The Joy of Collecting

Every once in a while, I get a notice that reminds me that there are pleasant avocations that don't quite make it to "Reality TV" fare. Here is one such announcement.



Google wins?

Google just settled a lawsuit brought against them by authors and publishers. At first blush, it seems that Google just agreed to spend $125 million to avoid even greater financial liability. But, as Ben Reis pointed out to me, they only had to invest $125M to get the book publishing equivalent of the iTunes store agreed to by a large swathe of publishers. Interesting jujutsu.


Proceeding with precedings

An interesting subfractionation of the open access space is the Nature Precedings. No peer review but broad visibility and the ability to drive a stake in a scientific claim in a very clear way. In many ways this is as revisiting of the Physics preprint service that was among the original drivers of the architecting of the Web.


With all the concern about plagiarism, it is refreshing to read this essay on the cultivation of creativity and intellectual self-reliance that masquerades as a recipe for plagiarism prevention. Not that it does not outline some ingenious heuristics to prevent plagiarism. It does, by suggesting the assignment of topics that are uniquely at the intersection of the individual's experience and local identity, so as to defy any generality that would allow easy textual cloning to substitute for reflection and crafted writing. It's quite impressive to witness, even if from afar, the dedication to shaping personalized educational experiences that are broadly informed. With such teachers plagiarism really does seem beside the point.

Finally, and most satisfying, is that this essay is a chapter in a fully open access book that is part of an open access series from University of Michigan.


If you can't lick them

This announcement of the purchase of Biomed Central by Springer is interesting. Who is co-opting whom? Is this acknowledgement of the commercial value of the open access model? Or is it the harbinger of spiraling author fees? Regardless of the motivations or goals, the nature of the editorial boards and contributors to Biomed Central is likely to making Springer tread lightly. Else, alternatives will be generated by the increasingly fluid market of publication venues.


Snatching defeat from the open (source) jaws of victory?

I have used Endnote for at least a decade as my primary bibliographic tool, long before it was acquired by Thompson Reuters. If the reporting of a lawsuit brought by Thompson Reuters is correct, then as an academic community we need to seriously reconsider our prior recommendations of the use of a product that seems to now be configured precisely against the emerging fluidity of referencing and hyperlinking encouraged by the web from its outset.

One of the widely recognized successes of the Web was indeed in its dissemination of several decades of developments in hyperlinking that allowed, among other uses, different sources of knowledge and information to be hyperlinked. The occasionally wobbly efforts in deploying a Semantic Web that includes some minimalistic formalism of knowledge representation constitute an important and worthy attempt to make such hyperlinking and annotation even more efficient and productive. So, when Thompson starts suing open sourced efforts (using Semantic Web standards) to interoperate with the Endnote bibliographic styles, it is (again if the reports are accurate) creating obstacles to the free flow of information between the richly growing ecosystem of reference and bibliographic applications (web-based or otherwise). This runs counter to all the trends in open source publishing and widely shared document formats.

If indeed, I have misunderstood the nature of the lawsuit then I will readily and publicly retract these comments in this forum. Otherwise, those of us who want our students and colleagues to be able to freely exchange their bibliographic data will consider some alternatives.


Academia can lead in setting the example for sharing of research data

This article summarizes the benefits of data sharing for research and makes a few common sense recommendations (excerpted below). If our leading academic health centers would adopt these, the yield to all of us (as consumers of research) of our investment in research would grow rapidly.


  1. Commit to sharing research data as openly as possible, given privacy constraints. Streamline IRB, technology transfer, and information technology policies and procedures accordingly.
  2. Recognize data sharing contributions in hiring and promotion decisions, perhaps as a bonus to a publication's impact factor. Use concrete metrics when available.
  3. Educate trainees and current investigators on responsible data sharing and reuse practices through class work, mentorship, and professional development. Promote a framework for deciding upon appropriate data sharing mechanisms.
  4. Encourage data sharing practices as part of publication policies. Lobby for explicit and enforceable policies in journal and conference instructions, to both authors and peer reviewers.
  5. Encourage data sharing plans as part of funding policies. Lobby for appropriate data sharing requirements by funders, and recommend that they assess a proposal's data sharing plan as part of its scientific contribution.
  6. Fund the costs of data sharing, support for repositories, adoption of sharing infrastructure and metrics, and research into best practices through federal grants and AHC funds.
  7. Publish experiences in data sharing to facilitate the exchange of best practices.