Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Public Access Law

For the first time the U.S. government has mandated public access to research funded by a major agency. This week President Bush signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R. 2764) which includes a provision directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide the public with open online access to findings from its funded research.

Researchers will now be required to deposit electronic copies of their peer-reviewed articles into the National Library of Medicine’s online archive, PubMed Central. Full text articles will be publicly available and searchable in PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication in a journal.

It is hoped that open access will make scientific results more readily available and ultimately facilitate the advancement of scientific knowledge. "This policy will directly improve the sharing of scientific findings, the pace of medical advances, and the rate of return on benefits to the taxpayer,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition).

More information can be found at

Friday, December 21, 2007

Questioning the validity of journal impact factors

In a recent editorial in the Journal of Cell Biology the executive editors of The Journal of Cell Biology and The Journal of Experimental Medicine joined with the executive director of the Rockefeller University Press to test the validity of data associated with journal impact factors. For those unfamiliar with the calculation it is a measure of the number of cites to recent articles compared to the number of recent articles for a given period. In other words, the impact factor for a given year measures the average number of times a paper published in the previous two years was cited during the year in question.

For example, the journal impact factor for the journal Nature is reported to be 26.681 calculated from the following data:

Cites in 2006 to articles published in:
2005 = 25820
2004 = 26022
Sum = 51842

Number of articles published in:
2005 = 1065
2004 = 878
Sum = 1943

Calculation = Cites to recent articles / Number of recent articles = 51842 / 1943 = 26.681

The authors of the editorial tried to replicate the journal impact factors from data supported by Thomson Scientific (owners of the Web of Science) and were unable to report the same results. This puts into question the data supplied by Thomson Scientific and the overall validity of journal impact factors. One wonders if journal impact factors should be given the importance that they are within the scientific community given the fact that they might be calculated from suspect data.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Short and Snappy Author Rights Colloquy

For Science Faculty and Graduate Students who are publishing or preparing to publish their research, an important upcoming event:

Short and Snappy Author Rights Colloquy
Thursday, November 29
12:00 - 1:30 p.m.
Gunness Student Center Conference Room, Marcus Hall

Learn why keeping the copyright to your published work can give you more freedom to use and expose your own research.

Lunch will be provided!

To register, email

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

SPIE Digital Library just added to the UMass Amherst collection

SPIE, for those who may not know, is an international society advancing an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light. The name originated from the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers, but like many groups these days, the society changed its name and it's focus has evolved and grown, but the acronym remains.

Their Digital Library is now available to UMass Amherst patrons through the library's website - through the catalog or the databases.

From SPIE's website:

The SPIE Digital Library is the most extensive resource available on optics and photonics, providing unprecedented access to more than 230,000 technical papers from SPIE Journals and Conference Proceedings from 1990 to the present. More than 17,000 new research papers are added annually.

Contents of the SPIE Digital Library

Proceedings of SPIE: Starting at Volume 1200 (1990)*

Optical Engineering: Starting at Volume 29 (1990)

Journal of Electronic Imaging: Starting at Volume 1 (1992)

Journal of Biomedical Optics: Starting at Volume 1 (1996)

Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS: Starting at Volume 1 (2002)

Journal of Applied Remote Sensing: Starting at Volume 1 (2007)

Journal of Nanophotonics: Starting at Volume 1 (2007)

* Some Proceedings volumes are not available in the SPIE Digital Library as SPIE does not have electronic rights to this material. Click here for a listing of those volumes.

Aerial photos in the Library's Map Collection

The Library has acquired an extensive collection of aerial photographs-- approximately 24,000 in all-- of the Massachusetts landscape, used for almost 50 years to map land use and land use change in the Commonwealth. Initiated by Forestry Professor Emeritus William P. "Mac" MacConnell ’43, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to be completely mapped in this fashion. The project became the foundation for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wetlands Inventory. The collection can be used in the Library's Map Collection on the 2nd floor of Du Bois.
For a couple of years while I was in grad school at UMass, I worked with the MacConnell maps, digitizing land use change. I was fascinated with the process and the photos. My supervisors then, Kate Jones (now at the Franklin Regional Council of Governments GIS) and David Goodwin (now at the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation's Forestry Management Program), told me about their long histories analyzing the photos with stereoscopes (also on display in the Map Collection). They related the history of The Raccoon Wars, which began with a prank that involved painting the black eyepieces of the stereoscopes with black ink, so that the user would finish her or his work with dark rings around the eyes. Ever since, I've been waiting to use that tactic.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

UMass Amherst - $9.2 million in NSF grants

As blogged on the site (click on the title to go to the article).

