Academic Research Resources: Smart Software Edition

August 8, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

One of my research team called “The Best AI Tools to Power Your Academic Research.”  The article identifies five AI infused tools; specifically:

  • ChatPDF
  • Consensus
  • Research Rabbit

Each of the tools is described briefly. The “academic research” phrase is misleading. These tools can provide useful information related to inventors and experts (real or alleged), specific technical methods, and helpful background or contest for certain social, political, and intellectual issues.

If you have access to a LLM question-and-answer system, experimenting with article summaries, lists of information, and names of people associated with a particular activity — give a ChatGPT system a whirl too.

Stephen E Arnold, August 8, 2023

Need Research Assistance, Skip the Special Librarian. Go to Elicit

July 17, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Academic databases are the bedrock of research. Unfortunately most of them are hidden behind paywalls. If researchers get past the paywalls, they encounter other problems with accurate results and access to texts. Databases have improved over the years but AI algorithms make things better. Elicit is a new database marketed as a digital assistant with less intelligence than Alexa, Siri, and Google but can comprehend simple questions.

7 16 library hub

“This is indeed the research library. The shelves are filled with books. You know what a book is, don’t you? Also, will find that this research library is not used too much any more. Professors just make up data. Students pay others to do their work. If you wish, I will show you how to use the card catalog. Our online public access terminal and library automation system does not work. The university’s IT department is busy moonlighting for a professor who is a consultant to a social media company,” says the senior research librarian.

What exactly is Elicit?

“Elicit is a research assistant using language models like GPT-3 to automate parts of researchers’ workflows. Currently, the main workflow in Elicit is Literature Review. If you ask a question, Elicit will show relevant papers and summaries of key information about those papers in an easy-to-use table.”

Researchers use Elicit to guide their research and discover papers to cite. Researcher feedback stated they use Elicit to answer their questions, find paper leads, and get better exam scores.

Elicit proves its intuitiveness with its AI-powered research tools. Search results contain papers that do not match the keywords but semantically match the query meaning. Keyword matching also allows researchers to narrow or expand specific queries with filters. The summarization tool creates a custom summary based on the research query and simplifies complex abstracts. The citation graph semantically searches citations and returns more relevant papers. Results can be organized and more information added without creating new queries.

Elicit does have limitations such as the inability to evaluate information quality. Also Elicit is still a new tool so mistakes will be made along the development process. Elicit does warn users about mistakes and advises to use tried and true, old-fashioned research methods of evaluation.

Whitney Grace, July 16 , 2023

OSINT Is Popular. Just Exercise Caution

November 2, 2022

Many have embraced open source intelligence as the solution to competitive intelligence, law enforcement investigations, and “real” journalists’ data gathering tasks.

For many situations, OSINT as open source intelligence is called, most of those disciplines can benefit. However, as we work on my follow up to monograph to CyberOSINT and the Dark Web Notebook, we have identified some potential blind spots for OSINT enthusiasts.

I want to mention one example of what happens when clever technologists mesh hungry OSINT investigators with some online trickery.

Navigate to  ( At this site you will find:


But there is a catch, and a not too subtle one:


The site includes mandatory choices in order to access the “secret” TikTok profile.

How many OSINT investigators use this service? Not too many at this time. However, we have identified other, similar services. Many of these reside on what we call “ghost ISPs.” If you are not aware of these services, that’s not surprising. As the frenzy about the “value” of open source investigations increases, geotag spoofing, fake data, and scams will escalate. What happens if those doing research do not verify what’s provided and the behind the scenes data gathering?

That’s a good question and one that gets little attention in much OSINT training. If you want to see useful OSINT resources, check Each click displays one of the OSINT resources we find interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, November 2, 2022

OSINT for Amateurs

January 13, 2022

Today I had a New Year chat with a person whom I met at specialized services conferences. I relayed to my friend the news that Robert David Steele, whom I knew since 1986, died in the autumn of 2021. Steele, a former US government professional, was described as one of the people who pushed open source intelligence down the bobsled run to broad use in government entities. Was he the “father of OSINT”? I don’t know, He and I talked via voice and email each week for more than 30 years. Our conversations explored the value of open source intelligence and how to obtain it.

After the call I read “How to Find Anyone on the Internet for Free.”

Wow, shallow. Steele would have had sharp words for the article.

The suggestions are just okay. Plus it is clear that a lack of awareness about OSINT exists.

My suggestion is that anyone writing about this subject spend some time learning about OSINT. There are books from professionals like Steele as well as my CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access. Also, attending a virtual conference about OSINT offered by those who have a background in intelligence would be useful. Finally, there are numerous resources available from intelligence gathering organizations. Some of these “lists” include a description of each site, service, or system mentioned.

For me and my team’s part, we are working to create 60 second videos which we will make available on Instagram-type services. Each short profile of an OSINT resource will appear under the banner “OSINT Radar.” These will be high value OSINT resources. Some of this information will also be presented in a new series of short articles and videos that Meg Coker, a former senior telecommunications executive, and I will create. Look for these in LinkedIn and other online channels.

Hopefully the information from OSINT Radar and the Coker-Arnold collaboration will provide useful data about OSINT resources which are useful and effective. Free and OSINT can go together, but the hard reality is that an increasing number of OSINT resources charge for the information on offer.

OSINT, unfortunately, is getting more difficult to obtain. Examples include China’s cut offs of technology information and the loss of shipping and train information from Ukraine. And there are more choke points; for example, Iran and North Korea. This means that OSINT is likely to require more effort than previously. The mix of machine and human work is changing. Consequently more informed and substantive information about OSINT will be required in 2022. The OSINT for amateurs approach is an outdated game.

Coker and Arnold are playing a new game.

Stephen E Arnold, January 13, 2022

Disrupting Commercial Sci-Tech Indexes

November 10, 2021

Pooling knowledge is beneficial for advancing research. Despite the availability of digital databases on the Internet, these individual databases are not connected. Nature shares that an American technologist created a, “Giant, Free Index To World’s Research Papers Released Online.”

Carl Malamud designed an online index that catalogs words and short phrases from over one hundred journal articles, including paywalled papers. Malamud released the index under his California non-profit Public Resource. The index is free and its purpose is to help scientists discover insights from all research, even if stuck behind paywalls. Technically Malamud does not have the legal right to index the paywalled articles. However, the index only contains short sentences less than five letters long from the paywalled articles. It does not violate copyright. Publishers may still argue that the index is a violation.

The index is a major innovation:

“Malamud’s General Index, as he calls it, aims to address the problems faced by researchers such as Yadav. Computer scientists already text mine papers to build databases of genes, drugs and chemicals found in the literature, and to explore papers’ content faster than a human could read. But they often note that publishers ultimately control the speed and scope of their work, and that scientists are restricted to mining only open-access papers, or those articles they (or their institutions) have subscriptions to. Some publishers have said that researchers looking to mine the text of paywalled papers need their authorization.”

Some publishers, like Springer Nature, support open source development projects like the Malamud General Index. Springer Nature said open source projects do encounter problems when they do not secure proper rights.

Publishers do not have a case against Malamud. The index does not violate copyright and full text articles are not published in it. Instead the index pools a wealth of information and exposes paywalled articles to a larger audience, who will purchase content if it is helpful to research.

Publishers, however, may need convincing of this perspective.

Whitney Grace, November 10, 2021

Yarchives: a Multi-Topic Repository of Information

October 5, 2021

Here is a useful resource, a repository of Usenet newsgroup articles collected and maintained by computer scientist Norman Yarvin. The Yarchive houses articles on twenty-two wide-ranging topics, from air conditioning to jokes to space. We note a couple that might be of interest to today’s assorted revolutionaries (or those tasked with countering them): explosives and nuclear technologies. Hmm. Perhaps there is a need to balance unfettered access to information with wisdom. The site’s About page reveals some details about Yarvin’s curation process. He writes:

“Articles are not put up here immediately; only a year or three after first saving them do I look at them again, sort them out, and make index pages for them. (By that time I’ve forgotten enough of them to make them worth rereading — and if I find they are not worth rereading, I discard them.) I’ve largely automated the making of index pages; the programs I’ve written for it (mostly in Perl) are available as a tar file (tools.tar). The making of the links to search for Google’s copy of each article is also automated. If it stops working because Google changed their query syntax, please let me know. Links that are on the Message-ID line of the header should link straight to the article in question; other links (from articles I’ve lost the Message-ID for) should invoke a search. For articles from the linux-kernel mailing list, links that are on the Original-Message-ID line of the header are to’s copy of the article. (They used to be to GMANE, but that service went away.) Some changes have been made to these articles, but nothing that would destroy any possible meaning.”

The project seems to be quite the hobby for Yarvin. He goes on to describe the light corrections he makes, articles’ conversion to the UTF-8 character encoding, and his detailed process of checking the worthiness of URLs and making the valuable ones clickable.

Readers may want to peruse the Yarchive and/or bookmark it for future use. Information relevant to many of our readers can be found here, like files on computers, electronics, and security. More generally useful topics are also represented; cars, food, and houses, for example. Then there are the more specialized topics, like bicycles, chemistry, and metalworking. There is something here for everyone, it seems.

Cynthia Murrell, October 5, 2021

Free Resource on AI for Physical Simulations

September 27, 2021

The academics at the Thuerey Group have made a useful book on artificial intelligence operations and smart software applications available online. The Physics-Based Deep Learning Book is a comprehensive yet practical introduction to machine learning for physical simulations. Included are code examples presented via Jupyter notebooks. The book’s introduction includes this passage:

“People who are unfamiliar with DL methods often associate neural networks with black boxes, and see the training processes as something that is beyond the grasp of human understanding. However, these viewpoints typically stem from relying on hearsay and not dealing with the topic enough. Rather, the situation is a very common one in science: we are facing a new class of methods, and ‘all the gritty details’ are not yet fully worked out. However, this is pretty common for scientific advances. … Thus, it is important to be aware of the fact that – in a way – there is nothing magical or otherworldly to deep learning methods. They’re simply another set of numerical tools. That being said, they’re clearly fairly new, and right now definitely the most powerful set of tools we have for non-linear problems. Just because all the details aren’t fully worked out and nicely written up, that shouldn’t stop us from including these powerful methods in our numerical toolbox.”

This virtual tome would be a good place to start doing just that. Interested readers may want to begin studying it right away or bookmark it for later. Also see the Thuerey Group’s other publications for more information on numerical methods for deep-learning physics simulations.

Cynthia Murrell, September 27, 2021

Simple Error for a Simple Link to the Simple Sabotage Field Manual

September 13, 2021

I love Silicon Valley type “real” news. I spotted a story called “The 16 Best Ways to Sabotage Your Organization’s Productivity, from a CIA Manual Published in 1944.” What’s interesting about this story is that the US government publication has been in circulation for many years. The write up states:

The “Simple Sabotage Field Manual,” declassified in 2008 and available on the CIA’s website, provided instructions for how everyday people could help the Allies weaken their country by reducing production in factories, offices, and transportation lines. “Some of the instructions seem outdated; others remain surprisingly relevant,” reads the current introduction on the CIA’s site. “Together they are a reminder of how easily productivity and order can be undermined.”

There’s one tiny flaw — well, two actually — in this Silicon Valley type “real” news report.

First, the url provided in the source document is incorrect. To download the document, navigate to this page or use this explicit link: We verified both links at 0600, September 13, 2021.

And the second:

The write up did not include the time wasting potential of a Silicon Valley type publication providing incorrect information via a bad link. Mr. Donovan, the author of the document, noted on page 30:

Make mistakes in quantities of material when you’ are copying orders. Confuse similar names. Use wrong addresses.

Silly? Maybe just another productivity killer from the thumbtyping generation.

Stephen E Arnold, September 13, 2021

The British Library Channels University Microfilms and the Google

September 1, 2021

While a quick Google search can yield pertinent information, it is hard to find. Why? Google search results are clogged with paid ads and Web sites that are not authoritative sources. Newspapers are still a valuable resource, especially newspapers from before the Internet’s invention. The brilliant news is, as IanVisits shares, is that, “The British Library Puts 1 Million Newspaper Pages Online For Free.”

The British Newspaper Archive contains over forty-four million newspaper pages that range from 1600-2009. The newspapers are from British and Irish sources and they are over 10% of the newspapers the British Library owns. Around half a million pages are added the archive every month.

The newspapers currently require a subscription, but all funds go to scanning more pages to the archive. The British Newspaper Archive has released one million pages for free and plans to add another million over the next four years. Not all pages will be free, however:

“They won’t add all papers, as they say that while they consider newspapers made before 1881 to be in the public domain, that does not mean that will make all pre-1881 digitized titles available for free, as the archive is dependent on subscriptions to cover its costs. If like me you do a lot of historical research, then the cost of the full subscription is not that bad – just £80 a year for the full archive.”

The archive offers 158 free newspaper titles that range from 1720-1880. All of the newspapers that fall within this date range are in the public domain.

It would be awesome if all newspapers were available for free on the Internet, but money makes the world go round. Libraries and universities offer free access to newspaper databases and subscription services, in most cases, are not that expensive.

The good news is that researchers may have access to news stories infused with some of that good old “real” journalistic wire tapping.

Whitney Grace, September 1, 2021

The Internet Archive Dons a Scholar Skin

April 23, 2021

Some of today’s biggest social faux pas are believing everything on the Internet, clicking the first link in search results, and buying items from questionable Internet ads. It is easy to forget that search engines like Google and Bing are for-profit search engines that put paid links at the top of search results. What is even worse is scientific and scholarly information is locked behind expensive paywalls.

Wikipedia is often believed to be a reliable source, but despite the dedication of wiki editors the encyclopedia is not 100% accurate. There are free scholarly databases and newspapers often have their archives online, but that information is not widely known.

Thankfully the Internet Archive is fairly famous. The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library that provides users with access to millions of free books, music, Web sites, videos, and software. They also allow users to peruse old Web sites with the Wayback Machine.

The Internet Archive recently introduced a brand new service that is sheer genius: Internet Archive Scholar. It is described as:

“This full text search index includes over 25 million research articles and other scholarly documents preserved in the Internet Archive. The collection spans from digitized copies of eighteenth century journals through the latest Open Access conference proceedings and pre-prints crawled from the World Wide Web.”

Why did no one at the Internet Archive think of doing this before? It is a brilliant idea that localizes millions of scholarly articles and other information without paywalls, university matriculation, or a library card. Most of the information available through the Internet Archive Scholar would otherwise remain buried in Google search results or on the Web, like old books gathering dust on library shelves.

Internet Archive Scholar is still in the beta phase and enhancements are a positive step.

Whitney Grace, April 23, 2021

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta