The Despicable Senator Cruz

Throughout our re-watching of The Day of the Doctor last night I kept thinking of the bellicose Senator Cruz arguing that we needed to accept civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq in order to defeat ISIS. Most disgusting is his claim that by trying to adhere to international law on the avoidance of civilian casualties, Obama "does not wish to defend this country."

This will be very popular with Cruz's fans, many of whom would be happy to make no distinctions among the people of Syria and Iraq in any case.

The plot of The Day of the Doctor centers on the Doctor's guilt at having wiped out Gallifrey in order to end the Time War. He made the utilitarian calculation that killing those billions of innocents was justified in order to spare the many more billions who might die in the wider war if it could not be contained. Then he spent four hundred guilt-filled years regretting it.  He has the chance to undo that decision, and he takes it.

The dilemma is a classic one. What lives are you willing to take in order to prevent greater harm?  We see it play throughout the history of war. The U.S. chose the destruction of innocents in Dresden and again in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We still argue about it.  Was it better that we kill all of those innocent, suffering men, women and children in order to end the war?  

At the Nuremberg trials we began to understand what happens to a culture, and to the people who are a part of it, when you choose the path that leads to dehumanizing the "other."  There's no easy solution, and in war, innocent people die, But we try to recognize that the easy acceptance of "collateral damage" (that soul destroying phrase) places us on the same plane of barbarism of those we are trying to subdue.

Cruz appeals to the barbarism that is still within us, to the fear and the tribalism that will make it easy to accept those civilian deaths in order to save ourselves from this "threat to Western Civilization."   But our response, when it leads to torture, loss of civil liberties, dehumanization of those we see as not like us, and a willingness to easily accept the destruction of innocent life, profoundly threatens the values on which that civilization has been built.

I don't know what the solution is. I'm not a tactician.  Clearly ISIS is not amenable to a diplomatic solution. They need to be fought militarily and more aggressively than we have figured out how to do so far.  But I have no patience for the internet armchair generals who will rage in comment threads and on twitter about what we "obviously" have to do, and who will boast about their willingness to be tough enough to kill as many children as it takes.  Idiots, who will never have to stand for the consequences of their choices.  

I am not willing that we should descend to their level of barbarity and ignore the humanity of those who are caught on the ground. I want to see leadership that will find a solution, difficult as it is, that doesn't destroy our values on the pretext of defending them.  Unlike the Doctor, we don't get a second chance.

 


What We Share

I was in Frankfurt in 2006, having been invited to speak at the annual meeting of the STM association. It was a heady experience. I don't remember what I talked about (I hope it was useful) but I certainly learned a lot. I came away with the understanding that the commercial publishers were already knee-deep into the reinvention of scholarly publishing and they were eager to partner with librarians in that great adventure. But they weren't going to wait for the librarians to show up.

Sadly, the librarians never did. It was still the early days of Open Access publishing. But Mabe was at great pains to point out that STM was officially agnostic on the subject. I met Hindawi, who had recently joined. I had a long conversation with Velterop, full as always with his enthusiasm for what might be achieved with some goodwill and creativity and daring. Even Erik Engstrom, then CEO of Elsevier, told me in conversation that he was not at all opposed to Open Access. He just needed to figure out how to make it work as a business.

But in the years that followed, the librarians didn't show up. Led by ARL/SPARC they manned the barricades, determined to make this a holy war between good and evil. Fueled by anger over the affordability problem, stoked with rhetoric that characterized Elsevier's profit margins as typical of the entire industry, and willfully oblivious to the economic realities of publishing, the librarians found emotional satisfaction in castigating the evil publishers, writing letters to congress and investing portions of their scant resources in institutional repositories that their faculties have little interest in supporting.

Where are we now, nearly ten years later? The commercial publishers have turned OA into the business model they were beginning to envision back in Frankfurt. Springer claims to be the largest source of OA articles in the world. Elsevier launches a new OA journal practically every week. Every major STM publisher has a PLoS One clone.  The OA partisans conspicuously have nothing to say about PLoS's revenues.   It's become a huge publisher by adopting the strategies and utilizing the talents of some of the best in the publishing industry. It's now running a surplus that bests that of most of the commercial small fry and the OA partisans can't figure out if PLoS is still one of the good guys.

The partisans retrench into the incoherence of green OA. Since they can't stomach making payments of any kind to the commercial publishers (Harnad's painful pun of "Fool's Gold") they fly the flag for green, continuing to manage a splendid feat of cognitive dissonance by ignoring the fact that green is entirely dependent on the existence of a vibrant, healthy, subscription-based publishing infrastructure -- the very system they want to eradicate.

The partisans lob their attacks on liblicense-l. The latest comes after Robert Glushko posts a message asking if we can't all recognize that despite our differences we are all still in this together. "I'm hopeful that we can work to find common areas of interest, and that we can all work together to promote those areas. At our best, we do so much good."

The critics are quick to disparage such foolish idealism.  Prosser says,  "Gosh, I wish this was true. I wish that we were all just one big happy family striving to promote scholarship. But I don’t think we are. We all have different priorities and drivers and sometimes those drivers and priorities clash."  Guédon quickly chimes in:  "Hear, hear, David! The notion that publishers/libraries/scholarly are close relatives is completely fanciful."  Later, in his long post, he seems to temper this somewhat, "Let us concentrate our fire on the few, multinational, baddies and the rogue scientific associations, and let us see how we can repatriate publishing capacity within academe."  So not all publishers are evil -- it is the multinational baddies that we must go to war with.  I'm sure this is comforting to the struggling commercial and society publishers trying to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

At UKSG 2013 I gave the closing plenary, arguing that publishers and librarians share the same overarching  commitment to advancing scholarship through the distribution of new knowledge.  It's our view of the role of the market that puts us at odds.  Librarians see market forces as the impediment to distributing knowledge.  Commercial publishers see market forces as the mechanism for distributing knowledge.  This fundamental disconnect will continue to make our business relationships more difficult than they need be. And librarians are at a particular disadvantage because of our unwillingness to learn to deal realistically with the economics of publishing. 

But surely there can be more to the relationship than that.  The publishers themselves are fiercely competitive with each other, but still managed to get together to create CrossRef, which has done more to facilitate efficient movement through the scholarly literature than anything that librarians have put together.

I still believe that the best way forward is for librarians, publishers of all stripes, researchers, academics and members of the public to engage and argue and work together to build a scholarly ecosystem that works for the public good. Something that I believe we all want. The people who work in those companies that the partisans castigate as "the baddies" (and worse) are, by and large, good people who are committed to doing a good job and advancing scholarship.  They also want their organizations to be successful.  A sentiment that I believe is shared by every librarian I know.

There are some positive signs. While I'm still not seeing as much positive energy from the library community as I would like, the Library Publishing Coalition is doing very good work.   I'm still optimistic that SHARE can achieve some useful things, particularly as it works more closely with CHORUS. The deal that CHORUS just signed with ORCID is very positive and should give librarians something to get behind.

Most promising of all perhaps, is the energy I saw at the Society for Scholarly Publishing meeting in Arlington in May. SSP, more than any other association, has made a major commitment to bringing publishers and librarians together. They have just elected a librarian as president. Rick Anderson generates a lot of skepticism among librarians but he is librarian through and through.

The way forward will continue to be difficult.  But if librarians are going to influence that future they're going to have to show up and find ways to work with the people in publishing.  Writing them off with the kind of demeaning and insulting rhetoric that characterizes so much of what the partisans write doesn't advance anything but the would-be revolutionaries' sense of self-satisfaction.  A dose of humility and a willingness to listen would serve the cause much better.

