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Christina's LIS Rant

This is my blog on library and information science.


Christina Pikas Christina K. Pikas is a science and engineering librarian in a special library as well as a doctoral student in information studies.
Any opinions expressed here may not even be her own and certainly do not represent those of any organization willing to be affiliated with her.


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March 6, 2010

Random admin stuff

Category: Admin

I haven't been a great team player recently, so this post catches up on some things going on in the world recently. These are in no particular order.

  • The USA Science and Engineering Festival is coming up in the Fall. ScienceBlogs is the official blogging partner and there’s a blog here to talk about the preparations. This is one reason why it’s cool to live near DC – I get to go and wave the flag. (hm. mpow should have some representation, too)
  • 3/14 is fast approaching and there will be a pie bake off. My pies are notoriously tasty but ugly. Unfortunately, you’ll be judging them on looks not taste so I’ll see what I can do.
  • Elsewhere, Nature Blogs has updated their platform – and it’s gorgeous!
  • The National Academies have a communication award with serious cash as a prize. People interested in communicating science with the public should make some nominations.
  • A couple of excellent conferences lately with video and slides posted on line. In particular, check out the Science Commons Symposium which was held in Redmond, Washington on February 20th.
  • The new version of Mendeley is out with lots of cool updates. One of the neatest things is the collaborative pdf annotation with highlighting and sticky notes.
  • There is a lot of discussion about ebooks now – this requires a post of its own – it’s not clear if there’s really anything new at all or if it’s just more of the same bemoaning discovery, use, DRM, platforms, etc. The Highwire survey(pdf) is an example. The CrossRef discussion on The Scholarly Kitchen is another.

Black men in women’s work do not get to ride the glass escalator

Category: Off Topic This post reviews a fairly recent article that examines the experiences of black men in nursing and asks whether they experience the "glass escalator" effect or if the work is racialized as well as gendered.

As requested by some fellow Sciblings, I recently blogged about an older article* that coined the term glass escalator. In my post I was uncertain about how the findings from the study were viewed by experts familiar with that body of work. In the comments, Kris D, who identifies as a sociologist, said that these findings have been upheld by subsequent research. Kris also recommended the article that is the focus of this post.


Wingfield, A. (2009). Racializing the Glass Escalator: Reconsidering Men's Experiences with Women's Work Gender & Society, 23 (1), 5-26 DOI: 10.1177/0891243208323054

As a reminder, white men in professions typically considered women's work such as nursing, social work, elementary school teaching, and librarianship, are often promoted earlier, paid better, and network better with management. The women in these professions are welcoming toward the men and push them up the escalator. The white men often distance themselves from the feminine aspects of the work - less caring more technical (nursing: ER not bedside, librarianship: systems not children's public services).

Wingfield asks whether gendered racism makes black men's experiences different from white men's. Here's what she found:

  • Black men were not welcomed by women, they were isolated and treated like they were not wanted.
  • Black men experienced a great deal of difficulty getting promoted.
  • While white men were mistaken for doctors, black men were mistaken for janitors regardless of how they presented themselves.

I've even given patients their medicines, explained their care to them, and then they'll say to me, "Well, can you send the nurse in?" (p.18)

  • The men in the study did not reject the caring aspects of nursing, but rather embraced it:  "concern for others is connected to fighting the effects of racial inequality" (p.21). They enjoy patient care and they provide services to the community to "challenge racial inequalities."

In her conclusion, she speculates that this might be sexualized as well as gendered and raced. That is, there might be an interaction with sexuality as well as the one between race and gender (i.e., homosexual men may not get to ride the escalator either).

* Williams, C.L. (1992). The Glass Escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the "Female" Professions. Social Problems, 39, 253-267.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that some very smart people just don’t know how the web and browsers work

Category: Information Science

Back when I was working at the public library, I used to do the "introduction to the internet" classes. These were typically at 9 - before the library opened- and so attracted stay at home moms and retirees. Attendees usually picked things up pretty quickly. For one thing, they admitted not knowing how anything worked so would listen and take notes and then stay to practice on the public systems. We assume that "kids today" and indeed all educated adults are fluent in the use of browsers and the web. Not so. There is a strange example recently that demonstrates this point.  I assumed everyone had heard about it, but chatting with people, it make sense to reiterate here.

Read/Write Web is a popular blog that covers all versions of social media. It's been around for a long time as these things go. Recently, they did a post - like any of their others - on how AIM would integrate your Facebook friends as contacts. This is part of Facebook Connect and works on the basis that people didn't want to go around locating all of their contacts in each new service, but just keep them up to date in Facebook and go from there. The post was fairly ordinary - useful analysis showing a depth of knowledge about social media - but typical for the site.  This is when things got strange.

Through some twist of search engine optimization, this post got ranked first for Google searches on facebook (or perhaps facebook login). Hundreds if not thousands of people showed up, thinking they were on facebook. They left comments that they didn't like the new site design and that their login didn't work. They were mad that someone had messed up their facebook and demanded it back. Some of these people have their pictures in their comments - they're representative of the users of facebook:  mostly  younger, but some middle aged and some older.

People mistake the search box on the page for the address bar - or actually don't know that there is an address bar. They then click on whatever comes up first (eek the information security implications!). This is one reason that an intranet search without spotlighting fails - the first result by typical relevance ranking isn't what people want.

Actually, I've seen a family member with a masters degree who is very savvy about information and communication not know to open the browser to go online. She types what she wants into the search block in Outlook, and when Outlook doesn't know what to do with it, it passes the search to Bing and opens the browser to show the results!  I was flabbergasted. Others don't know about bookmarks, so copy the links into e-mails to themselves.  Admittedly, this works better than browser bookmarks when you're changing machines from home to work, but there have been solutions for that for years. Over the phone, I desperately tried to walk someone through getting to our website - it's got a shortcut so all you have to type in the address bar is library. Unfortunately, many can't find the address block. If they've got the default home page the IT department loads, they can at least search and find us. Sigh.

So when we're designing library tools, are we assuming that if they've even made it to our site at all they can probably figure out how to work it? Do we need Google ads for anyone coming from our ip ranges so if they click the first thing, they'll get to library resources? Would that be a better use of our money than some expensive research databases that are little used? Should organizations divert web searches and frame them or something with local results? Provide Google results in the middle of the page, but somewhere provide spotlighted organization things? Maybe that would come across as evil.

February 25, 2010

Thank you!

Category: Admin

This blog is a Research Blogging Awards 2010 Finalist

Research Blogging Awards 2010 Finalist

Thank you for whoever nominated me and thanks for your votes! I'll try to bring more research blogging posts to you in the coming year :)

February 22, 2010

ROTFL (and crying a bit)

Category: librariesscholarly communication

This thread is hilarious, yet so true it makes me want to cry.

February 21, 2010

Quick observations on the citations of a Science “viewpoint” piece

Category: Information Sciencebibliometricsinformation retrieval

I ran across this piece again just now after having read it when it first came out in 20056:

Foster, I. (2005). Service-Oriented Science. Science, 308(5723), 814-817. doi:10.1126/science.1110411

It's a good piece and quite helpful. Google Scholar says it's been cited 209 times, so that's not terribly surprising. But here are some things that are at least mildly surprising.

The widget that uses the Web of Science api to provide number of citations directly on the HTML page for the article shows that the piece has been cited 23 times. When you click through that to Web of Science - if your institution subscribes to the conference papers and back that far and everything - you'll see that it has actually been cited 88 times. If you re-do the search, selecting only Science Citation Index (journal articles) and not selecting the 3-4 articles with partial or messed up citations - you get 38 (43 if you pick the ones that are messed up but probably refer to the same article and 98 including messed up with conf proceedings).

