Digitally Mediated Information Services

These are my opinions alone and not necessarily those of my employer... in fact the lawyers would rather I said nothing.

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Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States

I am the Director of the School of Information Resources and Library Science. I am primarily interested in digital data gathering in the field, analysis, synthesis and visualization to impact environmental decision making.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Research Works Act: Public Access to taxpayer funded research (not)

Public Access to taxpayer funded research The Research Works Act H.R.3699

The Research Works Act, H.R. 3699, will expand and solidify inefficiency in government expenditures. The bill would make it law that taxpayers pay for research and then pay again to see the results of that research.  At all times we should make government as efficient as possible but, during this fiscal crisis, with unacceptable government debt, we must be doubly vigilant and ensure that taxpayer dollars are not spent needlessly in big government corporate welfare projects that do not create jobs or advance the health and wellbeing of taxpayers.

The current system for dissemination of findings of federally sponsored research is broken, inefficient and needlessly expansive. In spite of nearly miraculous advances in our ability to publish and disseminate information with the help of computers and the Internet, the cost for scientific publications has risen several fold over the past decade. The anomaly is created by inefficient practices where the federal government provides funds to universities and private firms to conduct research and then the researchers sign over monopoly copyright for their results to publishers who then charge private citizens $5 to $30 dollars to see the papers. Each major library and research center pays tens of thousands in taxpayer money to get access to collections of these papers each year. It they want to see the same papers a year later they need to pay thousands again year after year forever.  Libraries have no choice but to pay because researchers need access to the results of previous studies to make sure they are not wasting time and money repeating previous studies, studies whose results are now the sole property of the publishers. The Research Works Act would make this wasteful expenditure the law.

Publishers have a right to make a profit and in some cases provide an added value to publications but in the case of taxpayer funded research they provide editing and distribution services only. Peer review of research papers is primarily conducted by professors and government researchers also at taxpayer expense. Publishers have a “right” to make a fair profit on their contribution but that does not mean they have a “right” to monopoly copyright to taxpayer funded research. Indeed some publishers do very well without requiring monopoly copyright and exclusive distribution rights. The Public Library of Science is one example. Some government agencies have recently begun trying to fix the growing problems with the system by requiring that researchers who receive federal funds make taxpayer funded results available to the funder to provide to the public. For example, the National Institutes of Health funds critical research into cures for illness that are not adequately funded by the private sector. Under the current system of publication, the majority of the results from hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funding, end up being given freely to private firms that then collectively charge taxpayers millions of dollars to be able to read them. In other words, taxpayers like you pay twice for the same thing. Before the NIH policy, private firms end up with monopoly control of health results with exclusive distribution rights to the findings without making substantive financial contributions to the process. Recently, NIH has required NIH funded researchers to give NIH copies of their papers to distribute to taxpayers through the NIH web site. Under the new policy businesses can still add value to the publications by indexing them, for example, and still sell them to private citizens and libraries but not as a monopoly. To get someone to buy the publication, publishers need to actually add value. The current NIH policies have no impact on privately funded research, which is free to give or sell copyright to publishers as they will. This makes great sense for the taxpayer and helps to accelerate research since more people have access to prior work. Some, but not all, publishers are very unhappy with this new arrangement because it removes their monopoly control of the scientist’s publications. So, the publishers have sent their lobbyists to Washington to get congress to put more taxpayer money into their pockets for little or no effort on the part of the publishers, except of course for the effort of lobbying. Some fiscally irresponsible members of congress are siding with the lobbyists, which is no big surprise.

Some of the responsibility for this dreadful situation falls on the shoulders of lazy federal researchers. There is nothing that compels researchers at universities or government research centers to turn over monopoly copyright to publishers. Some of the best publishers do not even require turning over full copyright as a condition of publishing. The researchers just do not bother to read the terms and conditions of the publishing agreements. They do not challenge the details of the agreements and just sign whatever they are given. The money to buy access back from the publisher comes from someone else’s budget so the researchers do not care. Some libraries have tried educating researchers and scholars in their institutions but with little success. It is time that taxpayers and honest members of congress stand up to this outrage and kill the Research Works Act. In fact, we should go further to protect our nearly empty public coffers. We should introduce a new bill that does not restrict federal agencies from protecting taxpayer dollars but requires agencies to protect those dollars. The new bill, which we might call the “Real Research Works Act” would require all federal agencies to establish policies like NIH’s access policy, that guarantee taxpayer access to taxpayer funded research results.  

