News for the University of Illinois Community

« April 2007 | Main | June 2007 »

May 28, 2007

Global Information Society Watch 2007

The Global Information Society Watch 2007 report - the first in a series of annual reports- looks at state of the field of information and communication technology (ICT) policy at local and global levels and particularly how policy impacts on the lives of people living in developing countries.

Studies of the ICT policy situation in twenty-two countries from four regions are featured: Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda); Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the Philippines); Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru); and Eastern Europe (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania), with one report from a Western European country (Spain).

The report concludes that when it comes to ICTs for development, there are some conspicuous similarities between the countries. Excluding Spain, the other twenty-one countries each show obvious evidence of the “digital divide” which impacts on the majority of people negatively. According to Brazilian authors RITS, the absence of a people-orientated policy framework in Brazil runs the risk of condemning the vast majority of people to “eternal disconnection.” The report also includes provocative, analytical essays on five international institutions (including ICANN and the World Intellectual Property Organisation) questioning the extent to which they allow all stake-holders to participate in their processes. There is a special section on how to measure progress.

Check here for visitors' comments.

Thanks to Denise Nicholson, University of the Witwatersrand, whose Information Service provides all subscribers with useful links such as this. To subscribe, send a message to

Posted by P. Kaufman at 9:12 AM

May 19, 2007

When Is A Book Out of Print?

For many years now, if a book goes out of print authors have been allowed by their contracts to ask their publishers for their copyrights back. That way they could try to have it reissued by another publisher. Until recently, that has meant that if a book was unavailable in at least one format — hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback being the most common — or if sales fell below a minimum annual threshold, it was deemed out of print.

With the advent of technologies like print-on-demand, publishers have been able to reduce the number of back copies that they keep in warehouses. Simon & Schuster, which until now has required that a book sell a minimum number of copies to be considered "in print," has removed that lower limit in its new contract.

So,in effect, this means that as long as a consumer can order a book through a print-on-demand vendor, that book is still considered to be "in print," no matter how few copies it sells.

The Authors Guild, a trade group that says it represents about 8,500 published authors, is urging writers and agents to exclude the publisher from book auctions because of it.

In an article in the New York Times, Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster, said that the publisher was acknowledging advances in technology that made it easier for readers to order books on demand. “We’re anticipating that it’s only going to get better and that this is the best way to make our authors’ books available for consumers on a large-scale basis over the long haul,” Mr. Rothberg said.

The agent David Black said, however, that in reality, if a book is available only through print-on-demand, “an author’s book is going to be available in dribs and drabs.”

He added: “If there is the possibility that I can take this book and place it somewhere else where somebody is going to publish it more aggressively than on a print-on-demand basis, shouldn’t I have the opportunity to do that?”

Simon & Schuster said it would continue to be willing to talk with authors who want their rights back regardless of the change in contract language.

Read more at New York Times, 5/18/07

Posted by P. Kaufman at 4:34 PM

May 18, 2007

University to Play Key Role in Digital Humanities Effort

From the University News service

The University of Illinois, home to one of the world’s biggest libraries, the nation’s top-ranked library and information school, a nascent Center for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, a supercomputing center and key scholars, is poised to become a leader in the effort to “digitize the humanities.”

The effort involves designing and constructing research environments in which humanities scholars can use high-performance computing tools in shared digital networks to conduct research across broad swaths of literature.

In the last year, John Unsworth (photo), the dean of Illinois’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science, has secured two major technology grants from the Mellon Foundation to lead multi-institutional projects in the digital humanities.

He also chaired the national commission that produced the recently released report, “Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences,” on behalf of the American Council of Learned Societies. In mid-April, Unsworth presented highlights of the report at a meeting of national digital centers and their sponsors in Washington, D.C.

Since becoming dean four years ago, Unsworth also has published two books on digital humanities, taught courses on humanities computing, and won the 2005 Richard W. Lyman Award from the National Humanities Center.

Why do scholars in the humanities need new digital technologies?

“Coordinating and optimizing the symbiosis between the computer’s mania for detail and the human’s sense of the gestalt becomes more important every day, as more and more of the cultural record becomes digital, and yet our instruments for exploring that digital cultural record remain the blunt instruments of searching and browsing,” Unsworth said.

In January, to that end, the Mellon Foundation announced that Illinois would receive a two-year $1 million grant for a text-mining collaboration called “Metadata Offer New Knowledge” (MONK).

Unsworth serves as the Illinois lead for MONK’s international and multi-institutional research team that includes participants from five other universities and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, based at Illinois.

MONK brings together and extends two previous research projects: the Nora Project, a multi-institutional Mellon-funded endeavor for which Unsworth served as project director, and WordHoard, directed by Martin Mueller at Northwestern.

Nora and WordHoard applied similar techniques to analyze and explore digital humanities collections – 18th- and 19th-century British and American literature in Nora, and earlier texts, including Shakespeare, Chaucer and early Greek epic literature, in WordHoard. Merging Nora and WordHoard in MONK will create “an inclusive and comprehensive text-mining and text-analysis tool-kit of software for scholars in the humanities,” Unsworth said.

MONK is “an unusually large collaboration for humanities computing that brings together some of the best and the brightest in the field across North America.”

In March, Michael Welge, of NCSA, won a $1.2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, for an infrastructure project, with Unsworth serving as one of the co-principal investigators. SEASR, or Software Environment for the Advancement of Scholarly Research, begins in June.

According to the project’s online report, SEASR seeks to deliver “a means of addressing the challenges of transforming information into knowledge by constructing the software bridges that are required to move from the unstructured and semi-structured data world to the structured data world.”

The aim is to make content collections more useful by integrating two research and development frameworks – NCSA’s Data-to-Knowledge (D2K) and IBM’s Unstructured Information Management Architecture – into an easily useable analytical platform that researchers in any discipline, but particularly the humanities, can easily learn and adapt for their own scholarly research.

Other key people in SEASR are Loretta Auvil, NCSA and U. of I., co-principal investigator; Duane Searsmith, U. of I., technical lead; Tara Bazler, Indiana University, usability evaluator; and Tim Cole, U. of I., community adviser.

According to Unsworth, SEASR links with the MONK project and “has the potential to bring MONK to bear on existing, real-world digital library collections.”

Unsworth also is co-principal investigator, with the U. of I. Library’s Beth Sandore, of a $2.6 million project, the ECHO DEPository, a digital preservation research and development project at Illinois in partnership with the Online Computer Library Center and funded by the Library of Congress.

Project partners include NCSA and WILL-AM-FM in Urbana, Ill., two other universities and state libraries in five states.

Unsworth’s interest in digital humanities preceded his move to Illinois. From 1993 to 2003 he served as the first director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities and as a professor in the English department at the University of Virginia. Prior to that, he taught at North Carolina State University.

What first got a scholar of contemporary American fiction so interested in the uses of computers in the humanities?

“My interest in computers is directly traceable to procrastination,” Unsworth said.

“Specifically, while word-processing my dissertation in the late 1980s, I discovered that writing macros, or simple programs, to sort and format my bibliography, or reprogramming the splash screen in Wordstar, was a great way to avoid writing chapters, or worse, to avoid revising them.”

More seriously, he said his involvement with computing became a “sustained,” rather than a “fugitive” engagement, when it “met up with my interest in publishing and scholarly communication in 1990.”

At North Carolina State, Unsworth and some junior faculty colleagues wanted to start a journal on postmodernism, but the school couldn’t cover the printing and mailing costs, “so the director of the library suggested that we visit the people in campus computing and explore a new software package called ‘Listserv,’ which is how we ended up publishing the first peer-reviewed electronic journal in the humanities, by e-mail, three years before the advent of the Web.”

Unsworth said that while there is a great deal of academic activity in advancing digital humanities development, the movement is in its infancy and barriers exist.

Funding is one problem, he said, since large-scale projects can be costly. “But that problem is, happily, being mitigated,” Unsworth said, “as private and government foundations are beginning to coordinate their grant-making, partly in response to the ACLS Cyberinfrastructure report.”

Another problem is the academic reward system.

“Although the field of digital humanities is respectable with deans, provosts and funding agencies, it is often still regarded with suspicion at the department level as somehow less than scholarly.” That conclusion is supported by “The Book as the Gold Standard for Tenure and Promotion in the Humanistic Disciplines,” a study put together by Leigh Estabrook, a former dean of the library school. Funding for the study was providing by the Mellon Foundation.

Unsworth said that even at Illinois, one of the most wired and digitally active campuses in the world, “junior level faculty in the humanities who have interesting ideas and good skills for mounting digital humanities projects hold off until they are tenured.”

“That’s too bad – and it should underline the need for department heads and senior faculty members to make digital humanities safe for junior faculty.”:

Posted by Katie Newman at 5:16 PM

"True Science Thrives Best in Glass Houses, Where Everyone Can Look In"

The title of this entry was said Max Perutz and quoted by Tom Cech, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in his May 2007 letter to HHMI researchers. What he is referring to, of course, is that the best research occurs where researchers have access to all the research that has gone before them. Where research is not hidden behind firewalls or other barriers to which only the elite have access.

Earlier this year Cech announced that the HHMI had paid money to Elsevier in order for papers published by HHMI authors in Elsevier or Cell Press journals to be routinely deposited in PubMed Central after six months. Negotiations are under way to expand this process to other publishers. This agreement relieves the burden from the authors to deposit their pre-print versions, provides that the deposited version will be the version of record, ensures better worldwide access to all the output of the HHMI authors, and sets the access bar high for other major granting agencies.

Posted by Katie Newman at 1:33 PM

May 14, 2007

Thomson to Sell Higher Ed Units

The Thomson Corporation has signed agreements with funds advised by Apax Partners and OMERS Capital Partners under which such funds will acquire the higher education, careers and library reference assets of Thomson Learning. Additionally, a consortium of funds advised by Apax and OMERS will acquire Nelson Canada. The combined total value of the transaction is approximately $7.75 billion in cash.

The assets being sold include such well-known brands and businesses as Wadsworth, Delmar Learning, Gale, Heinle, Brooks/Cole and South-Western. The sale is part of Thomson's previously announced strategy to sell the assets of its Learning business to enable it "to pursue opportunities better aligned with its growth strategy and business model." Thomson Learning businesses serve the higher education, careers, library reference, corporate e-learning and e-testing markets.

See press release for more information.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:07 AM

May 10, 2007

Senate Endorses the CIC Provosts' Statement on Publication Agreements

On April 30th, 2007, the U of Illinois Faculty Senate endorsed the CIC Provosts' Statement on Publication Agreements. This statement urges faculty to retain some of their copyrights when submitting papers for publication in order to maximize the scholarly impact, accessibility, educational use, and readership of their papers. To facilitate this, U of Illinois authors are urged to consider amending the standard publisher's Copyright Transfer Agreement with the Addendum to Publication Agreement for CIC Authors (Word doc).

The Addendum stipulates that the authors will be able to make their papers freely available on the Internet within 6 months of publication, thus granting publishers the right of first impact. U of Illinois authors are urged to submit a copy of their paper to IDEALS -- the U of Illinois digital archive -- with the stipulation that it be made freely available after 6 months. Of course, some publishers already allow authors to mount their articles on institutional web sites; check the Sherpa/Romeo database for publisher policies.

For more background on the CIC Provost's Statement on Publication Agreements, and why the U of Illinois Senate endorsed it, please read the background information provided by the U of Illinois Senate Committee on the Library.

Posted by Katie Newman at 3:28 PM

May 5, 2007

Blog Journal Bio:Blogs

Overwhelmed by blogs? Take a look at Bio::Blogs, which is a blog journal related to bioinformatics blogs. It presents reviews and comments, creates editorials, provides lists of selected readings, and more. You can also get a PDF version of its monthly journal. It's a great example of a tool that synthesizes and selects the important ideas and readings. I hope we'll see similar blog journals in other disciplines soon.

Thanks to Really Simple Sidi 5/3/07 for the pointer.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 8:27 AM

Headline to Publish Debut Novel Online for Free

It's interesting to take a look at what's happening in the general book publishing arena. The publisher Headline plans to publish Simon Spurrier's debut novel, Contract, online in six weekly installments, with free access.

Piers Blofeld, editor of Headline's new generation fiction list, says Headline is the first mainstream commercial publisher to make such a move and from 24th May in six weekly installments Contract will be available on the dedicated site:

"'Contract' was one of those very rare submissions that had me literally jumping out of my chair with excitement," said Blofeld. "The publishing industry has been tiptoeing around publishing books online. While there are obvious issues for publishers, the main point for me is that what writers need above all else is readers. With his comics background and established online presence, the fact that Simon has the perfect profile for this kind of venture, is a bonus; as is the fact the book will resonate with a particularly large market demographic of internet users."

As a writer for 2000AD comics since he was 17, Spurrier already has his own cult following and was voted top new writer in the 2004 UK Comic Industry Awards. Spurrier's central character has beaten his novel online, however – hitman Michael Point already has a blog on Myspace.

Contract is available at from 24th May 07 . It is out in hardback on June 4th 2007, £19.99, 9780755335886. 5/3/07

Posted by P. Kaufman at 8:13 AM