Some of you will have personal knowledge about this, but as an onlooker, I was impressed with the range of these projects that got funded by the NSF. It is, I know, a competitive process.

Congratulations to those individuals and groups who have collectively shown that UMass Amherst is an institution doing interesting work (and we beat MIT - woohoo!). Here is the list of awardees as published in the Springfield Republican blog:

The following are the grants awarded by the National Science Foundation, and the person directing each of the funded projects.

Awarded to the University of Massachusetts:

$200,000 - A data collection project, Prashant Shenoy
$300,067 - A project in nanotechnology, Sigfrid Yngvesson
$316,365 - Research involving emulsified products (two or more liquids blended together, such as ice cream or mayonnaise), Michael Henson
$350,001 - A project in wireless networks, Donald Towsley
$404,132 - A project relating to the search of vast archives of data or information, W. Bruce Croft
$442,000 - Research in Internet running on light, Tilman Wolf
$513,600 - Biofuels research, George Huber
$597,503 - A project involving the teaching of science, Morton Sternheim
$600,000 - Research into the transfer of data on the Internet, Arunkumar Venkataramani
$979,098 - Research into the teaching of science, John Clement
$1.5 million - Renewable energy research, Sankaran Thayumanavan
$3 million - A project in cellular engineering training, Susan C. Roberts
To Smith College:
$125,240 - Computer science research, Ruth Haas
$315,760 - Research in biogeochemistry, Elizabeth Jamieson

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cells lead astray

The New York Times has an article in today's Science section about lead, and its historical uses. It's not hard to see why people were so enthusiastic about lead in ancient times-- it's easy to find and recover, it has a low melting point, and it's malleable. Lead also gets cozy with sulfur, which is why there are so many health problems associated with it. Some of these problems were known by Hippocrates in 400 BC, but lead was so useful that people weren't ready to do without it. The most significant problems are experienced by young children, whose brain development is affected by lead molecules which disrupt some proteins by seeking out sulfur. Other animals are also affected by ingesting lead.
In my previous career in public health, I became a Certified Lead Inspector for housing. In New England, with its older housing stock, lead paint is a persistent issue. While Europe banned the residential use of lead paint in the 1920s, the US didn't until the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a regulation in 1978 prohibiting its use in residential settings. At first, I thought that flaking lead paint was the big problem, since kids often eat the flakes (Apparently, lead lends a sweet taste to substances, which is why the Romans used it to treat wine.), but it is also present in house dust as a result of friction on window sashes and door jambs. Lead from gasoline contributed to the environmental load as well.
Here are some UMass Library databases you can search for more information on lead in the environment and it's effects on humans and other animals. Remember that you may have to use your OIT login information if you want to connect from off-campus.
CAB Abstracts
Engineering Village
Environment Index
Food Science and Technology Abstracts
Kirk Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology
LexisNexis Environmental
PubMed: UMass Amherst subscription
Web of Science
Zoological Record
If you're interested in the biochemistry of lead, try Beilstein.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Journal Science to leave JSTOR

After nearly a ten year relationship with JSTOR, the Mellon-founded online journal archive, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has decided to end its association pulling the journal Science from the journal archive, effective 31 December 2007. This is the first time that a member publisher has left the over 900 title journal archive since its beginning in 1994.

In a statement, a Science spokesperson said that: “AAAS shares the belief that it is now time to assume full responsibility for maintaining a complete electronic archive of its flagship publication.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Science magazine (6 July 2007) special issue on Undergraduate Science Education

From the Special Issue introduction, "Many Voices, One Message" by Jeffrey Mervis:

... The hegemony of English is just one of many forces shaping undergraduate STEM education. This special issue looks at the topic by focusing on the lives of [12] faculty members in a dozen countries on six continents. The group is meant to be representative of scientists teaching large numbers of undergraduates around the world. The list is skewed toward the most industrialized countries but also includes those in which the scientific infrastructure is developing rapidly. An accompanying map presents some basic information about higher education in each country.
For an additional perspective, Science invited three distinguished educators to explore the issues facing undergraduate STEM education. Excerpts of their comments appear in this issue; the complete discussion is available at This issue also marks the debut of the Signal Transduction Knowledge Environment Journal Club, as well as three Teaching Resources.