Contact your member of congress and ask them to kill the “Research Works Act” and replace it with the “Real Research Works Act”.

Friday, December 23, 2011

iBiosphere and the taxi driver

Rich Jorgensen's recent post on the iBiosphere Initiative and particularly Nova Spivack's concept of the MetaWeb brings to mind visions of scientific and social collaboration of the past such as universal classification envisioned by Paul Otlet at the beginning of the 20th century or the Memex envisioned by Vannevar Bush in the middle of the century. It may be that we, at last, have the technological infrastructure in place to allow for sharing knowledge more efficiently at the global level to solve critical problems. However, the iBiosphere must be much more inclusive than any of these visions and in particular must include taxi drivers or at least metaphorical taxi drivers.

Rich identifies the life-critical motivation for sharing knowledge at this scale; the perpetual management of the now human dominated biosphere, the living earth. The main thesis is that we need to work together now to understand how the biosphere works or we’ll find we have destroyed it making earth uninhabitable or at least an extremely unpleasant place to live. I would like to add that unlike Spivack’s MetaWeb, Bush’s Memex or H.G. Wells’ World Brain, iBiosphere must connect to taxi drivers to succeed because the biosphere contains many taxi drivers and in particular taxi drivers who are not interested in protecting the biosphere. I agree completely with the need to understand the biosphere, including Rich’s call to use computation, computer networks and networks of people to solve the problem, but I have reservations about convincing the average citizen that humans have the power to destroy the biosphere and that we also have the power to manage the biosphere wisely. Or, from a more positive perspective, we need to make iBiosphere include taxi drivers.

We can call this the taxi driver problem, in recognition of a Dallas taxi driver that made me more aware of the capacity of the average Joe to ignore the obvious. I am not denigrating all taxi drivers. Indeed, there are wise taxi drivers with which some of us have had the privilege of catching a ride. I am only denigrating taxi drivers who spend the day listening to and believing talk radio because it is the easiest thing to do. The Dallas taxi driver does not believe in climate change and at the same time does not believe that humans have anything to do with it. The reasoning being (if “reasoning” is the right word) is that we cannot control the weather, so we cannot cause climate change. His argument was that if we could control weather we would have stopped the tornados this year. That taxi driver and his friends will continue to behave in ways incompatible with survival of the biosphere unless we connect to their daily lives in meaningful ways and solve problems in a way that includes them.

iBiosphere is not only about climate change or deciding the causes but rather about all aspects of the biosphere. iBiosphere can not be the realm of scholars alone but must include all of the biosphere and its inhabitants in a way no other initiative ever has. Taxi drivers do not need to run XSEDE computer grids but the problems of taxi drivers need to inform scientists for both the inputs and outputs of iBiosphere. Luckily, the digital world has permeated all aspects of the taxi driver’s life from his GPS, to his cell phone, to his gas station, to his talk radio station.  iBiosphere must connect to him through his social network. The taxi driver’s daughter may be more open to new ideas and solutions for sustainability and she connects to the driver through chat on his phone. His gas station is run by an the oil executive who may be interested in sustainable profits through alternative energy sources. His radio station hires talk show hosts who attract sponsors. iBiosphere needs to include teenagers, executives, and talk show hosts as well as scientists. We can do this with smart phones, tablet computers, social media, computational modeling, visualization, science television, high school curricula, university extension offices and Arduino boards because they are all part of iBiosphere.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Digitally Mediated Information Services

Digitally Mediated Information Services
The What, Why, and How of Podcasting
Burks Oakley II, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs
Wednesday, March 8, 2006 12:00 P.M. - 1:00 PM
23 Illini Hall

