Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
The Council of Science Editors (CSE) held its 45th Annual Meeting May 3-7, 2002 in San Diego. The spring season in North America is not only busy with library meetings but the publishing profession also has many conferences. As a librarian I have tried to attend and participate in those conferences that are most relevant outside the library arena that compliment the triad of librarian, publisher, vendor relationships. Those conferences that come to mind include the Charleston Conference and the Society of Scholarly Publishing. This year it was impossible for me to do that, and since I have always wanted to attend the CSE conference and the logistics were in my favor, I took the opportunity. All of these conferences I find valuable for the interaction between science publishers, editors, information providers and librarians and authors/readers.
CSE is the reinvigorated former Council of Biological Editors (CBE) which is trying hard to expand itself into a more global science role than just biomedical and life sciences. It put on my radar screen the association publication, Science Editor. About 400 registrants were attracted to this meeting; obviously more attend when it is on the East Coast. This year's theme, "Connecting Scientific Communities" was successful and powerful in having a full range of presentations reflecting how much more information intensive, interactive and visually stimulating science publishing has become. Being one of the few librarians in attendance, it was a refreshing, if not indulgent, respite from attending conferences with like-minded cohorts. CSE emphasizes journal content rather than books. Those interested in books should consider attending the annual BookExpo America, held every late spring, or the Frankfurt Book Fair, held each autumn.
I attended two keynote addresses: 1) Felice Frankel, scientific photographer at MIT, gave another version of her already famous talk, "What Makes Good Science Look Good," complete with some new slides, more information about the technology she uses, her constant concerns about archiving her work, and a pitch for her new book, Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image (MIT Press, 2002, ISBN: 0262062259); 2) Dr. Peter Wyer, a consulting editor of the Annals of Emergency Medicine, who addressed, "Can Clinicians Read Your Journal? Peer Reviewed Medical Journalism in the Age of Clinical Evidence," and demonstrated how the advent of evidence-based medicine creates a host of new challenges for biomedical journals. The tone was set for a number of concurrent sessions.
I attended several of those concurrent sessions and bring to your attention some themes from those that impacted me most. An update on XML and SGML and the directions they are taking in science journals was interesting with the latter the most critical and instrumental key to ensuring success with linking methodologies, capturing metadata and to support more complex document management.
The one subject-based session I attended was "BioInformatics and Publishing." There were a number of speakers substituting for those listed in the program and the title did not entirely describe the content. There was one speaker from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) who noted several resources, including access to new free e-books. The second speaker was Dr. Amy Brand from CrossRef. She explained the value and proliferation of the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and the ease it will offer consistent and persistent URLs to linked content. As more publishers explore releasing articles and content as soon as it has completed the peer review and editorial process this becomes a very critical access point. This was a very informative talk for the majority of the audience, publishers and journal editors. However, the information also applies to the new metadata elements reflected in cataloging and bibliographic control and since DOIs are searchable, this is finally very important to all constituencies of the readership and publishing communities.
Two of the most interesting sessions were: "How Scientists Use Electronic Journals," in which Carol Tenopir and Donald King updated research from their 2000 book, Towards Electronic Journals: Realities for Scientists, Librarians and Publishers, to include engineers, chemists, and physicists from Oak Ridge National Labs, science and engineering faculty from the University of Tennessee and its School of Medicine, and members of the American Astronomical Society. What emerged from their work was learning that there are new reading habits in different fields.
The second session was on "The Future of Scientific Publishing in the Electronic Age," at which Maria Lebron from the American Mathematical Society, Lorrin Garson from the American Chemical Society, and Michael Mabe from Elsevier delivered very thoughtful papers that explored technology, business models, and the human dimension of scientific scholarship over time. Some of the current experiments and the new tools we have to search, find, read, capture, save, print, and revise work appear rather overwhelming, with no stopgap for the future as readers' demands continue to soar.
Another interesting program was a group of case studies about how universities are creating educational forums on "Responsible Conduct of Research" in Biomedical and Health Science Research. We as librarians can respond with a variety of resources to the invitation to join this commitment to the highest standards of research ethics. Several program initiatives were shared from the medical schools at the Universities of California, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. There are definite implications for the publishing community, as the commercial pharmaceutical industry continues to influence research and scholarship and perhaps also the slant that articles take because of the relationship scientists may have with the funding source.
As a librarian, I also found programs on the "New Generation of Style Manuals," "Translating Scientific Text," "Multilingual Journals" and "Copyright and Permissions" very relevant to our work. It is always worthwhile to escape our world and realize how another profession and industry, however close and compatible tackles these issues.
Next year's meeting will be in early May in Pittsburgh. Consult www.CouncilScienceEditors.org for more information.