Category Archives: Scholarly Commun.

Scholarly Communications by Faculty

Ithika, an organization that promotes the use of technology in higher education, released a report recently on the scholarly communication habits of tenured faculty members.  Ithika has performed this survey three times in the past 10 years, repeating this survey nation-wide every three years.

Here is how the report boils down:

– Faculty use and want e-journals, and don’t want print. 80% of scientists said they would want only current access to e-journals, where as only 60% of faculty in the humanities wanted electronic e-journal access only.

– Faculty are not visiting the library as the starting point for their research as they have in the past; they tend to start with the Internet.  One quote I’d like to highlight from today’s Chronicle of Higher Education summary is,

If faculty members see the library less as a gateway to research, they still put faith in its value as a buyer and archiver of information. There’s a danger, however, that they will consider it “as a budget line rather than as an active intellectual partner,” the report suggests.

– Faculty do not consider the e-books as important (10%), but many think that it will affect them professionally in the next five years (30%).

– For the majority (85%), faculty still want to publish in recognized journals rather than to publish their work in an open access journals which are publicly available and have a higher impact factor (40%).  They believe that writing to their peers in their narrow fields of study is more important than writing to a general audience in which anyone who wants to read their work can.

– Less than 30% of faculty have ever uploaded their work into their institutional repositories.

Google Books Settlement Possibilities Chart | American Libraries Magazine

Do you enjoy watching March Madness basketball?  Here is something akin to the playoff chart we’ve come to know & just for the Google Books settlement…

Library Copyright Alliance Releases Diagram Charting Many Ways Forward For Google Books Settlement


Google Books March Madness Chart

For immediate release:
March 4, 2010

For more information, contact:
Jonathan Band

WASHINGTON DC—The American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) announce the release of “GBS March Madness: Paths Forward for the Google Books Settlement.” This diagram, developed by Jonathan Band, explores the many possible routes and outcomes of the Google Books Settlement, including avenues into the litigation and appeals process.

Read more…

Distribution of News by the Reader

I finished reading a fascinating article by the NY Times which discussed how readers (specifically of the NY Times) continue to distribute the contents of news articles to friends, family, and colleagues.  According to this particular article, Researchers from U of Pennsylvania studied the habits of readers as they emailed NY Times articles to other people.  The purpose of the research was to help create a sociological theories of why people choose to share information. And the methods used in the study included examining a list of 7,500 of the most frequently emailed NY Times articles.  Researchers analyzed the results in 15 minute segments,

checking it every 15 minutes for more than six months, analyzing the content of thousands of articles and controlling for factors like the placement in the paper or on the Web home page.

The results indicate that readers tend to distribute info that has a positive nature (opposed to a negative nature or theme), and were longer articles (more content) with intellectually challenging topics.  More interesting, at least to me, was the fact that science articles tended to have stronger circulation.  In fact, the researchers found that,

20 percent of articles that appeared on the Times home page made the list, but the rate rose to 30 percent for science articles, including ones with headlines like “The Promise and Power of RNA.”

I’m one of the guilty parties that the researchers were studying and slanted science stories.  As a Science Librarian, I like to keep tabs on current info, both popular (newspapers & popular magazines) and scholarly literature (trade & scholar journals).  If I see something that relates to the research of a faculty or student member at my institution, I forward it along to the individual or to the department.  I frequently discuss the differences between popular and scholar literature, and try to use current examples in my library instruction sessions.  I also use RSS feeds to provide current content to the online library subject guides; sometimes these topics provide inspiration for a cutting edge research topic.

Philosophically, this article also offers an unusual glimpse into the inner workings of a news corporation: how the researched worked (teaming up with external researchers), the type of data it looked at (specifically emailed articles, something that could be easily measured and reveal what type of readers view the content of the newspaper, and to perhaps refocus or reinforce certain areas of publication), the possible impact of how titles of articles play into readership/further distribution (positive/negative titled articles), length of articles, geographic readership and times of the day articles are viewed, how placement of an article within the newspaper factors into readership, types/themes (e.g. popular themes or scientific themes), etc.

The question is always what will this corporation do with the data?  How will they use it to change their current business model, and to draw in more readership and make more money?

I also think that popular literature (non-peer-reviewed), such as the NY Times is playing an important role in scholarly communication.  Keep in mind that this type of literature uses less technical language and easier to understand by the average reader. Also worth noting is our society’s tenancy to shorten content, to boil things down to the basic highlights because we are so busy; we’re screening a huge amount of material on a daily basis and filtering information that is relevant to us as individuals.

My theory is that when we come across information that is relevant and applicable, we slow down and take the time to investigate further–at least we skim the information more closely.  We also filter information that might be relevant to people we know, and this is where this particular study comes into play.  We forward along the info and allow the receiving reader the option of filtering the same information or reading for further details. Unfortunately, I don’t have anecdotal evidence for this theory other than my observation of other people and myself; I help a lot of faculty and students and feel that I have a good vibe on the situation.  However, if you are looking for a research topic, this might be one to consider.

