D-Lib: Towards a Marketplace for the Scientific Community: Accessing Knowledge from the Computer Science Domain
It has been exactly 10 years today since I started Information Wants to be Free. My life has changed in so many ways since then. I’m not sure I really had a vision of where I’d be at 37, but I don’t think it looked quite like this (I certainly never guessed I’d be living on the West Coast!). Back then, I thought climbing the professional ladder was important. I wanted to be in charge. I was impatient to change everything. Now, I just want a job I enjoy that challenges me and to work with people I like. I have that now and I’ve achieved more professionally than I could ever have thought possible back when I was an unemployed new librarian. I feel very lucky.
I started this blog as a newlywed in my mid-20s, about to graduate library school. I initially wrote about my frustrations with the job market, my experiences job-hunting, emerging social technologies I found interesting, and other professional trends. I wrote 300 posts in that first year; a number which I now find staggering (then again, I was unemployed and didn’t have a child, so I did have more time on my hands). From all that writing and commenting on other blogs, I became part of this incredible community of other bloggers and commenters. I found kindred spirits at a time when I needed them most. And while many of those people have left blogging for things like Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed, I still value this medium far more than any other and am glad for the bloggers who still challenge me and make me think (I’m also still glad to call many of those lapsed bloggers friends).
My views on many things have changed over the years. Reading some of my old posts makes me cringe. I’ve made mistakes. I written dumb things. But I’m kind of glad all of my mistakes are up there in black-and-white; it reminds me of how far I’ve come. What has been constant is that I’ve been a voice against groupthink, against labels, and in favor of charitable reading, even when my opinions have set me in opposition to people I respect and admire. And that will never change.
Why do I still blog? First of all, I’m a very slow thinker. I’m not good at the witty comeback, especially not in 140 characters. I use blogging to work out ideas and make sense of things, and I frequently find that I understand my own feelings on a topic better after I’ve written about them. I also love writing (couldn’t you guess?). I have been writing songs, poetry, short stories, and non-fiction since I could hold a pen and have found this medium to be a perfect fit for me. Finally, people still tell me that the things I write are useful; that my blog posts have helped them work out their own thoughts on things or that they felt good to find that someone else shared their opinion. When you can find something you enjoy doing that other people value… well, it’s a match made in heaven.
So, while you’re never going to find me writing 300 posts a year, I plan to keep this blog going as long as I have readers. And heck, maybe longer than that, since I find value in it for myself.
Thank you for reading, especially those of you who really made this feel like a community over the years. I know some of you have been reading this blog for pretty close to a decade and that stuns me. I’m not a particularly interesting or charismatic person. I’m an introvert who leads a pretty unexceptional life and just happens to share her opinions online. I’m always startled when someone tells me how excited they are to meet me at a conference or when someone I just met acts like they know me simply because they read my blog. I’m so much more and so much less than what you might think I am based on what you read here.
I’m not a rock star, though at one point, I mostly (or completely, I was probably a jerk at some point) fit the description of one. I had some lucky breaks and also worked very hard for what I’ve achieved. I think the bulk of my success can be attributed to one thing: chutzpah. I suffer from horrible, almost crippling impostor syndrome, but I have always been the sort of person who’d rather try and fail than not try at all. I was always the girl who would tell the guy I liked him, even if I thought I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. The worst case scenario in that situation never seemed all that bad. And that’s how I’ve approached my career. At a lunch at ALA when I was teaching the staff about wikis in 2006, I told the head of ALA Publishing “you know… y’all should really give me a column in American Libraries. I could help spice up the magazine.” Next thing you know, I had a column. I thought the idea I had for Library DIY was probably stupid, but I figured it’s better to put it out there and get rejected than to let a potentially awesome idea sit. I and the team that helped make it happen ended up winning an award for it and it has been replicated by some major academic libraries and other institutions (like NPR!).
I guess what I’m saying is that, frequently, you have to make your own opportunities. Things rarely fall into anyone’s lap, so if you’re frustrated that you’re not getting x and other people are, you may have to go out there and get it. But also, many of those things really aren’t as wonderful and shiny as you think. They don’t guarantee a life of happiness nor are they a worthwhile stick for which to measure your worth. Life sans banana slicer (and for the record, I wasn’t cool or shiny enough to receive one) is just fine. As Karen said “The odds are you’re amazing anyway.”
So here’s to another decade of blogging, if I still have anything useful to say by then, and thanks for sticking around. It’s been a true pleasure to share myself with you (and get to know many of you) these 10 years.
