Headshot of NISO Managing Director, Todd Carpenter

January 2011

With the start of each New Year, there are often prognostications about what will or will not happen in the coming year. As we turn the calendar on a whole new decade, I thought it appropriate to take a somewhat longer view. My crystal ball is far from being clear and my prognostication skills are certainly lacking. So I'll focus on seven issues I think our community will need to address in the coming decade. There will be much standards work to do in each of these areas and it will realistically take much of the next decade to come to some common resolutions to many of these issues. Hopefully, you have and will share your own ideas on these topics. We certainly have our work cut out for us!

Identity management – To make the online ecosystem of content flow easily and seamlessly, all born-digital information and digital representations of analog objects can be and will need to be unambiguously identified. This is critical for discovery, delivery, distribution, and preservation, as well as for the interlinking of semantic information about these objects—or the people and organizations related to them—across online applications.

Rights – Because a substantial amount of electronic content is licensed, content will need to be distributed with intelligent descriptions of the rights that have been conferred, both human- and machine-readable. There is also a large variety of rights involved from copyright to international issues, and re-use of multi-media components, to local and inter-library loans and preservation. Our current legal structures and language are, in many ways, inadequate to address the complexity of the digital world we find ourselves in.

Data – The data that supports the conclusions in scholarly publications are becoming as much part of the virtual conversations among scientists as the conclusions themselves. This represents a new frontier in discovery in all disciplines including those in social sciences and humanities. Management of all this disparate data that has a much greater scope of formats than with documents and art-forms and a potentially massive scale in size is under study by a variety of organizations and governments. As yet, there are few, if any, standards addressing this critical area.

Enhanced content forms – The form of publications changes slowly on the production and distribution end, with end users often driving the changes. While we will likely never do away with print, the experience of reading digital content is starting to shift. New, enhanced "books" are beginning to provide a different type of user experience than just an electronic version of the printed edition. User interactivity and interoperable "componentizing" are two aspects of content that have the potential to radically change our concept of electronic information.

Ebooks – While technically a subset of the electronic content trend, this is an area that will likely drive the acceptability and innovations of the devices used to consume electronic content. When we look back, 2010 may be the year we point to as the "tipping point" for e-books. Even though this format is taking off with users and producers, many issues are still unresolved including those of format, identification, and interoperability across devices. We are also just beginning to see the outlines of the issues faced by the supply chain, especially if e-book distribution continues to grow at last year's pace.

Privacy – Hardly a week goes by without hearing about another threat to user privacy from "secret" sharing of social networking information with third parties to hidden "Flash" cookies. So far the hue and cry about these abuses is coming from a small—but vocal—minority. However, there will soon come a point when an abuse of privacy is so egregious or the issue generally becomes of such paramount importance to the public at large that there will be a sea change in how online privacy is protected. While legislation is likely to be the driving factor, technology and standards will be needed to ensure that any privacy regulations can be met and enforced.

Authenticity – Ensuring that online transactions or digital documents are what they purport to be is a vital element not only to our cultural record, but also to business continuity. As the cloud computing trend takes off, it will become both more important and more difficult for organizations to control the integrity and authenticity of their own information. The social networking trend that allows just about anyone to post or comment on Web 2.0 platforms has created new problems of authenticity as well as dispersal of information. Much like privacy, some "crisis" will likely need to occur to push these issues to the forefront. For some organizations, that crisis could be a lawsuit!

Each of these topics could do with its own article; so over the coming month, I'll expand on each of these themes on the NISO Blog.

We look forward to seeing many of you during the ALA Midwinter meeting in San Diego later this week. Be sure to check our NISO@ALA Midwinter 2011 webpage for information on all of the NISO and standards-related events. And please join us on Sunday for the NISO annual members meeting (open to the public), if you can. During the meeting you can follow me at #ALAMW11 or on my Twitter page.

Todd Carpenter’s Signature

Todd Carpenter

Managing Director

NISO Reports

January Webinar: The Three S's of Electronic Resource Management: Systems, Standards and Subscriptions

Electronic Resource Management (ERM) encompasses a variety of practices and services that impact library staff and patrons. In this session, three panelists from the system vendor, subscription agent, and academic library communities converge to discuss benefits and challenges of "three S's" integral to ERM: systems, standards, and subscriptions.

This high-level overview on January 12, 2011 from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. (Eastern time) is ideal for libraries that might be considering ERM solutions and existing ERM libraries that would benefit with an update on current developments. Speakers and topics are:

  • The First S: Standards for Organizing and Distributing Information – Todd Carpenter, Managing Director, NISO, will give an overview of current standards relevant to ERM and implementation challenges for stakeholder.

  • The Second S: Systems for Electronic Resource Management – Bob McQuillan, Senior Product Manager, Innovative Interfaces, will review ERM systems and their benefits for both library staff and patrons.

  • The Third S: Subscriptions to Electronic Resources – Oliver Pesch, Chief Strategist, E-Resources, EBSCO Information Services, will discuss the evolving role of electronic resource subscription services and the benefits to customers.

For more information or to register, visit the event webpage.

February Webinar: Back From the Endangered List: Using Authority Data to Enhance the Semantic Web

Librarian use of authority files dates back to Callimachus and the Great Library of Alexandria around 300 BC. With the evolution of powerful computerized searching and retrieval systems, authority data appears to have outlived its usefulness. However, the semantic web provides an opportunity to use authority data to enable computers to do the search, aggregate, and combine information on the Web.

Join this webinar on February 9, 2011, from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) to learn about the amazing services that can result when the rich data included in name authority files, and other standardized vocabularies are linked via the Semantic Web.

Speakers and topics are:

  • The Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) – Jeff Young, Software Architect, OCLC Research, will explain how Linked Data tools, VIAF, and its contributors illustrate the potential interplay between centralized and decentralized interoperability of authority information.

  • Authorities as Linked Data Hubs – Richard Wallis, Technology Evangelist, Talis, will discuss how what we collectively refer to as authorities have the potential—if published openly, simply, and soon—to become hubs for the linking of library and non-library information across the Web of Data.

  • The Getty Authority Files – Murtha Baca, Head, Digital Art History Access, will provide real-life examples of authority data in art and architecture applications at the Getty.

For more information and to register, visit the event webpage.

New LSA Premier Membership Category

NISO has initiated a new Library Standards Alliance (LSA) Premier membership category that includes a registration to all 14 NISO webinars in 2011. Each webinar registration is for a single computer at a location, which can be used to display the webinar to a room of attendees-ideal for staff training and continuing education. Each registration also includes one year's access to the recorded version of the webinar so staff members can view it at their convenience. LSA members can also opt-in to receive a print version of the Information Standards Quarterly magazine.

LSA membership is an ideal way for libraries to directly support NISO standards development work at lower dues than voting membership (but without voting privileges). Premier membership is an additional $495 over regular LSA membership, but is 40% less than the package webinar registration rate. Visit the Join NISO Library Standards Alliance webpage for details and a membership application form.

New Specs & Standards

Book Industry Communication, Product Metadata Guidelines: ONIX for Books Release 3

The BIC Product Metadata Guidelines are intended primarily to help UK publishers in the preparation of ONIX data feeds, by setting out notes on data element inclusion and usage which have been reviewed and agreed by the BIC Product Metadata Committee and in particular by the principal aggregators of UK book trade product information: BDS, Bowker and Nielsen Book Services.

DAISY Consortium, Third Working Draft of NISO Z39.86-201X, Specifications for the Digital Talking Book, Part A: Authoring and Interchange Framework

This latest draft of the revision to the Digital Talking Book standard incorporates: the move to RDFa 1.1, the adoption of XML 1.0 Fifth Edition and XML Namespaces third edition, the adoption of associating Style Sheets with XML documents second edition, the addition of the associate attribute, the addition of new terms for use cases, and renaming of the separator element to transition. This is anticipated to be the last working draft before a Draft for Trial Use.

ISO/IEC TR 24725-3:2010, Information technology for learning, education and training – Supportive technology and specific integration – Part 3: Platform and media taxonomy

This new technical report provides standardized vocabulary, taxonomy of media and platform technologies, and a process that can be used to describe different combinations or bundles of media and platform technologies, which are needed to perform identified functions or to support a class of applications for learners within or across various information technology environments. It provides examples of how and when bundles of technologies can be defined to support learning, education and training activities.

National Institute of Standards and Technology, Request for Information on Effectiveness of Federal Agency Participation in Standardization

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council's Sub-Committee on Standards, invites interested parties to provide their perspectives on the effectiveness of Federal agencies' participation in the development and implementation of standards and conformity assessment activities and programs. This information will help the Sub-Committee on Standards develop case studies that Federal agencies can consider in their future engagement in standards development and conformity assessment, particularly for multi-disciplinary technologies, or for technologies involving engagement from multiple Federal agencies. Comments are due on or before February 7, 2011.

