September 11, 2015
Academic publishers, such as Springer and Elsevier, have a monopoly on academic publishing and they do not want to lose their grasp. In the Slashdot science forum, a report from The Guardian was posted “Paywalled Science Journals Under Fire Again” describing how the academic publishers won a battle in Australia.
The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) fired their editor Professor Stephen Leeder, when he expressed his displeasure over the journal outsourcing its functions to Elsevier. Leeder might have lost his job, but he will speak at a symposium at the State Library of NSW about ways academic communities can fight against the commoditization of knowledge.
What is concerning is that academic publishers are more interested in turning a profit than expanding humanity’s knowledge base:
“Alex Holcombe, an associate professor of psychology who will also be presenting at the symposium, said the business model of some of the major academic publishers was more profitable than owning a gold mine. Some of the 1,600 titles published by Elsevier charged institutions more than $19,000 for an annual subscription to just one journal. The Springer group, which publishes more than 2,000 titles, charges more than $21,000 for access to some of its titles. ‘The mining giant Rio Tinto has a profit margin of about 23%,’ Holcombe said. ‘Elsevier consistently comes in at around 37%. Open access publishing is catching on, but it requires researchers to pay up to $3000 to get a single open access article published.’”
Where does the pursuit of knowledge actually take place if researchers are at the mercy of academic publishers? One might say that researchers could publish their work for free on the Web, but remember that anyone can do that. Being published under a reputable banner adds to study’s authenticity and also helps it get used to support other research. The problem lies in the fact that big academic publishers limit who accesses their content to subscription holders and often those subscriptions are too expensive for the average researcher to afford on their own. Researchers want to have access to more academic content, but it is being locked down.
September 7, 2015
We cannot resist sharing this article with you, though it is only tangentially related to search; perhaps it has implications for the field of eDiscovery. Bloomberg Business asks and answers: “Are Lawyers Getting Dumber? Yes, Says the Woman who Runs the Bar Exam.”
Apparently, scores from the 2014 bar exam dropped significantly across the country compared to those of the previous year. Officials at the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), which administers the test, insist they carefully checked their procedures and found no problems on their end. They insist the fault lies squarely with that year’s crop of law school graduates, not with testing methods. Erica Moeser, head of the NCBE, penned a letter to law school officials informing them of the poor results, and advising they take steps to improve their students’ outcomes. To put it mildly, this did not go well with college administrators, who point out Moeser herself never passed the bar because she practices in Wisconsin, the only state in which the exam is not required to practice law.
So, who is right? Writer Natalie Kitroeff points out this salient information:
“Whether or not the profession is in crisis—a perennial lament—there’s no question that American legal education is in the midst of an unprecedented slump. In 2015 fewer people applied to law school than at any point in the last 30 years. Law schools are seeing enrollments plummet and have tried to keep their campuses alive by admitting students with worse credentials. That may force some law firms and consumers to rely on lawyers of a lower caliber, industry watchers say, but the fight will ultimately be most painful for the middling students, who are promised a shot at a legal career but in reality face long odds of becoming lawyers.”
The 2015 bar exam results could provide some clarification, but those won’t start coming out until sometime in September. See the article for much more information on Moeser, the NCBE, the bar exam itself, and the state of legal education today. Makers of eDiscovery software may want to beef up their idiot-proofing measures as much as possible, just to be safe.
Cynthia Murrell, September 7, 2015
August 31, 2015
If you work in the academic community this headline from Your News Wire shouldn’t come as a surprise: “Nearly All Scientific Papers Controlled By Same Six Corporations.” A group of researchers studied scientific papers published between 1973-2013 and discovered that six major publishers ruled the industry: Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Sage, Reed Elsevier, and ACS. During the specified time period, it was found that the larger ones absorbed smaller publishers. Another, more startling, fact came to light as well: academic research groups must rely more and more on the main six publishers’ interests if they want to get their research published.
“Much of the independence that was once cherished within the scientific community, in other words, has gone by the wayside as these major publishers have taken control and now dictate what types of content get published. The result is a publishing oligopoly in which scientists are muzzled by and overarching trend toward politically correct, and industry-favoring, ‘science.’”
The six publishers publish subjects that benefit their profit margin and as a direct result they influence major scientific fields. Fields concerning chemistry, social sciences, and psychology are the most influenced by the publishers. This leads to corruption in the above disciplines and researchers are limited by studies that will deliver the most profits to the publishers. The main six publishers can also publish the papers digitally for a 40% profit margin.
There is good news. The study did find that publishing a paper via a smaller venue does not affect its reach. It also has the added benefit of the smaller venue not pushing a special interest agenda. The real question is are big publishers even needed in a digital age anymore?
August 27, 2015
The article on Life Hacker titled TUN’s Textbook Search Engine Compares Prices from Thousands of Sellers reviews TUN, or the “Textbook Save Engine.” It’s an ongoing issue for college students that tuition and fees are only the beginning of the expenses. Textbook costs alone can skyrocket for students who have no choice but to buy the assigned books if they want to pass their classes. TUN offers students all of the options available from thousands of booksellers. The article says,
“The “Textbook Save Engine” can search by ISBN, author, or title, and you can even use the service to sell textbooks as well. According to the main search page…students who have used the service have saved over 80% on average buying textbooks. That’s a lot of savings when you normally have to spend hundreds of dollars on books every semester… TUN’s textbook search engine even scours other sites for finding and buying cheap textbooks; like Amazon, Chegg, and Abe Books.”
After typing in the book title, you get a list of editions. For example, when I entered Pride and Prejudice, which I had to read for two separate English courses, TUN listed an annotated version, several versions with different forewords (which are occasionally studied in the classroom as well) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. After you select an edition, you are brought to the results, laid out with shipping and total prices. A handy tool for students who leave themselves enough time to order their books ahead of the beginning of the class.
Chelsea Kerwin, August 27, 2015
April 1, 2015
If you use a public library or attend school, you might be familiar with the OverDrive system. It allows users to download and read ebooks on a tablet of their choice for a limited time, similar to the classic library borrowing policy. According to Reuters in the article, “Update 2: Rakuten Buying eBook Firm OverDrive For $410 Million In US Push” explains how the Japanese online retailer Rakuten Inc. bought the company.
Rakuten has been buying many businesses in the “sharing economy,” including raising $530 million for Lyft. OverDrive is a sharing company, because it shares books with people. It is not the only reason why Rakuten bought the company:
“Another reason for the purchase is the firm’s reach in the U.S. market, [Takahito Aiki, head of Rakuten’s global eBook business] said. Rakuten has been on a buying spree in recent years to reduce reliance on its home market in Japan. In October it bought U.S. discount store Ebates.com for about $1 billion.”
What does this mean for the textbook industry, though? Will it hurt or help it? When Amazon and other online textbook services launched with cheaper alternatives, the brick and mortar businesses felt the crunch. The cup may be either half full or half empty. Publishers may not be familiar with the sharing economy and may have an opportunity to learn first hand if this deal goes down.
Whitney Grace, April 1, 2015
Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com
November 20, 2014
With all the intricacies of SharePoint, continued training and education is important. Short training videos are getting easier to find, so that users don’t have to subscribe to large training programs, or hire someone to come in. It is worth giving these short tutorials a short. We found an interesting one on Channel 19 called, “Azure, Office 365, and SharePoint Online has REST endpoints with Mat Velloso.”
The summary says:
“Mat Velloso explains how to create applications and services in Azure that get permission to access OTHER applications like SharePoint! We’ll dig into the URL Structure of these services, see how to get events when things are updated, and figure out how ODATA and REST fit into these cloud building blocks.”
Stephen E. Arnold of ArnoldIT.com pays a good amount of attention to training and continuing education regarding SharePoint. His web service, ArnoldIT.com, is devoted to all things search, including a large SharePoint feed that helps users and managers stay on top of the latest tips, tricks, and news that may affect their implementation. Keep an eye out for further learning opportunities.
Emily Rae Aldridge, November 20, 2014
October 20, 2014
Sail Labs is clearly proud of its recent contribution to children’s education. The News & Events section of their website crows, “ITalk2Learn—a Learning Platform Powered by Sail’s ASR Technology for Children’s Voices—Wins 2 Awards in European Competition.” Hm, I suppose differences between adults’ and children’s voices would pose certain challenges for automatic speech recognition. You can read more about the triumphant platform here. The press release briefly informs us:
As a consortium member of the collaborative European project iTlak2Learn, SAIL LABS Technology is proud to have contributed its ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) technology to help develop a learning platform to support children aged 5 to 11 learning mathematics.
SAIL LABS is now especially delighted to announce that the platform prototype qualified for the win of 2 awards during EC-TEL 2014, the Ninth European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning.
*Best Demo Award, Second Position
The award is sponsored by Online EDUCA Berlin, the largest global e-learning conference for the corporate, education and public service sectors. The awards were granted based on the votes of the conference participants.
*Honourable Mention by Business Angels
The website for that European tech-enhanced learning conference, EC-TEL 2014, can be found here. Sail Labs, whose breezy name stands for Speech-Artificial-Intelligence-Language-Laboratories, was formed back in 1999. The company specializes in high-end software for speech and multimedia analysis for vertical markets. Sail Labs is located in Vienna, Austria.
Cynthia Murrell, October 20, 2014
October 10, 2014
There is a well-known crisis in academic publishing. Most of the discussion centers on journal articles with many librarians and other thought leaders publicly denouncing the skyrocketing price increases. And while the serials crisis has been ongoing in some part for at least two decades, more recent attention has turned to inflated textbook prices.
This recent Reddit thread, “More students are illegally downloading college textbooks for free,’ laments rising costs and their effects on students. One disgruntled student sums up the issue:
“Yea, this is what happens when costs skyrocket and become generally un-affordable to students (who are already broke teenagers). You create an ‘underground’ market for people who can’t afford the legal price of the book. Publishers often create new versions every year, with little to no difference in content, but charge a few hundred dollars. And the people that write the book chapters (often professors with specialized research areas, or even post-doctoral students) don’t get royalties of the book.”
This thread was inspired by a Washington Post article, “More Students are Illegally Downloading Textbooks for Free.” And while piracy is never laudable, it does reveal weaknesses in systems, in the textbook system in this case. The students’ and concerned professors’ criticisms are sincere. The industry has responded by offering textbook rental plans and digital offerings in recent years. But anyone who crunches the numbers will see that those new means of access do not put a dent in the corporate greed at the center of the controversy, nor does it address the inequity of not paying professors and other writers for their work in assembling the material.
Emily Rae Aldridge, October 10, 2014
July 29, 2014
Can education catch up to progress? Perhaps, especially when corporations take an interest. Fortune discusses “Educating the ‘Big Data’ Generation.” As companies try to move from simply collecting vast amounts of data to putting that information to use, they find a serious dearth of qualified workers in the field. In fact, Gartner predicted in 2012 that 4.4 million big-data IT jobs would be created globally by 2015 (1.9 million in the U.S.). Schools are now working to catch up with this demand, largely as the result of prodding from the big tech companies.
The field of big data collection and analysis presents a previously rare requirement—workers that understand both technology and business. Reporter Katherine Noyes cites MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, who will be teaching a course on big data this summer:
“We have more data than ever,’ Brynjolfsson said, ‘but understanding how to apply it to solve business problems needs creativity and also a special kind of person.’ Neither the ‘pure geeks’ nor the ‘pure suits’ have what it takes, he said. ‘We need people with a little bit of each.’”
Over at Arizona State, which boasts year-old master’s and bachelor’s programs in data analytics, Information Systems chair Michael Goul agrees:
“’We came to the conclusion that students needed to understand the business angle,’ Goul said. ‘Describing the value of what you’ve discovered is just as key as discovering it.’”
In order to begin meeting this new need for business-minded geeks (or tech-minded business people), companies are helping schools develop programs to churn out that heretofore suspect hybrid. For example, Noyes writes:
“MIT’s big-data education programs have involved numerous partners in the technology industry, including IBM […], which began its involvement in big data education about four years ago. IBM revealed to Fortune that it plans to expand its academic partnership program by launching new academic programs and new curricula with more than twenty business schools and universities, to begin in the fall….
“Business analytics is now a nearly $16 billion business for the company, IBM says—which might be why it is interested in cultivating partnerships with more than 1,000 institutions of higher education to drive curricula focused on data-intensive careers.”
Whatever forms these programs, and these jobs, ultimately take, one thing is clear: for those willing and able to gain the skills, the field of big data is wide open. Anyone with a strong love of (and aptitude for) working with data should consider entering the field now, while competition for qualified workers is so very high.
Cynthia Murrell, July 29, 2014
March 9, 2014
If Wolfram Alpha had been around when I was in high school it would have made my math and science homework a whole lot easier. Other than solving physics equations, Wolfram Alpha can be used for a whole lot more. The smart database just released a new endeavor called the Documentation Center.
The Documentation Center is still in the preliminary version, but it can be used for:
“The Wolfram System’s unified computation and dynamic document architecture makes possible a new level of interactive presentation—notably allowing finished “slides” on which full interactive input and dynamic computation can still be done. The Wolfram Language’s cell-structured documents also conveniently allow calculations leading up to graphics or other elements to be maintained in the underlying document, but hidden for presentation.”
A whole new interactive level with data is a great idea! It makes it more interesting and Wolfram Alpha gives the chance to improve its quality. Browsing through the new Documentation Center, however, is confusing. It’s not explained how it can be used, only what it can do. Perhaps it requires a purchased membership. It looks like a system for the one percent.