2017-04-17: CNI Spring 2017 Trip Report

The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Spring 2017 Membership Meeting was held April 3-4, 2017 in Albuquerque, NM.  As before, the presentations were of very high quality but the eight-way (!) split of presentations means that you're going to miss some good presentations.  The full schedule is available, but this trip report will focus on the sessions that I was able to attend.   Fortunately, the attendees did well-covered in Twitter (#cni17s), and the tweets are collected by both CNI (Day 1, Day 2) and Michael Collins (Day 1, Day 2).  The presentation slides are being collected at OSF.    

The first day began with a plenary by Alison J. Head, representing Project Information Literacy (PIL).  Alison's talk was entitled "What today's university students have taught us", and these slides from not quite a year ago were similar to what she presented at CNI.   Alison has done extensive research about how undergraduates use Wikipedia, the Web in general, and life-long learning after graduation, as well as the relationship with university libraries.  A full list of publications is available on their site, but she provided five take aways at the end of her presentation: 1) students say research is more difficult than ever before (as compared to high-school), 2) students have the most difficulty with getting started on their assignments, 3) contextualizing research is difficult and frustrating for students, 4) students use a search strategy driven by familiarity and efficiency (mainly using the tools shown below), and 5) evaluating research resources (e.g., for quality, timeliness) is the primary skill students carry with them after graduation. 

Two additional points I found relevant to my own experiences with undergraduates were 1) employers make hiring decisions based on students' technical knowledge, but are then surprised when they did not ask neighbors/colleagues when they got stuck (and instead they use Google to find answers instead), and 2) students liked that instructional videos which illustrated common failures/traps/gotchas, whereas in professors' class notes everything works fine  -- not unlike TV home or car repair shows!  (edit: the video of Alison's keynote is now available)

The first session I attended was "Direct from the Swamp: Developments of the 45th President and 115th Congress", by Krista L. Cox (ARL) and Alan S. Inouye (ALA).  Krista and Alan gave summaries and commentary of the situation in DC, starting with the "who wins and who loses" in the so-called "skinny budget".  The federal hiring freeze (now over) has had the unintended side-effect of slowing the rate in which the new policies could put into place.  They also discussed ALA collecting "#SaveIMLS" tweets:

They also discussed the current bill to make the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointment instead of the Librarian of Congress.  You can imagine how "popular" that was with the audience, right up there with not being able to read Georgia State Law without paying a company (see also: Carl Malamud's Public.Resource.Org), and the FCC chairman who "wants to take a 'weed whacker' to net neutrality."  Personally, I was disappointed to learn about David Gelernter, since Linda was a big influence on some of my early system designs.   Krista and Alan discussed many other issues but they did not have slides and I wasn't able to take a complete set of notes.

The next session was Herbert, Martin, and me presenting "To the Rescue of the Orphans of Scholarly Communication".   The slides we presented are below, as well as a video Mohamed created to help illustrate some of the concepts, and some "action" shots.   David Rosenthal has written a really strong summary of our session and I encourage you to read that. As of 2017-05-23, a video of the presentation is now available. 


The last session on Monday was by Jeff Spies, entitled "Data Integrity for Librarians, Archivists, and Criminals: What We Can Steal from Bitcoin, BitTorrent, and Usenet".  The talk was pretty true to the title, and Jeff gave a high-level review of blockchain, erasure codes, NNTP, BitTorrent, and other related technologies relevant to archiving.  The talk reminded me of Frank McCown's 2008 JCDL paper about encoding server-side components in HTML comments and using erasure codes from archived web pages to reconstruct an eprints server.  And before anyone gets too enthusiastic about blockchain, I suggest you read some of David Rosenthal's blog posts on blockchain.

Day 2 began with Geoffrey Bilder presenting "Open Persistent Identifier Infrastructures: The Key to Scaling Mandate Auditing and Assessment Exercises".  Geoffrey argued for the need for identifiers, for publications (e.g., DOIs), people (e.g., ORCIDs), and the newly proposed Organizational Identifier Project (blogs from CrossRef, DataCite, and ORCID).  The need for identifiers was not controversial, but there was lively discussion about the various forces amplifying the need for identifiers, such as the increasing volume of publications and the number of people who start an academic career but reroute along the way (and whether is acceptable, even desirable, or a real problem).  Regarding the potential for identifiers to accelerate a metrics-based approach to science, he also quoted from an article by Cliff Lynch who said "I am deeply concerned about the potential quantification of scholarly impact" -- like all of Cliff's work, the full article is worth your time.  David Rosenthal wrote a great review of this session as well. 

The next session I attended was "Building Distinctive Collections through International Collaborations: Lessons from UCLA's International Digital Ephemera Project" by T-Kay Sangwand and Todd Grapone.  This was the second or third time I've seen the International Digital Ephemera Project presented at they've got a great collection of material (e.g., the Green Movement in Iran).  T-Kay and Todd showed some videos in their presentation but I can't find them online.  This project is a bit outside of the typical web archiving work that we do, but their IDEP Partners Toolkit is worth checking out. 

The next session was by Cliff Lynch, "Institutional Repository Strategies: What We Learned at the Executive Roundtables", where he summarized the two IR roundtable sessions from Sunday.  This session was standing room only and followed with great interest.  There was an audio recording of this session that I'll link to when it's available, as well as a written summary that will be available in about 2 months.  I hesitate to even attempt to summarize Cliff's summary, but I did manage to write down a few points.  First, universities are struggling with scope of their IR and how to disentangle set of demands for digital collection management platforms, such as: newspapers, photographs, special collections, OJS, university presses, etc.  This approach is different from the other model of taking contributions from the university community at large, in a variety of formats and granularities.  One quote that Cliff relayed was (more or less) "we have 5-6 platforms that have aspects of IRs...  it is hard to explain what is to be found in one vs. the other".

There was also a brief detour in the realm of discipline-specific repositories vs. IRs, as well as any requirements that arise from specialized formats.  This made me think of Richard Poynder's recent interview with Cliff and the various responses to it.

Cliff also addressed another tension with IRs: do they collect material created by faculty, with an emphasis on what is at risk of being lost, or do they capture a record of the institution's output (with a further emphasis on journal literature)?  The latter does not work out well because of access mandates from publishers.  What is the incentive for the library to make an investment to implement open access policy (esp. if it comes from the faculty)?  Cliff's observation was institutions were more willing to chase material down 5 years ago, but now they recognize the significant cost associated with such an approach.

Cliff finished with four "nuanced points": 1) IRs have been around long enough for migration issues to arise (i.e., people are already having to migrate between IRs), 2) how development is being handled on open source platforms: are  develop strategies driven by needs of institutions or by the developers themselves?, 3) have we been too insular?  The library may be the tip of the spear, but this is no longer a library problem, it is a university problem, and we should we be looking at Blackboard, distance learning systems, and DAMs, 4) what is the IRs' position relative OERs?  Some systems, like ETDs, generated quick wins (and less so with journals) but OERs would have immediate impact on students.

The next session was "Social Networks and Archival Context: In Transition from Project to Program", by Daniel V. Pitti and Jerry Simmons.  I did not take good notes during this session, but there is an extensive video available as well as the project web site for more information.

The closing session was "Fresh Perspectives on the Future of University-Based Publishing" by Amy Brand of MIT Press.  She began with a quote from Paul Courant that while university presses provide a "warm glow", they are not "essential elements for excellent universities". 

Amy gave an overview of all the things they're doing at MIT Press to "future-proof" the university press:

She discussed a wide range of things and it was difficult to keep up; an incomplete list included: scanning their back catalog with the Internet Archive / Open Library, a partnership with the NYPL, implementing AltMetrics, setting up a "futures lab", investigating hypothes.is, assigning DOIs to individual book chapters for greater citation granularity, uniformly providing both soft- and hard-copies for books with a single purchase, using watermarking instead of DRM wherever possible, and inhousing technology development as much as possible:

There was a lot more to Amy's excellent presentation, but you should probably wait for the video.  Not all presentations were recorded but many were and I'll update this post with links to videos as CNI releases them (edit: the video of Amy's keynote is now available).

Again, another great CNI membership meeting and thanks to all at CNI for putting it together.  See you in DC in December for the winter meeting -- hopefully this time with ODU as a full CNI member!


PS -- David Rosenthal blogged about two other sessions that I did not attend -- you should check them out. 

PPS -- More "action" shots!