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Another Elsevier Scandal

May 23, 2009
Red beads on wooden abacus © Tetra Images/Corbis

Red beads on wooden abacus © Tetra Images/Corbis

Found another Elsevier scandal. From a year ago.

Basically, it is to do with a scientific journal, published by Elsevier, which has one of the highest impact factor amongst mathematics research journals. Problem is, one of the most prolific writers of the journal is also the editor in chief  who has a cult following. This would explain the inflated citation count.

To be honest, it is an acknowledged fact that many editors and writers/researchers play this game, so I’m not really surprised. I’m just surprised that Elsevier is involved in this when they are the ones behind Scopus.

More reading:

Elsevier Math Editor Controversy in The Scholarly Kitchen

The power of self-citation and self-publishing – the case of el Naschie in Re Research

Crackpot Scandal In Mathematics in Slashdot

You’re a mean one, Mr. El Naschie in Scientific blogging


More on Elsevier Journal Scandal

May 16, 2009
Capsules and Pills © Bilderbuch/Design Pics/Corbis

Capsules and Pills © Bilderbuch/Design Pics/Corbis

As previously reported, publishing giant Elsevier has admitted to publishing six fake medical journals between 2000 and 2005, all of which were sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and released in Australia.

According to a report in Library Journal, 5/14/2009, byJosh Hadro, the Elsevier Journal Scandal is provoking response from librarians who are calling for some action from ALA and MLA.

The problem now is that libraries have always promoted themselves as being a place where genuine, credible, timely and authentic information is available for the patrons. Now, this scandal has challenged libraries and librarians as facilitators or gatekeepers of that genuine information.

In his article, Hadro quotes Jonathan Rochkind, Digital Services and Software Engineer at Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries:

What responsibility do librarians have to detect such things on behalf of our patrons? Is it feasible to expect us to be able to do that, or is the increasingly giant body of mostly electronically read literature way out of our ability to be expected to ever catch anything like this? And if even professional experts in publishing conventions can’t reasonably be expected to catch it… what does this say about scholarly output in general?

In response to this, the Progressive Librarians Guild has issued a call for Elsevier to End Corrupt Publishing Practices and for Library Associations to Take Advocacy Role on Behalf of Scientific Integrity. Details available here.

Elsevier’s  statement by CEO of Health Sciences Division Michael Hansen is available here.

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

May 15, 2009

John Keilman, writing for the the Chicago Tribune re-asks Technology author Nicholas Carr’s question, “Is Google making Us Stupid?”

Some choice quotes from Keilman’s article:

Too much surfing, scanning and tweeting has given me the attention span of a gnat on Red Bull.

And it’s not just my relationship with the printed page that has suffered. I can’t make it through half of a TV drama or three innings of a baseball game before I grow restless. I’ll whip out the BlackBerry or wander to my desktop computer and blaze through a few news and entertainment sites until my click-starved mind is satisfied.

But how long can that last? Some research suggests that the brain itself changes with the media it absorbs — becoming, in the case of the Internet, more amenable to distraction, less capable of deep, sustained thought.

Post it notes on computer screen © Phil Boorman/Cultura/Corbis

Post it notes on computer screen © Phil Boorman/Cultura/Corbis

I’m not sure about Google making me stupid. Actually, I think it is great and I use it all the time to make “quick-and-dirty” searches when I have a trivial (as in trivial pursuit) to recall (okay, technically, I’m not supposed to be encouraging the use of Google as a librarian, but that I think is another post). And I think that’s the problem. Using Google for my”quick-and-dirty” searches – it’s making me forgetful. Since it is so easy and convenient to Google something, there seem to be less incentive to commit that thing to memory. I can’t even remember my phone number since that can also be Googled! Well, actually, I’ve never been able to remember my own phone number, with or without Google, since I don’t normally dial that number.

So, if not being able to recall things is considered a kind of stupidity, then I’m STUPID as charged. My stupidity is not so much because I’m easily distracted and cannot have a sustained “relationship with the printed page” (I still have a viracious appetite for books and although I do a lot of reading online nowadays, I also frequent the bookstore and library for my dose of reading material as I prefer the tactile and olfactory satisfaction of a book), as Keilman suggests, but rather I’ve become too lazy to use my brain to store information. Now, I seem to only index certain terms in my brain, or parts of information, and when I need to embellish more details, I would just Google for it. Like my phone number… Perhaps it’s also due to the Information Obesity factor. Too much information produced at too fast a speed to be processed. So, I’ll just index or bookmark that for later use.