I know it’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve almost written a few posts on the vitriol I’ve been seeing from librarians on social media over the past couple of months, but in the end, I decided it was better not to. All I’ll say is that I expect a lot more tolerance, charitable reading, and critical thinking from librarians. I know most librarians are exemplars of all those things, but it seems like Twitter and Facebook bring out the rush-to-judgment-and-grab-a-pitchfork mentality in many normally level-headed people.
Besides, I’d much rather write about happy things. Like my job. It’s great! I spent the first month and a half feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders; like I could breathe again. It’s not like my job here is all lollipops and rainbows. I do a lot of teaching and I spend a lot of time at the reference desk. I’m a liaison and do collection development for my departments. In between, I’m involved in projects like implementing LibGuides (again!) and making a cool evaluating sources video with a colleague. It’s a very meat-and-potatoes public services librarian job. But I like meat and potatoes. And I feel like I’ve won the lottery being here.
Part of it is the commitment to supporting student success that I see from everyone who works at PCC. Everyone knows why they are here. Their priorities are in the right place. That’s not to say that there aren’t wacky things here (like every other academic institution on earth), but the overarching goal of every unit seems to be to help students be successful. It’s nice to work somewhere where the values of the institution are so consistent with my own.
Part of it is the students. They are a pleasure to work with and I feel very fulfilled by my interactions with them at the reference desk and in the classroom. PCC is very diverse, but I’m seeing a lot more students who clearly have been marginalized or underestimated or beaten up by life. And I see how strong and bright so many of these students are and how successful they will be if they just allow themselves to believe it. So much of what I see in terms of student weaknesses is a lack of experience and a lack of self-efficacy, not at all a lack of ability. I’m still getting a handle on how to tailor my teaching to community college students — I didn’t think it would be that different and I was wrong — but I’m enjoying the learning curve. It’s kind of refreshing to feel like a beginner again.
A big part of it is my colleagues. They are just an amazingly nice, engaged, committed, positive, and thoughtful bunch of professionals. I’m sure we’ve all worked with at least one other person in the past who sees their job as a stepping stone to something better. And it’s clear that their commitment is not to the institution but to their own ambitions and whatever will further those. I do not have the sense that any of my colleagues are trying to climb a ladder. They are driven more by their commitment to students and faculty than by a desire to get ahead or get promoted. And because of that, being collegial and team-oriented is a no-brainer. Tearing someone else down will provide no benefit in an environment like this.
Now that I’m past the wide-eyed “am I really here?” stage, it’s starting to just feel like “my job.” And that’s a good thing. I look forward to building the sorts of relationships with students and faculty that I had at my last two library jobs. It takes time to be able to do really meaningful stuff at any institution (I used to say progress in improving library instruction can be measured in geologic time) and, at this point in my career, I don’t feel that same impatience to do the big exciting innovative thing right this minute. But I am very much looking forward to a time when I know all the acronyms and what my departments are up to and how I can best support them.
And I’m just happy to be able to write about my work again. Jenica wrote about how isolating it is to be a director sometimes because there are so many things she wants to blog about but can’t. I’d say the same can be said about being unhappy in your job. Writing about the details on social media is just about the most impolitic thing you can do (and I can say this because I made this mistake early in my career and fortunately had a wonderful director who supported me through that teachable moment). At a time when work was making me feel despondent, I didn’t feel I could reach out much to the network of wonderful friends I’ve made over the past decade on social media. So it’s nice to feel like I can be myself again and write freely. Talk about a weight lifted.
Photo credit: Weight lifter
Winchester, MA In the coming weeks DuraSpace will take a closer look at some of the key features that will be available to the community in DSpace 5.0.
DuraSpace News: SLIDES AVAILABLE: New England National Digital Stewardship Alliance Regional Meeting
Winchester, MA The New England National Digital Stewardship Alliance regional meeting was held on October 30 and hosted by the Five College Digital Preservation Task Force at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Michele Kimpton, CEO, DuraSpace gave a presentation that reviewed the DuraCloud/Archivematica Pilot and offered details on how this end-to-end preservation solution meets all the needs identified by POWRR (Preserving Digital Objects with Restricted Resources).
Lorcan’s recent blog post on “Research information management systems – a new service category?” has drawn the attention of some of the euroCRIS board members and so I was invited to attend their strategic management meeting in Amsterdam, 11-12 November 2014.
The meeting brought together 1) Research Managers and Administrators (they form a vibrant profession of their own: see also EARMA), 2) University Librarians (repository managers and data librarians working for Research Support) and 3) vendors of CRIS systems (Elsevier, Thomson Reuters, CINECA, etc.). There were ca. 140 attendees from across Europe (including UK, NL, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, Serbia, Czech Republic).
euroCRIS gets a rich variety of stakeholders to the podium
euroCRIS is an organization that is “dedicated to the development of Research Information Systems and their interoperability”, it maintains the CERIF metadata standard for CRIS systems and it acts as a forum for stakeholders of RIM (see membership). They have strong support from the EC, which recommends/mandates the use of CERIF. Not surprisingly, the theme of the meeting was about interoperability and standards in Research Information (RI).
