Memories, science, archiving, and authenticity

This is going to be one of my more freewheeling excursions into archiving and memory. I’ll be starting with  a movement afoot in the US government to give citizens open access to science research moving onto a network dedicated to archiving nanoscience- and nanotechnology-oriented information, examining the notion of authenticity in regard to the Tiananmen Square incident on June 4, 1989, and finishing with the Council of Canadian Academies’ Expert Panel on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution.

In his June 4, 2013 posting on the Pasco Phronesis blog, David Bruggeman features information and an overview of  the US Office of Science and Technology Policy’s efforts to introduce open access to science research for citizens (Note: Links have been removed),

Back in February, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memorandum to federal science agencies on public access for research results.  Federal agencies with over $100 million in research funding have until August 22 to submit their access plans to OSTP.  This access includes research publications, metadata on those publications, and underlying research data (in a digital format).

A collection of academic publishers, including the Association of American Publishers and the organization formerly known as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publisher of Science), has offered a proposal for a publishing industry repository for pubic access to federally funded research that they publish.

David provides a somewhat caustic perspective on the publishers’ proposal while Jocelyn Kaiser’s June 4, 2013 article for ScienceInsider details the proposal in more detail (Note: Links have been removed),

Organized in part by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), which represents many commercial and nonprofit journals, the group calls its project the Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS). In a fact sheet that AAP gave to reporters, the publishers describe CHORUS as a “framework” that would “provide a full solution for agencies to comply with the OSTP memo.”

As a starting point, the publishers have begun to index papers by the federal grant numbers that supported the work. That index, called FundRef, debuted in beta form last week. You can search by agency and get a list of papers linked to the journal’s own websites through digital object identifiers (DOIs), widely used ID codes for individual papers. The pilot project involved just a few agencies and publishers, but many more will soon join FundRef, says Fred Dylla, executive director of the American Institute of Physics. (AAAS, which publishes ScienceInsider, is among them and has also signed on to CHORUS.)

The next step is to make the full-text papers freely available after agencies decide on embargo dates, Dylla says. (The OSTP memo suggests 12 months but says that this may need to be adjusted for some fields and journals.) Eventually, the full CHORUS project will also allow searches of the full-text articles. “We will make the corpus available for anybody’s search tool,” says Dylla, who adds that search agreements will be similar to those that publishers already have with Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search.

I couldn’t find any mention in Kaiser’s article as to how long the materials would be available. Is this supposed to be an archive, as well as, a repository? Regardless, I found the beta project, FundRef, a little confusing. The link from the ScienceInsider article takes you to this May 28, 2013 news release,

FundRef, the funder identification service from CrossRef [crossref.org], is now available for publishers to contribute funding data and for retrieval of that information. FundRef is the result of collaboration between funding agencies and publishers that correlates grants and other funding with the scholarly output of that support.

Publishers participating in FundRef add funding data to the bibliographic metadata they already provide to CrossRef for reference linking. FundRef data includes the name of the funder and a grant or award number. Manuscript tracking systems can incorporate a taxonomy of 4000 global funder names, which includes alternate names, aliases, and abbreviations enabling authors to choose from a standard list of funding names. Then the tagged funding data will travel through publishers’ production systems to be stored at CrossRef.

I was hoping that clicking on the FundRef button would take me to a database that I could test or tour. At this point, I wouldn’t have described the project as being at the beta stage (from a user’s perspective) as they are still building it and gathering data. However, there is lots of information on the FundRef webpage including an Additional Resources section featuring a webinar,

Attend an Introduction to FundRef Webinar – Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 11:00 am EDT

You do need to sign up for the webinar. Happily, it is open to international participants, as well as, US participants.

