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OCLC has released a White Paper on the Information Habits of College Students, reporting the results of a December 2001 study that will become the baseline of a series of annual updates. Abstract: "This study concentrates on the web-based information habits of college students and their use of campus library websites, in particular, finding that college and university students look to campus libraries and library websites for their information needs. As confident and savvy users of electronic information resources, college students value access to accurate, up-to-date information with easily identifiable authors. They are aware of the shortcomings of information available from the web and of their needs for assistance in finding information in electronic or paper formats." (Thanks to Shirley Hyatt.)
The University of Toronto Department of Medical Biophysics tried to organize a debate on the merits of the Public Library of Science. But it was a bust --debaters on both sides supported it. So the debate became a discussion of whether PLoS was still necessary in light of other initiatives like HINARI and the Budapest Open Access Initiative. A most heartwarming failure. (Thanks to Jim Till.)
Ready for robot-mediated free online access to printed book pages? Johns Hopkins University is experimenting with a system in which a user submits an electronic request for a book, a robot walks the aisles of the meatspace library, finds the book, removes it from the shelf, carries it to a scanning station, and scans the pages of interest to the user, who then reads them online. The same system will work for bound, printed journals.
PS. You might think that this difficult and expensive recourse is only necessary for works that aren't in electronic form from the start. But for ebooks and ejournals, free electronic sharing, especially with multiple users simultaneously, is usually barred by the licensing agreement. Hence, far from a shortcut, that's not even a legal alternative. The beauty of the Johns Hopkins system is that it operates on printed works, where the first sale doctrine applies. Once a library buys a copy of a printed work, it can share the copy any way it likes. The absurdity of IP law can be measured by the lengths to which one must go for a legal workaround.
There's a good discussion taking place on the AmericanScientist (aka Sept98) Forum on the question whether publishers' profits impede the progress of FOS.
The new issue of The Serials Librarian is devoted to E-Serials Cataloging: Access to Continuing and Integrating Resources via the Catalog and the Web. The special issue is edited by Jim Cole and Wayne Jones. Only abstracts of the articles are free online.
In the name of "fair dealing" (what the US calls "fair use"), the new EU copyright directive will allow limited copying by researchers whose need arises from non-commercial research or private study, and by librarians acting on their behalf. However, after December 22, 2002, it will exclude such copying when the researcher has a "commercial purpose". Researchers who sign a declaration that their research is non-commercial will protect librarians who act on their behalf, but will only be protected themselves if their declaration is truthful. The European Court of Justice will be the final arbiter of whether research has a commercial purpose.
The June issue of the Librarian's eBook Newsletter is now online.
NPR has changed its linking policy and no longer requires prior written permission for every link. It urges linkers not to suggest that NPR endorses causes that it doesn't endorse, which is fair. But it still doesn't understand: it reserves the right "to withdraw permission for any link" that it doesn't like.
PS. There are two problems here. One is that no permission is required for linking. So permission cannot be withdrawn. The other is that NPR is taking exactly the wrong strategy to avoid being confused with the advocacy groups and commercial concerns that might link to it. The more it tries to control those links, the more justified it is for the world to infer that linkers have NPR's blessing. If NPR would give up, then it could truthfully claim that it has no control over linkers and hence that links only reveal something about the linker, not about NPR. It's not our problem that NPR isn't pursuing its interests very effectively. But it is our problem when its self-defeating strategy gives support to the false and dangerous idea that links need permission from the target site.
The July 1 Newsweek has a story on FOS, equally devoted to free online content from Science Magazine and the forthcoming open-access journals from the Public Library of Science. "Why can't the people who pay for [scientific] research --the taxpayers-- get free access to it?" It's the most mainstream media coverage of FOS that I've seen. Like all mainstream coverage, however, it has the inevitable, inaccurate comparison to Napster.
More on the Eldred case....Marjorie Heins, The Delicate Balance Between Copyright and Free Expression, The Free Expression Policy Project, June 3.
More on cross-border censorship and copyright enforcement....Michael Geist argues that evolving internet law favors national jurisdiction over anarchy, and favors the rules of the United States and Europe over smaller countries. "In the mid-1990s, several courts in the United States and Canada asserted jurisdiction over Web sites merely because they were accessible within the jurisdiction, an approach that critics rightly noted would allow every court everywhere to stake a similar claim. However, courts gradually set limits on their jurisdictional reach, first by assessing whether a site was active or passive and more recently by considering whether the site targeted the jurisdiction. The [recent] aggressive extra-territorial approach to Internet lawmaking indicates that we are back to square one, where every country everywhere can theoretically lay claim to regulating the same on-line activity."