Much used adaptation of a Swedish cartoon to visualize infrastructure incompatibility –
presented to euroCRIS meeting by Ed Simons, November 2014.
The introduction to the theme was a co-presentation by euroCRIS President (Ed Simons, Nijmegen University) together with David Baker (CASRAI) and Josh Brown (ORCID) – demonstrating the will of euroCRIS to advance interoperability through strategic partnerships with stakeholders in the field.
What impressed me most was the breadth of the RI-domain and its stakeholders’ ecosystem: in his presentation Ed listed funders, researchers, research managers and administrators, peer-reviewers and research evaluators, libraries, etc.; and all the presentations, during the 2-days meeting, reflected that same broad perspective. Even though not all stakeholders were represented at the meeting, they were clearly regarded as interlocutors and invited to the podium.
A maturity issue?
Friedrich Summann, from the University Library of Bielefeld and representing COAR, highlighted the interoperability issues between CRIS and IR-systems. Concerning publication metadata, which is the common denominator of the data held in these systems, he noted there is very little exchange taking place. CRIS-systems do not expose CERIF-data and they generally do not support harvesting protocols (except for Pure, which supports OAI-PMH). He observed 3 trends around the perceived “dichotomy” between the CRIS and the IR-system: 1) using the CRIS as an IR, 2) using the IR as a CRIS and 3) combining both the CRIS and the IR in a symbiotic relationship. He touched lightly on the different purpose of each system: for the IR, visibility and OA; for the CRIS, research information management – which seemed to justify an evolution to a symbiotic ecosystem instead of a standards-driven integrated system. During the meeting, the increasing complexity of the emerging RI-infrastructure, with many more different systems than just the CRIS and IR being tied in, became evident as each presentation had a slide similar to this one (this one was not presented … but I like it, because it is prototypical).
There were a lot of slides with bullet lists of needs. It was clear that in all use cases, researchers are important users of CRIS and IR systems because they have to supply the research information. There is a strong awareness that the systems should be simple and easy to use for them. Another mantra was: “Researchers should not be required to supply the same information more than once”. Nevertheless, it was equally clear from the presentations, that the researchers are not the end-users for whom the systems are designed and whose needs were listed on the slides. The needs come from the research managers, the funders, the government policies and mandates, the research assessment exercises, etc., and those needs have not been sorted out. The vendors at the meeting politely, but repeatedly, asked for robust use cases. It reminded me of what Ed Simons said at the beginning of the meeting: “There are no standard use cases in the RI-domain: we are still growing our own vegetables”. This was exactly the feeling I had after these 2 days: the RI-domain is not mature yet and it has no chance to mature because it keeps expanding at the rate of the universe’s expansion.
A nice example of how overwhelming and at the same time exciting, RI-developments are becoming for libraries in the UK was given by Anna Clements’ presentation. Anna is from the University Library of St Andrews and carries many different hats as board member of euroCRIS, chair of the CASRAI working group on data management planning and chair of the Pure UK strategy group. She explained that since the last Research Excellence Framework (REF)-assessment in 2008 in the UK, huge investments have been made in CRIS-systems – for example, in linking publications to project information. She anticipates that the next assessment-driven CRIS-development stage will require investments in linking datasets to articles and funding. At St Andrews, they are re-designing the use of their CRIS system to support new REF-requirements and they are currently contemplating to integrate the deposit of the long tail of small datasets in the CRIS. For this new workflow they will also need a data repository with access storage and archive storage (she mentioned Arkivum) and a “data librarian” to assist researchers with the deposit process and the provision of good metadata.
John Donovan (EARMA Chair and Head of Research at Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland) gave an intriguing short talk. He showed an endless list of sources from which research information was collected (Research support pre- and post-award; Research Finance; Graduate school; Ethics and Integrity; Structured Postdoc training; Research HR; Research awareness raising; etc.) and then he said: “we collect information from so many different sources, that it is completely unsustainable”. John is currently interested in what makes research sustainable in new, small universities – his perspective may be somewhat biased, still he raises a legitimate issue: it seems the fever of registering data has overtaken the need to be informed. However, the next day, Julia Lane was going to give us the big data perspective of RI and remind us that the scientific approach will push us further down the road of RI.
Is RI being taken over by Science?