Also note, that this is probably one of those crazy things that is in the numerator but not in the denominator for the impact factor. (typically research articles are the only things in the denominator for JIF but all citations to the journal do end up in the numerator). So it inflates Science's IF.

Scopus has 116 citations of this piece.

The topic of this piece makes it more attractive to research groups that do a lot more conference publishing than journal article publishing, so that's worth noting. Also note the difference in automated machine matching vs a quick and dirty human match on author name, publication, and year (10 citations different, in one case).

If you just want to chain to find some related articles, any of these is surely sufficient. If you are looking for the broader impact or heaven forefend trying to get credit for an article like this for tenure... eek.

February 15, 2010

How can we do better at letting y’all know about remote access?

Category: Information Science

With the recent snowstorms and all, I brought an official work machine home so I could work on full VPN. We have an SSL VPN option and with full network connect, it's just like I'm in my office. Most of the time, when I need an article here or there, I just use the proxy server. From my end, how this works is I either link out from the catalog or I right click and reload through proxy using my LibX plugin. I then login with my directory ID and password.

If I need something more "popular" - like reviews for an upcoming purchase, car repair diagrams, or how-to information - I'll just use my local public library's research databases. I happen to know my library card number, so I just type it in and away we go.

So this is really very easy for me, but clearly we're not doing a good enough job telling people what they can get to from home. I think it used to be much harder, even just a couple of years ago. One of the main things is probably that it is an extra step if you just use a major search engine and rely on IP authentication on campus. Maybe people who have a lot of things through aggregators are more accustomed? I think a lot of people make assumptions about what they can and cannot do and don't even try.

How can we let people know? The public libraries have a hard time getting people to use things in the branches and it must be even harder to get people to use things at home.  For research libraries, we know that for our {users|patrons|customers} a lot of reading and writing is done after hours and on weekends - so it ought to be easier to get them to try.

Maybe it's a misperception? Maybe I only hear from the people who have problems?

February 8, 2010

The new evil empire has closed access to Ageline

Category: Information Scienceinformation policyinformation retrieval

A brief note. Remember when I told you about free to you research databases? Remember when some other librarians told you about a certain company negotiating for exclusive access to certain popular magazines, choking out other aggregators?  Well, now these two things have something in common. Ebsco.

February 7, 2010

Technologically conservative young scholars – you’re surprised, really?

Category: Information Sciencescholarly communication

At the PSP Pre-Conference (see my notes), Dr. Harley of the Higher Education in the Digital Age program reported being surprised by their finding that young scholars were unwilling or unlikely to experiment with new scholarly communication (tools/practices/channels). There was a question from the audience that showed the person's disbelief of this finding. No matter how many times this myth is debunked, it remains firmly entrenched. Here are some variations on it:

  • when generation {x,y, millennial, etc} gets in {university, grad school, the workplace}, {collaboration, communication, search technologies} will all be different because they'll already know how to use all of that stuff and they'll be expert at it
  • all we need for {open access, open science, electronic journals, online communities, social computing technologies} to catch on, is for the next generation to grow up and join the workforce
  • no need to teach how to search to young folks today, they already know how to work google
  • no need to teach younger workers how to collaborate effectively or use workplace collaboration technologies, they use facebook.

As you can probably tell, this is very frustrating to me. There are lots of articles reinforcing that it's not just a matter of time, technologies are incorporated into scholarly communication depending on the needs of the particular research area [1 is an example]. Articles on the adoption of electronic journals in science basically showed that even though these platforms have the potential to be much more, they were only accepted in some fields when they were an electronic reproduction of the print.

