Ebook Usage: Patron-Driven Acquisitions v. Subscription Model

Hua Yi, from the California State University of San Marcos, studied the difference in usage between patron-driven acquisitions (paid for by CSUSM) and large subscription databases, which is paid for by CSU consortia. Yi found both have their benefits

It would be highly beneficial if we could combine the best out of both of these acquisitions models, PDA and subscription of large aggregated databases/bundles. Based on the findings and discussion here, the author would suggest that the PDA model is a more suitable acquisition model at the local level. In which case, the CSUSM library would only add PDA e - books selected by its own students and faculty and the collection would match our campus academic programs better. On the other hand, large aggregated databases and bundles might work better at the consortia level. Most of those large databases and bundles are not customized to the needs of specific organizations. However, consortiums, with their large sizes, have a much higher negotiating power and can obtain better pricing for their members. Having the same content at a better price should be an advantage for a local library to seek when considering subscription to un - customized databases and bundles.

Also interesting is the subject breakdown differences between PDA and subscription model. 


Jane Kramer on Thrillers

In a review for Phillip Kerr's novel Prussian Blue, Jane Kramer, in the New Yorker, expounds on the nature of thrillers

I never knew how hard it was to describe a thriller, especially one in which fact and fiction blend so seamlessly, until I sat down with “Prussian Blue.” Thrillers are thorny gifts for critics. It’s not a matter of Elizabeth meets Darcy, and, after a number of setbacks involving pride, prejudice, and social station, they work things out, declare their love, and, in the end, marry. With a great thriller, the important thing is to tell the story while never giving anything away, certainly not who did it and, in the case of a Gunther thriller—densely populated and always dizzyingly complex—the logic by which our redoubtable protagonist finally gets his man.

The best thrillers share some of that depth and density. They are really social histories, disguised in nineteenth-century-novel form, though often with a bit of late-twentieth-century nouveau roman thrown in, perhaps to signal the sensitive self-searching of some of their toughest sleuths. They paint what could even be called ethnographic portraits of societies in which particular kinds of crimes consistently appear and of the people who tend to commit those crimes. By now, thrillers like Philip Kerr’s have become a genre in themselves and, more to the point, a voyage in themselves. They are exhaustively researched, reportorial in detail, and, in their invention, obsessively liberating, which may account for the fact that most journalists I know love them, and more than a few end up writing them. …

Who's Downloading Papers at Sci-Hub? Science Mag Says 'Everyone'

This is a bit dated, but still a very useful piece investigating the traffic flow to Sci-Hub, the pirate database of academic papers. John Bohannon writing in Science. 

The geography of Sci-Hub usage generally looks like a map of scientific productivity, but with some of the richer and poorer science-focused nations flipped. The smaller countries have stories of their own. Someone in Nuuk, Greenland, is reading a paper about how best to provide cancer treatment to indigenous populations. Research goes on in Libya, even as a civil war rages there. Someone in Benghazi is investigating a method for transmitting data between computers across an air gap. Far to the south in the oil-rich desert, someone near the town of Sabha is delving into fluid dynamics. Mapping IP addresses to real-world locations can paint a false picture if people hide behind web proxies or anonymous routing services. But according to Elbakyan, fewer than 3% of Sci-Hub users are using those.

In the United States and Europe, Sci-Hub users concentrate where academic researchers are working. Over the 6-month period, 74,000 download requests came from IP addresses in New York City, home to multiple universities and scientific institutions. There were 19,000 download requests from Columbus, a city with less than a tenth of New York’s population, and 68,000 from East Lansing, Michigan, which has less than a hundredth. These are the homes of Ohio State University and Michigan State University (MSU), respectively.

To fight back against the pirating, major publishers took Sci-Hub, its founder, Alexandra Elbakyan, along with other similar sites, to court where they won $15 million in damages. Sci-Hub lost its hosting, but quickly reappeared in a different form. And questions remain whether the publishers will ever see the money from a site based in Russia. From Nature

“Sci-Hub is obviously illegal,” says structural biologist Stephen Curry at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom. “But the fact that it is so immensely popular, inside and outside academia, is a symptom of many people’s frustration with the status quo in academic publishing.”