Getting back to my question on whether or not this effort is also an archive of sorts, there is a project closer to home (nanotechnologywise, anyway) that touches on these issues from an unexpected perspective, from the Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies in Society (NETS); sharing research and learning tools About webpage,

The Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies in Society: Sharing Research and Learning Tools (NETS) is an IMLS-funded [Institute of Museum and Library Services] project to investigate the development of a disciplinary repository for the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) of nanoscience and emerging technologies research. NETS partners will explore future integration of digital services for researchers studying ethical, legal, and social implications associated with the development of nanotechnology and other emerging technologies.

NETS will investigate digital resources to advance the collection, dissemination, and preservation of this body of research,  addressing the challenge of marshaling resources, academic collaborators, appropriately skilled data managers, and digital repository services for large-scale, multi-institutional and disciplinary research projects. The central activity of this project involves a spring 2013 workshop that will gather key researchers in the field and digital librarians together to plan the development of a disciplinary repository of data, curricula, and methodological tools.

Societal dimensions research investigating the impacts of new and emerging technologies in nanoscience is among the largest research programs of its kind in the United States, with an explicit mission to communicate outcomes and insights to the public. By 2015, scholars across the country affiliated with this program will have spent ten years collecting qualitative and quantitative data and developing analytic and methodological tools for examining the human dimensions of nanotechnology. The sharing of data and research tools in this field will foster a new kind of social science inquiry and ensure that the outcomes of research reach public audiences through multiple pathways.

NETS will be holding a stakeholders workshop June 27 – 28, 2013 (invite only), from the workshop description webpage,

What is the value of creating a dedicated Nano ELSI repository?
The benefits of having these data in a shared infrastructure are: the centralization of research and ease of discovery; uniformity of access; standardization of metadata and the description of projects; and facilitation of compliance with funder requirements for data management going forward. Additional benefits of this project will be the expansion of data curation capabilities for data repositories into the nanotechnology domain, and research into the development of disciplinary repositories, for which very little literature exists.

What would a dedicated Nano ELSI repository contain?
Potential materials that need to be curated are both qualitative and quantitative in nature, including:

  • survey instruments, data, and analyses
  • interview transcriptions and analyses
  • images or multimedia
  • reports
  • research papers, books, and their supplemental data
  • curricular materials

What will the Stakeholder Workshop accomplish?
The Stakeholder Workshop aims to bring together the key researchers and digital librarians to draft a detailed project plan for the implementation of a dedicated Nano ELSI repository. The Workshop will be used as a venue to discuss questions such as:

  • How can a repository extend research in this area?
  • What is the best way to collect all the research in this area?
  • What tools would users envision using with this resource?
  • Who should maintain and staff a repository like this?
  • How much would a repository like this cost?
  • How long will it take to implement?

What is expected of Workshop participants?
The workshop will bring together key researchers and digital librarians to discuss the requirements for a dedicated Nano ELSI repository. To inform that discussion, some participants will be requested to present on their current or past research projects and collaborations. In addition, workshop participants will be enlisted to contribute to the draft of the final project report and make recommendations for the implementation plan.

While my proposal did not get accepted (full disclosure), I do look forward to hearing more about the repository although I notice there’s no mention made of archiving the materials.

The importance of repositories and archives was brought home to me when I came across a June 4, 2013 article by Glyn Moody for Techdirt about the Tiananmen Square incident and subtle and unsubtle ways of censoring access to information,

Today is June 4th, a day pretty much like any other day in most parts of the world. But in China, June 4th has a unique significance because of the events that took place in Tiananmen Square on that day in 1989.

Moody recounts some of the ways in which people have attempted to commemorate the day online while evading the authorities’ censorship efforts. Do check out the article for the inside scoop on why ‘Big Yellow Duck’ is a censored term. One of the more subtle censorship efforts provides some chills (from the Moody article),

… according to this article in the Wall Street Journal, it looks like the Chinese authorities are trying out a new tactic for handling this dangerous topic:

On Friday, a China Real Time search for “Tiananmen Incident” did not return the customary message from Sina informing the user that search results could not be displayed due to “relevant laws, regulations and policies.” Instead the search returned results about a separate Tiananmen incident that occurred on Tomb Sweeping Day in 1976, when Beijing residents flooded the area to protest after they were prevented from mourning the recently deceased Premiere [sic] Zhou Enlai.

