Alternative Methods of Research Evaluation

The evaluation of research quality is a task which is attracting attention as the world turns more and more to evidence-based decision making. The work of scientists and historians are regularly reviewed by institutional administrators to ensure a high quality of scholarship and to determine where to deploy scarce resources. One of the most relied-upon components of research assessment is the review of publications authored by a particular scholar. And although publications are difficult to objectively evaluate, the standard method for many years was to use the journal impact factor. This method measured the number of times the articles from a particular journal were subsequently cited by other publications, for which a numeric score was assigned to the journal. It soon became prestigious for scholars to have their papers published in a journal with a high impact factor.

Processing Digital Library Materials

Routine processing of library books frequently means using shelves and other spaces as staging areas for incoming and in-process items. As gifts and purchased books are acquired, cataloged and labeled, librarians typically work on them in batches, sorting on to separate shelves those which have not yet been searched in the catalog or which represent additional copies for the collection or which require a certain level of cataloging, etc. As they move through the processing of getting them to the library and ultimately, the reader they are moved from place to place in the back-rooms of library work areas.

Meeting with Federal Science Librarians

I have met with several federal science library groups in recent weeks and among other things felt a great sense of relief on discovering that most of them face the same issues in managing digital content as we do at the Smithsonian Libraries.

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Smithsonian Research Online

During the week of January 16-19th, I visited the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) to discuss several matters relating to the Smithsonian Research Online (SRO) program and to offer technical support and training to STRI library staff. I was accompanied from Washington by Digital Services Head, Martin Kalfatovic, who was to attend a three-day Encyclopedia-of-Life meeting at Barro-Colorado Island during the same week. Together we met with Oris Sanjur (STRI Associate Director for Science Administration), Vielka Chang-Yau (STRI head librarian), Angel Aguirre (librarian), Klaus Winter (STRI scientist) and Eldredge Bermingham (STRI Director). Everyone was in agreement that STRI-authored publication data ought to be collected in one place and that the SIL is doing a good job of coordinating this program across all Institution units. The Director and Associate Director will discuss the specific needs of their unit and report back to SIL, who will propose a workflow to accomplish this. Meanwhile, I held a brief introduction to the bibliographic tools, EndNote and Zotero for STRI library staff and volunteers. While more »

Open Access Conference Notes

    At the recent Berlin 9 Open Access meeting, a pre-conference session on open access publishing featured speakers who detailed the required innovations in publishing business models necessary to both make scholarship freely available and to ensure sustainability. Among the speakers was Dr. Neil M. Thakur of the National Institutes of Health. His presentation centered on an aspect of open access that I have not seen discussed before. Thakur opened with a central question of how to do more with less and he listed three options: work longer, work cheaper or create efficiencies in productivity. It was the latter (and only realistic) option that he concentrated on. Making scientific publishing more efficient requires open access to the literature but for reasons that have previously been overlooked. In the past, advocates for the open access to scholarly literature have emphasized two audiences which suffer for lack of access to literature: scientists who work at under-funded organizations and who are unable to afford increasingly high subscriptions to scholarly journals, and motivated more »

Personal Digital Collections

A recent article in BusinessWeek ( profiled a Japanese company that provides homes with some needed extra space. A recent startup, Bookscan, offers scanning of personal book collections in part for customers to more efficiently use their domestic space. As many know, Japanese homes are generally much smaller than North American homes and one can imagine that the elimination or reduction of a bookshelf can be a very valuable expansion of living area. In addition to services such as those offered by  Bookscan, major manufacturers have begun introducing increasingly sophisticated consumer scanning technologies (an example from ION Audio pictured here). There have even been attempts with personal cameras and other equipment ( to scan entire volumes for personal use. One thing is clear: it has never been easier to create personal digital collections than it is now and that's one reason a Digital Library group was recently formed at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. In addition to licensing content from commercial publishers and scanning our own books, the SIL is beginning more »

Digital Repository Now Contains 10,000 Items

The Smithsonian Research Online program recently surpassed the mark of 10,000 publications in the Digital Repository. This collection of digital publications by Smithsonian staff represents a broad review of research done by researchers at the Institution. Each year the program (initials, SRO) collects information on nearly 2000 publications by Institution researchers many of whom later contribute their article’s corresponding digital reprint. This milestone was achieved when the paper by Ben Hirsch (STRI) and Jesus Maldonado (NZP), “Familiarity breeds progeny: sociality increases reproductive success in adult male ring-tailed coatis (Nasua nasua)” was deposited to the collection. The SRO consists of two basic components: a list of publications authored by Smithsonian researchers and affiliates, and a corresponding digital repository which contains the actual article or chapter in electronic form. The data which SRO collects is not only used by Institution administrators for research assessment purposes, but is also re-used by webmasters and other Smithsonian offices for reports, presentations and other public information services.  These electronic versions of peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles are more »

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