February 2008

Open Minds, Open Books, Open Source is an article in this week’s InsideHigherEd which addresses the reasons why libraries are moving to Open Source software. The St. John’s Libraries’ are part of a trial project using the OS application KohaZoom, and trying out LibLime support, on behalf of our WALDO consortium partners. As our own library director mentions in reference to the article: “Please note that many of the reasons given by other libraries for moving away from the proprietary systems are those that pushed us toward KohaZoom.” Not explicitly mentioned in the article, is the fact that our use of OS is also in keeping with StJ Libraries’ commitment to the University’s Social Justice mission. When we spend money to develop features for our Library System, libraries in impoverished areas — with little or no technology budgets — can benefit. (Note: A new blog dedicated to OS in Libraries can be found here)

If you have ever wondered about the “fuss” over Open Source in general, the article suggests reasons why anyone or any organization considers using Open Source software:

With a bit of grant money and some eager developers, institutions have begun creating their own open-source solutions that are fully customizable, free for others to use and compatible with existing systems. …[T]he increasing availability of open-source software has nudged some libraries [and we could add, universities, organizations, businesses] to reconsider the role of their in-house technology gurus, and to wonder whether it would make more long-term financial sense to hire more developers than to continue paying for products over which they have limited control.

When proprietary software puts a technological or financial barrier in the way of the user accomplishing what s/he needs, OS code offers the opportunity to harness the power of collective intelligence. Of course, “freely available code” does not mean OS is without “costs”. Large organizations spend money “saved” from vendors to hire in-house developers to improve software functionality; the idea is that directed in-house developers can design changes with a quicker response time than vendor developers can. Open source software isn’t just about access to code but also about distribution criteria as well, so that, on smaller scale, tech-saavy individuals, small organizations and developing nations benefit from distribution of improvements to software. The latter may “get more than they give”, but any contribution means all users benefit from OS’ technological symbiosis.

To get the gist of the types of OS software that individuals might use, check out The Top 50 Proprietary Programs that Drive You Crazy — and Their Open Source Alternatives. The list reflects one person’s ideas, but the reader gets a sense of the variety of extant OS programs. On the organizational and business level, OS isn’t strictly for “radicals” either, check out this entry on the “hidden” prevalence of OS in use in everyday operations: “A day without OS.” (The comments on that entry are worth a gander too!)

This 2/12/08 NYTimes article highlights Harvard’s recent move to support Open Access publishing in scholarly communications. While some of the more recent articles have centered on NIH studies being available for free, this article discusses university-sponsored research being made freely available. If Harvard goes through with the decision, it may help promote changes in scholarly communications and journal subscriptions that have lasting effects. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/books/12publ.html?ref=books

UPDATE 2/14/08: Harvard approved the proposal: Here is a CHE follow-up article (with lots of discussion in the comments!): http://chronicle.com/news/article/3943/harvard-faculty-adopts-open-access-requirement

[Originally posted by Maureen Weicher, February 12, 2008, @ 8:58 am]

There is a new study by iCrossing, a digital marketing company, called “How America Searches: Health and Wellness“. According to the study more people use the Internet to obtain health information over a given year than consult a doctor, with general search engines being the most popular gateway. It also found that people are predominantly using the Internet to research symptoms or specific medical conditions.

How might this apply to our students? The study found that young adults are the most likely demographic to use the Internet for health information and they use it the most frequently. They are also more likely to use social media such as Wikipedia or message boards. Wellness information, such as nutrition, exercise, and weight loss, is an area that especially attracts 18 to 24 year olds.

If you find the idea of “Dr Web” frightening, the study did find that people ultimately place their trust in physicians rather than the Internet when making medical decisions. Fortunately, this recent study from the journal Cancer discovered that websites contain overwhelmingly accurate information.

[Originally posted by Maureen Weicher on February 5, 2008]

As an alternative to journal rankings, Faculty of 1000 Medicine and Faculty of 1000 Biology asks experts to rank individual articles as “recommended”, “must read”, and “exceptional”. Though F1000 is a subscription-based site, you should be able to access Hidden Jewels in Medicine and Hidden Jewels in Biology. These are significant articles from less-widely read journals. You should be able to click through to the full text if St. John’s owns it. You won’t be able to read the article evaluations, though.

(Originally posted by Maureen Weicher on February 4, 2008 at 12:20)

A group of researchers based in Spain have developed SCImago Journal and Country Rank portal based on information from the Scopus database. SCIMago has created an indicator called SJR that measures journal prestige based on the Google Page ranking mechanism.They also use h-index as another way of measuring scientific productivity and impact.

It appears SJR produces rankings that are quite different than h-index. For example, JAMA would be #4 for the subject area of medicine using h-index. Using SJR, it sinks to #14. Cell Metabolism has a very low h-index, but is #3 using SJR. It appear that this may be partially because the number of total articles published plays more of a role in the h-index than in SJR.

In a field closer to home, here is the journal ranking for 2006 for Library and Information Science by SJR, h-index, and total cites.