This business of eliminating and substituting a traumatic and disturbing historical event with something less contentious reminded me both of the saying ‘history is written by the victors’ and of Luciana Duranti and her talk titled, Trust and Authenticity in the Digital Environment: An Increasingly Cloudy Issue, which took place in Vancouver (Canada) last year (mentioned in my May 18, 2012 posting).

Duranti raised many, many issues that most of us don’t consider when we blithely store information in the ‘cloud’ or create blogs that turn out to be repositories of a sort (and then don’t know what to do with them; ça c’est moi). She also previewed a Sept. 26 – 28, 2013 conference to be hosted in Vancouver by UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), “Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation.” (UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme hosts a number of these themed conferences and workshops.)

The Sept. 2013 UNESCO ‘memory of the world’ conference in Vancouver seems rather timely in retrospect. The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) announced that Dr. Doug Owram would be chairing their Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution assessment (mentioned in my Feb. 22, 2013 posting; scroll down 80% of the way) and, after checking recently, I noticed that the Expert Panel has been assembled and it includes Duranti. Here’s the assessment description from the CCA’s ‘memory institutions’ webpage,

Library and Archives Canada has asked the Council of Canadian Academies to assess how memory institutions, which include archives, libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions, can embrace the opportunities and challenges of the changing ways in which Canadians are communicating and working in the digital age.
Background

Over the past three decades, Canadians have seen a dramatic transformation in both personal and professional forms of communication due to new technologies. Where the early personal computer and word-processing systems were largely used and understood as extensions of the typewriter, advances in technology since the 1980s have enabled people to adopt different approaches to communicating and documenting their lives, culture, and work. Increased computing power, inexpensive electronic storage, and the widespread adoption of broadband computer networks have thrust methods of communication far ahead of our ability to grasp the implications of these advances.

These trends present both significant challenges and opportunities for traditional memory institutions as they work towards ensuring that valuable information is safeguarded and maintained for the long term and for the benefit of future generations. It requires that they keep track of new types of records that may be of future cultural significance, and of any changes in how decisions are being documented. As part of this assessment, the Council’s expert panel will examine the evidence as it relates to emerging trends, international best practices in archiving, and strengths and weaknesses in how Canada’s memory institutions are responding to these opportunities and challenges. Once complete, this assessment will provide an in-depth and balanced report that will support Library and Archives Canada and other memory institutions as they consider how best to manage and preserve the mass quantity of communications records generated as a result of new and emerging technologies.

The Council’s assessment is running concurrently with the Royal Society of Canada’s expert panel assessment on Libraries and Archives in 21st century Canada. Though similar in subject matter, these assessments have a different focus and follow a different process. The Council’s assessment is concerned foremost with opportunities and challenges for memory institutions as they adapt to a rapidly changing digital environment. In navigating these issues, the Council will draw on a highly qualified and multidisciplinary expert panel to undertake a rigorous assessment of the evidence and of significant international trends in policy and technology now underway. The final report will provide Canadians, policy-makers, and decision-makers with the evidence and information needed to consider policy directions. In contrast, the RSC panel focuses on the status and future of libraries and archives, and will draw upon a public engagement process.

Question

How might memory institutions embrace the opportunities and challenges posed by the changing ways in which Canadians are communicating and working in the digital age?

Sub-questions

With the use of new communication technologies, what types of records are being created and how are decisions being documented?
How is information being safeguarded for usefulness in the immediate to mid-term across technologies considering the major changes that are occurring?
How are memory institutions addressing issues posed by new technologies regarding their traditional roles in assigning value, respecting rights, and assuring authenticity and reliability?
How can memory institutions remain relevant as a trusted source of continuing information by taking advantage of the collaborative opportunities presented by new social media?

From the Expert Panel webpage (go there for all the links), here’s a complete listing of the experts,

Expert Panel on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution

Dr. Doug Owram, FRSC, Chair
Professor and Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus (Kelowna, BC)

Sebastian Chan     Director of Digital and Emerging Media, Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (New York, NY)

C. Colleen Cook     Trenholme Dean of Libraries, McGill University (Montréal, QC)

Luciana Duranti   Chair and Professor of Archival Studies, the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

Lesley Ellen Harris     Copyright Lawyer; Consultant, Author, and Educator; Owner, Copyrightlaws.com (Washington, D.C.)

Kate Hennessy     Assistant Professor, Simon Fraser University, School of Interactive Arts and Technology (Surrey, BC)

Kevin Kee     Associate Vice-President Research (Social Sciences and Humanities) and Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities, Brock University (St. Catharines, ON)

Slavko Manojlovich     Associate University Librarian (Information Technology), Memorial University of Newfoundland (St. John’s, NL)

David Nostbakken     President/CEO of Nostbakken and Nostbakken, Inc. (N + N); Instructor of Strategic Communication and Social Entrepreneurship at the School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University (Ottawa, ON)

George Oates     Art Director, Stamen Design (San Francisco, CA)

Seamus Ross     Dean and Professor, iSchool, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

Bill Waiser, SOM, FRSC     Professor of History and A.S. Morton Distinguished Research Chair, University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK)

Barry Wellman, FRSC     S.D. Clark Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

I notice they have a lawyer whose specialty is copyright, Lesley Ellen Harris. I did check out her website, copyrightlaws.com and could not find anything that hinted at any strong opinions on the topic. She seems to feel that copyright is a good thing but how far she’d like to take this is a mystery to me based on the blog postings I viewed.

I’ve also noticed that this panel has 13 people, four of whom are women which equals a little more (June 5, 2013, 1:35 pm PDT, I substituted the word ‘less’ for the word ‘more’; my apologies for the arithmetic error) than 25% representation. That’s a surprising percentage given how heavily weighted the fields of library and archival studies are weighted towards women.

I have meandered somewhat but my key points are this:

  • How we are going to keep information available? It’s all very well to have repository but how long will the data be kept in the repository and where does it go afterwards?
  • There’s a bias certainly with the NETS workshop and, likely, the CCA Expert Panel on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution toward institutions as the source for information that’s worth keeping for however long or short a time that should be. What about individual efforts? e.g. Don’t Leave Canada Behind ; FrogHeart; Techdirt; The Last Word on Nothing, and many other blogs?
  • The online redirection of Tiananmen Square incident queries is chilling but I’ve often wondered what happen if someone wanted to remove ‘objectionable material’ from an e-book, e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird. A new reader wouldn’t notice the loss if the material has been excised in a subtle or professional  fashion.

As for how this has an impact on science, it’s been claimed that Isaac Newton attempted to excise Robert Hooke from history (my Jan. 19, 2012 posting). Whether it’s true or not, there is remarkably little about Robert Hooke despite his accomplishments and his languishment is a reminder that we must always take care that we retain our memories.

ETA June 6, 2013: David Bruggeman added some more information links about CHORUS in his June 5, 2013 post (On The Novelty Of Corporate-Government Partnership In STEM Education),

Before I dive into today’s post, a brief word about CHORUS. Thanks to commenter Joe Kraus for pointing me to this Inside Higher Ed post, which includes a link to the fact sheet CHORUS organizers distributed to reporters. While there are additional details, there are still not many details to sink one’s teeth in. And I remain surprised at the relative lack of attention the announcement has received. On a related note, nobody who’s been following open access should be surprised by Michael Eisen’s reaction to CHORUS.

I encourage you to check out David’s post as he provides some information about a new STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) collaboration between the US National Science Foundation and companies such as GE and Intel.

1 thought on “Memories, science, archiving, and authenticity

  1. Pingback: Archivists, rejoice! Fused quartz stores data for millions of years at the University of Southampton (UK) « FrogHeart

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