There’s More Than Google

More Than Google

More Than Google

Unshelved posted a great series of comic strips published in 2007 that are a spin off of the Macintosh and Windows advertisements. This one ends with a question from the Internet, with a question from the Internet saying, “there’s more than Google?”

I have to laugh because this is an assumption made by a great many people, especially new students. Surprisingly, I’ve been hearing similar comments echoed by staff and faculty members as well. Although instead of assuming that everything is available online like students (or at least what they need), they are surprised that resources do not exist yet to fulfill their information needs.

September is rolling around the corner with one of the largest freshman enrollments at my institution’s history, partly due to the crazy economic downturn. While it is true that information continues to flow from print to digital as items are continually scanned, there’s a great deal of literature and information that remains in print and may perhaps stay in print indefinitely, especially material that is uniquely owned and is available no where else.

The take home point is that not everything exists on the Internet, and probably never will. That is not to say that information will suddenly begin to be available only in print–those days are going. Most items are born digital, and it is highly likely that information will continue to be born digitally. Access will be limited though.

Problems of Ghost Writing in the Medical Industry


The New York Times had a fabulous article on ghostwriters whom influence medical literature. For those who do not know what ghostwriters are, they are essentially people who write under a made-up name to give credited to another person or entity (e.g. business).

Ghostwriting, also known as having a pen name, has been a common literary technique throughout the ages. There are a variety of reasons why ghostwriting occurs, such as the concealment of identity to protect the true author’s identity, to carry on a literary legacy, or to make the author seem like he or she is something they are really not.

The later of these examples can be more serious in the medical industry since life literally hangs in the balance. The benefit of ghostwriting is the concealment of identity, such as a doctor who writes under a false name in order to expose the truth about malpractice at a clinic and to preserve their reputation.

However, doctors rely on unbiased and accurate medical & research information. If they read an article that is essentially a paid endorsement of a product without knowing that it is biased (specifically emphasizing the benefits and leaving out the side effects), they could very likely make poor decisions in the future with patient care that they would otherwise not make, especially if they did not know that the article was slanted in favor of the company who paid for the article to be written.

In the case of Wyeth, a pharmaceutical company that produces Premarin and Prempro, hormone replacement drugs, the company paid a medical communications firm to write favorable review articles which appeared in 18 professional medical journals. The articles were given credit to top physicians who contributed little to nothing in the article (this raises several ethical questions by itself).

Is this a problem? You bet! Court document suggest that this practice of ghostwriting in the medical industry is wide spread.

“It’s almost like steroids and baseball,” said Dr. Joseph S. Ross, an assistant professor of geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who has conducted research on ghostwriting. “You don’t know who was using and who wasn’t; you don’t know which articles are tainted and which aren’t.”

Read the original NY Times article.

Scholarly Communication in the PHD Comics

For those who are involved with the scholarly publication process, here is a comic that discusses the publication process (from the publisher’s perspective): scientists give their work to publishers for free, scientists review the work for free, and publishers bundle the reviewed articles & sell it back to scientists for a profit because scientists want to be published.

View comic

To Blog or Not to Blog


To Blog or Not to Blog (at conferences). That is the question raised by an article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education. The topic was raised by a journalist from Nature who argues that,

conference organizers can’t send mixed messages: all conferences have to be open for public discussion, or all conferences have to be closed.”

This is a very good point. Presentations at conferences are mostly open for whomever to attend, as long as you pay the traditional conference fees. If you think about it, these presentations are available to the public. A major function of conferences are to spark discussion on topics that relates to its attendees, as well as continue after the conference ends. They are essentially a gathering of the like-minded, and attendees are usually encouraged to share what they discussed or learned from their colleagues back at their place of employment (share what they learned).

While I don’t think it is okay to record & publicly post what was discussed at presentations verbatim without permission, it should be perfectly acceptable to post personal notes. The ability for anyone to make information publicly available has essentially made everyone a potential journalist. This is another subtle shift in scholarly communication that conference organizers should be well aware, as well as presenters and attendees.

Declining Use Among Scholarly Email Lists

The Chronicle of Higher Education posted a fascinating article on scholarly email lists this week. To some extent the argument for the need of this technology has diminished with the development of blogs, wikis, tweets, and other newer forms of tech driven communication.

Personally, I have subscriptions to dozens of email lists, and I receive hundreds of emails daily. Extended vacations make me cringe since I know that several hours of email sifting awaits when I return. Over the years, I have noticed a clear decline with the participation of my scholarly email lists. As an email list owner of two separate groups, I have also noticed that while there remains a lot of subscribers, conversations that takes place within them have decreased.

That said, email lists still provide an essential function; often times the group members use the private email lists to discuss issues about vendors and products, or issues that pertain to a specific community such as private liberal arts college science librarians. Many of the new technologies are designed for public interaction. While professional emails lists may get used less, it is always nice to know that I have another alternative, and know that it is a “private” community (as private as technology will allow). As technological changes march along, and especially with Google’s upcoming Wave product, I anticipate that the use of professional email list as scholarly communication tools will continue to decline, but not disappear. At least they will continue to exist and function how they were originally designed within the next few years.

Read the Chronicle of Higher Education article.