When Elbakyan spoke to Bohannon, she refused to tell him her location, in case she is arrested while traveling and extradited to the US. 

From Bohannon at Science: 

While Elsevier wages a legal battle against Elbakyan and Sci-Hub, many in the publishing industry see the fight as futile. “The numbers are just staggering,” one senior executive at a major publisher told me upon learning the Sci-Hub statistics. “It suggests an almost complete failure to provide a path of access for these researchers.” He works for a company that publishes some of the most heavily downloaded content on Sci-Hub and requested anonymity so he could speak candidly.

For researchers at institutions that cannot afford access to journals, he says, the publishers “need to make subscription or purchase more reasonable for them.” Richard Gedye, the director of outreach programs for STM, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, disputes this. Institutions in the developing world that take advantage of the publishing industry’s outreach programs “have the kind of breadth of access to peer-reviewed scientific research that is pretty much the equivalent of typical institutions in North America or Europe.”

And for all the researchers at Western universities who use Sci-Hub instead, the anonymous publisher lays the blame on librarians for not making their online systems easier to use and educating their researchers. “I don’t think the issue is access—it’s the perception that access is difficult,” he says.

Paper Argues 'Sci-Hub Provides Access to Nearly All Scholarly Literature

A second version of an article investigating the coverage of the pirate database Sci-Hub is out. Here’s a few nuggets from their abstract:  

As of March 2017, we find that Sci-Hub’s database contains 68.9% of all 81.6 million scholarly articles, which rises to 85.2% for those published in toll access journals. Coverage varies by discipline, with 92.8% coverage of articles in chemistry journals compared to 76.3% for computer science. Coverage also varies by publisher, with the coverage of the largest publisher, Elsevier, at 97.3%… We find Sci-Hub preferentially covers popular, paywalled content, containing 96.2% of citations to toll access journals since 2015. For recently requested articles by Unpaywall users, oaDOI provided access to 48.8% whereas Sci-Hub contained 81.5%. Together, oaDOI and Sci-Hub covered 94.1%, demonstrating that gaps in Sci-Hub’s coverage, especially for open access articles, can be filled using licit services. For the first time, nearly all scholarly literature is available gratis to anyone with an Internet connection. Sci-Hub’s scope suggests the subscription publishing model is becoming unsustainable.

The authors published tables on coverage by publisher and discipline: https://greenelab.github.io/scihub/#/

Failure to Scale: Changing Workflows Hampers Open Access

Toby Green, in Learned Publishing, argues it is taking so long for Open Access to scale because so many established work patterns need to change in concert from a variety of stakeholders: authors, authors' institutions, funders, librarians, publishers and readers. 

Let us look at one stakeholder, the author, as an example. For green open access, at a minimum, the author needs to change from his or her traditional approach as follows: he or she would need to select a journal that allows a green version to be posted in a repository and then find a suitable repository on which to post it. This does not sound like much, but without mandates, only around a fifth of authors actually make the effort to deposit green versions, a figure that struggles to rise above 70% with mandates (Gargouri, Larivière, & Harnad, 2013; Poynder, 2011). A study of Spanish researchers in 2016 showed that, when allowed, just 13% of authors posted green versions on their institutional repository, and allowed or not, just over half posted full-text versions on ResearchGate (Borrego, 2017). It seems that even a little change involving no out-of-pocket cost is a tough ask for authors, even when backed up by a mandate.

For gold, at a minimum, the author needs to find a suitable gold open access journal and, sometimes, find funds to pay the publishing bill. As we have seen above, with less than 20% of all new articles published in gold journals, for most authors, not changing to gold is vastly preferable.

He notes other issues, too. Well worth the read. 

