September 30, 2003

"IM Interoperability Becoming a Reality!" I shudder even to think about it.

Extremely interesting and useful is "The Digital Mathematics Library" by Allyn Jackson in the September 2003 Notices of the AMS (v50i8). As it says, the mathematical literature is one of the best candidates for wholescale retrodigitization primarily because the literature itself has such a long useful life. Like I tell people, 1 + 1 will always = 2. However, the nature of math literature is that it is very diffuse and distributed, and thus any wholescale digitization effort will mirror that. Well, this article is a good overview of the issues and where we're at. The list of active projects alone is terrific. Highly recommended. From SEPW.

The MIT Open Courseware project is up and running with it's first 500 courses online. From Open Access News blog.

September 29, 2003

The incredibly useful Scolarly Electronic Publishing Weblog (SEPW) is now available via email subscription. From Open Access News.

September 22, 2003

On a happier note, I call your attention to a fantastic series of articles on Google culture in the most recent b/ITE (v20i5, September/October 2003). In particular, the article by Beatrice Pulliam takes an interesting view inside the library world's love/hate relationship with Google. Threat or opportunity? Both.

  • "The Cult(ure) of Googling" by Beatrice Pulliam
  • "Advance your search options on Google" by Catherine Dimenstein
  • "Beyond searching with Google" by Tara Calishain

It's always rather interesting when some of the more "true believer" scientists engage in a little social extrapolation. Check out "The profession's role in the global information society" by Wojciech Cellary in the September 2003 Computer. How's this for a quote: "The common ability to pass an individual's knowledge to computers will be essential because software will be the means both for expressing knowledge and transferring it. Thus, the education system must give the entire society the ability to express and gather knowledge this way." Can you believe it. This guy actually thinks we should all become programmers. Sure, he grants that programming has to become easier, but the idea that everyone needs to know how to encode their knowledge into software is patently ridiculous. He's basically advocating that software will be the only way that knowledge transfer will take place in the future. Doesn't that get us back into Gutenberg's time where we all had to build our own printing press? Hasn't this guy ever heard of TV? I thought reality TV shows were going to be the only method of knowledge transfer in the future. As for encoding our knowledge electronically, wouldn't that include weblogs? So, wouldn't that mean that we're already where Cellery wants us to get? Sheesh.

September 17, 2003

Are academic libraries creating an expectation within students that they will have access to all this licensed stuff when they graduate? Will business students graduate and demand ABI/Inform from their new employers? Do CS grads only accept employment from companies that subscribe to the full IEL package? Should we be thinking about this when we extoll the virtues of these products in our IL classes? Should we instead be thinking about ways to negotiate licenses that extend access to alumni? Interesting questions, related to the SciAm posting below. Take a look at Clifford Lynch's "Life after graduation day: Beyond the Academy's Digital Walls" in the Sept/Oct 2003 EDUCAUSE Review. From sepw

"Can you be an engineer and not be able to write, speak, or listen effectively? Sure, but not a successful one." What a great quote. It's from Carl Selinger's "Stuff you don't learn in engineering school" from the September 2003 IEEE Spectrum (v40i9). There's certainly a role that an engineering library can play teaching those skills and an article written by and engineer in an engineering journal can certainly help make the case.

September 12, 2003 is a kind of clearing house for PhD student weblogs. It's very interesting to see what all these students are doing and, I think, a great idea to create this sort of list. Now lets see one for master's and ugrad students! Oh, sorry, 99% of the blogs out there are already by ugrad students...and generally not about their studies. From Commons-blog.

The York email system was down yesterday evening (Sept 11, 2003) from 6pm to 11pm EST. If you by chance sent me an email at jdupuis at, it is likely that it did not get through.

September 9, 2003

A colleague passed around copies of an article from the September 2003 Scientific American (p. 23-24): "Public Not Welcome." The article is basically about how the rush towards electronic only access & higher access prices from the publishers is seriously restricting the public's access to scientific literature. It used to be that anyone could go into a university library and see the latest in the journal literature or even use Chem Abs to find information there. Now, with print copy cancellation and e-only access to most indexes, what is the public to do? Don't they pay the taxes that lets us buy these things for our students and researchers? Librarians of the world, Unite! Keep whatever print you can for important public access journals (ie. JAMA), fight for walk-in clauses in electronic licenses and, most of all, keep as many of those terminals non-password-protected as you can. Thanks Chris.

A few very good articles from the ever-reliable Katharine Mieszkowski in recent issues of Salon.

September 8, 2003

A quote from a BBC news story, quoted in The ResourceShelf: "Now Google has stopped simply reflecting the organisation of the web. Instead a high Google rank for a search now defines a page's quality and relevance." How can we compete with this attitude. And, coupled with the news that IEEE is now indexed on Google, how long before Google will be the one-and-only -- or at least close enough that no one really cares? I&A services, what's your reaction? On a lighter note, I can't complain too much with the above expressed sentiment: this humble blog comes first on searches for both "science librarian" and "John Dupuis." ;-)

Our old friend Garry Kasparov is at it again, this time playing a match against X3D Fritz using a 3d interface. It seems that no real chessboard will be used in the contest! And speaking of virtual chess, my handle at GameKnot is john_d. GameKnot is a turn-based system rather than real-time -- it's a kind of internet postal chess. Although I'm not very good, I look forward to playing some of my fellow scitech librarians.

Bioinformatics is one of the hottest areas in science these days, with grad & undergrad level programs sprouting up like mushrooms at universities all over. This interdiciplinary field combines statistics, molecular biology and computer science, so it's possible to see those programs housed in any of a number of different departments. Computer Science seems to be the most likely, however. The recent issue of IEEE Transaction on Eduction (v46i3 August 2003) has an article "Crossing the interdisciplinary barrier: a baccalaureate computer science option in bioinformatics" by T. Doom, M. Raymer, D. Krane and O. Garcia. A slightly different version is available here.

In recognition of the recently completed Toronto World Science Fiction Convention, I submit for your consideration: "The double helix: Why science needs science fiction" by Athena Andreadis. It's in Thought & Action, v19n1, Summer 2003. How's this for a quote: "If science was my romance literature, science fiction was my hidden stash of bodice rippers." The article is actually an impassioned plea for encouraging creativity and vision in the pursuit of scientific knowledge, leading to another great quote: "And though science will build the star ships, it's science fiction that will make us want to board them." Interestingly, Andreadis is also the author of The Biology of Star Trek. Pete Lowentrout via SFRA-L

The most recent issue of IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication is on "English language training for nonnative speakers of English in science or engineering," which is certainly an important topic here and I imagine in most other schools as well. Interesting (which seem to have the potential for a library connection) articles include:

September 4, 2003

The other science-related thing we did on our summer vacation was visit The Miller Museum of Geology at Queen's University in Kingston. It's a very nice little museum, perfect for kids at the hyper-curious stage.

September 2, 2003

Have way too many books filling up your house? Me too.

Good plagiarism bibliography here by Sharon Stoerger. She also has similar pages on various ethics topics including bioethics and a general page on research ethics. Stephen Abram via ocula-l.