W3C Recommendation, Mobile Web Application Best Practices

The goal of this document is to aid the development of rich and dynamic mobile Web applications. It collects the most relevant engineering practices, promoting those that enable a better user experience and warning against those that are considered harmful. These recommendations expand on the recommendations of Mobile Web Best Practices (BP1). Where the focus of BP1 is primarily the extension of Web browsing to mobile devices, this document considers the development of Web applications on mobile devices.

Media Stories

New Measures of Scholarly Impact
Inside Higher Education, December 17, 2010; by Steve Kolowich

The main method for measuring the influence of journals and article authors, the impact factor, is much the same as it was when developed in 1955. Johan Bollen at the Indiana University of Bloomington points out that the way journal articles are accessed and read has changed significantly as it has gone electronic. Bollen's MESUR (Metrics for Scholarly Usage of Resources) project was designed to move away from citation counting towards actual usage Using a database of close to 350 million "interactions" with digital articles, metrics have been assessed on dozens of criteria from the number of article downloads and browsing behaviors to whether an article serves as a "bridge" between other articles. Another project, Eigenfactor at the University of Washington, is using the traditional citation counts, but also adding an algorithm that weights article citations based on overall citation ranking of a journal title. Thomson Reuters has incorporated the Eigenfactor metric into its Journal Citation Report, that also uses the original impact formula. The Eigenfactor team is working to incorporate real-time usage data and mentions on social networking cites. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) has already begun posting how many times an article has been blogged about or commented on along with its citation data. Springer is also planning to track and display article downloads. All this measurement data is expected to impact both whether a library chooses to subscribe to a title and how much it is willing to pay. The American Chemical Society began tracking download usage at universities and pricing the product differently for each university's library. In other cases, libraries have been able to use such data to negotiate lower subscription prices. Changes in how article impact is measured are also affecting the author-researcher whose impact factor can be used to determine promotions, tenure, and grant awards. Bollen emphasizes that usage measures should not be aggregated into a single number, but instead the variety of measures should be used to add layers of nuance to scholarly impact. (Link to Web Source)

NISO Note: Thomson Reuters and the American Chemical Society are NISO voting members. The Mellon Foundation recently awarded Indiana University a grant for Johan Bollen to develop a sustainability model for MESUR; NISO is a secondary awardee to the grant. For more information on the MESUR grant, view the press release. For more information on usage measures, view the presentation slides from NISO's 2010 webinar Count Me In: Measuring Individual Item Usage.

Counting on Google Books
The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Chronicle Review; posted December 16, 2010; by Geoffrey Nunberg

A recent paper in Science, titled "Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books" may describe a sea change in the ability of humanities scholars to perform quantitative analysis. The article's authors created from Google books a corpus of about 4 percent of all the published books allowing analysis of over 360 billion words. The authors see the possibility of a new science they call "culturonimics"—"the application of high-throughput data collection and analysis to the study of human culture." If Science magazine seems an unlikely place to publish an article about humanities research, it is less surprising when one realizes that almost all of the paper's authors are mathematicians, scientists, or engineers. While humanities and social science scholar have done such quantitative research before, the new project represents a leap in the amount of available content and the processing power from Google's servers. Because of copyright restrictions on some of the material, Google has limited access to the materials to two special websites that create graphs of the selected word or text strings. Some additional capabilities may be offered in the near future but researchers will likely want to download the whole corpus to develop their own analysis tools. The Science article provides a number of illustrative examples of how a researcher might use the data, such as studying the evolution of language. Scholars could better measure when words truly enter the vocabulary of the every-day person, rather than just when the word first entered the language. Different words' trajectories could be compared to reflect the development of a larger trend like consumerism. Such quantitative analysis does not replace the close reading approach of scholarship; both approaches are needed. There is a realistic concern that "second-rate scholars" will create huge volumes of uninformative data without any valid conclusions. (Link to Web Source)

Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality
Scientific American, December 2010 (posted online November 22, 2010); by Tim Berners-Lee