The Researcher-Centered View at Academic Libraries

In an (admittedly older) report for OCLC [pdf] on how academic libraries should take advantage of the move many universities are taking toward improving research, John MacColl points out:

"In our Research Information Management (RIM) programme of work, we presume that libraries in research universities need to rethink the services they provide by taking a researcher-centred view": 

This model puts the researcher at the centre, producing research outputs primarily for the purpose of advancing their own field of intellectual exploration, or do main (or indeed confluence of domains, in the case of interdisciplinary research). However, many of those outputs are also expropriated by other environments. Research funding bodies will often assume some ownership or interest in them if they have provided the funds for the research that produced them. The researcher’s institution is also likely to want to keep a full record of all outputs produced on the campus, and its mission will influence the research areas it particularly champions. Research funders and institutions both also have interests in making many of these outputs Open Access, and in the case of some funders there are repositories that mandate deposit of these outputs. Institutions commonly maintain Open Access repositories as well, and in other cases these are maintained on behalf of domains (‘subject repositories’). Articulation between these environmentally-located repositories therefore makes sense, though is not yet necessarily always effective.

Journal Impact Factor: Uncritical Substitute for Research Quality?

Robin Chin Roemer of the University of Washington and Rachel Borchardt of American University, authors of the book Meaningful Metrics: A 21st- Century Librarian’s Guide to Bibliometrics, Altmetrics, and Research Impact, talk to Inside Higher Ed about different research assessment tools like altmetrics. But here Robin speaks about the traditional Journal Impact Factor.  

Journal Impact Factor remains a commonly-used metric. What's wrong with it? What do newer approaches have to offer?

Robin: It’s not so much that there’s something intrinsically “wrong” with Impact Factor as it is there’s something wrong with how Impact Factor has come to be used by many parts of academia - e.g. as an uncritical substitute for individual research quality, or even worse, researcher quality. When you really look at it, Impact Factor is just another way of saying “materials published three years ago by this journal have since averaged about this many of citations.” It’s a journal-level metric, for comparing the reach and influence of journals based on a definition and window of impact that is itself only a good fit for certain research areas. For this reason, its relevance therefore can’t be generalized across different fields, let alone different disciplines. Yet that’s exactly how it’s commonly wielded, which is both misleading and frustrating to many who are just trying to do excellent work and make a legitimate impact.

Moving On Up...No Longer

In a piece on how globalization disproportionally impacts some areas over others, The Economist studies how in the past people in lower-income areas would move up by simply moving to other parts of the country.

But people in the rich world are less able and willing to move to thriving places than in the past. America, once inveterately itinerant, has settled down a lot... Even so, it is still more footloose than Europe. Each year just over 2% of Americans move across state lines, whereas only 1.5% of Europeans move between regions within their home country. Despite the freedom of movement created by the EU’s single market, only 0.37% move from one country to another. But mobility in America is on the decline.

The pull exerted by successful places is offset by policies that restrict population growth and that were not imposed a century ago. Stringent planning rules, and homeowners who prefer low-density living, limit new building in rich cities. That makes housing hard to afford. Though the wages available in rich American cities are higher than in poorer ones, even for those without many qualifications, high housing costs more than offset the pay increase.

At the same time, the push to leave failing places has weakened. The growth of the welfare state limits the chances that declining cities will disappear. In the 19th century, mining towns like Bodie, California—which once boasted several thousand people, a newspaper and a railway station—emptied out entirely when local mines closed. Today government benefits and pension payments spare people the horrible choice between moving or penury. Indeed, they can encourage people who would otherwise move to stay put, because meagre fixed incomes go further in places where living costs have tumbled.

SciHub, Preprint and Peer Review

Kalev Leetaru, in Forbes, writing on SciHub, discusses new models for making research more widely available through preprint — the the version authors make available to be peer reviewed. 