Likewise, as Bohlin [2] and Walsh and Bayma [3] point out, the adoption of the pre-print server only happened in fields where there already existed a culture of sharing pre-prints (Harley's study also discovered this - and I think it surprised them, but note the dates on the articles). Even though researchers in less developed countries have greater access to open access journals (presuming that bandwidth is not limiting, only money for subscriptions and also presuming that they are not taking advantage of programs to provide subsidized or free access to the least developed countries), they don't seem to publish more there nor do they seem to cite these journals more [4]. (also, universities in some countries require PhD students to publish in one of a set of journals on a list - so this may not include newer OA journals)

There are many, many, many articles describing both the diffusion of innovations in general, and the diffusion of communication technologies in particular (see my comps readings). One of the things that shows up in all of the successful theories is some version of compatibility (relative advantage is also pertinent here). The new innovation has to be compatible with the old way of doing business, or have such a great advantage that it's worth doing everything differently.

The most relevant analysis of this issue comes from Covi [5] as she debunks the myth of the Nintendo generation. Incidentally, I'm of that generation and I think people making the statements above have already written us off.  She says the myth goes like this:

...electronic communication technologies will transform university research practices chiefly by the mechanism of doctoral students (presumably people of the younger generation) entering the profession who are more comfortable and skilled with technology than their advisors. This argument is based on several subclaims:

1 Doctoral students are more comfortable and have greater skills with electronic communication due to early exposure.

2 Doctoral students have a greater incentive to introduce transformative work practices because their training requires them to find and make unique contributions to their research disciplines.

3 Doctoral students have more time to experiment with electronic communication technologies and new work practices.

4 Doctoral students are less conditioned by years of working in established ways and are thus more apt to try new work practices.

5 As doctoral students graduate and move into faculty positions, their use of electronic communication will transform university research disciplines.

She interviewed doctoral students and their advisors (in 1995). A lot depends on how much the discipline is open to doctoral students trying new things. She uses the classification high/low paradigm and high/low resource. In high paradigm fields there's more of a consensus on theory and the appropriate methods for problems. Students in low paradigm, high resource fields were most free to experiment. In high resource and high paradigm fields like microbiology, students basically did what their advisors did - no stepping outside of the box. Advisors in molecular bio assumed that their students would have "greater exposure, and thus ease in using electronic communication technologies" - but they didn't. Also they tried to curb the enthusiasm of students who did want to explore new technologies. In low paradigm disciplines, some students used new technologies to differentiate their research from their advisor's.

She found that "early exposure to technology was not a sufficient condition to utilize electronic communication technologies in research work" and

"doctoral students were still beholden to the existing values of what constituted a disciplinary contribution that did not change as quickly as new technologies became available. Skilled doctoral students might develop new electronic communication resources and services for their disciplines, but they were not rewarded unless the paradigm for work in their field would recognize the activity as a unique contribution."

I recommend reading the whole article - there are lots more findings that are interesting, useful, and very much still relevant.

So, it's not just a matter of time, and it's not just a matter of those kids today. New researchers have to be conservative at least until they get tenure. Even with tenure, playing by the rules is rewarded. Old dogs do learn new tricks, and they are often the ones who bring in some of these technologies.


[1] Kling, R., & McKim, G. (2000). Not just a matter of time: Field differences and the shaping of electronic media in supporting scientific communication. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51(14), 1306-1320. doi:10.1002/1097-4571(2000)9999:9999<::AID-ASI1047>3.0.CO;2-T

[2] Bohlin, I. (2004). Communication Regimes in Competition: The Current Transition in Scholarly Communication Seen through the Lens of the Sociology of Technology. Social Studies of Science, 34(3), 365-391. DOI: 10.1177/0306312704041522

[3] Walsh, J. P., & Bayma, T. (1996). The virtual college: computer-mediated communication and scientific work. Information Society, 12(4), 343-363.

[4] Frandsen, T. F. (2009). Attracted to open access journals: A bibliometric author analysis in the field of biology. Journal of Documentation, 65(1), 58-82. doi:10.1108/00220410910926121

[5] Covi, L. M. (2000). Debunking the myth of the Nintendo generation: How doctoral students introduce new electronic communication practices into university research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51(14), 1284-1294. doi:10.1002/1097-4571(2000)9999:9999<::AID-ASI1045>3.0.CO;2-Z


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