The 2017 Edge Question responses have just been released. Over 200 of the world’s finest minds answer “What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?”. As usual the combined single mega-page weighs in at around the length of two novels, on which the likes of Instapaper will choke. So Kindle ereader owners may want the unabridged unofficial .mobi ebook conversion for the Kindle.
A major new consultancy report, “How Readers Discover Content in Scholarly Publications” (March 2016)….
* “… people working in the Government, Corporate and Charity sectors think Google is the most important discovery resource for books.”
This sentiment would have been rather more pronounced, if the Google respondees had been bundled with those who favoured Google Books.
* “… people working in Humanities and Religion & Theology prefer to use Google [rather than Google Scholar, to find articles]”
* “… people in Humanities are much less likely to use ToC alerts [to find their ‘last article accessed’] and have “other sources” they may use.”
Wide-spectrum serendipitous ‘topic search’, of the sort enabled by JURN, is also strongly favoured in the Humanities….
And the researchers found that…
* “Librarians behave quite differently to everyone else in search, preferring professional search databases and library-acquired resources.”
I’m very pleased to see that the U.N. has launched the new comprehensive U.N. iLibrary, to act as a repository for all its major open-access items…
The United Nations iLibrary is the first comprehensive global search, discovery, and viewing source for digital content created by the United Nations. … Every year around 500 new titles are planned to be added to United Nations iLibrary.”
This new public site has over 700 books and annual reports accessible via /books/all.
A new white paper from publisher SAGE, “Expecting the Unexpected: Serendipity, Discovery, and the Scholarly Research Process”.
Serendipity is considered mainly in the context of discovery via automated content-recommendation systems, since the research (a survey and a literature review) was done in the context of the making of the new SAGE Recommends system.
So the report’s not really about serendipity in the wild frontier of academic keyword search on the open Web. There are some interesting observations, however…
“Serendipitous discovery should be of particular interest to information providers precisely because there is so little precedent; there is still tremendous scope for individual organizations to bring their own priorities and values to bear on how they recommend or otherwise help researchers discover their content.”
“If discovery is too exacting or too precise, it can end up reinforcing habits rather than exposing students and researchers to new information, sharply limiting the researcher’s view of the world of information. … We might even suggest that there is room for errors and luck in recommendation systems; a serendipitous system that does not include some element of chance is hardly serendipitous at all.”
“… based on our research, it appears that approaches to encourage serendipity that do not place the content front and centre might encounter problems.” [i.e.: academic searchers want recommendations based on the actual content, rather than on the behaviour or tastes of other system users]
“The less exciting, but equally as important, corollary to discovery is delivery, or access: providing the patron with the material once they have found it. Given that “the researcher’s discovery-to-access workflow is [already] much more difficult than it should be” (Schonfeld, 2015 $ paywall), improving discovery before solving the challenges of infrastructure and access is perhaps kicking the can down the road. This is not to say that there is no value to tools and solutions that promote discovery within an isolated silo, but their potential is limited until publishers, libraries, and discovery vendors make interoperability a priority.”
OAPEN-UK’s final report on open access monographs, OAPEN-UK final report: A five-year study into open access monograph publishing in the humanities and social sciences.
“Many libraries will […] be providing links to the open access copies of monographs through their discovery systems, but librarians are not always aware of this. A minority are also reluctant to include open access content within their catalogues.”
“30% of respondents currently identify open access monographs for inclusion within their library collections – 49% do not, while 21% were unsure.” — Librarian survey for the report.
Unsure about including OA at all, or unsure if anyone on staff was identifying OA items?
“There are also large numbers of researchers – especially early career and retired academics – who do extremely valuable research which deserves publication but who work outside academic institutions. Changing publishing culture in a way that affected these researchers negatively would damage the overall discipline.”
JISC has commissioned a new September 2015 Spotlight Literature Review on scholarly discovery, which is available now in PDF. Short, but to-the-point…
in most cases staff over-estimate the extent to which users use different library services, in some cases very greatly. […] overall they think, it seems mistakenly, that the library discovery layer attracts very similar usage to Google Scholar”
one recent ethnographic study of student research behaviour (Dalal et al, 2015) highlights the low levels of information literacy skills displayed by many undergraduates even after library training in research skills [… they still had] very basic search techniques and poor search strategies [and a] Failure to locate the full text of articles.”
I’m interested in serendipity’s role in online search, and so I was pleased that the report pointed me to the December 2014 Library Journal article “Serendipitous Discovery: Is it Getting Harder?”. I was also rather tickled to discover that the word ‘serendipity’ was invented by Horace Walpole.
“No open access discovery index has been created.” (p.15)
[The white paper’s] “review of the [required] components of an index-based discovery service [purely for open access content] highlights the enormous level of resources required to create and maintain them. The creation of an open access discovery index would require the allocation of capital, personnel, and technical resources at least at the level of what any of the commercial providers has devoted to their projects.” (p.21)
HEFCE report on Monographs and open access is out now…
The perception that academic books are not being read, or even read in depth, does not appear to be sustained by the evidence.”
A quick search and read-through of the main report shows no use of the words “index” or “indexing”, in the context of discovery. There are only fleeting and cursory mentions of “discovery”. Discovery for download-and-reading barely merits a full paragraph…
There appears to be disagreement about whether providing open access to a book without active measures to disseminate it is sufficient. … the rise of aggregation and distribution services for open-access books, as well as increasing sophistication in search engine technology and an ever-greater reliance among academics and others on the Web as a discovery tool, might help smaller operations to challenge the larger publishers … For policymakers this is a critical area of concern: a key benefit of open access is surely increased dissemination; if particular models are likely to fail in this regard, then the benefit could be lost.”
It would have been interesting to know if the current standard monograph practice requires that the author must submit a publicity and marketing plan along with their open monograph. That practice isn’t mentioned, so I wonder how often it happens in the UK. It seems a pity to overlook active paid-for marketing, of the sort that proper publishers take for granted. Especially when there might be an opportunity now to embed this widely for even the most diffident or overworked authors, potentially enhancing everything from the scholar’s career and the university’s standing through to the UK’s wider projection of ‘soft power’. So the report might have suggested (at least) a new flowchart / guide for planning some basic academic book marketing, and a requirement that it be completed and submitted along with the monograph. Something that would take just six hours to enact, by someone other than the author (one has to factor in how utterly sick of a book an author can be by the time it’s completed, and how they just want to see the back of it). Asking for specifics such as a list of Facebook groups and listservs etc; contacts for likely book reviewers; magazine and newsletter contacts for tailored press releases; ‘local author writes book’ local newspaper contacts (since their stories, naff though they may be in tone, show up in Google News); niche radio and podcast interview possibilities, and so on. Such a one-day publication-day campaign might then most usefully be handed off to a freelance marketeer on oDesk for $350 or so, rather than be dumped on someone who either lacks the skills or doesn’t have the time.
Note that there’s also an “Annex 3: Patterns of scholarly communication in the humanities and social sciences” for the report…
Humanities and social science researchers also seem to make significant use of relatively old content, compared to other disciplines. Tenopir et al (2012) find that around half of the ‘last articles read’ in the critical incident component of their survey were more than 6.5 years old; a quarter were more than 15 years old.”