Friday, March 29, 2013

Nature special issue on scientific publishing

Nature has a fascinating special issue on scientific publishing, which is well worth reading. In particular, the article Open Access: the true cost of science publishing by Richard Van Norden has a lot of valuable information. The sub-head is:
Cheap open-access journals raise questions about the value publishers add for their money
There is one major problem with this otherwise excellent article. Although it allows Tim Gowers to raise the question in the sub-head:
The key question is whether the extra effort adds useful value, says Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at the University of Cambridge, UK, who last year led a revolt against Elsevier
the article treats this as a he-said, she-said controversy. It fails to point to any of the massive accumulation of peer-reviewed research that answers this key question by showing that only the most selective journals add positive (if barely detectable) value. If the greater levels of misrepresentation and fraud in these journals are accounted for, their value-add is most likely negative.

Publishers, particularly for-profit publishers, are unable to acknowledge that their vaunted and expensive processes are not adding value, and are thus not worth paying for. This is demonstrated by the fact that Nature finds itself unable to cite the literature answering the question that it raises. Isn't part of Nature's value-add supposed to be making sure that relevant literature is cited?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Preserving personal data

4-slot Drobo
I've just started using the first product from the latest company of someone for whom I have great respect, serial entrepreneur Geoff Barrall. His previous company was Data Robotics, now Drobo after their product. I made a small investment in the company and have been using Drobos ever since the initial beta program. Geoff's team managed the all-too-rare feat in the industry of packaging up complex technology, in this case RAID, in a form that is both highly effective and very easy to use. Drobos are a wonderful way of protecting your data against disk failures - over the years the three original 4-slot Drobos in my home rack have handled disks filling up and failing with complete composure. They are now max-ed out with 2TB drives for a total of nearly 18TB of usable space; when this fills up I'll finally have to buy more units. Follow me below the fold for details on Geoff's new product.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Report on Digital Preservation and Cloud Services

One of the most valuable aspects of the Library of Congress' National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) is that it provides a forum for sharing expertise and experience among institutions trying to preserve the nation's digital heritage. The latest example is the Report on Digital Preservation and Cloud Services (PDF) written by Instrumental for, and published by, the Minnesota Historical Society.  This is an excellent overview of the strategic and technical issues surrounding the potential use of a wide range of cloud services for preservation. I strongly recommend reading it.

Also, Rebecca Pool has a short piece on the same topic here, based in part on an interview she did with me some months ago.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Journals Considered Harmful

Via Yves Smith and mathbabe I found Deep Impact: Unintended consequences of journal rank by Björn Brembs and Marcus Munaf, which is a detailed analysis of the arguments I put forward at the Dagstuhl workshop on the Future of Research Communication and elsewhere.

The authors draw the following conclusions:
The current empirical literature on the effects of journal rank provides evidence supporting the following four conclusions: 1) Journal rank is a weak to moderate predictor of scientific impact; 2) Journal rank is a moderate to strong predictor of both intentional and unintentional scientific unreliability; 3) Journal rank is expensive, delays science and frustrates researchers; and, 4) Journal rank as established by [Impact Factor] violates even the most basic scientific standards, but predicts subjective judgments of journal quality.
Even if you disagree with their conclusions, their extensive bibliography is a valuable resource. Below the fold I discuss selected quotes from the paper.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Re-thinking Memento Aggregation

A bit more than two years ago in my second post about Memento I described some issues with its concept of Aggregators. These are the search-engine like services that guide browsers to preserved content. As part of the work we are doing to enhance the LOCKSS daemon software under a grant from the Mellon Foundation we have implemented the basic Memento mechanisms, so I'm now having to face some of these issues.

I have come to believe that the problems with the Aggregator concept are more fundamental than I originally described, and require a significant re-think. Below the fold I set out my view of the problems, and an outline of my proposed solution.