The keynote by Julia Lane (Senior Managing Economist, American Institutes for Research) stretched the policy perspective to its logical extreme, introducing the need for a “science of science policy” to answer the big questions: “How much does a nation spend on science” and “what is the return to investment”? It is about making science metrics more scientific and gathering scientific evidence to better understand what the effects are of funding research. To this end Julia and her team developed the STAR METRICS program.
They are looking at the process of how funding creates output: Funding goes to institutions that employ and provide infrastructure to people who, with their knowledge and skills, produce outputs. Her team collects and analyzes data around this process (grant funds, HR records, financial transactions records, awards data, email, publications, blogs, etc.) – the data are not standardized but can be combined and mined – giving interesting results that help unpack how research is being done. They use external sources as well (Census Bureau data, LinkedIn data, etc.). In this way they can link the data to where people get jobs, start up businesses and to workforce growth in the proximity of scientific hubs. Their findings confirm that the majority of the impact of funded research is regional. They also observe that the vast majority of knowledge transmission is through human interactions and clearly not through paper and publications. If social networks are a major vehicle for knowledge transfer, we should start understanding (and measuring!) how people interact. That starts sounding creepy to me.
The presentations by the university and government representatives giving a policy perspective, René Hageman (VSNU-Dutch Association of Universities) and Geert van Grootel (Flemish Government, Dpt of Economy, Science and Innovation), hinted at what policy makers dream about, in terms of getting a 360 degree view of RI. But their thinking was confined within the safe boundaries of the CRIS. Or the FRIS – in Flemish speak. “When a research project goes into execution, then the data automatically goes into FRIS. FRIS will continually monitor KPIs.”
A word of caution from the evaluation and benchmarking perspective
Paul Wouters (CWTS) was the perfect speaker to question the KPI-rush and to give us a scientific critique of research evaluation methods. He quoted Peter Dalher Larsen (The Evaluation Society): “Evaluation has become a profession on itself”. Data has become input for “evaluation machines” – to make stuff auditable. The trend towards mechanisation of control and standardization leads to less variety and diversity of scientific discovery practices. He argued that academics need to be in the driver’s seat and ask themselves: how can we monitor our research? How can we profile ourselves to attract the right students and staff? How should we divide funds? What is our scientific/societal impact? Instead of being “just” data-suppliers and subject to evaluation, they need to become full-partners in the emerging RIM landscape.
The RDM perspective
There were more presentations, giving the perspectives of several other stakeholder communities: the funders, the libraries, the data archives. Surprisingly, there were few attendees representing the RDM community. DANS (a national research data archiving institution in the Netherlands), who hosted the euroCRIS meeting in Amsterdam, was the notable exception. Peter Doorn’s presentation was interesting because it showed how DANS is adapting its mission and ambitions to the changing landscape of stewardship opportunities. Peter described the mission of DANS as “to provide permanent access to Research Information”. A major part of their focus is still RDM, but they are moving into the broader RIM space. Concerning RDM, which he defined as “how you organize/curate the data during the research project and afterwards”, he mentioned explicitly that for DANS the focus of stewardship during research is new. A noteworthy shift.
Re-reading Lorcan’s blog on RIM
After attending the euroCRIS meeting, I re-read Lorcan’s blog and its title makes much more sense to me now. Indeed there are many signals that this is an emerging new service category. There are many vendors out there, signaling that there is a market for RIM-systems. They are looking for robust use cases to develop their products and services, but the RI-space seems to be evasive, as it continues to expand and new demands and needs keep piling up. The sources for collecting data keep diversifying and their numbers growing. RIM is moving into the data science domain and this opens up new perspectives. It also begs the question if it is necessary to register data anew, when it is sitting somewhere in other systems? Data aggregation and data mining seem to be able to provide the business intelligence policymakers and funders are seeking.
Libraries are engaged in RIM. In Europe more so than in the U.S., because of the national governments and EC policies towards Open Access and Open Data and the drive to register data that informs the impact of such policies. What struck me though, was that the euroCRIS meeting presentations touched on standardization and interoperability issues in a way reminiscent of the library automation meetings (ELAG-like) conducted 20 years ago: promoting layered architecture models, the full-implementation of standards, the need for evangelists to persuade governments to impose standards, etc. Libraries can help jump-start the RIM-discussion and OCLC could certainly contribute (there are many potential areas: aggregation, extracting knowledge from data, name authorities and name disambiguation, etc.).About Titia van der Werf
Titia van der Werf is a Senior Program Officer in OCLC Research based in OCLC's Leiden office. Titia coordinates and extends OCLC Research work throughout Europe and has special responsibilities for interactions with OCLC Research Library Partners in Europe. She represents OCLC in European and international library and cultural heritage venues.Mail | Web | More Posts (1)
Notes on converting this Github user page based site to Pelican, a Python based static site generator.