Thursday, August 21, 2014

PL 2/14: Notes from Lyon

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 8:00 am

Today is the last day of  the IFLA conference in Lyon.

It has been a lively event and I have spoken with many people about ideas, initatives, proposals and possibilities for the coming year. This blog post is a summing-up.

I have been a member of the Statistics and Evaluation Section since 2008 (Milan) and will complete my final term next year, in Cape Town. That will also finish my four year stint as SES secretary. My main interests during this period have been (1) to develop an training workshop in library statistics (and impact evaluation)  for beginners and (2) to  encourage a more practice-oriented (rather than normative) approach to statistical development in library communities.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PL 1/14: My year in statistics

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 12:57 pm

IFLA meets in August.

There are not too many of us. Statistics and evaluation is a special interest within a small profession. Librarians may protest, since they encounter colleagues all the time. There seems to be lots of librarians around.

But that is due to the herd instinct. Birds of a feather flock together.

A small profession

The profession is a smallish one. In rich countries with comprehensive library systems library staff constitute less than 0.3% of all employees. In the United States, ALA reports that there 166 thousand librarians and 201 thousand other staff. Total civilian employment is about 156 million. One in thousand is a librarian, then, while one in every four hundred work in a library.


Friday, November 8, 2013

PL 29/13: Unpaid university work

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 11:19 am

In the UK, Sydney Calkin says, “it is an increasingly difficult time to begin an academic career”.

This summer, the University of Essex was strongly criticized for advertising  for Non-Stipendiary Junior Research Fellows = unpaid research positions for post-doctoral students.

Picture: Wittgenstein

The Theology and Religion department at Durham invited postgraduate students to do unpaid teaching. Rather than being paid, teachers would benefit from the valuable experience …

More quotes

The culture of unpaid internships has now extended into doctoral and post-doctoral life. This trend is evident in

  • the proliferation of ‘adjunct’ positions,
  • the disappearance of permanent jobs and the tenure track, and
  • the increasing use of underpaid PhD students to provide cheaper teaching

Rosalind Gill discusses

  • the precariousness of academic jobs,
  • the intensification and extensification (blurring boundaries between work and not work), and how
  • deep personal identification with professional successes and failures define academic work today;

“internships aren’t exactly paid in cash, they are paid in networks, and those networks are worth more than money”


Thursday, November 7, 2013

PL 28/13: Education is a slow learner

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 3:03 pm

It is rare to find frank and well-informed discussions of conferences. Truth is shared face to face, but not on the web.

The quotes that follow are an exception. I had not heard about Donald Clark before. He turns out to be

  •  one of the founders of a big UK e-learning company (floated 1996, sold 2005)
  • “free of the tyranny of employment”
  • and “a regular (and controversial) blogger on e-learning!”

I can believe that. The full blog post is most readable.


The World Summit on Education in Doha, Qatar brings together educators from around the globe. It is arguably, as George Siemens says, “world’s most important education conference”.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

PL 27/13: What works in science and math education?

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 2:26 pm

Evidence-based education, based on rigorous research and solid statistics, is coming.

The availability of “big data”, in the form of learning analytics, will strengthen the new trend. The text below is a digest of

Gina Kolata. Guesses and Hype Give Way to Data in Study of Education. NYT, Sep. 2, 2013

Until recently, there had been few solid answers — just guesses and hunches, marketing hype and extrapolations from small pilot studies. So far, the [new research] office — the Institute of Education Sciences — has supported 175 randomized studies.

  • the choice of instructional materials — textbooks, curriculum guides, homework, quizzes — can affect achievement as profoundly as teachers themselves
  • a poor choice of materials is at least as bad as a terrible teacher
  • a good choice can help offset a bad teacher’s deficiencies.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

PL 26/13: New roles for academic libraries

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 8:56 pm

ALA – the American Library Association – is very good at keeping its members up to date on new developments.

