Christina's LIS Rant
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
  ew - MS IR software?
via Rafael.

ew. I somehow find the idea of Microsoft institutional repository software distasteful. Or ejournal publishing software.... ew ew ew based on SharePoint - oh the horror
Sunday, July 13, 2008
  Nice quote: scientists vs engineers
It's convenient for people who provide service to or do things for scientists and engineers to kind of lump the whole STEM crowd together (me included!). They really do have different information behaviors. I usually cite [1], but there's plenty of this in much older pieces including some from de Solla Price, if I remember correctly. There's another work, too, that really debunks the whole cycle thing that goes basic science > applied science > engineering - it doesn't really work that way.

So here's a new citation that I might find a way to work in some place. I'm putting it here to keep track of it.

From Hazelrigg, G.A. (2007). Honing Your Proposal Writing Skills. In Pei, Z.J (Ed.) NSF CAREER Proposal Writing Tips (pp. 1-3). Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. (In WorldCat, but only one library with a Lulu version: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/174114427)

So let’s first try to understand the difference between science research and engineering research. To me, the difference is quite clear. The scientist seeks to understand nature at its core, to get to the fundamental essence. To do this, the scientist typically strips away extraneous effects and dives deeply into a very narrow element of nature. And from this look comes what we refer to as the laws of nature: energy and mass are the same thing, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and so on. There are lots of laws of nature, and they apply everywhere all the time.

Engineers live with the laws of nature. They have no choice. Their goal is to design things that work within what nature allows. To do this, they have to be able to predict the behavior of systems. So a big question for engineers is, how do we understand and predict the behavior of systems in which all the laws of nature apply everywhere all the time. This is an issue of integration, and it is every bit as difficult as finding the laws in the first place. To account for all the laws of nature everywhere all the time is an impossible task. So the engineer must find ways of determining which laws are important and which can be neglected, and how to approximate those laws that are important over space and time.

Engineers do more than merely predict the future. They make decisions based in part on their predictions in the knowledge that their predictions cannot be both precise and certain. Understanding and applying the mathematics of this is also important. This includes the application of probability theory, decision theory, game theory, optimization, control theory, and other such mathematics in the engineering decision making context. This also is a legitimate area of research for engineering.

[1] Kennedy, J. M., Pinelli, T. E., Barclay, R. O., & Bishop, A. P. (1997). Distinguishing engineers from scientists- the case for an engineering knowledge community. Knowledge diffusion in the U.S.aerospace industry- managing knowledge for competitive advantage (pp. 177-213). Greenwich, CT: Ablex Publishing Corp.
Friday, July 11, 2008
  Positivist vs Pragmatic Classification Theory - yes, that's it
A long strange trip - reading about citations in Ange. Chem. then tried to find reference, then got only to the TOC page, so then started browsing and ran across...

Hjørland's readers digest version of classification theory (thank you! everyone go read the whole thing, it's short and I'll wait):
Hjørland, B.(2008). Core classification theory: a reply to Szostak. JDoc 64, 333-342: DOI:10.1108/00220410810867560 find

I know next to nothing about classification theory (so Mark can help me!) - but I really hate some of Clay Shirky's throw off statements regarding LCSH and why it is broken vis tagging. One of his arguments (actually confusing LC call numbers with LCSH in some places) is that that system fails in describing all of man's knowledge. Of course it does, that's not what it's intended to do.

Anyway - I've lacked the terminology for my point but I think I've found it in this excellent classification theory for dummies - this builds on current understandings of knowledge representation and social studies of knowledge instead of some of the superficial things some people like to pretend are reality:
Any work on any subject is always made from a point of view, which may be uncovered by analysis (e.g. a feminist point of view or a “traditional” or an eclectic point of view). The same is the case with any classification. Ørom (2003) uncovered underlying points of view in major library classification schemes with regard to arts. Although it is often difficult to uncover the underlying point of view, it is meaningless to claim that is does not exists. “Objectivity” and “neutrality” are not attainable and are also problematic goals from the pragmatic point of view. Any given classification will always be a reflection of a certain view or approach to the objects being classified.  

The (false) belief that there exist objective criteria for classification may be termed “empiricism” (or “positivism”), while the belief that classifications are always reflecting a purpose may be termed “pragmatism”.

Classification systems that do not consider the different goals and interest reflected in the literature of a given domain are “positivist”. Two documents may “resemble” each other in many different ways, and there is no neutral ground on which to choose, for example, “a proximity measure”
Hjorland argues that there can be no objective or neutral classification system because we always see things through a lens (my words) and choose words based on our purposes - and this is as it should be. Specialized language develops for a particular use, with particular meaning within a discipline (or other groupings of people).

I'm all about classifying things for a purpose. While there is some beauty in a perfectly described resource (which is not possible), librarians catalog or index resources to provide access -- so that users can answer questions and fill their information need. There is some aboutness there, but it's also: "who can this help? What questions can be answered by this? For what searches should this appear as a result?"

Likewise, when we're doing natural language search in free text (like using a web search engine) we try to find and use words from the domain of the information we're seeking. The other morning I happened (finally) upon the "correct" term the people in the domain use, and all of the sudden, tons of relevant hits when using what looked like a synonym to me retrieved few decent results. (luckily someone had used my terms and the correct terms).

Slight problem with the author's reference to chemistry - read the nano registration thread on Cheminf-L.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
  It's a miracle: look up books from home
(joking!) See linked tip of the week from NY Times - I guess they didn't know that most libraries have had their catalogs online (with real time availability info) for more than 10 years?

Oh, but still, I am happy they've pointed out WorldCat and it is useful if you have access to multiple systems as I do (within about a 20 minute drive from my house: 2 community colleges, 3 university libraries, 3 county public library systems, oh, and my research lab library)

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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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