Professional Development

Sarah at the ScienceOnline2010 Conference

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 12:24 pm

On January 16th-17th, I attended the ScienceOnline2010 Conference, which was held in Research Triangle Park and hosted by Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society. On January 16th, I attended the session led by John Hogenesch on “Science in the Cloud,” which Molly has already blogged about. I learned about Public Library of Science Currents: Influenza, which is intended to rapidly disseminate data to readers. Expert moderators exclude unsuitable material but do not provide in-depth review for this publication. Interestingly, authors wrote their articles for this publication using Google knol. I also attended the session on “Citizen Science,” which is an emerging field where scientists and volunteers work together to collect data on research projects. has recently been created to match citizen scientists with research projects. Ben MacNeill also spoke about his website, Trixie Tracker, which is a web tool that enables parents to understand their children’s sleep patterns, etc. I also attended the session led by Dorothea Salo and Stephanie Willen Brown on “Scientists! What Can your Librarian Do for You?” I won’t rehash the details already reported by Molly, but Dorothea Salo made a good point that the requirement for students to find print journals is an assignment that is growing obsolete, as access to journals is increasingly being provided in electronic format. I also attended Anil Dash’s presentation on “Government 2.0.” Dash works for Expert Labs, which is affiliated with AAAS and enables the federal government to solicit feedback from citizens. The government is currently soliciting feedback on the development of 2.0. The gallery of open government innovations is also available at There were so many sessions that I wanted to attend at this conference, and I was able to attend part of the Demos on Saturday. I heard about PRI’s weekly science podcasts, which is a convenient way to keep up with the latest updates in science news.

On January 17th, I attended “Getting the Science Right: The Importance of Fact Checking mainstream science publications – An underappreciated and essential art,” which was led by Rebecca Skloot, Sheril Kirshenbaum and David Dobbs. Big magazines such as the New Yorker have fact-checking departments. Skloot hired a professional fact-checker when writing her book, The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks, which is about the origin of the “first ‘immortal’ human cells grown in culture.” Dobbs made the point that science writers should consult with third party fact-checkers, as they would consult with external proofreaders. I also attended the session on “Open Notebook Science.” Jean-Claude Bradley, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Drexel University, made his raw data public, used Youtube to demonstrate his experimental set-up, and made his calculations public in Google Spreadsheets. Bradley made the point that “Open Notebook Science maintains the integrity of data provenance by making assumptions explicit.” The last session that I attended was on ChemSpider, which was acquired by the Royal Society of Chemistry and is a collaborative effort to create a database of chemical structures. Overall, this conference was informative, and it broadened my perspective on science librarianship.

ScienceOnline2010 Day 2 (Sunday)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 4:49 pm

The second, and last, day of ScieneOnline2010 started a bit later and more relaxed, as Saturday-only attendees and those with early flights (or long drives) decreased numbers somewhat. The half-day was book-ended by two more yummy meals, with lunch once again featuring one of my favorite area restaurants, Mediterranean Deli. If this conference’s sessions weren’t as great as they are, I still might consider going just for the awesome food…but fortunately I get both!

There were three final sessions Sunday morning; links and highlights are below. I’m still processing the final session, but it was by far the one that generated the most audience engagement, which isn’t surprising given its topic (civility) and what happened (a live demonstration of how debates can quickly become inflamed and uncivil). As before, if you have questions or need clarification/more info, ask!

Broader Impact Done RightKaren James, Kevin Zelnio, Miriam Goldstein, Jeff Ives and Beth Beck

  • broader impact, outreach & education, public engagement & learning are all phrases for grant requirements that funded research disseminate beyond the lab and journals
  • helps to designate people to keep outreach going; sometimes considered outside the mission of research so it can be hard to get researchers engaged
  • keeping sustained online update on projects will result in intended AND unintended benefits
  • be aware of jargon: sometimes it can be useful as a conversation-starter, sometimes it’s a roadblock to understanding
  • recommended that media training be part of a career development program for scientists, grad students
  • if blogging from the field, don’t make assumptions about technology!
  • home internet connections in poor communities aren’t common, but cell phones are pervasive, so think about info distribution along compatible channels
  • Q: cool field research projects are great, but how do you popularize every-day lab science? A: don’t make assumptions that people don’t care – many are fascinated by lab activities, especially if you share your passion!

Article-level metricsPeter Binfield

(NOTE: I am not a fan of the deification bestowed upon traditional impact factors by many in academe, so I was biased toward liking author- or article-driven metrics heading into this session. I also generally am not one to get overly excited about data. But the data shared are BEAUTIFUL. Just saying…)

  • PLoS (Public Library of Science, largest OA non-profit publisher) developed article-level metrics (ALM) that move beyond the concept of the journal (which is where traditional impact factors (IF) are stuck)
  • “is this good chocolate?” [photo of heart-shaped chocolate box] vs. “is this bad chocolate?” [photo of chocolate bars] – can only determine by tasting the chocolate, not by the packaging
  • journals are just pretty boxes: might indicate that contents are good, but certainly not the only way to tell
  • worth of papers – and hence individuals – often based on IF which is journal-level not article-level
  • ALM could include citations, web use, expert ratings, social bookmarking, community rating, media/blog coverage, commenting activity
    • essentially a basket of individual metrics, all informative at some level, and collectively hard to “game”
  • ALM not just about scholarly evaluation but also way to filter and discover content
  • IF = The Flintstones, ALM = The Jetsons
  • really haven’t had negative reaction from authors, although if ALM replicated widely authors who rely on IF and think they have weight because they publish in high IF journals may be in for a rude surprise
  • authors and readers don’t yet have a good context for judging usefulness, so PLoS provides journal-level metrics on average downloads to help frame ALM
  • still have a lot to do, but ALM could be the start of something important in scholarly publishing

Online Civility and Its (Muppethugging) DiscontentsJanet Stemwedel, Sheril Kirshenbaum and Dr.Isis

(NOTE: Some of the links from the wiki page include language NSFW.)

  • definition of civility at your site is personal
  • know your audience and conduct appropriately
  • only 18% of people claim to know a scientist personally; media is warping perceptions
  • civility online impacts credibility offline
  • civility does not necessarily equal politeness: you can say something in polite language that is uncivil
  • a good working definition of civility might be to take each other seriously, assume good faith, and not immediately dismiss
  • language that makes people feel unwelcome: technical, jargon, profane, religious
  • respect doesn’t eliminate disagreement, it sparks deeper engagement
  • sometimes disengagement is the way to go, but at other times, silence runs the risk of being read as assent
  • danger of conflating incivility with heated discussion in blogosphere
  • groundrules will shape people’s perception of their ability to interact, so must think about how and if to lay them

ScienceOnline2010 Day 1 (Saturday)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 3:58 pm

The first official day of ScienceOnline2010 began with early morning registration and breakfast, where I had my first encounter with doughnut muffins. Who knew such treats existed?! For those who are curious, it was shaped like a muffin, with dense cake-like dough, entirely covered in sugar. Not a bad start to my day!

To give a bit of context, ScienceOnline2010 is a small conference, with 267 attendees (thanks Bora for attendee #s correction!). All events are held at Sigma Xi in RTP, so even though you certainly don’t interact with everyone, you generally see them, and I bumped into fellow ZSR attendee Sarah Jeong several times. This was my third year at the conference, and it was exciting to reconnect with folks I met in previous years. I was also pleased to see that there were more librarians in attendance – and presenting – this year!

There were three sessions before lunch (provided by Saladelia and delicious as always!), and three in the afternoon; links to the wiki page for each session plus highlights from my notes are below. If you have questions about anything, ask!

From Blog to Book: Using Blogs and Social Networks to Develop Your Professional WritingTom Levenson, Brian Switek and Rebecca Skloot

  • use your blog as as writing lab to develop your voice and your audience, as well as a promotional platform
  • reach out to other blogs with audiences who otherwise wouldn’t hear of your book early
  • getting book deals often relies on happenstance of who you know, who you meet; online presence increases chances
  • finding YOUR voice is more important than your subject matter in some respects
  • who do you read? if you aspire to follow one of their paths, read from professional stance to analyze what they do
  • Q: can you make any money? A: welcome to our hobby!

