Explore Rock’s Backpages; Research, Connect Data with Figshare | Reference ereviews

Rock’s Backpages

Backpages Limited; rocksbackpages.com

By Cheryl LaGuardia


Content Rock’s Backpages (RBP) holds nearly 25,000 articles about rock—and more—from both the musical and mainstream presses published from 1960 to the present. Material includes feature articles, reviews, interviews, and more than 400 audio files. The work of nearly 600 music writers is represented here, and approximately 5,000 artists are covered in its “pages.” Every week 50 new articles and one new audio interview are added to the collection every week. Subscribers receive weekly updates describing new content, and there is some free material on the site, as well.

Usability A description of RBP’s current front page provides an idea of the smorgasbord for the music lover that’s available here. At the screen top users are invited to enter the Library, where they can do a quick search or browse articles by artist, writer, subject, or publication. A single click leads to advanced search mode, which offers the option to do a free text search limited by date, subject/genre, writer, publication, piece type, or format and then sort your results by relevance or date. Back to the front page: beneath the invite into the Library is a link to an alphabetical list of the free articles (the page says it’s “a limited selection,” but I gave up trying to count after 60 and I was still in the Bs), followed by an “Almost Famous” feature (in this case highlighting “Definitive pieces from the quintessential style mag” The Face), followed by a syndication statement that RBP “makes available articles from the site for use by publishers, for either online or offline use.” The company also will attempt to locate content that’s not on the site if you tell them the artist or genre in which you’re interested.

The next column at right features a Quick Search box followed by links to new content for subscribers, and a box for the Magazine Archive where you can order scans and photocopies from the archives. The third column over contains a box linking into the audio interviews, followed by a list of 54 “Genre Quicklinks” such as Americana/Alt. Country; Britpop; Doo Wop and Vocal Groups; Folk and Folk-Rock; Girl Groups; Gospel; Latin; Tropicalia, etc.; Punk and Hardcore; Soul; Funk and R&B; and World Music. At far screen right are ads for material that will likely be of interest to RBP users.

By the time I got through my first scan of the resource, I knew I was going to be looking at it for a long time. Wanting to see just how wide the coverage was, I did a series of quick searches with these results: Captain Beefheart, 70 articles; the McGarrigles, 19; Nick Cave, 250; Gram ­Parsons, 293; Flying Burrito Brothers, 99; and yet Pink Martini, just one article—a mention in an interview with Van Dyke Parks; Sandy Denny, 105; Squirrel Nut Zippers, four; ­Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 13; ­and Celia Cruz (nine articles). The coverage here is pretty wide.

Next I tried an Advanced Search, looking for Elvis’s gospel music. Entering “Elvis Presley” as search text and limiting subject/genre to gospel, I found ten articles, but when I looked at each of them I discovered that only one, a review by Terry Staunton for the Record Collector in October 2005, “He Touched Me—The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley,” was actually about the artist’s gospel music. In all nine other articles there were one or two mentions of or references to Elvis, but nothing substantial.

So I went back into advanced search and looked for interviews (as “Piece Type”) of the Byrds (“Search Text”) and retrieved 219 articles. I realized that this result included any mention of the Byrds in any interview, so I cut the list down to only those interviews of members of the Byrds by clicking the Byrds link in the Artist category at screen right—then I got what I was really looking for. When I retried the Elvis/gospel search I’d done before I couldn’t narrow the articles any more, as Elvis wasn’t listed as the featured Artist for any of the articles (and that was the tip-off that most of those articles weren’t about him).

An Advanced Search link underneath the Quick Search box right up front and center on the main page would be helpful. Right now the link to Advanced Search is buried at the bottom of the far left column on the main page, and the alternative to reach it is to locate it amidst the very busy Library page (and that’s a click in from the main page). Serious researchers will need this.

After trying a number of different ways of getting at the content in this database, two methods stood out: doing a quick search from the main page, getting the results, then clicking a facet link (artist, writer, subject/genre, etc.) at screen right to narrow the results down to substantial material about the search subject; or simply browsing around the main page (the “new for RBP subscribers box” held some great reviews) and moseying through the lists of artists, writers, subjects, and publications. I serendipitously came across a great July 1989 audio interview of Etta James by Barney Hoskyns (now editor of RBP)this way, as well as a 2007 retrospective by Holly George-Warren titled “Bobbie Gentry: Mystery Girl,” which quotes Camille Paglia. Camille Paglia? She’s in here. I’m betting other music lovers will enjoy wandering through this rich and diverse content in a similar way.

Pricing Prices for 2014–15 for unlimited access, including remote, range from $932 to $24,679 depending on type of institution, FTE, and/or population served. This includes a consortial discount of 20 percent.

Verdict RBP is a treasure trove of musical primary source material, and overall the content is served up well, in multiple modes for searching and browsing. I even enjoyed the unexpectedness of having immediate access on the front page to a piece on the Doobie Brothers next to a review of a Siouxsie & the Banshees’s performance. RBP is an essential acquisition for large public and academic libraries serving serious students of a wide range of music, from blues and country to jazz, reggae, and, of course, rock and roll.


