Category Archives: London Experience

Role of Dataset in Scholarly Publishing – Final Paper Feedback

From: Tenopir, Carol
Date: Fri, Aug 9, 2013 at 6:53 PM
Subject: RE: Jessel IS590 Research Paper
To: Tanner Jessel

Tanner: Attached is your final paper with my comments and your grade on the paper. Below is a summary of your grades for each assignment and final grade. I had a great time with you all in London and enjoyed reading your journals and papers. Have a good fall semester!

· Attendance and participation – (25%) Grade: A. We appreciated your insights and active questions throughout the two week experience. You added a lot to the course.

· Daily Journal –(25%) I loved your blog entries! Hope you follow up on some of the things you’ve made notes on, for example looking into Scielo some more and following up with some of the folks you met.

· Course Paper – (50%) Grade: A see comments on paper

Final Grade in Course: A. Great work!

Carol Tenopir
Chancellor’s Professor, School of Information Sciences
Director of Research and Director of the
Center for Information and Communication Studies
College of Communication and Information
University of Tennessee
1340 Circle Park Drive, 423 Communications Bldg
Knoxville, TN 37996-0341
Office: 865 9747911


London Experience, Day 12: Science Citation Indices

Except for two, the Pratt Students again split off from the UT Science Data scholars today for an afternoon visit to the world headquarters of Thomson Reuters.  Again, it was a very hot day, and we were lucky to avoid direct sunlight in their most Bond villain-esque office space.

We also joked about the “Ally McBeal” unisex bathroom – which had fully enclosed stalls that might have once been massage parlors, given the mood lighting, and rectangular faucets that “spilled” water rather than “poured” it.

A fun architectural space, but probably not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. For that matter, I’m confident most of London isn’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I burned through the last pages of notes in my notebook at Thomson Reuters.  I was writing in the margins. TR might be best known for the Reuters news service.  They also deal in financial risk, legal, tax and accounting, and Intellectual property and science.

One of their big products is the “Impact Factor.” Starting with founder Eugene Garfield in 1955 in his paper in Science, “Citation indexes for science.” This is highly pertinent to my research into networks because they use a “researcher ID.” This can avoid some problems I’ve encountered in cataloging where the author is published under various names that are all the same author. E.g., “J.T Scienceguy” versus “Jeffry T. Scienceguy” or “Jeffry Tomas Scienceguy.”  A database sees those as different entities, even though it is indeed the same person.

With a researcher ID, your database does not get complicated, and you can do a lot of data science.

Another area that I’m interested in and need to follow up with TR is the Map of Science – particularly the EU collaboration.  They use something called “ScholarONe.”

There is some research analytics, and also they “peek” into repositories – I need some follow up information on how they prioritize repositories based on “who manages, how’s it updated, how frequently, and what’s the quality.” They have  a white paper on that but I have yet to find it.  It could be useful for my research with DataONE and developing/prioritizing member nodes.

The map of science I need to follow up with Patricia Brannen.

Finally they have some research out of Philadelphia, U.S.A. regarding networks, influence of research over time for individuals.  They are not yet that honed in on how to do it for an ad-hoc group of researchers. Disappointing, as that is what I’m hoping to do with research into collaborations resulting from DataONE interactions.

London Experience, Day 11: Cambridge – “Old School” & International Scholarship

Cambridge is home to Cambridge University.  A very old place where you cannot walk on the grass, people dress in caps and gowns for every day scholarly doings, and there is a big cathedral (King’s Chapel) that Frederick the III and Henry the VIII had a hand in constructing.

Obviously it’s amazing to be in a town with such a rich history – in New Mexico a couple of weeks earlier I’d visited a simple adobe church built by Spanish missionaries – the San Miguel Mission.  It’d been built in 1630 and was the oldest church structure in the U.S.  But this Cathedral – I think it was finished in the 1400s and had been under construction for several decades prior to completion. So it was unreal to be in such an old place.  The concept of preservation goes very far back.

Cambridge is also home to ProQuest, an outfit familiar to many Library Students due to scholarships and free training and access.  ProQuest must indeed love library students because they were again incredibly nice to us, from gathering coffee mugs for all 19 students, to giving us sparkling mineral water, juice, and some pastries that saved my blood sugar levels as I’d missed breakfast that morning.