Science in the CloudJohn Hogenesch

  • more data from more sources requires more collaboration, as well as massive and ever-growing computational resources
  • academe typically responds by buying storage and clusters, which works great…for a while; too dependent upon unstable variables: IT staff “demigods”, facilities, depreciation, usage (can’t see into future)
  • cloud computing offers three principle services
    • software as a service (SAAS)
    • infrastructure as a service (IAAS)
    • platform as a service (PAAS)
  • familiar SAAS use case: email
    • evolved from server-side (Pine) to client (Eudora) to cloud (Gmail)
  • SAAS collaboration examples include Basecamp, Google Groups, Google Wave, wikis, Google Docs
  • IAAS use case: RNA sequencing
    • problems include sheer magnitude of data; scope of problem only getting bigger
    • BLAT on Amazon Web service one solution
  • PAAS use case: publishing in the cloud
  • Q: is cloud computing opening research to others who don’t have access? A: yes because in-house data clusters are not easily distributed or shared
  • some concern that funders are less willing to award grants that ask for money for cloud computing costs, even though those costs may be lower than implementing a local data solution, as there are privacy concerns as well as differences in capital costs vs. design costs

Legal Aspects of Publishing, Sharing and Blogging ScienceVictoria Stodden

  • copyright is a strong barrier to scientists’ ideal sharing context
  • Q: are blog comments under the copyright of the commenter or blog author? A: the commenter holds copyright, which makes moderation/removal of inappropriate comments by blog author potential copyright violation, unless there is a clear statement/disclaimer exerting non-exclusive license to do so
  • in the UK, blog comment moderation opens the author to libel responsibilities
  • if you don’t want copyright protection, you must actively dis-avail through licenses, such as those available through Creative Commons (CC)
  • CC licenses do not clarify/define “noncommercial”
  • patents are also a barrier to sharing, as you cannot publish about potentially patentable work until patent is secured or you risk not getting the patent
  • Stodden is advocating the use of attribution-only licenses for all elements of scientific work, including code and data, so it can be reused at will
  • stewardship of raw data, both archiving and sharing, already huge issues and it will only get worse

Scientists! What Can Your Librarian Do For You?Stephanie Willen Brown and Dorothea Salo

  • researchers spend too much time poking around in different places (i.e., PubMed, Google, Google Scholar) trying to access full text
  • direct quote from researcher in room: “if I cannot get it fast and free, I won’t read it” – authors need to think about this as they write
  • rather than ask how to get scientists to library, librarians need to turn the question around and ask how to get into scientists’ environment
  • researcher in the room made suggestions for librarians to offer publishing support that includes:
    • data on number of colleagues at institutional also publishing in x-journal
    • citation style knowledge/assistance
    • submission requirement knowledge/assistance
  • scientists’ ideas about librarians calcified either as walking wallets for journals or bun-toting shushers; instead we need to be known as information policy on legs
  • conversations with colleagues are important for bridging gaps between librarians and scientists
  • if you are concerned about data management, talk to your librarian NOW
  • if your institution won’t accept non-peer reviewed literature in the institutional repository (IR), or if it doesn’t have an IR, talk to your librarian NOW
  • institutional nature of IRs forced on us a bit by publishers who require posting to institutional servers
  • IR point of failure on both ends – librarian and researcher – is ingest; we have a long way to go to improve

Open Access Publishing and Freeing the Scientific Literature (or Why Freedom is about more than just not paying for things)Jonathan Eisen

  • one impediment to openness is institutions’ desire to recover money from research investment
  • fair use is size dependent when thinking of open educational resources (e.g., courses on iTunes U)
  • institutional archives/IRs serve many purposes beyond journal articles, so they need multiple outlets
  • how we pay for access in movement to openness will not always be equitable

Online Reference ManagersJohn Dupuis and Christina Pikas moderating, with Kevin Emamy, Jason Hoyt, Trevor Owens and Michael Habib (Scopus)

(NOTE: I attended this session to learn about other free programs besides Zotero, so my notes below are just highlights of each. Q&A with the panel didn’t provide any enlightenment beyond that which Giz brought to our Zotero class last week.)

  • CiteULike (sponsored by Springer)
    • tracks social bookmarking of research papers
    • can copy papers from others’ libraries
  • Mendeley
    • similar to – surveys what you download and makes suggestions
    • pulls metadata to aggregate readership statistics
  • Zotero
    • can mine your own research history
    • drag and drop references into text fields and citation is auto-generated
  • 2collab (Elsevier)
    • not currently open to users due to spam
    • hoped it would be discovery tool closely related to Scopus and ScienceDirest
    • author IDs (from databases) populate author profiles on 2collab

ScienceOnline2010 Preconference Day

Saturday, January 16, 2010 1:04 am

I am in the Durham/RTP area this weekend attending the ScienceOnline2010 conference. This is the fourth year of the conference, and my third year of attendance. Although the conference doesn’t officially start until Saturday, there was a series of workshops, food tours and lab tours on Friday for early arrivals, and a gala reception Friday evening with the keynote speaker.

