This only applies to formal presentations and public comments. Publicly commenting on private conversations is absolutely out as far as I’m concerned, and I will only write about side conversations the person I’m talking to knows my intentions beforehand.

Invitation-only meetings: Definitely no live tweeting, and no blogging unless express permission is given.

Meetings with clearly stated reporting limitations: Generally, no live tweeting, and abiding by the rules when it comes to blogging.

Expert presentation & discussion of non-peer reviewed data. If the aim of the meeting is to seriously assess and discuss someone’s unpublished research, I would hesitate to live tweet. I might blog - but only if it seemed appropriate given the state and significance of the research.

Open conferences (i.e. anyone who pays can attend) where researchers are reviewing the state of knowledge, presenting published data, or clearly think they are the bees knees and everyone should know it. These I see as fair game for live tweeting and blogging - without the permission of the speaker.

Public meetings, where anyone can attend and there is no entrance fee. Open season as far as tweeting and blogging go.

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