Using Wikis to Improve Student Writing
Joe Grohens, Lecturer English Department
Wednesday, March 29, 2006 12:00 P.M. - 1:00 P.M.
23 Illini Hall

Digitally Mediated Information Services

Digitally Mediated Information Services


Dan Burstein, book co-author, award winning journalist, and venture capitalist

Digitally Mediated Information Services

Digitally Mediated Information Services

Office for Information Management (OIM)

WHAT: "Tools for Podcasting"
WHO: Emily Retzer, Apple Computer
WHERE: 240 Wohlers Hall
WHEN: Friday, February 24th, 2006 at 12 noon - 12:50 pm

The iPod revolutionized music and it is quickly being utilized in the
classroom as a portable learning tool, allowing anywhere, anytime access
to speeches, audio books, foreign language lessons and lectures.
Recently the easy integration of video, photos and PowerPoint/Keynote
slides has resulted in enhanced podcasts that expand teaching and
learning possibilities. Now, opportunities are endless for faculty and
students to seamlessly create, distribute, and access audio and video
learning materials. At this seminar, you'll learn how easy it is to
create, publish and subscribe to a podcast. At the seminar, Emily will
demo Garageband3 & iWeb, and will also talk about Profcast.

Digitally Mediated Information Services

Digitally Mediated Information Services

Monday, February 13, 2006

Using iLife 06 in Teaching and Research

Digitally Mediated Information Services
March 2nd
1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
NCSA Auditorium (Room 1122)

"Using iLife 06 in Teaching and Research"

Robert Reece
Senior Education Development Executive, Apple

On Thursday, March 2, the Center for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science will welcome Robert Reece, Apple Computer’s Senior Education Development Executive, who will discuss how Apple’s iLife suite ( can maneuver technology into education and research applications. Apple has made tremendous strides towards making technology easy to use, and the iLife suite makes the sharing of digital content via the Web, portable media devices, and other delivery platforms extremely easy. iLife 06 brings together all of the necessary digital tools to achieve professional results at a very low cost.

Apple has been working especially hard to make technologies such as iTunes and the iPod an integral part of the academic community; enabling, for example, lecturers to easily create podcasts or vidcasts of their lectures for further distribution to their students. Apple has partnered with several universities, including Stanford (, in creating solutions for making lectures and other recorded content available through a separate part of the iTunes store and have recently released their iTunes U application (, which facilitates the process of hosting this content. In addition to supporting teaching, Apple’s technology facilitates collaborative research and creates an inexpensive and uncomplicated means of publishing online research findings. For example, with the new iLife suite, you can annotate a copy of your video data to highlight important, non-verbal elements, which can then be easily shared with !
collaborators across the country or world.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Join us on Thursday, March 2nd, in the NCSA Auditorium at 1:00 pm to hear how the iLife suite of programs can be used to incorporate technology into your teaching and research. More information and optional registration available at:

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Beginning blog comments

Denise Green provides an extended quote of from a Gorman, Michael publication Title: Revenge of the Blog People!

This is a very old story. It is the content! The fact that the content is in a blog does not make the content important. The content must make the content important (yuk! that sounds post-modernist). I find Mr. Gorman's comments about editors over general. Usually editorial filtering is very good as long as you are not the one being filtered but sometimes a lack of editorial control is very very good. Blogs are not publishing. They are public speaking.

I agree with Mr Gorman that google is not the "God Brain" and neither are blog postings.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Digitally Mediated Information Services

Digitally Mediated Information Services

Interesting Discussion topic on the use of information services with "questionable" ethical application.
This is a link to the Data Mining applicationon Amazon wish-lists combined with google map.

Take a look at comments at

linked from

Comments are welcome.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Digitally Mediated Information Services

Digital Libraries are more than collections of books. They are collections of people with specialized skills to organize and distribute information. Theya re also places for people to meet to work on information tasks. Digital information services, such as blogs, wikis and podcasts can play a critical role in the collection and dissemination of information in digital libraries. Here we will explore some of the issues involved is using these services.