Blog Archives

INSC 553 Assignment 3: Environmental Analysis of an Organization

IS 553 Assignment 3 is an environmental analysis of the U.S. National Park Service’s Inventory and Monitoring Program. Includes executive summary, Political, Economic, Sociocultural, and Technology Factors, and Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis.

INSC 553 Assignment 2: Profile of an Industry

IS 553 Assignment 2 is a profile of the research data services industry.

WFS 533 – Amphibian Ecology and Conservation

3 Credit Hours

An in-depth examination of amphibian life-history strategies, community interactions, and hypothesized mechanisms of amphibian declines. Amphibian monitoring, conservation and management techniques also are covered.
Credit Restriction: Student cannot receive credit for both 433 and 533.
Recommended Background: Forestry 215 or Biology 250.
Registration Restriction(s): Minimum student level – graduate.

Data Management Short Course for Scientists | ESIP Commons

Found a “Data Management Short Course” today that I think is worth checking out:

The ESIP Federation, in cooperation with NOAA, seeks to share the community’s knowledge with scientists who increasingly need to be better data managers, as well as to support workforce development for new data management professionals. Over the next several years, the ESIP Federation expects to evolve training courses which seeks to improve the understanding of scientific data management among scientists, emerging scientists, and data professionals of all sorts.

All courses are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license that allows you to share and adapt the work as long as you cite the work according to the citation provided. Please send feedback upon the courses to

via Data Management Short Course for Scientists | ESIP Commons.

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 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:


IS 590 – Problems in Information Sciences – Scholarly E-Publishing

My summer semester of 2013 includes a 3-credit hour course in Scholarly E-Publishing.  This course provides exposure to an international electronic publishing industry, particularly focused on journal and book publishing, from a world center of electronic scholarly publishing: London, United Kingdom. It offers an intensive series of talks, site visits, and instruction designed to explore how e-publishing is changing both the way scholarly research is conducted and communicated.  Information professionals from Oxford, Cambridge, the British Library, Elsevier, Wiley,  Proquest and more share their unique perspective on scholarly publishing.

Because scientific effort must be clearly communicated and disseminated via scholarly publishing, the course content is of particular interest to the University of Tennessee “SciData” program and is highly relevant to my professional and scholarly goals.  I am particularly interested in understanding how publishers intend to work with open access data repositories such as DataONE, Dryad, or spatial data repositories such as ShareGeo in the UK or EDAC in the U.S.  I am interested in the concept of the data paper, and how a dataset and a data paper might be linked to a publication and shared across platforms with the scholarly community.

The course is a joint venture of University College London Department of Information Studies, the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Studies in New York City, and the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee.

Given my background in natural sciences (B.S., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and entry into the UT School of Information Sciences 2013 cohort concurrently with the 8 SciData Scholars, I was allowed the opportunity to participate in the course.

Along with a blog of reflections on daily course material and the London experience, the course culminates in an individualized research paper.  I intend to focus on the role of data and datasets in scholarly publishing.  The role of datasets in scholarly publishing is most pertinent to my work with the DataONE project concerned with accessibility and preservation of environmental data.

For more on the course, follow the tags “INSC 590 – E-Publishing” or view the syllabus online (SU13-IS590-E-publishing, PDF). The Course Syllabus is also available as a .doc format <>.