Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Making the Most of the New Federal Agency OA Policy

So, at this point I think most people have either read about the new White House Open Access policy or read the memo itself. This is rightly lauded as a big step forward, and it could have a major effect on institutional repositories (IRs) and libraries. The requirement that agencies have "a strategy for leveraging existing archives, where appropriate," strikes me as an opportunity for existing IRs to get involved with this policy, especially since IRs hold a wide variety of resources beyond just journal articles that research that stemmed from federal funds could be published in, such as books and conference articles, as well as hold data sets (Burns, Lana, and Budd 2013) which are also to be made public under the new policy.

However, IRs as they currently are have a major weakness. As Arlitsch and O'Brien (2012) have noted, many IRs are currently using the Dublin Core metadata, even though it is not the best tool for journal articles, since important citation data such as "journal name, volume and issue number, and page numbers span of the article is usually entered into a single field, such as DC.Relation or DC.Source in simple Dublin Core, and there is no specified format or consistency" (p72). This makes it difficult for retrieval tools, such as Google Scholar, to find archived content in IRs, which diminishes their potential for providing access to federally-funded research to the public. Yet, just below the part of the memo that invites partnership with IRs is this requirement: "a strategy for improving the public’s ability to locate and access digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research". Agencies could potentially use this to push IRs away from Dublin Core, by requiring that, if they want to be in partnership with federal agencies on OA, they need to support metadata standards sufficient to improve access to archived research. This would improve access to all content in IRs, not just the federally-funded content.

This could also be a great opportunity for IRs and libraries to come together to create retrieval tools for OA materials to rival Google Scholar. While GS is a useful, if flawed, tool, there are many that worry about making ourselves even more dependent on Google. Google also has a tendency to kill unprofitable services, and so the library world could solicit support from the creation or their own major mutli-IR OA retrieval tool, since GS might not be "an approach for optimizing search...while ensuring long-term stewardship of the results of federally funded research". This could be done under the auspices of the Digital Public Library of America (though god help me I'm still not sure what exactly the DPLA is supposed to be) or something new. Either way, libraries and IRs could create a tool that, unlike GS, would be open about what materials it is indexing, improved display, allow for scholars to have easier access to citation data (Meho and Yang 2007).

Arlitsch, K. & O'Brien, P. S. (2012). Invisible institutional repositories: Addressing the low indexing ratios of IRs in Google Scholar. Library Hi Tech, 30 (1), pp.60 - 81. doi:10.1108/07378831211213210 
Burns, C. S., Lana, A., & Budd, J. M. (2013). Institutional repositories: Exploration of costs and value. D-Lib Magazine,19(1/2). Retrieved from http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january13/burns/01burns.html
Meho, L. I., & Yang, K. (2007). Impact of data sources on citation counts and ranking of LIS faculty: Web of science versus Scopus and Google Scholar. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology58(13), 2105-2125. doi:10.1002/asi.20677

Friday, February 15, 2013

You Got Your Scholarly Communications in My MOOCs!

I was rereading Clay Shirky's ode to the disruptive power of the MOOC, Napster, Udacity, and the Academy, and I had a thought: Shirky, guru of Web 2.0, as well as many like him have a decidedly non-Web 2.0 (interactive, collaborative, social) view of what an MOOC can be. Actually, scratch that: their conception of the MOOC actually looks more like 20th-Century mass media.

Let's look at the definition he gives: "A massive open online class is usually a series of video lectures with associated written materials and self-scoring tests, open to anyone." This is entirely one-directional, from professor to student. In an era where we have normalized the web as a collaborative, interactive medium, Shirky's preferred method of education disruption is a platform for one or two experts to talk at students. It's recreating the massive intro course common at many colleges and universities, but with the definition of "massive" changed from the hundreds to the thousands or hundred thousands.

Shirky is almost certainly right that it is cheaper and more efficient to lecture to 160,000 than two hundred, though there are still upsides to the smaller class.1 But this is only sufficient as a comparison if we accept that lectures are the only ways to teach students. Now, if you happen find constructivist instruction theory; which is to say instruction based on problem-solving, collaboration, and creative instructor-student interactons (Booth 51-52); this seems problematic. How is the most passive, traditional, conservative method of instruction supposed to be the method for disrupting higher education? Can't we do better?2

Well, that's easy to say. Sure, why not? The real question is how? Well, many ways, but one that I find particularly intriguing is put forth in a recent Chronicle post [paywalled, sorry] by Edward L. Ayers: the fusion of teaching and new methods of scholarly communication. I really love the History Harvests  example he gives. William G. Thomas III at Nebraska is planning a new MOOC that, rather than using the web as a tool for one-way broadcasting, uses the web's power to bring people together in real life (which Shirky extolled in Here Comes Everybody) to investigate primary sources of importance to the community. The students then get to get their digital humanities on and digitize and share these artifacts. It's a real chance to actually practice the historical discipline. This need not be limited to the digital humanities, either. It is increasingly common for natural scientists to submit their research data to open data repositories. Why not give students the opportunity to analyze a data set to see if they draw the same conclusions as the original author? That could make for a really practically-minded statistics class. MOOCs and new scholarly communications trends could be meshed together in so many other ways. We just need more people to break the lecture stranglehold, and generative and open access scholarship is a way forward.  

1) Like the ability of students in a class of 100 to be able to raise their hand and ask a question, or send their professor an email and have the slightest hope of getting a response.
2) Shirky could accuse me of being overly concerned with "education of the very best sort" and not what the average college student, not attending an elite university, would receive, which is his major response to most criticism of MOOCs. I call shenanigans. Education at every level could benefit from constructivist instruction, and as I'll get into in a second it could be incorporated into the MOOC.

Booth, C. (2011). Reflective teaching, effective learning: Instructional literacy for library educators. Chicago: American Library Association.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Best Things [2/1/13]

Let's Talk About This "Free" Price Tag, by Barbara Fister

You should just read this whole thing. It tackles everything: the gaps scholars have on how scholarly publishing actually works, the lack of inquisitiveness many of them have towards the subject, the bogus "realism" many adopt towards open access, and more. Seriously, I cannot do this justice: just read it.

Negotiation: Getting Past Some of the Barriers We Erect for Ourselves, by Nancy Sims

I've never done much negotiating. Or really, none at all. I once haggled on the price for something in a Russian market, and I was terrible at it. I am not the most assertive person, and that really isn't the best quality in a negotiator. I think I'm not the only person in the library world who has this issue. That's why I like this article: Sims confronts three different reasons librarians don't often negotiate the contracts we sign, and why we should. She also promises a future post where she goes over some times she negotiated copyright terms, which should be interesting.

Test-Driving Purdue's Passport Gamification Platform for Library Instruction, by Nicole Pagowsky (HT Annie Pho)

In my pre-library professional life, I worked at a loyalty-marketing firm (you know, like "spend $100 on your credit card and get 1,000 points you can redeem for a hat). The big buzzword at the time, the thing that was going to finally allow us to create "true loyalty," was gamification, or the adding of game-like features into non-games. So, I was intrigued to see librarians attempting to create interest in library instruction. I can't say it will work. Most gamification fails due to bad design, but when it works the results are impressive. Either way, I like the attempt to create excitement about library skills. I hope it works.

Chicago's Freezing Fire, by Alan Taylor

Last week a warehouse caught fire in Chicago, and it turns out mixing fire-fighting with sub-freezing temperatures leads to some fantastic photography.
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