Daily Archives: June 29, 2006

Scholarship in a Read/Write World

There have been a couple of fascinating articles on scholarship and social networking published recently. First, historian Roy Rosenzweig asks “Can History Be Open Source?” He recommends that if teachers are worried about students’ use of Wikipedia, they should consider it an opportunity for information literacy: “Spend more time teaching about the limitations of all information sources, including Wikipedia, and emphasizing the skills of critical analysis of primary and secondary sources.” But he thinks historians might also learn a thing or two.

If the Internet and the notion of commons-based peer production provide intriguing opportunities for mobilizing volunteer historical enthusiasm to produce a massive digital archive, what about mobilizing and coordinating the work of professional historians in that fashion? That so much professional historical work already relies on volunteer labor—the peer review of journal articles, the staffing of conference program committees—suggests that professionals are willing to give up significant amounts of their time to advance the historical enterprise. But are they also willing to take the further step of abandoning individual credit and individual ownership of intellectual property as do Wikipedia authors?

The editors of Nature ask a similar question. Maybe scientific publishers should rethink peer review by drawing on the “wisdom of the crowd.” The traditional peer review process was driven, in part, by the scarcity of outlets for research. Only the most significant could be chosen when the costs were so high. In an online world, maybe the evaluative work could be done after publication.

Scientific peer review is typically a process of ‘pre-filtering’ – deciding which of the many papers submitted should be published. By contrast, Digg [a potential model] is a ‘post-filter’, deciding which of the many papers published are most interesting to a group of readers. Today, scientific publishing does the first kind of filtering pretty well, and the second hardly at all. Word of mouth aside, citation analysis, tracked in databases such as ISI and Scopus, is the only good way to determine what the collective wisdom has decided are the most important papers, and this takes years to emerge. Is there a faster and better way?

Maybe so – and maybe emerging social networks are offering some inspiration for how to adapt the “read-write web” to scholarly communication of all kinds. Certainly, there are many unanswered questions – but that’s the kind scholars like best.

Go Where They Are (And Go Now!)

I’m pleased to share this post from our guest ALA Conference blogger, Kim Leeder. Kim is the Special Assistant to the Dean at the University of Arizona Libraries. She also maintains her own blog, Park Ranger for the Intellectual Commons:

Library news delivered to RSS feeders. iPods loaded with course reserves. Library profiles on Facebook. As academic libraries scramble to keep up with the technologies so effortlessly adopted by their students, the University Libraries Section gave librarians at ALA Annual an opportunity to pause and reflect on the issue. At the ULS President’s Program, “Use What They Own, Go Where They Are: Plugging the Library into Student Gadgets and Habitats,” Nancy Davenport and Lynne O’Brien addressed the topic before a packed room.

The two speakers expressed great enthusiasm for the ways libraries can take advantage of new technologies, peppered by the concern that libraries shouldn’t use technology for its own sake. Davenport, President of the Council on Library and Information Resources, emphasized the fact that students are becoming increasingly wired and that libraries need to meet them on their own turf. When looking at ways to use technology, she explained, librarians should be trying to bring content to the places (and the media) where students feel most comfortable. O’Brien, Director of Duke University’s Center for Instructional Technology, reviewed Duke’s digital initiatives (such as their iPod First-Year Experience program), which have been created to spur educational interest in new technologies and foster instructional innovation.

Overall, the message from both Davenport and O’Brien was that libraries should be moving ahead quickly to provide content in formats that students can easily incorporate into their wired lives. Despite the repeated assertion that libraries should not use technology for its own sake, and that we should ensure that it furthers educational goals, this cautionary message may have been lost in the sauce. The issue of how to assess the effectiveness of technology in delivering content and advancing students’ education was not addressed during the presentations, and received only a brief nod during the Q&A. So the question we are left with is this: ARE libraries using technology for its own sake?

The ACRLog blogging team thanks Kim for her excellent post.