notes on information organizations

October 1, 2010

the great disconnect: open access in your face

Filed under: change, cultural trends, information access, innovation, librarianship — Frank Cervone @ 8:11 am

For the most part, I agree with Barbara Fister in her recent blog posting The Great Disconnect: Scholars Without Libraries.  Our continuing reluctance to embrace open access publishing is slowly killing our academic enterprises. The cost of journals, which perhaps are an outmoded concept in and of themselves, continues to increase at a pace that is unjustifiable given advances in technology and the rate of inflation.

On the other hand, I’m not sure that articles like this do anything to meaningfully change that dynamic. “Why?” you may ask.

It seems that a great deal of traction in the open access movement is lost by the religious fundamentalist approach that is generally taken.  The basic jist of this argument is that, “I’m right, you’re wrong and implicitly stupid for not seeing it my way. Because of your stupidity, you are destroying western civilization.” While this might be emotionally satisfying to the person making the argument, it doesn’t do anything to advance the argument. We know from many sociological and psychological studies that this type of argument just turns people off and can, in fact, entrench people even further in their current beliefs.

Perhaps a more useful approach would be to demonstrate the benefits of open access and how it benefits both researcher and institution. If these benefits can’t be demonstrated, then perhaps some rethinking needs to be done.

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July 26, 2010

research life and libraries – not exactly a rosy picture

Filed under: cultural trends, librarianship — Frank Cervone @ 10:45 am

In this latest report from OCLC Research, A Slice of Research Life: Information Support for Research in the United States, Susan Kroll and Rick Forsman paint a rather bleak picture for libraries as part of the research process. In many ways, the authors discuss and reemphasize many of the points that have been made in several recent studies. For example, the authors find that the “relationships between researchers and traditional library and university support for research have shifted radically.” Additionally, the concept of “satisficing” (accepting an adequate answer or solution over an optimal one) now clearly extends into the research process itself. More troubling for libraries is that the authors find significant evidence that researchers use online tools and commercial services that are discipline-specific in lieu of the more generic tools provided by university libraries. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem that current efforts by libraries to devise new services to manage research data have helped researchers much as they still feel overwhelmed by the disorganized and increasing accumulations of “relevant” data in their fields. Most troubling for libraries is that the authors did not encounter a single respondent in the study who had visited a library for help or assistance while performing their research. The authors state that “researchers do not realize what expertise librarians have to offer their users, are uninformed about services offered, and have little idea what the library might do in the future.” Consequently, the study respondents “did not see libraries as having much to offer in any of these areas as researchers require practical evidence of direct value” and libraries have not provided that to the respondents’ satisfaction. Clearly if libraries are going to maintain any relevancy in the academic arena, they will have to do a better job of providing expertise and services that are relevant to researchers.

July 9, 2010

Tablets vs. e-Readers

Filed under: cultural trends, information access — Frank Cervone @ 10:33 am

Tablet PC in useBoth iPads and e-Book readers have received a lot of press lately. In this article from Knowledge@Warton, the authors pose the question will tablets close the book on e-Readers? and make a convincing case for device convergence. What is especially interesting, however, are the comments to the article. Even though e-Readers have only been in existence for a few years, the dedication some people have to their preferred platform is quite amazing and it would appear that the dedication to those devices is clouding their perceptions on how things could change very quickly again.

April 5, 2010

gender discrimination linked to poor management

Filed under: cultural trends, information technology, management — Frank Cervone @ 9:08 am

This short article from NetworkWorld reports on a new study by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology which indicates the women are more likely to be discriminated against in the technology sector because of the “hero mindset” to save failing projects. This mindset is the factor in creating the discriminatory environment  because it works against employees with family responsibilities. According to the report, these family responsibilities tend to still be overwhelmingly borne by females.

Some interesting facts from the study:

  • Men and women tend to value the same success factors which include, among other things, being: analytical, questioning, risk-taking, collaborative, and being sociable.
  • Senior-level women in IT are much more likely to have a partner who has primary responsibility for the household when compared to women in entry or mid-level positions – 23.5% compared to 13.4%.
  • Senior-level technical women are more likely than men to forego a partner and children to advance their careers.

Unfortunately, the study does not come up with any immediately actionable ways of correcting these problems. The two major suggestions from the study include:

  • Interviewing all female applicants for a position because there is evidence women are eliminated from candidate pools during resume reviews in greater proportion than men are, and
  • Developing a software tool that would detect bias in documents, such as performance evaluation and letters of recommendation.

April 1, 2010

on adapt or decline: change in higher education

Filed under: cultural trends, higher education — Frank Cervone @ 11:06 pm

Graduation capPerhaps what is most interesting about the article  Adapt or Decline by Anya Kamenetz is not the article itself but the subsequent comments. In her article, Ms. Kamenetz outlines a number of trends that have been discussed to varying degrees in other venues; for example, Richard Heller’s presentation on an unbundled education model at the PCF5 conference a few years ago. Some of the trends that she points are we’ve heard before: the open courseware movement, the ubiquitous nature of technology, and the reality that many of our academic institutions cater to “non-traditional students” meaning, of course, that our students are not full-time, 18-24 year old, full-time campus residents.

As is often the case in discussions related to technology, opinions are presented as fact and the taking up of positions tends to devolve into hyperbole. As one of the commenters to the article point out, the problem with many of these discussions is that they contain a lot of hasty generalization. Higher education is a broad community and different types of institutions fulfill different roles. The phrase “higher education” lumps together many different sorts of institution and practice. Institutions such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton will probably not have to deal directly with the changes in higher education Kamenetz mentions. The same is true for many of the elite liberal-arts colleges. However, for the majority of institutions, the issues Kamenetz discusses are things that they will have to address in the next several years. For institutions that primarily focus on preparing people for careers, regardless of how the institution would like to position itself, competition from the private sector and other disruptive forces will only increase. While it is true that much of Ms. Kamenetz’ article is predicated on a noncritical assessment of current cultural forces and probably overemphasizes the important they eventually will have, to completely dismiss her points because of that does a disservice to the debate on higher education. While it’s debateable how large an effect these factors will have, it’s pretty clear they already are affecting most of our institutions and we need to really think about how we will respond. Based on the comments to Ms. Kamenetz’ article, it seems many are not ready for that discussion, which is too bad because things are moving forward regardless of whether they’re ready to think through the issues or not.

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