International Association of Scientific and Technological University Libraries

IATUL News Alerts

Archive December 2009

Harnessing openness to improve research, teaching and learning in higher education

Tuesday, 1 December 2009 11:54:37 a.m.

The rise of the Internet and the digitization of information are affecting every corner of our lives. In a series of reports we have examined how these two changes are increasing the “openness” of information, processes and institutions.

The degree of openness of information, for example, can differ dramatically. To the extent that people have access to information, without restrictions, that information is more open than information to which people have access only if they are subscribers, or have security clearances, or have to go to a particular location to get it. But accessibility, quite similar to the concept of transparency, is only one aspect of openness.The other is responsiveness. Can one change the information, repurpose, remix, and redistribute it?

Information (or a process or an institution) is more open when there are fewer restrictions on access, use, accessibility, and responsiveness.

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the way ahead: A strategy for copyright in the digital age

Tuesday, 1 December 2009 11:51:54 a.m.

The Government has long recognised the importance of creativity and knowledge to the UK. It lies behind our investment in research, education and skills and our support for creative industries. Much of this value relies on our ability to access and share information as never before through the Internet.

We are, however, at a crossroads in our relationship with our new digital world.

Digital technology means access to information on a vast scale. It has changed the way people publish and consume works. It allows anyone and everyone to make and distribute quick, cheap and totally accurate copies. Consumers have reached out to grab the potential of this new technology. The copyright debate, once in the hands of the professionals of the creative industries, is now a debate for everyone. Businesses and governments have seen the challenges but have been slow to respond.

Although creative industries and governments are trying to catch up with the digital world, there is more to be done. We must push harder. Policy makers need to get ahead of the game. They need to recognise the need to work with an awareness of what consumers are doing and want to do. And they need to recognise that no single national government has control of the agenda.

We must now work within the international and European framework to ensure copyright keeps up with technology and consumer behaviour. We have to make it simpler, and make it address the concerns of all those who have an interest in the copyright system: business, consumers, creators and copyright owners.

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Patterns of information use and exchange: case studies of researchers in the life sciences

Tuesday, 1 December 2009 11:49:31 a.m.

A report of research patterns in life sciences revealing that researcher practices diverge from policies promoted by funders and information service providers.

This report by the RIN and the British Library provides a unique insight into how information is used by researchers across life sciences. Undertaken by the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, and the UK Digital Curation Centre and the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services, the report concludes that ‘one-size-fits-all’ information and data sharing policies are not achieving scientifically productive and cost-efficient information use in life sciences.

The report was developed using an innovative approach to capture the day-to-day patterns of information use in seven research teams from a wide range of disciplines, from botany to clinical neuroscience. The study undertaken over 11 months and involving 56 participants found that there is a significant gap between how researchers behave and the policies and strategies of funders and service providers. This suggests that the attempts to implement such strategies have had only a limited impact. Key findings from the report include:

• Researchers use informal and trusted sources of advice from colleagues, rather than institutional service teams, to help identify information sources and resources
• The use of social networking tools for scientific research purposes is far more limited than expected
• Data and information sharing activities are mainly driven by needs and benefits perceived as most important by life scientists rather than ‘top-down’ policies and strategies
• There are marked differences in the patterns of information use and exchange between research groups active in different areas of the life sciences, reinforcing the need to avoid standardised policy approaches.

The report sets out a number of recommendations to funders, universities and information service providers on how policy and services can be more aligned with research practice and help UK life scientists sustain their position at the forefront of world-class research.

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Researchers of Tomorrow: A three year (BL/JISC) study tracking the research behaviour of 'Generation Y' doctoral students

Tuesday, 1 December 2009 11:46:39 a.m.

Education for Change, in collaboration with The Research Partnership, has been engaged by the British Library and the JISC to undertake a groundbreaking 3-year study on the research behaviour of the 'Generation Y' scholar.

The study is tracking young doctoral students' (those born between 1982 - 1994) information-seeking behaviour, analysing their habits in online and physical research environments and assessing their usage of library and information sources on and off line.

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Open science at web-scale: Optimising participation and predictive potential

Tuesday, 1 December 2009 11:44:05 a.m.

This report has attempted to draw together and synthesise evidence and opinion associated with data-intensive open science from a wide range of sources. The potential impact of data-intensive open science on research practice and research outcomes, is both substantive and far-reaching. There are implications for funding organisations, for research and information communities and for higher education institutions.

The original specification for the work was highly selective in its choice of areas to study, and this Report addresses only three of these areas in any depth:

• open science including open notebook science : making methodologies, data and results available on the Internet, through transparent working practices
• citizen science including volunteer computing : where volunteers who may not have scientific training, perform or manage research-related tasks such as observation, measurement or computation
• predictive science : data-driven science which enables the forecasting, anticipation or prediction of specific outcomes.

Synthetic science (research which combines science and engineering methods to design and build novel biological entities), and Immersive science (used to describe research involving virtual and simulated worlds), are referenced, but require more detailed examination. Fuller definitions of the terms and areas examined in this study have been provided in Section 3. In addition, the Report addresses data informatics and the supporting role of libraries for these particular aspects of open science.

The work was undertaken through a mix of desk research, including analysis from the peer-reviewed literature, presentations, selective blogs, wiki content, social network discussion, and by consultation with a small group of leading thinkers and researchers. The Report was also informed by presentations and talks given by the author during 2009.

The report is positioned as a consultative document, which it is hoped will stimulate and contribute to community discussion in the UK, but also fuel the open science debate on the global stage. Whilst many questions have been asked here, they will require fuller articulation and investigation in other fora. The economic implications will require detailed analysis and the societal benefits should be reviewed and evaluated. The consultative questions are clearly indicated in boxes in the text and are reproduced in full in the Executive Summary.

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Learning to share

Tuesday, 1 December 2009 11:41:21 a.m.

Free, immediate and permanently available research results for all - that's what the open-access campaigners want. Unsurprisingly, the subscription publishers disagree. Zoe Corbyn weighs up the ramifications for journals, while Matthew Reisz asks how books will fare.
Stephen Hicks, a reader in health and social care at the University of Salford, has just uploaded nine of his journal articles to his university's online open-access repository of institutional papers, and has another ten in the pipeline. Doing so had not crossed his mind before, and it won't be compulsory until January 2010 (last month, Salford mandated so-called "self-archiving", becoming the 100th organisation worldwide to do so). But he was turned on to the idea after hearing Martin Hall, Salford's vice-chancellor and an open-access advocate, speak.

Hicks didn't make his decision for altruistic reasons or because Hall said it could increase his citations and impact. Rather, he chose to make the papers available because he receives a barrage of requests from other academics for access. Directing them to the repository seemed a logical way to save time and make his life easier. Uploading is straightforward, Hicks says, estimating that it takes about ten minutes per paper. He simply fills in an online form with the details of the peer-reviewed article and sends it, along with the final accepted version, to the repository. Staff there pick up the ball, working out whether the copyright policy of the journal that originally published the paper will allow it to be uploaded. "You don't have to worry about copyright because the repository staff do that," Hicks notes, while expressing disappointment that some of his articles haven't gone online because the journals do not grant permission.

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