We’d had a great ride on a train to Cambridge – again an unseasonably warm day. We passed over an idyllic English countryside, and once more I was surprised by the paucity of development – or rather the lack of “sprawl.”  I had to set out on my own as I’d neglected to purchase a train ticket, but caught up with students catching photos as the “9 3/4 platform at King’s Cross station.” I enjoyed some conversation on the way over.

Back on the subject of proquest, they are using the “Alchemy API” that I need to check out – apparently it’s a natural language processor that can “Integrate advanced text mining and analytics functionality into your application, service, or data-processing pipeline.”

What was most interesting to me was that scholars are concerned about “late finds.” That’s because a late find can cost a scientist’s reputation, and it’s also an economic cost.

Finally, I asked about scholarship in emerging economies, like Brazil, India, Russia, and China.  The reply was that most of the time, these scholars publish in English language journals.  Perhaps harkening back to the 1600s when England was the publishing powerhouse.  Although publishers now have locations throughout the world, English is the unofficial general language in India.

Interestingly, and more to the point of my question, there was an admission that “almost every publisher has a Chinese or Japanese interface ” and from my personal experience in a stats class, Chinese students would often switch to asking questions of each other in Chinese “because it is easier.” This could mean a lot for usability and user experience as “right to left” is the traditional way of  reading in Western societies, but not for others.  Cultural differences might be a barrier for e-publishers.

Scielo – Scientific Electronic Library Online – is a Brazilian scholarship site that I’d like to check out. “The Scientific Electronic Library Online – SciELO is an electronic library covering a selected collection of Brazilian scientific journals.” To wit, there is a Portuguese version to complement the top-level .br english language domain <;. Note the “&lng=pt” compared to “&lng=en.” According to the English language version of the site, “SciELO is an electronic library covering a selected collection of Brazilian scientific journals.”

Some interesting FAQs pertaining to inclusion are here:

And even more interesting is the detailed list of criteria for journals to meet for inclusion in the index:

It goes back to the question of “who do you trust?” In fact, this list of criteria might help answer the question “why do you trust them?” At least from the citation indexer’s point of view.


London Experience, Day 10: Data Science in the UK

On Wednesday, July 5 we had a visit and talk from Graham Parton, a self professed “data scientist.” He gave a talk on “Environmental Data Archival – Practices and Benefits.”  He’s associated with the British Atmospheric data Centre

Centre for Environmental Data Archival
National Centre for Earth Observation

While Pratt students had not been exposed to this, UTK Science Data Students felt familiar with much of the information presented due to taking Environmental Informatics in the Spring 2013 semester. Also, UT is heavily involved with DataONE, essentially a collaboration of U.S. environmental data centers.

A second development of interest to me was my attempt to visit the University College London Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, I did wind up there, but spent more time in the tube getting there than actually doing anything of value.

I’d hoped to speak with the director, Dr. Andrew Hudson-Smith.  [Major aside: Unfortunately, he was busy setting up a Web cam for Jeremy Bentham, a rich old dude who gave a lot of money to UCL and made some weird requests, including to be mummified, put on display, and apparently a window on the world.  Well, now he’s got it – via a webcam and computer display. I think the campus preoccupation with Jeremy Bentham is a little creepy – he’s a mummy after all. Here in the U.S. we have taxidermy mascots – but no human beings to my knowledge].

However I did get a card from Dr. Hudson-Smith, and may follow up with him.  I spoke for literally a few seconds about the “if you build it they will come” scenario that Oak Ridge National Lab is facing with it’s visualization lab.  What exactly is being visualized?  Will the science follow on the availability of the equipment?

At UCL, apparently they are doing a lot of spatial modeling.  That includes for community planning.  There’s a blog on the business card I got, “”  In as much as I’m interested in using Geographic Information Science (Just “GI” in Europe) to enhance transportation planning, including things like “crowdsourcing” the best biking routes, this was fascinating.  They also do some agent based modelling. I’m sure LiDAR data would be useful. As has been often discussed, I’m not sure why we need to visualize data on giant screens, though. In New Mexico we joked about the University of Arizona building a visualization lab, but not budgeting in staff to work on it or maintain it.  Everyone wants that “hollywood” moment where data is visualized to tell a story on-the-fly, but finding data, making sure it’s in compatible formats, and then throwing it up into a visualization takes time – and most of all, skilled information professionals – in GIS, data visualization, information sciences.

