Monday, January 30, 2012

A week after #scio12, #rwa and reinventing discovery

This week has seen a convergence of three topics.  First, I got back from the Science Online 2012 unconference a little over a week ago (1/22).  I had been meaning to write a post to wrap up the sessions I attended, but then I started to see a lot of news concerning the Research Works Act.  I have also been reading Michael Nielsen's Reinventing Discovery, and there has been a good deal of discussion about that book on the net as well, including from the famous #scio12 @BoraZ.  So, with all this open access and open science discussion swirling in my head, I figured it was a good time to put the electrons down on the blog.
  1. Science Online 2012.  I tweeted a bunch of the sessions already (and blogged about one), and most of the sessions have some form of online abstract, so I don't need to go into the details.  What struck me most about the conference was the discussion between the science journalists and the scientists themselves.  Scientists are stuck in a hard place because many academic departments and/or institutions frown on bloggers/tweets and people who try communicate their research to a general audience.  Journalists have a hard time working with scientists who do not understand their craft.  These two sessions particularly caught my attention.
  2. Research Works Act (RWA). While I had known about the RWA since well before the unconference (January 5th), the topic didn't catch fire with scientists until a post from Fields Medalist, Dr. Gowers wrote "Elsevier — my part in its downfall".  That sparked a huge amount of discussion and other blog posts from a variety of scientists.  Many of those posts are cataloged at Michael Nielsen's Polymath Wiki page on journal publishing reform. (I see some posts that are missing on the wiki, so I will add those later.)
  3. This brings me to Michael Nielsen's book Reinventing Discovery.  I have been slowly reading the book (a library copy), and I was reading it on the way to and from the Science Online Conference.  Two copies were being given away at the conference, but alas, I didn't win a copy.  In any case, here are some good reviews of the book by Bora, John Dupuis and Martin Fenner.  Michael also talked about his book on Science Friday.  Here is the podcast last Friday, January 27th,

Levels of copyright and some questions

Amy, Jenica and Andy brought up some good questions concerning copyright, and the copying of music and audio files from library materials, and should librarians talk to (confront?) a patron concerning actions that could be deemed to be illegal. But, there are a whole range of actions that patrons could do with library materials (either in the library or with the materials checked out).  At what point should I mention something about copyright to the patron?
  1. Patron checks out a CD from the library.
  2. Patron checks out a music CD, and tells the circulation person that the CD will be returned tomorrow because the person is going to rip the music to their iTunes library.
  3. Patron checks out 20 music CDs, and tells the circulation person that the CDs will be returned tomorrow because the person is going to rip the music to their iTunes library.
  4. Patron checks out 20 audio CDs (audio book) and listens to them in a CD player.
  5. Patron copies 20 checked out music CDs to a computer at home.
  6. Patron starts copying those 20 checked out audio CDs to a laptop in the library.
  7. Patron copies the 20 audio CDs at home and then deletes the files after three weeks once the book is due back to the library.
  8. Patron copies the 20 audio CDs at home and then deletes the files after six months once the person is done listening to the book.
  9. Patron copies the 20 audio CDs at home, listens to the book, and forgets to delete the files from the iPod.
  10. Patron purchased a Beatles album in 1964, now copies the same CD to their iPod.
  11. Patron purchased a Journey tape in 1983, now copies the same CD to their iPod.
  12. Patron purchased a Rush CD in 1996, lost the CD, and copies the same library CD to their iPod.
  13. Patron starts copying lots of CDs from the library collection within the library without checking the materials out.
I am sure there are plenty of other scenarios, but I am not sure at which point I should approach the patron.  Even with the egregious case where the person is copying 20 CDs to a laptop within the library, the person could only be intending to load the music or audio book for the next 2-3 weeks for the checkout period.  I have no idea how long the person plans on keeping that information.  [I know that I could ask.] When should I warn the patron about copyright law?  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My reply to the "Public Access to Digital Data" RFI

Here it is.  I wish I had more time to be comprehensive, but this is what I had time to write.  Better this than nothing.

