London Experience, Day 8: Network Science in E-Publishing

On July 1 for the afternoon session, the UTK Science Data group visited Elsevier.  Elsevier is publisher of Lancet, a medical journal that has been around for a very long time.

We saw a picture of the journal’s founder, some fancy looking dude from the days of aristocratic scholarship. Given some of the pre-med students I studied biology with in undergrad, I think the aristocratic nature of medicine may still prevail.

He had a quote: “A lancet can be an arched window to let in the light or it can be a sharp surgical instrument to cut ot the dross and I intend to use it in both senses.”

Cutting out the dross: well doesn’t that just make you want to vomit. I guess this was before the time of snake oil.  An interesting point about publishing and medicine is that the stakes are a little higher.

True, medicine used to be practiced without anesthetics, and in galleries where one might watch someone be vivisected. But now, it’s a serious business.  And big business for Elsevier, if the chocolate cake and fruit kabobs were any indication of their success.  (More likely, British people are nice, and British publishers are especially nice to American library & information science students). But even if it is profitable to peddle the latest advances in medical information, there’s a certain responsibility to it.  Confidence intervals have to be a bit more… confident. Sample sizes need to be statistically significant.  P values are less circumspect. It is human beings we’re dealing with here, after all.

The role of the publisher in expanding medical knowledge is interesting.  I’d just recently learned of the concept of systematic reviews.  The publisher, plus the database, can actually make a contribution to medical knowledge by providing a mechanism for not only knowledge discovery, but knowledge synthesis.

This is perhaps reflected in Elsevier’s mission statement:

To help customers advance science and improve healthcare, by providing world class information and innovative solutions that enable customers to make critical decisions, enhance productivity, and improve outcomes.

What I find interesting is Elsevier almost seems detached here when they say “to help customers advance…” Or maybe they are just being modest.

However as an information professional and information scientist-in-training, I would not be so quick to step back from the contribution that the information system itself and the publishing mechanism that Elsevier supplies does not actually contribute to knowledge creation.

This may be a fundamental shift in thinking as the role of the librarian is redefined.  I often point out that my computer, which Apple says has the “most advanced operating system in the world” has a “system library.” Captain Kirk and Captain Picard both routinely accessed the library computer and library computer access and retrieval system in the 23 and 24 centuries, respectively.  Information systems are, at their core, digital libraries. And digital publishers are perhaps the first curators in the long line of information professionals that handle and do science with that content.

Next: some perspective that interested me – and to back up my claim that this publishing itself is a creative act and dataset unto its own:

30 million scientists
2,200 e-journals
365,000 articles

Elsevier products:
science direct
scival (terabytes of data)

Also notable is that Elsevier recently acquired mendeley and is behind some serious innovation of new libraries (e.g., n.c. index of state expertise).

Noted trend: SciVal spotlight; research is interdisciplinary (note I am specifically interested in the categories and how they assign them, e.g, “math & physics, chemistry, engineering, earth sciences, biology, biotechnology, infectious diseases… etc etc.
Image to use is “SciVal Spotlight, UK map”

Trend 4: research is increasingly data intensive across disciplines, driving demand to host, curate, and link to datasets.

Fascinating that “Research Articles” are high importance and high satisfaction, but “datasets, data models, algorithms and programs” are high importance but low satisfaction on a scale of importance of access on the x access and ease of access on the y axis.

Again, Elsevier has a pie chart showing “Our Scientific Disciplines” that I’d like to follow up on for the purposes of gauging collaboration networks.

Venn diagram for showing scopus has a total of 19,809, Web of science has 11,377 of those plus 934 outside Scopus.

Altmetric for scopus, “app powered by altmetric” shows mentions – perhaps an alternative for impact – with Facebook, blogs, interest, reedit, and tweets, among other platforms/metrics., based on the permis that “no one can resad everything” and “citation counting measures are useful, but not sufficient.”

Elsevier can preview bounding box for area of interest in paper, e.g., “Ontogenetic shift in schooling behavior of sardines, Sardina pilchardus).

Also, Elsevier uses Database linking. – offering access to relevant primary data.


About Tanner Jessel

I am a recent M.S. in Information Science graduate from the University of Tennessee School of Information Science. I was formerly a graduate research assistant funded by DataONE (Data Observation Network for Earth). Prior, I worked for four years as a content lead and biodiversity scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Biodiversity Informatics Program. Building on my work experience in biodiversity and environmental informatics, my work with DataONE focused on exploring the nature of scientific collaborations necessary for scientific inquiry. I also conducted research concerning user experience and usability, and assisted in development of member nodes with an emphasis on spatial data and infrastructure. I assisted with research designed to understand sociocultural issues within collaborative research communities. Through August 1, 2014, I was based at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee School of Information Science in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Posted on July 1, 2013, in London Experience and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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