UCL spatial analysis lab has been doing work for 20 years – what keyed me into it was a facebook event celebrating that milestone that my group had just missed – a showcase of visualizations where “real and virtual worlds collide <>.  In fact there’s a new masters and phD program starting up in  “UCL Engineering Doctorate Centre in Virtual Environments, Imaging and Visualisation (EngD VEIV)” that supports evidence-based decision making.  This is one of my pet projects at <> where I talk about transportation issues and community planning.



London Experience, Day 9: Oxford University Press

For July 2, the entire day was occupied by a visit to Oxford University, home to the famed “Oxford University Press.”

Much of the information presented was not particularly interesting to me; my parents and sister are the English majors.  We went over much about scholarly editions of literature such as Shakespeare, and the great work that goes into interpreting ancient texts, even those from more recent ancient history.

An example that sticks out in my mind is “Oh my too too solid flesh.” Wait, was that sullied? Or sordid? Hard to tell.  But through digital scholarship, you can leverage your current question against the works of others.  The digital version can provide rich footnotes.

This also brings up the point about providing context – because the digital version is always detatched from the real world, context is incredibly important.

Because Shakespeare had written about the solid flesh of a human being in an earlier play, either Macbeth or Hamlet, I forget which, the modern scholar can infer that it it’s most likely this sonnet was referencing the corporeal nature of a man.

There are certainly some technical challenges in providing context – it’s a lot more than making content “machine readable.” As pointed out early, “electronic” doesn’t really mean the same thing as “digital” when it comes to e-publishing.

Finally there were some more “science centric” points made at Oxford: namely, a discussion of the White House OSTP Consultation on Public Access to Federally Supported Research Output.

A link provided for further reading:

Some key pieces of legislature:

-Research Works Act (RWA)
Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA)
FASTR bill (access to federally funded research after 5 mo.)

Library Response: SHARE: Shared Access Research Ecosystem – network of cross institutional repositories.

Publisher Response: CHORUS: Clearing House for the Open Research of the U.S. (links to publisher’s websites)

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.

London Experience, Day 5: “Really Clever Stuff” in Science Publishing

Today the 19 Pratt and UTK students travelled to our base-of-operations instructional facility, the Weston Room at the Maughan Library.  This is an impressive gothic-styled building.  The room we were in dates to the 1600s and in a morbid sort of way, as a deconsecrated chapel, had remains of former “Masters of the Rollls” entombed in the same hall we took instruction in.  Memento mori, indeed.

The first speaker for our instruction was Dan Pollock, with experience in digital publishing at Nature.

I greatly enjoyed his talk, particularly his comments on “mining the world’s knowledge.”

Essentially, the “circa 2010” publishing model is “really inconvenient.” And what is that model?  Well, it’s a collection of articles, chapters, metadata links, and structured datasets.

The better model incorporates structured, interactive, and queryable figures and text. Incorporates semantic search.  Features linked data.

Already, semantic search is available from organizations like Google Scholar, PureDiscovery, SureChem, and WolframAlpha described as a “computational knowledge engine.” (side note: what’s up with combining names, is that a side effect of the no-blank-space URL or just something marketers love to do?)

This is what Pollock is talking about when he says “really clever stuff here” in the information life cycle – and ultimately in the research data life cycle.

This is the Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 technology – semantic Web, linked open data, analysis and visualization tools built in to the scholarly journal, which scholarly e-publishers must pursue to continue the revolution that the printing press started in 1450.

Publishers can start to make their data available via Application Programming Interfaces, and adopt other standards like HTML 5 to advance interoperability. has already done some of this with the linked data platform described at <>. It was great to a science publisher like Pollock speak – very engaged and enjoyable presentation and certainly appreciated the message about the role of information technology and information science in continuing the publishing revolution.







London Experience, Day 4: The Data Paper

Today the class enjoyed a series of presentations at the first annual “Strand Symposium on Digital Scholarship and ePublishing” at Kings College, London.