I kicked off this year’s conference with a morning workshop on institutional repositories (IRs) at the Park Research Center in RTP. Dorothea Salo, librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led the session “Repositories for Fun & Profit.” In keeping with the relaxed atmosphere of the conference, an official lecture was quickly dismissed in favor of a guided conversation among our small but interesting group: 4 researchers, 4 librarians and 1 consultant.

Our conversation focused on questions/topics posted to the wiki prior to the workshop, and one of the big points we discussed is the growing need for access to data sets. Unfortunately most repository systems, including DSpace, are not able to adequately handle large data sets, as the IR structures do not provide the necessary flexibility. In light of this, and other issues, several prominent early IR adopters in the United States are exploring the possibilities of system migration.

In relation to IRs, we also talked about the importance of working with graduate students to educate the next generation of faculty about scholarly communication issues. Dorothea promoted the benefits of electronic theses and dissertations (ETD) archiving requirements for achieving the dual goals of educating students and populatingIRs. I was quite proud to learn that Wake Forest was ahead of UW-Madison in implementing a required ETD program!

Another point of discussion focused on Open Access (OA) policies, both funder/government and faculty-driven. Dorothea shared that she believes that as the novelty of faculty policies such as those passed at Harvard, MIT and Stanford begins to wear off, more OA policies will be implemented as people realize that the sky hasn’t fallen.

Following the workshop and a lunch break, I wove my way through Duke Forest in Durham to the Duke Lemur Center for an afternoon lab tour. The Duke Lemur Center is the largest lemur preserve worldwide, housing 210 prosimian primates – 190 of which are lemurs, the others are prosimians from Sri Lanka and Vietnam – including the largest collection of aye-ayes (17 of 40 in captivity), and Romeo, the ONLY diademed sifaka living in captivity. The goals of the center are research, education and conservation, as lemurs are endangered species. Lemurs are found only on Madagascar, and it is believed that there are approximately 70 different species on the island. All lemurs are prosimians, but not all prosimians are lemurs. Some species are diurnal, others nocturnal, and one species, mongoose lemurs, switch between diurnal and nocturnal seasonally.

Currently, the diurnal lemurs are housed in temperature-protected enclosures, but after temperatures are sustained above 45 degrees (mid-April or so), the lemurs are released to live in the forest on the preserve. At mealtimes, they are gathered by a signal (e.g., beating a tambourine ), and they are fed specialized diets which, depending on the species, might include grub worms, bananas, collard greens, or Monkey Chow (made by Purina!). The nocturnal lemurs live in a separate facility at all times, where their “day” has been flip-flopped: bright lights simulating sunlight come on around midnight, prompting them to sleep while researchers normally sleep, and go off around 9:45am, waking them at “night” to facilitate research during normal business hours.

I learned a LOT of fascinating facts about lemurs that I won’t share here, but here is one fun fact: there are only two primate species with blue eyes: blue-eyed lemurs and humans. Some would include spider monkeys as a third, although their eyes are more gray-blue than true blue. As a blue-eyed human primate, I found this particular fact most interesting! The center is available for tours year round (call ahead to schedule), and if you ever have the opportunity, I strongly encourage you to go!

After the lemur tour, I took advantage of my proximity to Duke’s campus to scoot over to Perkins Library for a late-afternoon meeting with Kevin Smith, Duke University’s Scholarly Communications Officer, and Will Cross, a current UNC MILS student interning with Kevin who also works at UNC’s House Undergraduate Library. I had not been to Perkins in over 10 years, so after chatting about OA policy implementation strategies and Will’s post-graduation plans, Kevin gave me a quick tour, highlighting The Link, which combines IT support service (similar to The Bridge) as well as a Mac lab, study space with funky furniture, and class, seminar and group study rooms. VERY cool space!

By the end of the day, I was too tired to drive back to RTP for the gala reception (I’m staying in Durham), but as it was hosted at RTP Headquarters, I am sure it was a lovely affair. I also know that by being at a blogging-oriented conference, I’ll find plenty of coverage of what I missed!

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