Information Obesity

May 13, 2009
Carviar on spoon © Fancy/Veer/Corbis

Carviar on spoon © Fancy/Veer/Corbis

Recently, I came across a book by David Shrenk, Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut. In the book, Shrek talks about how information is produced at a much faster speed than we are able to process it. And this was back in 1997, mind you. I remember a line:

Information, once rare and cherished like caviar, is now plentiful and taken for granted like potatoes.

And you know potatoes are starchy carbohydrates. So, it is inevitable that Information Obesity sets in.

Information obesity, by the way, is the title of a new book by Andrew Whitworth, published by Chandos (Oxford, UK). Just as too much good food, or maybe just too much food can lead to physical obesity (I shall exercise tomorrow), information overload can lead to information obesity. But Whitworth also posits that there are other reasons responsible for information obesity.

Summary from the publisher:

This book is an exploration of information literacy and ICT skills education from the point of view of social and political theory. It uses these theories both to argue why the idea of information literacy is so important in the 21st century, and also to develop some teaching strategies to this end. The book argues that only through expanding the range of information literacy education – taking it beyond just formal school and university education and into homes, friendship networks and workplaces – can we construct an effective educational response to information technology in the 21st century. Information literacy includes, but transcends, ICT skills and ultimately is about being politically, socially and communicatively competent in an information society.

Wonder if it’s in our library?

Data Smog Surviving the Information Glut: Surviving the Information Glut
By David Shenk
Published by HarperCollins, 1997

Information Obesity
By Andrew Whitworth
Published by Chandos (Oxford, UK), 2009

Elsevier Published Fake Journals

May 10, 2009

According to the scholarly kitchen, which referred to the magazine The Scientist, publishing giant Elsevier has admitted to publishing six fake medical journals between 2000 and 2005.

The fake journals were all sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and were released in Australia.

Survival of the fittest tag: Folksonomies, findability, and the evolution of information organization

May 8, 2009

Alexis Wichowski, doctoral candidate in Information Science at the College of Computing and Information at the University at Albany, writes about folksonomies, findability, and the evolution of information organization in the May 4th issue of First Monday. The abstract of the article is below:

Folksonomies have emerged as a means to create order in a rapidly expanding information environment whose existing means to organize content have been strained. This paper examines folksonomies from an evolutionary perspective, viewing the changing conditions of the information environment as having given rise to organization adaptations in order to ensure information “survival” — remaining findable. This essay traces historical information organization mechanisms, the conditions that gave rise to folksonomies, and the scholarly response, review, and recommendations for the future of folksonomies.

Twitter for Libraries (and Librarians)

May 6, 2009

The in thing right now is Twitter. Even CNN and celebrities like Ashton Kutcher are jumping on the bandwagon of this new social-networking tool.

In the May issue of Computers in Libraries, Sarah Milstein, co-author of “Twitter and the Micromessaging Revolution,” a research report from O’Reilly Media, writes about Twitter for Libraries (and Librarians):

For example, a library could share all kinds of news that patrons want. Short messages can tell people about events such as readings, lectures, and book sales; newly available resources; or changes in the building hours. One message a day or one a week could share a tip on finding or accessing information online or in the building. Twitter posts can link to interesting news stories about literacy or about libraries. When appropriate, the posts can link to a library’s own website and blog for more in-depth information.

The essence of Twitter is conversation. Libraries, however, tend to use it as a broadcast mechanism. Libraries on Twitter should encourage followers to interact with the library—ask questions, share links, re-Tweet interesting posts from others, and reply when people message you (those are prefaced with @ your account name). For professional development, look for conference coverage on Twitter.

Given the many potential uses of Twitter for libraries—not to mention the likelihood that your patrons are already on it—it’s a great medium to embrace. And at just a few sentences a day, the lightweight format doesn’t require much time to make a big impact.The accounts above will give you a feel for library Twittering (for more libraries that Twitter, check out