We hope that you'll find the entire package compelling enough to alter your own worldview of undergraduate education. If it does, please let us know at" opens public access to more than 200 million pages of international research information. This international search portal was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the British Library and eight countries ranging from Australia to Japan. It uses federated search technology much like that of Google and Yahoo, searching an variety of databases then aggregating the results and ranking them, returning a variety of results for a single query.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ooooohhh!!! Aaaaaahhhh!!

I love fireworks, and in the past, I've taken extreme measures to see two shows in one night. So I was delighted to find this site, courtesy of Librarians' Index to the Internet. It explains the chemistry and basic physics behind the displays, and includes a table showing the compounds that produce specific colors, as well as a little bit of history. A friend of mine worries that knowing too much about things like fireworks will make them less wonderful and enjoyable, but this stuff fascinates me.
Chemical of the Week is one of my favorite sites. I always learn something here, and it often appeals to a family affinity with explosives (stories for another time). It's geared to enlightened non-specialists, so anyone can enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

New search tool for science!!

I just tried out Scitopia, which describes itself as a " federated search portal to the digital libraries of leading science and technology societies." Currently, it simultaneously searches the publications of 15 scientific societies (including AGU), as well as "patents and government data" (I haven't figured out how well the last part works yet). It's in beta now, so give it a try and let them know how to develop it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Junk Drawer

National Geographic has an article on Linnaeus (with some wonderful photographs) on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of his birth. The title of the article is "A Passion for Order," which describes a characteristic of most scientists, but also a significant trait of librarians (though you wouldn't know it to look at *my* desk). One of my courses in library school was titled "Organization of Knowledge." I was surprised to see that there were only two texts, and seriously apprehensive about having to learn how the world's knowledge is systematized in one semester. To my relief, the class concerned the varieties of classification used in libraries, with some emphasis on the LC scheme used in most academic libraries. We also discussed some new systems made possible by advances in database management and expanding internet access.

It seems lately that the organization of stuff, especially information, is a hot topic. Last year, it was Peter Morville's Ambient Findability. David Weinberger gave a 57- minute talk on the Google campus on May 10 on the topic of his new book, Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder . The talk is great (I haven't read the book yet-- it's on my desk now.), but I had an issue with some of his comments in the Google talk about librarians, whom he says he admires, and I believe him. He said that librarians (and scientists, shop owners, publishers, everyone) try to order information, a task he sees as futile. He's right, it is futile, and the digital disorder in his subtitle has shown us that. My argument with him is that librarians have figured that out already. We use keywords, hyperlinking, folksonomies, tagging, social networks-- all that stuff. There is still a use for the LC classification and other schemes for print material and non-digital native objects (so we can find their physical selves), but librarians bring at least a representation of them into the disordered digital world via their metadata.

I'm really excited to be a librarian right now. The whole notion of what the library is changes constantly, and it's a lot of work to keep up with students' use of technology and their consequent expectations. Libraries are learning to be more nimble and adapt quickly. At the same time, we realize that most of our users employ only basic strategies with their new electronic tools-- usually just enough to perform a single task. That's where we can help, but more on that later...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What Kind of User Are You?

The PEW Internet & American Life Project has come up with a typology of Information and Communication Technology Users based on a survey of "assets, actions, and attitudes" of the American public. Are you an omnivore? A lackluster veteran? Or an inexperienced experimenter? Find out.

Friday, April 27, 2007

IEEE Standards Association creates Nanoelectronics Standards Roadmap

On April 14th, the IEEE Standards Association released a Nanoelectronics Standards Roadmap, version 1.0. This draft is available for public comment from their website. The roadmap is intended to:
  • "Discern the highest value nanoelectronics standards to provide maximum leverage to the industry by providing a platform of common definitions, processes and technologies.
  • Identify a small set of near-term standards to jump start nanoelectronics standards development. Frame these standards (define their scope and purpose) to accelerate working group formation and progress. Build momentum within the industry by creating a few quick wins consistent with the longer range standards strategy.
  • Complement, not replace, existing industry roadmaps and knowledge bases.
  • Provide a framework for efficient communication and collaboration among industry members. Reduce barriers to industry convergence and efficient commerce.
  • Speed the development and deployment of high value nanoelectronics standards; consistent with the maturity of processes and technologies.
  • Create an extensible and living framework by which nanoelectronics standards development may be managed proactively, strategically and efficiently"
The IEEE-SA will hold a town meeting to present and discuss the roadmap at NSTI Nanotechnology 2007.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

NN/LM-NER's PubMed Search Tags and Field Qualifiers Guide

Check out the latest revision of the NN/LM-NER's PubMed Search Tags and Field Qualifiers Guide!