Hello Ted Wackler,

I am writing to the OSTP office concerning the “Request for Information: Public Access to Digital Data Resulting From Federally Funded Scientific Research” that is available at

I will put in my comments after the numbered sections below. 

Preservation, Discoverability, and Access 

(1) What specific Federal policies would encourage public access to and the preservation of broadly valuable digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research, to grow the U.S. economy and improve the productivity of the American scientific enterprise?
I would like to see PubMed Central ( include more data as well as journal articles.  With the new NSF data management plan requirements, research done with NSF funds could copy the data to an NSF repository.  I would also like to see expanded roles for NTIS and the DOE Information Bridge in holding more data from research.  I know that NTIS often sells their reports, but it would be better if the reports and data were freely available to the general public. Astronomical data could be held at the NASA ADS with greater Federal support,

(2) What specific steps can be taken to protect the intellectual property interests of publishers, scientists, Federal agencies, and other stakeholders, with respect to any existing or proposed policies for encouraging public access to and preservation of digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research?
Where applicable, I would recommend that Federally funded research license their material with a CC by license ( or CC0 (  This will provide the widest reach to readers throughout the whole world.  This will also have the most benefit for scientists, federal agencies, the readers and the citizens of the United States.  It may not be as beneficial for commercial publishers, but they have plenty of other non-government sponsored material they can publish. 

(3) How could Federal agencies take into account inherent differences between scientific disciplines and different types of digital data when developing policies on the management of data?
There are many different data types.  The Global Change Master Directory provides recommendations to scientists who deposit data to the directory.  They provide guides to their metadata writers (Directory Interchange Format (DIF) Writer's Guide). See and  This guide could be used as a template to help data management writers describe datasets in other disciplines.

The Digital Curation Centre is another good resource to consult, This is another good resource, “National initiatives for promoting data management strategies: an overview,”

(4) How could agency policies consider differences in the relative costs and benefits of long-term stewardship and dissemination of different types of data resulting from federally funded research?
It depends on who needs to use that data, and the intended audience of the research.

(5) How can stakeholders (e.g., research communities, universities, research institutions, libraries, scientific publishers) best contribute to the implementation of data management plans?
There are many librarians who are getting to be a lot more familiar with data management plans and e-science.  I would recommend that the government work with university programs such as those listed at

(6) How could funding mechanisms be improved to better address the real costs of preserving and making digital data accessible?
I am not sure.

(7) What approaches could agencies take to measure, verify, and improve compliance with Federal data stewardship and access policies for scientific research? How can the burden of compliance and verification be minimized?
Scientists need positive reinforcement for depositing and describing their data.  If they received more grant funding for cooperating in projects, or if they received greater recognition by university administrators, then that would be some positive rewards for compliance.

(8) What additional steps could agencies take to stimulate innovative use of publicly accessible research data in new and existing markets and industries to create jobs and grow the economy?
There are always more mashups that could be done with GIS data and social science data.

(9) What mechanisms could be developed to assure that those who produced the data are given appropriate attribution and credit when secondary results are reported?
Data sets could be given a permanent citation link, such as a DOI. I would recommend that you read some of the papers presented at this conference, “Developing Data Attribution and Citation Practices and Standards: An International Symposium and Workshop”

Standards for Interoperability, Re-Use and Re-Purposing

(10) What digital data standards would enable interoperability, reuse, and repurposing of digital scientific data? For example, MIAME (minimum information about a microarray experiment; see Brazma et al., 2001, Nature Genetics 29, 371) is an example of a community-driven data standards effort.
This chapter might be of use to you. “The Current State of Data Integration in Science” found in the book, Steps Toward Large-Scale Data Integration in the Sciences: Summary of a Workshop. National Research Council (US) Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics.

(11) What are other examples of standards development processes that were successful in producing effective standards and what characteristics of the process made these efforts successful?
I can’t find any right now.

(12) How could Federal agencies promote effective coordination on digital data standards with other nations and international communities?
Start with one country, and then start working with other countries.  I’d recommend that you take a look at the policies of the United Kingdom. Consider looking at and

(13) What policies, practices, and standards are needed to support linking between publications and associated data?
I would recommend that you take a look at this article, for some practices that are used.