The Book People mailing list is a forum for announcing and discussing electronic books that can be freely read on the Internet - some of them scholarly texts, scholarly anthologies, sample chapters from scholarly books or publications. From the Web site: The purpose of the mailing list is to aid and inspire the culture of volunteers and projects that are providing literary works to the Net at large, and to give the readers and fans of online books a forum in which they can discuss what they enjoy, and would like to see, in texts on the Internet. The list is maintained by John Mark Ockerbloom, editor of The Online Books Page, and Mary Mark Ockerbloom, editor of A Celebration of Women Writers. Contributed by Sam Vaknin
The June 28 Chronicle of Higher Education has a debate on the question whether university presses are endangered. Malcolm Litchfield argues that they threatened by (1) their own drift toward commercial publishing and (2) library experiments with digital publishing. Niko Pfund argues that they are not threatened, and in fact are assured survival precisely because they straddle the academic and commercial worlds.
In his piece, Litchfield also proposes a kind of institutional eprints archive to replace much of the function of a university press, though he needlessly complicates it by suggesting that faculty transfer to their institution non-exclusive electronic rights to publish their academic writings. He also suggests that retroactive peer review could replace and improve upon the current system of prospective peer review. (I've often argued in FOSN that retroactive peer review can reduce the cost and shorten the delay of scholarly publication.)
The ARL has put online a report on the AAU/ARL Global Resources Program. The GRP is a Mellon-funded program to expand access to international research resources. Among its many initiatives are the German Resources Project, Japanese Journal Access Project, Latin American Research Resources Project, Slavic Document Delivery Project, Digital South Asia Library, and the Thai Journals Index.
Marian Dworaczek has updated his Subject Index to Literature on Electronic Sources of Information.
Germany has adopted a law prohibiting regional variation and seasonal discounts on book prices. The measure was strongly supported by authors, publishers, distributors and booksellers in Germany, though it is more controversial in the rest of Europe. Quoting State Minister for Cultural Affairs, Julian Nida-Ruemelin: "[C]ountries that do not have such a law publish markedly fewer books and can support far fewer bookshops and publishers. Under a free-pricing system, the law of supply and demand will immediately affect prices, since publishers mark up their bestsellers to compensate for losses from the discounts handed out by supermarkets. The temptation becomes strong to publish only those books that will sell easily and quickly, with a resulting loss of diversity." (Thanks to Terry Foreman.)
The Washington Post has an update on the FBI's investigation of library records to see who has been borrowing what.
Roy Tennant has put online the slide show from his talk at the British Columbia Library Conference (May 9), Down and Dirty Digitization: Everything you need to know about putting content online. (Thanks to Library News Daily.)
The entire distance learning database of the Global Network Academy is available for download (almost 40,000 courses). They also offer a free, full-text, C++ programming guide. On another note, MIT OpenCourseware has completed more than 20 courses by now - though they are yet available to the public. From the Web site: At a press conference on April 4, 2001, MIT announced its commitment to make the materials from virtually all of its courses freely available on the World Wide Web for non-commercial use. This new initiative, called MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), reflects MIT's institutional commitment to disseminate knowledge across the globe. Contributed by Sam Vaknin
Philip Resnik has developed software that can tell with 90% accuracy when one web document is a translation of a second web document. The software can be used to learn language and translation subtleties from millions of documents that are extremely difficult to program directly. This may lead to translation software with a grasp of idiom and context unrivaled by translation software built from top-down rules and vocabulary lists.
PS: This is a perfect example of how free online texts provide free online data to sophisticated software, and actually stimulate the development of software that would never be developed if the data were priced or hidden behind passwords.
The June 20 Shelflife is now online.
Walt Crawford, Electronic Access to Scientific Articles: Another Perspective, EContent, May 2002. A response to Martin White's publisher-oriented perspective from the December EContent. "Too many libraries have been pushed to the wall and can go no further, and many scholars now recognize the plight of the libraries and are unwilling to see a complete abandonment of monographic acquisitions just to shore up STM periodicals for a few more years. Things are starting to give."
Jeff Belle, Revenge of the Librarians: Journal Prices Under Siege, EContent, May 2002. What the journal-pricing crisis looks like to publishers, namely, "the so-called journal-pricing crisis". (Thanks to Walt Crawford.)
The Inxight MetaText Server will compose summaries of digital documents, extract essential information from them, and construct relationships among them based on their similarity. The result is supposed to help human beings find useful information in bodies of literature they don't have time to read. It's designed to help corporations keep up with unstructured texts almost as efficiently as they keep up with more structured sorts of data. Does anyone know of scientists or scholars using this or similar software for journal articles? Does anyone know of open-source projects in the same niche?
More on the genetically modified (GM) maize story in Nature....George Monbiot, The Fake Persuaders, The Guardian, May 14. A chilling account of how Monsanto hired a PR firm, The Bivings Group, to plant deceptive messages from non-existent people on a biotech listserv in order to sabotage two Berkeley professors whose research paper threatened to undermine Monsanto's GM-food business. Some lessons: when a powerful corporation stands to lose from a research paper, it can steer scientific discourse with the tools of open exchange and the tendency of scientists to trust the motives of those who seem to be fellow scientists. If peer review is not to be made irrelevant by unmoderated discussion lists, journals need courage, discussion participants must demand evidence for suspicious buzz about researchers or their work, and all should understand that debate on scientific issues may be distorted by deliberate manipulation. (Thanks to C-FIT.)