I’m providing the schedule here, along with an uploaded version 2013-Strand-Epub-symposium:

09:30-09:35 INTRODUCTION by Anthony Watkinson (CIBER Research), organiser and chair

09:35-10:15 Introductory Presentation by Professor Carol Tenopir (UTK) – How Scholars decide to Trust Resources

10:15-11:30 FIRST SESSION Building and evaluating cultural resources

1. Professor Tula Giannini (Pratt-SILS): How Brooklyn’s Libraries and Museums Collaborate to Create a new Digital Cultural Heritage Resource: The Brooklyn Visual Heritage Website

2. Professor David Nicholas (CIBER Research): Evaluating the Usage of Europeana

11:15-12:00 Refreshment Break

12:00-13:15 SECOND SESSION Are we publishing and, if so, for whom?

1. Dr. Stuart Dunn (KCL) The distinction between exposing data and publishing: a case study from archaeology

2. Dr. Susan Whitfield (BL) The challenge of creating a resource and interface that is accessible across linguistic, disciplinary and cultural boundaries to the everyman of the Internet

13:15-14:15 Opportunity for lunch: lunch is not provided by there are many appropriate places to eat in the Waterloo surroundings.

14:15-15:30 SESSION THREE Managing online resources

1. Dr. Richard Gartner (KCL) Digital Asset Management- the pleasures and pitfalls of metadata

2. Matt Kibble (Bloomsbury) The product management role in planning and building digital resources

15:30-16:00 Refreshment break

16:00-17:15 SESSION FOUR Investment and sustainability

1. Dr. Paola Marchionni (Jisc) The end is the beginning: the challenges of digital resources post digitisation

2. Chris Cotton (Proquest) The benefits of public private partnerships in large-scale cultural and heritage digitisation

17:15-17:30 CONCLUDING REMARKS Anthony Watkinson

I enjoyed taking in a lecture on “Trust and Authority of Scholarly Resources” from Dr. Tenopir – the first time this data has been presented.  It is useful for understanding not only the information behavior of scientists, but the general public as well.  The question “who do you trust” will always loom large in public discourse.

Our course leader Anthony Watkinson, himself a former publisher and University College London lecturer, did a superb job putting together speakers.  In spite of the full slate of speakers and 19 graduate students, admittedly there might have been more in attendance.  Anthony felt he had promoted the event a bit late.  In all it was not bad for a first year on a week day with no free lunch!

Anthony did a big favor for the science data students in recruiting Dr. Fiona Murphy from Wiley Publishing to speak with us for an informal lunchtime talk on science data.  We also had one of the Pratt MLIS students come with us as she is interested in data science.

In preparation for the lunchtime meeting, Anthony sent a few key resources.  What I found most interesting was that Dr. Murphy had delivered a talk at the “Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe ” OpenAIRE/LIBER workshop on “Dealing with Data. What’s the Role for the library?

Dr. Murphy’s talk was entitled ‘Data Publication: a Publisher’s perspective’ and there are two ways of accessing it – see the presentation online <> or watch a video online <>.

From the description:

Fiona from Wiley spoke about what publishing data is all about: why it is important in terms of being cited and credited. The growing pressure funder mandates also plays a role.

Some things I found particularly interesting:

Charting the growth of open access – the number of papers published between 2000 and 2012 was under 5,00 for most papers, with exception of BMC, which broke 5000 in 2005, with other publications lingering well past the first half of the first decade of the new millennium.

Dr. Murphy also commented on what exactly a data article is:

A data article describes a dataset, giving details of its collection, processing, software, file formats etc, without the requirement of novel analyses or ground breaking conclusions. It allows the reader to understand the when, how and why data was collected and what the data-product is.

Example: Geoscience Data Journal

With an example data paper:

Some other links:

“Peer REview for Publication & Accreditation of Research Data in the Earth sciences (PREPARDE)” –

“The Research Data Alliance aims to accelerate and facilitate research data sharing and exchange”

It is probably worth subscribing to this mailing list <>

And a quote worth sharing:

Publishing an article without at the same time making the data/evidence available is scientific malpractice

Geoffrey Boulton

Dr. Murphy is on twitter:


And is a member of the “International Organization of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers” research data group  <> focused on “exchanging information on new initiatives about the integration of research publications and research data and 2) to discuss evolving best practices in this new area.”


London Experience, Day 3: High Class to High Tech

On the second programmed day of the London portion of my scholarly publishing course, we visited The British Library.