In some of the preprint models being discussed, rather than immediately submitting their studies for blind peer review at a journal, authors would instead upload their draft papers for public access to a major preprint server, potentially along with the datasets and tools used. The community at large would then review and discuss the paper in open forums, with all commentary public and associated with their real names. Scholars from other fields and even members of the general public would also be able to weigh in, offering guidance such as raising ethics issues that may be unfamiliar to the field.

Successful papers might then be submitted to traditional journals with the preprint copy ensuring permanent open access or, under some models, journal publication would be eschewed all together and submitting to a preprint server would count as publication. Of course, minimizing the proliferation of scientifically unsound or fabricated works would require additional diligence under such a model and there would likely be uneven peer review, but it would at least bring the review process into the open and ensure that all papers are open access.



Isolation, the Void and Creativity

I was born in 1971 and grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It’s directly above Montana. It was a smaller town, but, mainly, it was isolated at a time when isolation meant something.

The other thing about where I grew up was that I lived in the suburbs. I grew up in a housing development on the edge of the prairie, which went north to nowhere. There were mountains to the west. It felt like we were on the edge of everything. There are good and bad parts of growing up in a void—and everyone has their own version of the void. There’s nothing wrong with a lack of input, and I somehow ended up liking all of the same stuff that everyone else likes. I found ways to be inspired, and I grew a capacity for looking inward and being self-sufficient. I by far see the positive sides of growing up isolated.

Truth is Factual and Emotional

The truth—not the fiction and not the imagination—matters if you’re going to write memoir. But let’s be clear about the truth. Truth is factual and emotional. The former must never be falsified. Indeed the more we adhere to what’s accurate, the more we get to the other side of the equation, the motional truth. Emotions, unlike facts are well armored against our glibness as storytellers. Not only do we fear the chaos of emotion, but there are protective, ritual-bound, secretive feelings others hold for us, many of which we carry, that may keep us from writing the truth about ourselves.

1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear

A short list of events that took place in London, England in 1606:

  • King James, originally from Scotland, attempts to force Parliament into the ‘Union’ of Scotland and England
  • King James requisitions new flag for ships of both countries, which later becomes known as Union Jack
  • The union proved unpopular with the English and the Scots, along with Parliament and Scottish clergy. Union between the two countries would not take place for another 100 years.
  • Ships sailed from London for what became England’s first colony in North America. (Stopping at Jamestown, Virginia.)
  • Most of the surviving members (including Guy Fawkes) of the gunpowder plot were executed. The plot was an assassination attempt of King James and most likely all sitting members of the House of Lords by a group of Catholic noblemen and military. It was to take place November 5, 1605, opening day of Parliament.
  • Work is hastened on an English translation of the Bible, known as King James Version.  
  • The Plague returned to London, slowly at first then spiking in July, forcing quarantines of the sick and the shuttering of all play houses and all public entertainment.   
  • Shakespeare’s company performs King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra, all written by 42-year-old Shakespeare during this time.

All of these events, and others in great detail, are covered in James Shapiro’s 1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear. He argues, successfully, that the Bard may have written plays and used plots we may think as timeless, but he was very much grounded in the realities of his time:

At many points during 1606, English men and women must have felt overwhelmed. In an age in which there were as yet no newspapers (let alone radio, movies, television or an internet), the theatre was the one place where rich and poor could congregate and see enacted, through old or made0up stories, a redacted image of their own desires and anxieties. The stories Shakespeare told this year year enabled his playing company to rise to this challenge.

Violence and Extremism in the Sahel

Krishnadev Calamur, writing in The Atlantic, on the Wednesday, October 4 attack in Niger of three US soliders and one solider from an unnamed country. 

No one has yet claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack. The ambush occurred in the village of Tongo Tongo, about 125 miles north of Niamey, the capital, and about 20 miles from Niger’s border with Mali, where attacks by Islamist groups have surged in recent months, according to the UN. It’s unclear what U.S. training forces were doing in an area so close to a region with known militant activity.