Search like an expert! This handy guide lists the major search tags and field qualifiers for advanced PubMed searching. Keep it next to your computer for easy reference.
This guide is intended to be customized with your library's logo and contact information, folded in half and laminated. Don't have a laminator? No problem. It also makes a nice one page handout.

Or better yet... customize and post it on your web site!

Check out Boston University Medical Center's customized version at:

Thanks to Michelle Eberle - Consumer Health Information Coordinator - National Network of Libraries of Medicine - New England - University of Massachusetts Medical School - for this information.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Illustrata: Natural Sciences database trial until May 5 2007

Illustrata: Natural Sciences is a new database that provides access to charts, tables, graphs, photographs, maps and other figures across a wide range of biological and environmental disciplines. With Illustrata: Natural Sciences it is possible to search the scholarly research literature for visual information previously not indexed. Using the “Search Tools” feature it is possible to search the scientific literature for graphs, illustrations, maps, photographs, tables and images.

“Researchers can then view the full object, including all caption and label text. Results can be easily saved or imported and used for presentations, lectures, or research.”

More than one million object records have been indexed covering over 880 different journals from a variety of publishers. It is projected that over two million objects will be indexed by the end of the year.

Three other forthcoming Illustrata resources include image databases for the fields of Technology, Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities.

Please let Maxine Schmidt ( know your impression of Illustrata: Natural Sciences.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Geoscience World database trial until April 5 2007

Here's what the site has to say about itself:

"GeoScienceWorld (GSW) is a nonprofit corporation formed by a group of leading geoscientific organizations for the purpose of making geoscience research and related information easily and economically available via the Internet. GSW is an unprecedented collaboration of six leading earth science societies and one institute."

It also says that it is "indexed, linked, and inter-operable" with GeoRef. Right now, GSW is offering the content of the journals published by the founding member organizations: American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), American Geological Institute (AGI), Geological Society of America (GSA), The Geological Society of London (GSL), Mineralogical Society of America (MSA), Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM), and Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG).

Be aware, though, that because this is a trial, you won't find the handy little red SFX links that will take you to the full text sources for other journals. To get those, go through the Library's webpage to GeoRef, where you will be properly authenticated.

Let Maxine Schmidt ( know what you think of GSW.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cold Spring Harbor Protocols database - Subscription!

The UMass Amherst Libraries have subscribed to the Cold Spring Harbor Protocols database. In response to the requests of several patrons, we conducted a trial subscription last fall, and the reaction from most respondents was very positive. As a consequence, and because these methods are widely used on campus, we have added this database to our extensive collection.

From the "About" section of the CSH Protocols Website:
Cold Spring Harbor Protocols is a definitive, interactive source of new and classic research techniques. The database is fully searchable by keyword and subject, and it has many novel features—such as discussion forums and personal folders—made possible by online publication. Its coverage includes cell and molecular biology, genetics, bioinformatics, protein science, and imaging. Protocols are presented step-by-step and edited in the style that has made Molecular Cloning, Antibodies, Cells and many other CSH manuals essential to the work of scientists worldwide. Protocols will be continuously expanded, updated, and annotated by the originators and users of the techniques.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact the ISEL Library staff.

Friday, March 02, 2007

UMass Amherst Digital Quadrangle Series Colloquium: " Showcasing Research and Teaching in the 21st Century: A Digital Approach"



Amherst, MA - UMass Amherst will host “Showcasing Research & Teaching in the 21st Century: A Digital Approach” on March 29, 2007, from 1:00 – 4:45 p.m. in the Cape Cod Lounge of the Student Union at UMass Amherst.
David Shulenburger, Vice President for Academic Affairs of the National Association for State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC), will give the keynote talk “If It Cannot Be Found on the Net, It Does Not Exist: Increasing Impact for UMass Scholarship.” Provost Charlena Seymour will introduce Dr. Shulenburger.