The building itself evokes the “stack of bricks” style of architecture, echoing an earlier brickwork victorian structure nearby, but still mildly clashing in form if not in hue.

Inside, cool marble ascends, centering the eye on a five story collection of books – “the King’s Library,” that terminates in a pool of black marble that sublty mirrors the collection and gives the appearance the collection extends to infinity. Seeing the personal collection of  King George III was impressive.  This is the reading collection of the man vilified by our founding fathers – even Thomas Jefferson’s library at Monticello was not so large!

While the library’s primary mission is to archive a copy of every single publication originating in the United Kingdom, translating to 5,000 publications per day, there is also some high tech wizardry going on in the digital forensics lab.  This was of particular interest to me because of nascent problems in the field of ecology – a relatively new field – where prominent early leaders in the field are now nearing retirement age.

As the DataONE Data life cycle points out, retirement of the primary researcher can be a key moment in the longevity of a dataset.

Enter Jeremy Leighton John. He has something of a Crime Scene Investigator’s capabilities- but his forensic investigations center on retrieving information from archaic computer systems.  With piles of floppy disks, hard discs, and computer programs no longer used, Jeremy has honed forensic computing to an art.  He can emulate ancient operating systems, programs, and doesn’t even need to turn the original computer on to access its files.

Interestingly, he’s an ecologist in a “library” world, much like myself and many other ecologists I’ve met interested in data science and data preservation. And has some fascinating research interests spanning from complex systems to bioinformatics.

He’s also on twitter:

While Jeremy’s talk was most pertinent to my interests, some other topics worth looking into include:

“Making maps accessibly through crowd-sourced geo-referencing;”

Digital Curator Nora McGregor’s talk on digital scholarship (@ndalyrose on twitter and there is a Digital Scholarship blog) where she presented some continuing education opportunities for librarians at the British Library.

Some courses I pulled from the list that I wish were taught at my own institution:

  • Data Visualization for Analysis in Scholarly Research
  • Georeferencing and Digital Mapping
  • Information Integration: Mash-Ups, APIs, and the Semantic Web
  • Managing Digital Research Information
  • Working Collaboratively: Using the BL Wiki and Beyond
  • Metadata for Electronic Resources: Dublin Core, Mets, MODS, RDF, XML

I may be able to track down some of these course offerings online – for instance the first course has additional readings online.

Finally I have in my notes the “Big Data project” from Oxford Internet Institute at <>, which is quite similar to the U.S. project “the Internet Archive” that takes a snapshot of the Web.  This is unique in that it is looking at .uk domain only.

Also of note was an exhibition on propoganda – from roman coins to twitter.  Twitter was perhaps the most interesting – as it employed a type of sentiment analysis to determine if a given tweet was positive, negative, or neutral.  There was a visualization wall as well, allowing a color-coded view of each tweet in real time or linked with a timestamp to a recorded event unfolding on TV, such as the 2012 Olympic Ceremony.

Finally, I got to see the Magna Carta, and many other rare books.  The abundance of rare books made it clear why security was incredibly tight for the entire facility – even employees of over 30 years were subject to intense scrutiny.

One last item of note – and as you can see there were many – was the Qatar digitization project. Funded by oil wealth, a floor of 14 information professionals, two with library science training, were busily digitizing the archives of the East India Trading company where their activities were focused in the middle east.


London Experience, Day 2: Cultural Impact on E-Publishing?

Since settling in and prior to arrival, a key question on my mind is this: why is London, England such a center of publishing activity for scholarly journals?  Why might it be more advanced than in the United States?

Are there cultural differences, or has Europe simply been at the forefront of publishing for the longest?

Certainly there is a long tradition of academic scholarship in Europe – and Europe is the birthplace of publishing in the modern sense, of mass production and dissemination of printed material.

There are certainly an abundance of scholarly institutions – libraries, museums, universities – in and around London.  Great scholars from Newton to Darwin hail from England – Darwin is even on the 5 pound bank note here, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.  Egyptology, “natural philsophy” and medical arts were all in vogue in Europe – particularly London.

The Dutch Scientist Anton Von Leeuwenhauk in 1683 published a series of letters and pamphlets on his observations of small “animacules” via primitive lenses, precursor’s to today’s microscopes.  Who received his correspondence?  The Royal Society.

