Archive for July, 2007

JISC launches RepositoryNet project

JISC announced its RepositoryNet project on 17 July:

Repositories are important for universities and colleges in helping to capture, manage and share institutional assets as a part of their information strategy. JISC is funding JISC RepositoryNet to help universities and colleges build and manage repositories so they are interoperable and research and learning outputs can be accessed and re-used.

In 2006 JISC committed £15 million towards Digital Repositories and Preservation activity, to support the UK educational community in realising the benefits of digital repositories, and as part of this work JISC has established JISC RepositoryNet.

JISC RepositoryNet brings together a number of activities that have been funded by JISC including:

Repositories Support Project
The Depot, a repository for UK researchers
Intute: Repository Search
Repositories Research Team

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Decline in library usage

It’s not exactly news that academic library use is declining, but I was struck by a posting on this topic (“If Libraries Had Shareholders”) by Peter Brantley on O’Reilly Radar. Extract:

And then yesterday my friend Jerry McDonough of the University of Illinois’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science forwarded me a talk that he gave recently at the British Library called, “We Are Not Alone: The Role of the Research Library in a Suddenly Crowded Information Universe.” …

“This slide [below] shows the median ratio of total circulation to full-time students. As you can see, it’s the exact same story, although the decrease gets going a bit earlier. We simply aren’t checking out anywhere near the number of books that we used to. Some of that can certainly be accounted for by the use of electronic materials that don’t count in ARL libraries circulation figures. But notice that this decrease is already well underway by 1995, when electronic journals did not have anything like the degree of penetration into library collections that they have today.”

Median Ratio Circulation Fulltime Students

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Beauty of statistics

An interesting and potential inspiring post on O’Reilly Radar on the Istanbul Declaration signed at the recent OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy which called on governments to make their statistical data freely available online as a “public good”:

The declaration also calls for new measures of happiness and well-being, going beyond just economic output and GDP. This requires the creation of new tools, which the OECD envisions will be “wiki for progress.” Expect to hear more about these initiatives soon.

This data combined with new tools like Swivel and MappingWorlds is powerful. Previously this information was hard to acquire and the tools to analyze it were expensive and hard to use, which limited it’s usefulness. Now, regular people can access, visualize and discuss this data.

I’m also planning to explore how these new kinds of tools (other examples are ManyEyes, and Gapminder (now owned by Google)) could be used in STM publishing and would be interested to hear about any ideas or initiatives in this direction.

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Shelfari

Shelfari is “a social interactive social media site for book lovers”.

Using Shelfari, you can create a personal shelf of your books, see what your friends are reading, get and give recommendations for what to read next, create book lists, and even share your opinion on a book with friends or the growing Shelfari community.

Picture 2-1

It intends to make money from affiliate marketing/referrals:

we aren’t running any ads on the site. We make money when we help you find new books to read. So when you buy a book through Shelfari on Amazon or another service, Shelfari gets a percentage of that revenue.

The service is also neatly integrated into Facebook, which must surely increase its uptake potential.

True to form, “Fantasy” and “Science Fiction” are among the most popular tags, and the DaVinci Code is the most commented book, but it’s not all bad, and there’s plenty of real books too.

File under “nice”.

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Elsevier’s Topic Pages

A couple of weeks ago, Elsevier and FAST announced the launch of free online “topic pages” on scientific topics:

Elsevier… today announced a partnership with Fast Search & Transfer (FAST(tm)) to create a new free online resource for the scientific community. Hosted on Scirus, Elsevier’s free search engine for scientific information, Topic Pages will pull together a variety of highly relevant academic information on a particular scientific topic of interest to researchers on a single web page. The Topic Pages will utilize intelligent search capabilities from the FAST Enterprise Search Platform (ESP).

This strikes me as a great idea if done properly. But what surprises me about this is the feeble nature of the initial test sites, which you can view at these links. There’s not even so much as a hint of an RSS feed, let alone any ways for users to interact with the information (or each other) …

It takes a bit of imagination to envisage how useful these pages could be when presented with such a bare-bones attempt.

Perhaps it’s unfair, but I couldn’t help comparing these Topic Pages with the Nature Publishing Group’s Reports, which also offer an aggregation of information on particular topics (albeit aimed at a broader audience, with a mix of news and science), e.g.:

It seems unlike Elsevier to show publicly such an unfinished product – compare for example the extensive global testing and refinement programme that preceded the Scopus launch. In fairness, Elsevier clearly intend to develop the products before the official launch and to offer considerably expanded functionality, including (it sounds like) social features:

At the official Topic Page launch later this year, the functionality of the Topic Pages will allow scientists and researchers to alter the content and provide feedback, allowing each topic to be shaped by the suggestions made by the research community. Based on this community approach, Topic Pages might be expanded to include capabilities such as the ability for researchers to link to their bibliographies and comment on other researchers’ works. In addition, the Topic Pages will serve as a place to find peers, communicate with other scientists, upload and rate a wide variety of relevant sources and help to shape and influence the tools and information provided on the Topic Pages themselves.

This sounds quite exciting but such a leap from what has been shown so far. I’m all in favour of early beta versions and “getting it out there” but I do wonder if this hasn’t been exposed just a bit prematurely?

[For a more detailed report on the Topic Pages, see e.g Paula J. Hane, Scirus Partners With FAST and Elsevier Publishing to Create Topic Pages, Information Today NewsBreaks, June 26, 2007]

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Nielsen//NetRatings Replaces Page View Ranking With Time Spent

Nielsen announced (pdf) that it was changing the core measurement of online user engagement with a website from pageviews to total time spent on site. From the Dow Jones story:

Nielsen will still provide page-view figures but won’t formally rank them. … page view remains a valid gauge of a site’s ad inventory, but time spent is better for capturing the level of engagement users have with a site.

This is partly a (somewhat belated) recognition of technology change: with increasingly rich media, such as AJAX technologies, video embedded on a page or the use of services like instant messaging, the number of pageviews becomes an increasingly irrelevant measure. (Pageviews are also much more easily “gamed” than time spent.)

Nielsen’s competitors are also addressing this issue, as noted on the Read/WriteWeb blog on this:

comScore Media Metrix, “addressed the rise of Ajax with the development of site ”visits“ — defined as the number of times a person returns to a site with a break of at least a half-hour.” But that doesn’t take into account the effectiveness of a site, because again people could be visiting a site due to it being highly ranked in Google – yet when they click through they find rubbish content and so very quickly leave.

Compete (a R/WW sponsor) has a good measure called ‘engagement’, which measures things like Daily Attention and Average Stay. Alexa measures ‘Page Views per user’.

Scott Karp on Publishing 2.0 points out that time spent is not without its own drawbacks, either:

The problem is that the web is not a monolithic medium. Reading a blog, using instant messaging, and using web search are utterly different — the idea that one metric can be used as a yardstick to compare them is absurd on the face of it.

Karp goes on to point out that for many advertisers, all these measures (pageviews, visits, time spent, etc.) are really proxies for action by the users, i.e. clicks (or preferably conversions):

Google makes money by selling actions, i.e. clicks.

No wonder more than half of all online advertising revenue goes to Google.

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Ouch – Springer editorial board member publicly resigns

Peter Murray-Rust, a noted Open Access advocate and online publishing innovator in chemistry, has publicly resigned on his blog from the editorial board of Springer’s journal Journal of Molecular Modeling over Springer’s apparent handling of its Open Choice programme.

Under Springer’s Open Choice, authors can voluntarily have their paper made open access even within an otherwise subscription-based journal by paying a fee of $3000 to the publisher. All large publishers have such schemes, primarily as a response to the introduction of policies by research funders (such as the National Institutes of Health in the US and the Wellcome Trust in the UK) requiring authors to deposit a version of their accepted articles in a public archive.

Springer had gone rather farther than most, however, with the appointment in 2005 of Jan Velterop as Director of Open Access, who had made public statements about Springer’s commitment to real open access, e.g. with the use of a licence based on the Creative Commons licence.

Murray-Rust thought about publishing an article under Open Choice and decided to look at some existing examples to see what he got for his money. To his surprise, the Open Choice articles he found were marked “© Springer” and had links to the CCC Rightslink online permissions system.

It’s not entirely clear whether Murray-Rust attempted to discuss this with Springer or whether he immediately decided to resign[Update: see comment from Peter Murray-Rust below] , but whichever he couched his resignation in very robust language:

…it is absolutely clear that Springer has no intention of actually making this article Open Access even by their own “Your Research. Your Choice” promise, let alone the BOAI.

The best that can be said is that Springer don’t care a green fig about Open Choice – they clearly have made no effort to implement it with the care that is required. That’s certainly the impression that most of the large publishers give – they want to be able to say “we offered this choice but hardly anyone wanted to take it up”.

If Springer care about it they should give all the authors their money back. I think they have destroyed the idea of Open Choice for the whole publishing industry. It doesn’t matter what the details were – they have blatantly failed to deliver “full open access” and they have taken a lot of money for it.

Springer’s Velterop was left struggling to respond in a comment to Murray-Rust’s blog posting. He pointed out that

*any* copyright holder can make an article open access, and this *includes* the publisher

Technically true, but clearly not what authors would expect from reading the Open Choice rubric.

Velterop went on to blame the copyright line and Rightslink buttons on inflexibilities in the Springer production system and flaws in their Rightslink implementation, which is hardly great PR for the publisher — the “cock-up rather than conspiracy” defence.

He also pointed out that Springer had made some articles Open Choice without author payments to help measure usage (there presumably not being enough take-up by authors to produce any valid statistics on differential usage?), and that Springer had made some articles retrospectively Open Choice by agreements with various Dutch institutions.

Although Murray-Rust comes across as hasty in not securing an explanation from Springer before going public, the PR damage to Springer is surely greater. Springer’s Open Choice programme has been in place longer than most publishers, so it’s not unreasonable to expect they would have sorted out the associated production issues before now. They are also guilty of poorly managing expectations and scrambling to give expectations after the fact, rather than say including these details in a FAQ section on the Open Choice pages.

Update 2: Matt Hodgkinson has an interesting post about this – Open Choice takes a beating – on his Journalology blog.

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