The event will mark the official debut of ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst, the new digital repository for campus researchers and scholars. The complete agenda for the afternoon is available at: A wine and cheese reception in the Student Union Art Gallery will follow the program. Faculty, staff, and graduate students are invited to attend. The event is open to the public.

David Shulenburger is active nationally and internationally as an advocate for reform in the areas of scholarly communication and academic accreditation. Shulenburger previously held the positions of Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor at the University of Kansas from 1993 to 2006, where he received several University-wide teaching awards. He is chair of the board of the Center for Research Libraries, consulting editor for “Change,” past chair of the NASULGC Council on Academic Affairs, board member of BioOne, and has served on the boards of numerous other non-profits. Previously a faculty member at Clemson University and a labor economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, he received his PhD and masters degrees from the University of Illinois.

The second half of the program includes two panel discussions. In the first, “The ScholarWorks Track: A Panel of Case Studies,” faculty members will discuss the adoption of ScholarWorks and its impact on their research and teaching. Representatives from the Center for Teaching, Office for Research, Graduate School, and UMass Press will serve on the second panel, “Tools and Policies: Getting to Your Destination.” Discussion topics will include intellectual property, the potential for transforming teaching models, the electronic master’s theses project, and open access from the perspective of UMass Press.

This second annual Digital Quadrangle Series Colloquium is sponsored by the UMass Amherst Libraries, Office for Research, Center for Teaching, and the Graduate School.

For more information, contact Marilyn Billings, 545-6891, or

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Secret to Google page ranking

From Maxine - A rather amusing explanation of how Google determines which pages are listed first when you do a search. Suffice to say it involves PCs - pigeon clusters.

Librarians and other information mavens have long wondered about Google's relevancy algorithms, which Google regards as a trade secret. We like to know how to make our search strategies as efficient as possible, and knowing how the search engine works would obviously be useful, but as a commercial enterprise, Google doesn't want to help people 'game' the system. So this explanation is meant to be funny, but at the same time, it is twitting their critics.


Amherst, MA – The UMass Amherst Libraries will conduct a survey, LibQUAL+™, of all faculty members and graduate students, and a random sample of 2,000 undergraduates between February 27 and March 16, 2007. Participants will be emailed and asked to participate in the 10-minute web-based survey. A free beverage coupon to the Procrastination Station CafĂ© in the Du Bois Library will be given to those completing the survey.

The results of the survey will be used to help assess and improve the UMass Amherst Libraries’ services, collections, and facilities. The results will also indicate how UMass Amherst library services compare to other institutions of similar size and mission. It will allow the Libraries to benchmark its results against those of other colleges and universities to determine best practices and indicate where to concentrate improvements for UMass Amherst users. UMass Amherst is among over 200 libraries participating in this year's survey.

In 2004, the UMass Amherst Libraries conducted a LibQUAL+™ survey, contributing to the Libraries’ initiating many improvements, particularly in the Du Bois Library. Improvements include more electronic resources, increased hours to 24 hours/five days a week, increased wireless access, group study rooms, comfortable chairs, additional computers, scanners, a fax machine, and vending machines on the Lower Level, quiet study spaces on Floors 2 and 3, a renovated lobby with a coffee shop, book delivery on campus, and more flexible lending policies.
LibQUAL+ ™ is a rigorously tested web-based survey administered by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

For more information, contact Jan Higgins in the Library Office, at 545-6868 or More information about the survey is available at

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Check it out! Origami and Math from Robert J. Lang

A recent profile in The New Yorker magazine of Robert J. Lang sent us to this website. Lang retired from a successful career as a physicist and engineer, during which he authored or co-authored over 80 technical publications and 40 patents on semiconductor lasers, optics, and integrated optoelectronics; he is now a full-time origami artist. His work is exhibited, and has also been used in television commercials and other media.

Lang writes and speaks extensively on the intersection of origami and mathematics, and has developed computer applications to simulate and help design origami. Dr. Lang resides in Alamo, California.

And yes, this "dancing crane" was folded from a single sheet without cuts. Lang's website has images of his work, many with crease patterns which (theoretically) one could use to reproduce the figure.