Author Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, states that the success of the Web is due to the "egalitarian principles" it was built on. On this 20th anniversary of the Web, these principles are being threatened by social networking sites walling off information from non-users of their sites, Internet providers deliberately slowing traffic to non-partner sites, and government monitoring of online use. The public, press, and scientific community are the ones who need to ensure that the Web principles and the public Web as we know it are retained. The key principles for this are: 1) Universality, i.e. anyone with any hardware or software, language, or type of access can use and post to the Web; 2) Decentralization, i.e. no central authority is required for approval to add information; 3) Use of Open Standards that are royalty-free and do not close people off into proprietary worlds; 4) Separating the Web from the Internet, so that the Web "appliance" does not have to be redesigned anytime the Internet "electricity" is upgraded and vice versa; 5) Net Neutrality, i.e., an ISP treats all traffic across its bandwidth the same and does not restrict access to certain websites or give preferential bandwidth to its own or partner content; 6) No Snooping—not by ISPs, marketers, governments, third parties, or anyone not authorized by the user; and 7) Protection of Free Speech and of Access, which isn't only a problem in totalitarian countries. If users stand up and demand a Web based on these principles, then there is even more promise for the future of the Web. HTML5 can make Web apps more powerful. Smartphones and wireless access will make the web even more ubiquitous. Linked data can leverage information across sites and applications, especially in the scientific arena, but needs to have controls to ensure privacy. "The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine."
(Link to Web Source)

NISO Note: Berners-Lee also mentions that more work is needed to make the Web accessible to the disabled. NISO's December 2010 webinar Unprecedented Access: Improving the User Experience for People with Print Disabilities discusses work that our community is doing in that arena. View the presentation slides here.

Web-Scale Discovery American Libraries, 12/22/2010; by Jason Vaughan

"Web-scale discovery services for libraries are those services capable of searching quickly and seamlessly across a vast range of local and remote preharvested and indexed content." These services have characteristics such as: the ability to create a centralized index across both local and remote content resources; a single Google-like search protocol; quickly delivered results that are relevancy-ranked and offer additional functions such as faceted drill-down; flexibility for customization and openness. Traditional library systems are no longer the user's first stop for seeking information. Web discovery can bring users back to the library's system and more importantly ensure that the library's resource expenditures get the usage they deserve. (Link to Web Source)

The Library: Three Jeremiads
The New York Review of Books, December 23, 2010; by Robert Darnton

[Jeremiad: a prolonged lamentation or complaint] Academic research libraries were hit hard in 2010, but they are continuing to forge ahead on both the digital and analog fronts. Jeremiad 1: The vicious cycle of escalating periodical costs followed by cut-backs in monograph purchasing resulting in university presses publishing fewer books, which is a problem for graduate students. Instead of splitting budgets equally between books and serials, libraries now spend some 75% on journals. University presses have seen library purchases of their books drop by 50% or more. Jeremiad 2: Large journal publishers are making huge publishing profits while continuing to raise prices, force bundled subscriptions, and to impose cancellation fees. Publishers require libraries to keep contracts secret so they cannot compare pricing. Publisher profit margins of 30-40% are common in science, technology, and medicine, yet they add little vale to the research process that is often funded by taxpayers. Researchers write the articles, peer review the articles, serve on editorials boards, serve as editors (all volunteer), and then buy back their own work through library subscriptions. While universities are creating repositories for researchers' work, participation rates have been low. Changes are appearing, though. Some researchers are calling for publication only in open-access journals and the NIH is requiring grant recipients to make results available in open access. Jeremiad 3: Google is using the billions it made in providing access to information to control the information itself. The library partners of the Google Book Search project have an inherent conflict in goals with those of Google. The proposed Google Books lawsuit settlement splits the profits pie between Google and the author and publishers leaving the libraries who provided the books with nothing. In fact the libraries have to buy access to other libraries' digitized books through institutional subscriptions, whose price will be set by a registry of authors and publishers who have in interest in increasing the prices. A happy ending to all of this is the author's proposal for a National Digital Library "composed of virtually all the books in our greatest research libraries available free of charge to the entire citizenry, in fact, to everyone in the world." The feasibility of this has already en demonstrated. France and Netherlands have announced plans for their own equivalents of national digital libraries. If they can do it, why not the U.S.? While a National Digital Library wouldn't solve all the problems, it would change the system of sustainability of information and be based on public good rather than private gain. (Link to Web Source)

NISO Note: For more on the proposed national digital library see: Berkman Center Announces Digital Public Library Planning Initiative.