Digital Science; figshare.com

By Bonnie J.M. Swoger


content Figshare is a public repository that allows users to upload any kind of research output. Researchers provide metadata for their work and figshare provides tools allowing the items to be easily cited, viewed, and reused. Figshare connects data with users’ ORCID IDs (international, unique identifiers that allow researchers to register all their work and distinguish themselves from, for example, others with similar names), provides DOIs (digital object identifiers, which identify individual works) for each work added, and provides tracking metrics that show how often data is used.

Originally intended for data tables and figures, figshare has broadened its scope to house research output of all kinds (including negative results, which can be hard to find elsewhere). The system allows users to upload any kind of file, and content includes data tables, graphs and charts, geographic data, chemical structure data, multimedia (images and videos), posters, papers (including preprints and published articles), presentations, and more. Some figshare works are associated with published papers, while others represent unpublished material.

Published figshare data is intended for reuse. Users can select from just two Creative Commons licenses when posting content, CC-BY and CC-0. CC-BY, Creative Commons explains, “Lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.” CC-0, also known as a “no rights reserved” license, places the item in the public domain. As a result, researchers and students don’t need to worry about rights or licenses when reusing figshare material.

The research output in figshare comes mainly from scientific fields (astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth sciences, health sciences, mathematics, physics, etc.), but there is also a growing number of research artifacts from the social sciences, and a humanities category contains a growing number of data sets related to the digital humanities.

Figshare provides collaborative tools for groups, allowing them to create projects and upload associated data files. Collaborators can add notes to files and make changes to shared data. Those who are using the free version of the product can create one project, while Premium users can create up to three.

You may have seen figshare data without even knowing it. Publishers such as PLOS, Nature Publishing Group, Taylor & Francis, and F1000 are currently using the resource to host supplementary data files, display in-text figures and tables, and allow easy downloading of article data.

As well as the more practical tools the site offers for scientists, it also features a blog that offers news (“Taylor & Francis becomes the latest publisher to enhance its content with figshare”) and tips on using the service (“Detailed step-by-step instructions for using the figshare uploader with the latest MAC OS X Mavericks”) and on enhancing your career (“How to become an organized academic”).

Usability Figshare is designed to meet the needs of both data creators and data users. For creators, the product provides tools that allow researchers to quickly and easily upload and share material. Users must create an account to upload content, and they can easily connect their figshare account with their ORCID ID. After creating an account, researchers can drag and drop files into their browsers to add them to the unpublished “My Data” section. The program attempts to recognize the type of content (image, table, media, etc.) and allows editing of the information later on. By default, files are private. Editing an item allows users to add a title, author information (including ­coauthors not registered with figshare), tags, a description and related links—to a published article, for example. Apart from ORCID IDs, the only controlled vocabulary in the system involves categories (biology, chemistry, humanities, etc.) and subcategories. Figshare provides a little guidance for users entering metadata, including an exhortation to provide descriptive item titles.

Users can edit metadata without making an item public, or publish the item. Figshare confirms that you want to make the data public, and asks you to choose between the CC-BY and CC-0 licenses.

All of a user’s data is visible in the “My Data” section. This list displays the item’s title, a thumbnail image of it, the date it was published, its status (private or public) and, in the case of public items, statistics about it. From here, users can add items to projects, add or remove files, and edit item metadata.

For students and researchers looking for data, the product can be searched by keyword or browsed by subject category or content type. When browsing, figshare items display in a grid, showing a thumbnail image of the work and the item title. Because titles are user-created, they are not always the most helpful. While some researchers enter clear, descriptive titles, librarians will cringe at entries such as “Data,” “Research,” or “Results.” Accessing each item, however, is as easy as clicking a thumbnail or title.

Basic searches are performed by simply entering a few keywords. Advanced search is available, too, which allows researchers to specify a content type; change the sort order; search by authors, categories, or tags; or select a date range. Results are presented as a list with titles, authors, content types, and dates included.

One of the real strengths of this resource is how it displays data and research content. Many file types are displayed inline within the page, allowing users to explore the item before downloading it. Spreadsheets can be explored there, presentations can be scrolled through, and video and audio clips can be played. After viewing the item, users may download the data; export it to a reference manager; share the item via Twitter, Facebook or Google+; or copy the embed code to use the item on another web page.

Pricing Figshare is free for data users to browse, and data creators can start a free account, which includes 1GB of private storage, a 250MB limit on file size, and one collaborative project. Premium plan prices range from $79 to $149 per year, based on the amount of private storage (10, 15, and 20GB) and file size limits (500MB or 1GB) needed. Premium plan users can create up to three collaborative projects.

verdict Figshare is a new resource, and it has grown and innovated substantially since it was first developed. Librarians should make sure students and researchers looking for data are aware of the resource and ­encourage faculty at their institutions to share their data, especially those without an institutional repository. The free account will be suitable for most users, but libraries supporting larger labs may find the premium plans worth the small investment.

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