Not of Denmark. That’d be the Royal Society of London. So why was a Dutch scientist corresponding with the Royal Society?  Was it the only venue for scientific communication in Europe? Perhaps.  Founded in 1660, it was certainly the oldest, and in 1665 began publishing “Philosophical Transactions,” arguably the first scientific journal in the world.

So London clearly had an early start in the scientific publishing game. Two protestant states, Germany and England, seem to have a key role in the science communication story.  Perhaps because anywhere else, scientists risked excommunication?  Or, was English as the language of commerce the central focus of early science communication efforts?

This might be the first sign of the cultural impact upon scholarly publication in Europe.

I also have considered the attitude of the people of England themselves.  Citizens of the U.K., especially following the Victorian age of empire and epic struggle against fascism and totalitarian rule in the latter half of the 20th century, are perhaps among the most ardent supporters of a free and open democracy.  England indeed was among the first countries to reject foreign rule by the Vatican, and first to set the course for modern representative democracy with the Magna Carta.

What might this cultural love affair with open access and democratic control and self determination mean for scholarly publishing?  In spite of being the center of commerce and a world financial center, clearly embracing the capitalist model, might the cultural love of community spirit lead to a greater emphasis on open access?  These are interesting questions to consider in contemplating access to scholarly materials as a product of England.

A few cultural differences I noticed right away: on my trip from Heathrow to Central London via the Tube, I noticed that the concept of “personal space” was non-existent.  In the U.S., the social norm is to give each other a wide berth of at least 3 feet.  Even on the elevator to our dorms, and among friends who’ve known each other for nearly a year, American students would forgoe a packed elevator to wait for the next “lift.”

Not so in the U.K. Complete strangers shared not only personal space but physical contact – completely without hesitation. No accident, I sat elbow-to-elbow on the tube, with no effort made to keep at least an airspace.

I wondered if this was something inherrent to a large city – I’ve visited New York and Washington underground transit systems and don’t remember such familiarity – or if it’s just part of British culture. They fought tooth and nail through a war – many families cramming into the underground system.  Propoganda posters like “All together now” may have galvanized society to see itself as one cohesive unit – casting aside the “cowboy” or “desperado” mythos of the U.S.

Further prompting my thinking along these lines was a message in both the common kitchen and bathroom – concerning “fairness” of cleaning up.  While in the U.S. such snarky, slightly passive aggressive notes are more concerned with “we are not your mother or father” and encouraging personal responsibility, the bathroom/kitchen messages in my University College dorm (Astor College on Charlotte Street) extolled the virtues of being “fair.” It is “not appropriate or fair to others” to leave dirty dishes in the sink; “it is not fair to the cleaning staff or others” to leave a mess in the bathroom.

The U.K. does seem concerned with fairness as evidence by public transit, universal healthcare, and this anecdotal evidence provided by my signs.

Might this cultural reverence for “fairness” also permeate into the publishing realm, specifically regarding open access to scholarly and scientific information?

Finally, London was the birthplace of the term “scientist.” There was some discussion today in class regarding the start of the first true “scientific journals.” An interesting way of looking at it could be via the Google nGram project.  Already described by a variety of bloggers, the popularity of the word “scientist” can be traced against that of “natural philospher” based on both words’ appearances in digitized literature. A chart of the two from 1800 to 1900 shows “scientist” is the clear victor.

From Cambridge University, William Whewell coined the term “scientist” around 1830 as a play on “artist.”  It was not until the later half of the 19th century that the term flourished in the popular literature – from the Google nGram for the word, we can see that it passes “natural philosopher” only in the 1870s.

The scitext website from Cambridge puts the earliest French semi-scientific publication, Journal des Sçavans at 1665, the same year that “Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London” started up.

Finally I see something of an arc from the “natural philosopher” – the tinkerer, ponderer, renaissance man – to the true specialist – and finally to the “generalist,” as one blogger suggests prominent, interdisciplinary scholars like Jared Diamond can be described.

Even Charles Darwin himself was a generalist – with wide ranging interests.

Yet to stay current, scientists seem to increasingly be forced into specialization.  Perhaps a rise in collaboration is the only way to retain the “natural philosopher,” holistic perspective.

Some additional reading: