Days 4-5: Libraries, metadata and publishing + crowdsourcing

As you may have noticed, I haven’t written anything from the sessions, which were held on Thursday and Friday. I participated in S093 (New perspectives on classification and methodology in history of science: theoretical and technological bases for managing primary sources) and S094 (History of science and the ecology of knowledge: the limitations, expectations, and needs of four knowledge communities), which were thematically so close to each other, that I decided to conclude my thoughts on these sessions in one blog entry. I have given this blog post the title: libraries, metadata and publishing, which is into my opinion a broad concept enough in order to cover all the discussions of these sessions.

On Thursday morning, our colleagues from CESIMA and Brazil paid attention on the Faceted Classification. The presentation focused on the contribution of the famous Indian mathematician R. S. Ranganathan, who had developed the Colon Classification in the 1930s. An overall view on the faceted classifications was a good start for these two sessions and it was followed by different a couple of presentations (by their countrymen, Bromberg and Haddad), which were dealing to some extent, how faceted classification were put into practice when researched the history of science. It will be interesting to see, how they develop the ontologies. These projects have a lot in common with out ONKI, which is aiming to build a national-level ontology service in Finland.

It was a pity that I missed the last presentation of S093 by Piyo Rattansi, who was giving a paper on the the dilemmas of classification revisions for the lost and rediscovered Royal Society documents on ‘alkahest’ (universal solvent). It would have been great to get an idea how the resolved the dead-ends upon re-classification.

The first session of S094 on Friday was dealing with three very different types of projects. Annie Jameson made a fantastic presentation on her project in which the counterfactual history of science could challenge the traditional and often quite deep-down rooted ways of studying and teaching genetics. Believe me, many of those, who listened this presentation found it hard to keep quiet and many lips were bitten in anger. Honestly. If you have chance to see Annie live somewhere, please, take a chance. And if you are an undergraduate student that enrolls to her courses, you are going to have loads of fun. If her presentation could have been linked to the library matters, one would have interpreted her paper as a challenge of current practices in classification.

Jameson was followed by my paper and it would like to thank all the attendees for various questions and comments. I found them encouraging. There were some questions on crowdsourcing and citizen sciences in the air and I am afraid that we didn’t observe this important question wide enough, so I will take a liberty to say that the distinction between these two concepts are well formulated in the Kone Foundation Language Programme: the difference between citizen science and crowdsourcing is not necessarily very pronounced, but the participants of crowdsourcing tend to be unknown, whereas “citizen scientists” refer to specific people collaborating with researchers and applying research methods. When it comes to the successful projects on crowdsourcing, have a look at the article of Rose Holley in D-Lib Magazine, March/April 2010. It does give us a concise view on the Australian project on the digitized newspapers and successful crowdsourcing. This project actually benchmarked the crowdsourcing in our branch of business, so have a close look at it.

Also, one successful campaign (Digitalkoot) was made in co-operation with the National Library of Finland and company called Microtask. The programme consisted of two online games. In Mole Hunt (Myyräjahti), the player is shown two different words, and they must determine as quickly as possible if they are the same. This uncovers erroneous words in archived material. In Mole Bridge (Myyräsilta), players have to spell correctly the words appearing on the screen. Correct answers help badgers build a bridge across a river. More information here. Have a look at the blog post of Microtask too.

After my presentation, Amy Rodgers and Stephen Weldon from the University of Oklahoma, gave us a brief report on the Isis Current Bibliography and its use and prospects for the future. In a survet, conducted in March 2013, the users of bibliography gave their views for further developing of the bibliography. According to Rodgers and Weldon, there were nine key messages that were devired from the feedback from the scholars. The future bibliographies should take these into consideration:

  • a desire for open access.
  • a desire to link to or network with other resources.
  • a desire to access unpublished work or work in progress
  • a desire to expand the bibliography to include digital and digitized collections
  • a desire for sophisticated linking between bibliographies, opacs, open access databases etc.
  • a desire for personalization and control of digital tools
  • a recognition that digital tools are essential to research
  • the necessity of real-time adding und updating of bibliographic references
  • crowdsourcing and increasing communication with the bibliographer

After the break, we had a bit of a rush, since we had four presentations to listen. Urs Schoepflin of the Max Planck Institute of the History of Science discussed the challenges of the publishing the scholarly works through Echo and Edition Open Access.

Urs was followed by Birute Railiene, who highlighted the complexity of biographical information with the help of chosen examples and authorized names etc. Her presentation was a good reminder that not everything is getting harmonized by a snap of a finger.

Simon Chaplin of Wellcome Library had a great paper, in which he underlined the problems when it comes to the accessibility of secondary literature. To him, and I completely agree with Simon, it is peculiar that the primary sources are put online and to public domain, but the access to the secondary literature, which is often most needed for spreading the information in practice is being blocked. This is a world-wide problem and we do recognize it. Information abhors a vacuum; if we [open access] don’t fill it, someone else will, as Simon put it.

The last presenter, Gavan McCarthy, came back to the same problem from we had started on Thursday. An despite the fact that he had an honor to run through his presentation with a hasty pace, he made it clear that there’s no return to the old-style cataloguing any longer. His paper explored the eco-historical niche that is now being mapped out. It examined, and presented in visualizations, the types of entities and types of relationships that are necessary to make this historical space navigable. Sounds like ontologies to me.

So, this week has passed now and I am looking forward to the last session of iCHSTM 2013 next. IT won’t be dealing with libraries, metadata, crowdsourcing or co-operation with scientists, but our dear old chapel of life, Sauna.

Thanks for all colleagues for their contributions. It has been a great time with you. See you soon again.

Yours &c.,

Jussi-Pekka

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