Christina's LIS Rant
Thursday, April 24, 2008
  ROTFL: SPSS is the "secret sauce"
A news report by Stephen Levy of Newsweek heard on WTOP this morning says that SPSS is the secret sauce for microtargeting voters.... tee-hee... I guess he didn't really do enough homework and definitely didn't take a statistics for social sciences class ;)
Today the report is available from: http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=10, on the left hand side... of course tomorrow it will be gone.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
  Workshop: Social technology for biodiversity
University of Maryland's (world-famous) HCIL is hosting it's 25th Annual Symposium and Open House May 29-30. The second day will be full of workshops and I'll be presenting at the one on social computing technologies for biodiversity. Specifically, I'll be presenting on science blogging and I'll be learning from the participants, too.

This promises to be a very exciting event and I would encourage anyone who is anywhere near the area and who has a research interest to consider attending.

The other workshops look pretty incredible, too, as do the symposium events.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
  "Trusting" Pseudonymous Bloggers
ScienceBlogs has this poll...

Of course, it's been my contention since about 2004 that any/all bloggers build trust in their audiences over time. I'm not sure real-world scientific authority conferred through publications is really all that meaningful to the people outside your research area or really to people who read your blog. One of the STS folks studied this and found that members of the public primarily judge scientists by their institutional affiliation, sigh.

Also interesting, probably worth study, is that lo and behold people select which blogs to read by if they are well written and if they have a unique/fun/funny/entertaining voice...
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
  Goodbye to a library advocate, and physicist
Via Molly and Dana

The great physicist John Archibald Wheeler died earlier this week at the age of 96. There are plenty of fond memories in the science blogosphere (see for example, those at CosmicVariance), but I wanted to give broader voice to his support for libraries as evidenced by his commencement speech at the library school at UT entitled: Selling Library Service.

What can I say to you who have done so much, worked so hard, and are about to go forth to give the world so much? My message is a simple one. It is not enough for you only to give library and information service to those who know enough to ask for it. You will only occupy the place of leadership in the community that rightly belongs to you if you go out and sell the idea of library and information service to those as yet untouched by it.

Nothing does more than information, rightly grasped, to open the doors of the world to a better tomorrow; and no agency does more than the library—in today's new and wider sense—to provide the most reliable information, the best thinking on the whole sweep of human concerns. The library is the university of the people.

(as an aside - it's not the scientists who are anti-library - it's the management/administration- who think that the next generation doesn't need the help finding, organizing, and acquiring information that they did. IMO library schools, alongside professional associations are paramount in defending and publicizing libraries... the study of information is not enough, we need libraries!)
Sunday, April 06, 2008
  STGlobal2008: Day 2 Wrap-Up
It's so interesting going to a conference outside of LIS. I very well might have been the only one there blogging the conference and the one photographer didn't plan to put pictures up on flickr or anything. It's interesting, too, because the European students had incredibly different perspectives on science policy than the Americans did - in particular the Americans interested in defense, space, or national security issues.

The Day 2 Plenary was given by Professor Fabian Muniesa who is at the Ecole des Mines in Paris.
His points were very interesting - he spoke of the current research at his university as an example of the combination of STS and science policy studies and provided a specific example from their current research to highlight this combination.
He spoke of
economizing - meaning saving money, but also meaning making things calculable
politicizing - meaning making things arguable (not in a pejorative sense but to open for public participation - interesting, because clearly this isn't the meaning most people would think of so this might be a cultural translation)

He gave a history of sociology in his engineering school, and spoke of their current efforts with Sciences Po and MIT to develop a pedagogy for the analysis of controversies (see: http://www.demoscience.org/).

The case he gave is the results of a watershed law in France, the LOLF, which is intended to revolutionize, modernize, and reform the financial and budgetary systems. It's sort of like a massive Government Performance & Results Act (GPRA) type thingy, but with the added stress of direct linkages to funding, and a change of the information systems and nomenclature required to do government financial business (wow!). It's deciding on the allocation of funds through missions, objectives, etc., instead of via the pre-existing gov't structure. Another key aspect is the performance indicators --- including scientometrics *using WoS data*. Hm, why is no one on the SIG-metrics list talking about this - or maybe they did a few years ago? So you see, lots of rich research areas there.

Lots of good stuff that I'm not going to bother transcribing from my notes - but interesting about the performativity of indicators... "gaming in targetworld" (see what looks to be a fascinating article by Hood in 2006). This model and way of describing this phenomenon seems much clearer than "teaching to the test" and others.

The student session was next, and once again lots of interesting stuff -- almost all of us had real issues with timing (I was cut off 2/3 the way through my slides, oops, one guy went so fast he made my head spin) and audience (one guy spent a ton of time showing us pictures of voting machines - which were probably only informative for those living under rocks or, who knows, maybe the people from Europe). I really didn't get much time for feedback, unfortunately. I think my topic was appropriate for the conference, but it definitely could be presented to make
more sense to the attendees. I don't intend to put my slides on slideshare because I'm still planning to do more with the work, but I could send them via e-mail if anyone is interested.


Saturday, April 05, 2008
  Nature Geosciences Commentaries on Science Blogs
yeah, I know what I said about nature geosciences, but this is special, and you can get the article with free registration. (oh, yeah, they must be out to get bloggers to read their journal - there are also two commentaries on gender)

via: Peer-to-Peer
Both from the April 2008 (v1 n4) issue of Nature Geosciences.

To blog or not to blog? - p208
Gavin Schmidt
Some interesting points about the nuances of communicating science to the public and also why a member of the public won't really be able to access the science even if they can get physical access to an article. Talks about informal scholarly communication as "second-stage peer review." He oversells the ability of the average scientist to successfully translate all of the bumps and wiggles of the graph - but essentially, I think he's right on with using the stories told over time in a blog to transmit tacit knowledge.

Minority report - p209
Myles Allen
Starts with thinking that it's good to rebut rubbish reports, but then an article of his was rebutted on RealClimate and "By the time I heard about it...." My immediate response to that is surprise that he doesn't read that blog given the field he's in? I have a bunch of ego feeds in my name, surely I'd see articles written about me... So the author didn't rebut the misinterpretation, and this got trotted out later by journalists, etc. He seems to be suggesting that commentary and discussion on peer reviewed papers should be in and only in peer reviewed journals -- in the peer reviewed portion of the journal (so, like, not letters or commentary I guess) and that scientists shouldn't talk to journalists and that journalists should read the peer reviewed articles themselves? Yeah, right, that's how it works.

I see what he's saying, but the majority of the scientists are pretty respectful and careful on their blogs when talking about science. It would have been more appropriate for him to have engaged the blogger in conversation so then both could have learned and shared.

Update: there is a lot of interesting discussion on this in the geoblogosphere (like on geosciences blogs), I recommend these for further reading.


  STGlobal2008: Second Plenary
(I'm so glad I had my computer out and tried to get notes - this was an amazing talk, but really fast and really clever so the notes don't do it justice

David J. Goldston
Former staff director for the U. S. House committee on science.

One of the goals of his talk was to talk about areas of research that need STS research.

There is a confusion between the study of things, and the things themselves

example: discussion of new Illinois physicist in congress – science deals with fact and congress deals with …. so the physicist is just what we all need to set congress straight
fundamental fallacy that policy is just about establishing fact – that the barrier to policy formulation is the establishment of fact. This is rare in public policy.
- mere fact is irrelevant to discussion in cases like stem cell research
- climate change looks more like fact issue, but it is much more like an outlier (congress asking a scientific, factual question, to which science has a consensus answer is really rare and distorting)

sts can help in the science community and help understand that it isn’t all about “fact”
also look for intersections where science can help policy
- conflicts of interest
- mechanistic aspects

looking toward science in a polarized environment – tendency to conflate science and policy is more likely – want a scientific explanation for everything (see Merton, Goldston suggests Ibsen title)

that was about science informing other policy, about science policy itself…
NAS Rising Above the Gathering Storm (2005) – case study science policy, but very similar to Vannevar Bush famous Frontier piece… 1980s debate is missing, emphasis is mostly on university and basic science
recommendations were:
* increase in physical science research (8%, totally arbitrary), (NIH doubling of funding over 5 years was a “catastrophic success” – money good, more better, but too fast all at once probably not so much), deciding how much, how, metrics, impacts on universities… basic questions unanswered..
* more funding for younger researchers – he’s on a panel now -- how do you measure that? how do you know what the current status is?
* more “transformative” research – what does that mean? can you tell in advance? how can you identify in advance things that will shake things up? more than a matter of funding.
* energy research – ARPA-E to jump start energy research – argument by analogy – but we can’t solve these very different problems the same way…Energy may have more to do with market failures, not actual R&D failures – no research – can prime pump, but no market for new technologies so no incentives

need for research impact of science on the public (I got that wrong)
- he’d like to see a study comparing claims about potential value of the internet vs. value of tv (gosh, hasn’t this been done – a lot!)

q: supply driven innovation vs. demand driven innovation (grand challenges problem vs. …) Sacks vs. Nature editorial (HIV vaccine?)
a: it can’t be either/or, the HIV vaccine is a bad example, biomed is actually more direct from research to problem in society… Good example is carbon sequestration (do we know enough to demo, or do we need to go back to basic sciences)… need a range of approaches depending on what you’re talking about, but generally right that you need to keep eventual uses in mind – get farther head if less scattered

q: which areas of science impact on public are most promising from DC insider view
a: nano has been interesting – but funding because gov’t regulatory interest – very difficult to get these done in other areas where not a clear line to regulatory or other gov’t interest

q: separate science policy from technology policy, what is appropriate model for energy if not earpa
a: range of tools like energy standards (efficiency) can create a market
how effective are DOE labs – academics say that’s the problem – all the money to DOE labs, maybe more analysis of how the labs are producing new science (?)

q: sts too abstract, science policy all about budget, scientists/engineers all a technology problem – how can we get together to solve these things
a: maybe we can find big problems, then address all of the ways to approach this using all of the tools and approaches we have from the various areas --- instead of generating questions from within the research area.

q: is it fair to spend 50% of the budget on Defense?
a: 50% of the discretionary budget so take away… 50% of R&D. Do we spend too much on defense? It would be great if we were in a situation where we needed to spend less money on defense…. but money going to defense still does address energy and other questions.. we could be using the budget more effectively to impact other needs

q: how can we influence, once
a: depends on where you end up – it’s a relatively small community with a few pressure points – so if you are in the right place, and you have the right people in the right place, there’s a lot of drag in the system, but you can make changes

q: blah, blah, blah OTA (faculty member who, from his bio, used to work for OTA)
a: OTA is more a symbol and myth… so it might not hurt to bring it back, but the people are still around various places.. you might not like the decisions being made, but OTA probably wouldn’t have had any better access to the information than other groups providing analysis

q: impact of election on …
a: bad rap with Bush admin and science, so it will be a chance to start over again in some ways…. all three agree to address issues of climate change…. what doesn’t change is the use of science to justify policy, tone will change, but these science & policy issues won’t change. Science funding relies more heavily on what is happening in the overall budget outlook – and less on what is actually happening in science.


  STGlobal2008: Opening Plenary
The wireless there didn't work, so I'm entering these later. This is the STS Grad Student conference sponsored by a bunch of universities and the AAAS. It's being held April 5-6 at AAAS off of New York Avenue in D.C.

Flattening the World: The role of science and tech policy in …
Dr. Nina Fedoroff
Science adviser to State and USAID

Digital divide is a more complex problem than just cheap laptops and cell phones will address
Collier(2007) The Bottom Billion. Oxford U Press – educational capacity, sending students to western countries for education frequently doesn’t serve home country, but increases brain-drain
shift LDCs from recipient to partner in growing world

Few farmers (in developed world) due to scientific advances but in Africa families still need to grow own food so can’t do science or …
Thomas Malthus
Norman Borlaug
revolution in food growing > increase in population
rising food prices due to biofuel usage of arable land
may not make sense to send food surpluses to LDCs, instead to convert to biofuel crops
plus environmental impact of clearing land to grow more biofuel inputs

Post cold-war
Nunn & Lugar (CTR – Cooperative Threat Reduction), and Soros – science/scientists in post-Soviet Russia
(Soros – library assistance program) (CRDF – civilian research development foundation)

State has ~30 AAAS Fellows
Example: Rao, phd in molecular bio, post Soviet biological warfare manufacturing facilities > biotechnology for disease surveillance, public health … biosecurity engagement program (Asia & Middle East)

Example 2: Dehgan, redirecting Iraqi weapons scientists, virtual science library (run by DTIC, I think? hm, she says CRDF but I thought DTIC – maybe 2 projects? or 3 including programs from the publishers themselves?)

Gates – World Economic Forum 2008 in Davos
Connect people who know about breakthroughs with people who know needs of developing world

Jefferson Science Fellowships
(tenured professors)
example: Awadelkarim (from Penn State, originally from Sudan)

All problems have a science aspect
can help food problem (thus free people for science, etc)
- by gm crops – more productive, use less water – help water problem
- contemporary molecular methods required to work these problems
Example: BT corn
- all good, no problems for butterflies (really?)
- but banned many places due to disinformation (really?)

Was there discussion in gov’t about impact of biofuels policy on food market?
A: gov’t view is that biofuels policy is only a very small part of food prices
her personal view: 2 factors- 1) neglect in investment in ag 2) china and industrialization, rising affluence – more meat eating which is less efficient also biotech hasn’t had as great a positive impact as it could

My Q: disconnect between access to the literature (which we’re already doing through many different programs) and doing good on the ground
A: open courseware (but needs internet), programs between universities and African Universities and organizations to: train professors, work together on problems, and do training on the ground

Q: global warming impacts poorest the most, please talk to the students, about studying global warming related policies when the current administration is known for being negative/hostile towards science (from George Mason professor)
A: her bosses appreciate the importance of science, has been some investment in global climate change, but there are important roles for science policy specialists in State and USAID – although those two organizations have traditionally been generalists


Tuesday, April 01, 2008
  BTW - Reminder, I'm still a committed liblogger
The low frequency of posts here is not an indication that I have nothing to say (if you know me, you'll probably smile at that), nor that my interest in blogs or blogging has waned -- I am simply trying to get my head back above water in work, school, and life so blogging frequency has dropped.

I believe fully in libr* blogs and in information science blogs... and I'll try to hold up my end of the biblioblogosphere more come summer.
  My love hate relationship with scripting...
It's sort of beating your head against a wall - it feels so good when you stop! :)

I took programming in college, Pascal actually (I'm old), but just one semester (it's where I met my husband, but that's another story). I'm sucked in by thinking of problems the way you have to to get a computer to work with them... Programming poses really intriguing puzzles that are very attractive to my mind... But I remember the bad, too. I remember that I am not detail oriented and that the frustration of trying to get my program to compile and getting it submitted into the online drop box prior to the deadline felt like it was going to kill me. Literally, I remember my chest hurting and panicking because I couldn't find a typo... (it was the same or worse with Mathematica which I had to use for diff eq in the days before pull down menus and guis)

In the (mumbled) years since then, I've done a little javascript for the web, and of course some html... I built some search plug-ins... and I've become a little more fearless in trying new things (like R when the rest of the class is using STATA or SPSS).

So for my current independent study, when the professor who is supervising me suggested using a Perl script to grab the data from the web, I said sounds good... and here we go again. Turns out that Perl is actually much easier to understand than I expected so I've been customizing the scripts she's written to pull urls from files and write to files and for different types of blogs. Searching with regular expressions (I'm not a super hero there, yet, but my professor is)... And obsessively running and rerunning the program trying to make it do everything I need and not get bogged down in various situations... to the exclusion of other work. Sigh. Christina, drop the keyboard and back away slowly :)

But, on the other hand, I never expected to get this knowledge out of this independent study, so that's a real plus.

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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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