“Where U.S. Special Forces operate in these parts of Africa, they are generally active in training,” Andrew Lebovich, a visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, told me. “But … this is where this incident in Tongo Tongo seems to sow some potential confusion: It was reportedly a training exercise very close to where jihadist groups are very active, forcing a response to the attack with the Nigerien counterparts.”

He added: “It does show how blurry these lines can be.”

Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Africa
Congressional Research Service, July 14, 2016  
[Thank you, Every CRS Report.] 

Conflict in Libya has spilled over its borders, generating new flows of arms and combatants into Tunisia and West Africa’s Sahel region. Instability in North Africa has also drawn African recruits seeking to join groups based in Libya, or seeking to transit through North Africa en route to other global hotspots. Mutual distrust among North and Sub-Saharan African governments has inhibited counterterrorism cooperation, as have bureaucratic divisions within some donor governments.

Violent Extremism in the Sahel
Center for Strategic & International Studies

In the last three years, both Boko Haram and AQIM have come under increasing pressure, a result of regional and international military interventions and a UN peacekeeping deployment into northern Mali; French forces in particular play a critical role across the region. Both extremist groups have suffered significant losses in men and matériel, and they no longer control or administer territory in their respective areas.

However, there is a very long way to go before the appeal and the threat of violent extremism in the West African Sahel is suppressed. Violent extremist groups, particularly in Mali and the upper Sahel, are just some of the many armed and militant groups competing and collaborating in pursuit of personal, ethnic, social, regional, and economic interests. Extremist groups blend with a broader infrastructure of competition, conflict, and insecurity and cannot be understood—or addressed—in isolation from it.

Governments of the region counter these extremist threats predominantly through military force, without committing to tackling the drivers of militancy or changing how they connect with their citizens in marginalized communities. External partners should avoid reinforcing a singular emphasis on military solutions that only enables national governments to sidestep the difficult path of accountability and reform. At the same time, military services need more training, appropriate equipment, and professionalization for occasions requiring force.

Kazuo Ishiguro on 'The Remains of the Day'

I would, for a four-week period, ruthlessly clear my diary and go on what we somewhat mysteriously called a “Crash”. During the Crash, I would do nothing but write from 9am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for dinner. I’d not see, let alone answer, any mail, and would not go near the phone. No one would come to the house. Lorna, despite her own busy schedule, would for this period do my share of the cooking and housework. In this way, so we hoped, I’d not only complete more work quantitively, but reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one.
This, fundamentally, was how The Remains of the Day was written. Throughout the Crash, I wrote free-hand, not caring about the style or if something I wrote in the afternoon contradicted something I’d established in the story that morning. The priority was simply to get the ideas surfacing and growing. Awful sentences, hideous dialogue, scenes that went nowhere – I let them remain and ploughed on.

I just finished The Remains of the Day, the first time I’ve ever read Ishiguro.  To say this book inhabit its own world is an understatement. 

There are certain members of our professional who would have it that it ultimately makes little difference what sort of employer one serves; who believe that the sort of idealism prevalent amongst our generation — namely the notion that we butlers should aspire to serve those great gentlemen who further the cause of humanity — is just high-flown talk with no grounding in reality. It is of course noticeable that the individuals who express such skepticism invariable turns out to be the most mediocre in our profession — those who know they lack the ability to progress to any position of note and who aspire only to drag as many down to their own level as possible — and one is hardly tempted to take such opinions seriously. But for all that, it is still satisfying to be able to point to instances in one’s career that highlight very clearly how wrong such people are. Of course, one seeks to provide a general, sustained service to one’s employer, the value of which could never be reduced to a number of specific instances — such as that concerning Lord Halifax. But what I am saying is that it is these sorts of instances which over time come to symbolize an irrefutable fact; namely that one has had the privilege of practising one’s profession at the very fulcrum of great affairs. And one has a right, perhaps, to feel a satisfaction those content to serve mediocre employers will never know — the satisfaction of being able to say with some reason that one’s efforts, on however modest a way, comprise a contribution to the course of history.