ALA points to trends that are clearly visible in Norway and Europe as well – but not so well articulated, perhaps:

Data curation, digital resource management and preservation, assessment, scholarly communication, and improved services for graduate students are growth areas for academic libraries, according to an ACRL review of trends and issues affecting academic libraries. Understanding and preparing for these roles are key to the future of academic libraries.

Three crucial areas

  • Publishing. More academic libraries are entering the world of scholarly publishing by creating or expanding services.
    • Amherst (Mass.) College, for example, plans to relaunch its university press this year in a project described as a new “economic model” for libraries. The plan is to initially publish 15 peer-reviewed, edited titles in the liberal arts exclusively in freely accessible, digital formats.
    • The project suggests a model that significantly alters the role of libraries in the information economy.
    • “If enough libraries begin doing [this], at some point there is going to be a critical mass of freely available scholarly literature—literature that libraries don’t have to purchase,” (Scott Jaschik) …


Monday, September 30, 2013

PL 25/13: E-book production

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 12:59 pm

2013-10-10 14.07.25A note for LATINA Fall 2013:

For eBook and MOOC production I suggest we use textual materials that are particularly relevant for Africa (but interesting for other participants as well), such as

SFA: Library statistics for advocacy and development. (compiled for Cape Town)

TTT: Track The Traffic – systematic observation of library users

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

PL 24/13: Science and its shadow

Filed under: research — plinius @ 8:08 pm

The seventh International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication was held in Chicago a couple of weeks ago.

Participants tend to be editors of medical journals. They meet every four years. They are not happy about the current situation. Neither am I.

Scientific American was there. I quote Hilda Bastian:

Most findings are false

- “John Ioannidis  pointed to the very low rate of successful replication of genome-wide association studies (not much over 1%) as an example of very deep-seated problems in discovery science. Half or more of replication studies are done by the authors of the original research:

“It’s just the same authors trying to promote their own work.”

Industry, he says, is becoming more concerned with replicability of research than most scientists are.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

PL 23/13: The people formerly known as the audience

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 1:15 pm

Surveys in Britain and America suggest that 7-9% of the population use Twitter, compared with almost 50% for Facebook.

But Twitter users are the “influencers”, says Nic Newman, a former “future media” executive at the BBC who is now a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute at Oxford University. “The audience isn’t on Twitter, but the news is on Twitter,” says Mr Jones.

Thanks to the rise of social media, news is no longer gathered exclusively by reporters and turned into a story but emerges from an ecosystem in which journalists, sources, readers and viewers exchange information.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

PL 22/13: World-Class Universities

Filed under: universities — plinius @ 6:16 am

In the 21st century universities move into the global market.

In 2009 The World Bank published the report The Challenge of Establishing World-Class Universities.

Picture from Oslo and Akershus University College students welcome celebration 2013.

lThe World Bank published the report The Challenge of Establishing World-Class Universities four years ago. I quote from the introduction and the executive summary.


This new report, with its focus on world-class universities, examines the power of tertiary education for development from the perspective of excellence in research and scholarship at its most competitive levels.

In seeking a position on these lists of the best universities in the world, governments and university stakeholders have expanded their own perceptions of the purpose and position of tertiary education in the world.

No longer are countries comfortable with developing their tertiary education systems to serve their local or national communities. Instead, global comparison indicators have gained significance in local development of universities.

These world-class universities are now more than just cultural and educational institutions—they are points of pride and comparison among nations that view their own status in relation to other nations.

World-class standards may be a reasonable goal for some institutions in many countries, but they are likely not relevant, cost-effective, or efficient for many others. Knowing how to maneuver in this global tertiary education environment to maximize the benefits of tertiary education locally is the great challenge facing university systems worldwide.

From the summary

While acknowledging that world-class universities are part of national systems of tertiary education and should operate within these systems, the main focus of this report is to explore how institutions become tops in their league to guide countries and university leaders seeking to achieve world-class status.


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