Reference News: A Science Superhero, Ref Publishers vs. Georgia State U., Vendor News, & More

Dr. Heather Piwowar

A science superhero
This week was full of references to Dr. Heather Piwowar, and deservedly so. In her work, the postdoctoral researcher at Duke University and the University of British Columbia (UBC) uses text mining, a method of finding previously unmade connections among subjects and ideas by combing aggregations of scholarship such as databases. She arranged with STEM publishing giant Elsevier that UBC researchers will be allowed to mine the company’s publications to which they already subscribe, access she previously thought was impossible to get.

As described in a Chronicle of Higher Education article by Jennifer Howard, Piwowar (who is also active in encouraging open access to research) recognizes that the new deal is a win-win-win-win, because Elsevier benefits from positive publicity it needs so badly lately. The reaction wasn’t all positive, though; the same article quotes Peter Murray-Rust, a chemistry professor at the University of Cambridge, who, taking a fair-use approach to the news, stresses that this access is something that should be taken for granted instead of requested. [See also Howard’s paper from this week on an evolving project to make archival materials more available.]

The text-mining discussion moved beyond The Chronicle too, with coverage in The Guardian and discussion on the LIBLICENSE listserv, where librarians discussed their efforts to push the boundaries of publishers’ licensing agreements. Susan Barribeau, English Literature/Journalism/Media/Linguistics Bibliographer at the University of Wisconsin‚ Madison, described local efforts and noted that collaborative projects can be hampered when researchers are from different institutions, not all of which may subscribe to the content the group wishes to mine. Katie Fortney, Science & Engineering Librarian at UC Santa Cruz Library, discussed a project in which her library has played an occasional support role. A researcher, says Fortney, is crawling for references to DNA sequences and incorporating them into our genome browser ( so researchers‚Ķcan more easily find articles about the segments they’re interested in.

Researcher access to personal data
Related to Piwowar’s work on behalf of researchers, a New York Times article this week described issues around transparency, or the lack of it, in social scientists’ use of “big data.” The problem is that much social science research today depends upon the use of data such as aggregations of cell phone records and Facebook and Google usage. The issue was highlighted when researchers at a French conference, who studied usage of YouTube, stated that they could not release their data, even though doing so is standard when presenting scientific papers.

Reference publishers vs. Georgia State U: The verdict
In a copyright infringement case brought by Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and SAGE Reference against Georgia State University, Judge Orinda Evans ruled that, within reason, college libraries may make electronic copies of reference-book excerpts available as course reserves, though practical guidelines on such use are needed. Duke University’s Kevin L. Smith and the Association of Research Libraries have studied the opinion and while the ARL notes that the decision broadly represents a win for libraries, Smith says that it’s necessarily over yet.

Vendor news
Elsevier had other news this week: it has expanded its medical licensing agreement with ProQuest. In a three-year contract, Lancet journals, already part of ProQuest’s offerings, will be joined by 36 more health science titles such as Journal of Hand Therapy, Physical Therapy in Sport, and Comprehensive Psychiatry. The new titles will be accessible through products such as ProQuest Medical Library and ProQuest Health and Medical Complete.

The NCCO teams readies a smoke-damaged manuscript for cleaning and scanning

Gale continues to add to Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO) database, which digitizes rare materials from archives and libraries worldwide. This week, subscribers gained access to 2 million-page new file, “Asia and the West: Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange,” which includes material from the U.S. and the British National Archives and other collections.

Baker and Taylor worked with the National Federation of the Blind to make the latest release of its Axis 360 digital media platform compatible with leading assistive screen-reader technologies including JAWS, Window-Eyes, NVDA, and System Access To Go. The vendor explains that now, “the entire digital library experience‚ from discovering new titles to checking them out, to reading them on the Blio ereader‚ is available to blind patrons and students, and to others with reading disabilities.”

Finally, I’ll be at RUSA’s open house at the Anaheim Convention Center, Room 203B, on Saturday, June 23 from 8:00 a.m‚ 9:00 a.m. See you there!

Henrietta Verma About Henrietta Verma

Henrietta Verma is Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore, and was formerly the reviews editor at Library Journal.