 


Must Do More Cooking

Among the indignities I suffer following my bout with the peculiarly aggressive case of transverse myelitis is the gradual atrophy of my cooking skills. This might be slightly more tolerable if it were not for the fact that Tambourine Grrl's abilities have advanced substantially.

Three years ago, and for most of our life together up to then, we split the cooking duties. During the week, I handled suppers, working on the stove top. We ate pastas with a variety of fresh vegetables, stir-frys of endless variety, the occasional risotto, simple meals based on rice or potatoes or roasted vegetables. After a long day at the library, where I rarely had the satisfaction of simple completion, I loved the act of chopping and swirling and turning out a wonderful meal of fresh ingredients and big flavors in 30 to 45 minutes.

On weekends, Lynn took over the kitchen. Soups and stews and roasts and fresh breads and homemade ice creams. She filled the freezer with leftovers so whenever neither of us was in the mood to cook it was simple to pull out something lovely. When we renovated our kitchen ten years ago, stripping it back to the rafters and starting from scratch, she designed it around our two styles, with a 5-burner stove top, work area and dual sink on one side, and on the other a lower work surface and sink (she is short) next to the ovens. And we continued to grow as cooks and share ideas and learn from each other and from Jack Bishop and Serious Eats and I think we were pretty evenly matched and life was good. And meals were delicious.

Then came my collapse and Lynn had to take over all the cooking. Her skills continue to grow. Old favorites are even better now, as she subtly adjusts the seasonings. Every week there is at least one meal that is wholly new, based on some recipe idea she's seen somewhere. She was always better at presentation than me, and the plates are lovingly arranged. She thinks of colors and shapes in ways that I never bothered to.

I am so jealous.

Physically, I'm improving. I'm gradually doing a bit more cooking. I'll make a plate of linguine with clams for my lunch on a Saturday. For Mother's Day I did the grilled steak dinner. I've still managed the meatballs sauce for Christmas. With Josie's help I make potato pancakes for special occasions.  I'm teaching her to make her favorite Cacio e Pepe. But these are all long-time standards. I'm not learning anything! Lynn is so far ahead of me now!  

Case in point. Earlier in the week she made a dish with fresh tomatoes, herbs and linguine, the pasta cooked into the tomatoes. It was good (although not worth the amount of work the peeling and seeding of all those plum tomatoes required. She won't make it again). We had a lot left over. I offered to make a frittata with the noodles if she'd take the tomato drippings and make some kind of sauce. When I got ready for the frittata I drained the pasta and what was left was a little less than a cup of tomato drippings with a quarter inch of olive oil on top. I didn't have any ideas for turning it into a sauce.

I concentrated on the frittata. Simple. Eggs, grated parmesan, a little oil to coat the pan. The frittata was very good. And when we sat down, she brought a little gravy boat of smooth, thick delicious tangy sauce to spread over the top. How did she do that? She described what all she put into it and, frankly, I was simply so impressed I didn't process the details. But that's the kind of thing she can do now.

I am so jealous.

This weekend she's off to visit her Dad, so I'm on my own. Last night I made a big batch of the lemon chicken pasta so we can have that for supper when she gets home. It was good, but again, it was a dish I've been making for 20 years without variation. Today, though, for lunch, I had some leftover spaghetti aglio, olio and pepperoncino from Joe's and I was trying to figure out how to turn it into lunch. There were a few wilted scallions in the bottom of the vegetable drawer, so I trimmed those and cut them into half inch pieces. I put a little peanut oil in the wok, cooked the scallions for a minute, added the spaghetti to heat, and then put in a splash of sesame oil. It was simple.  It was delicious. It was fun.

My energy level isn't to the point where I'm ready to resume the weekday cooking, but I could step up for weekend meals more often.  I have so much catching up to do!

 

 


Confusing Criticism With Bullying

Jeffrey Beall is feeling bullied. This is unfortunate on several levels.

I was delighted when I read Berger & Cirasella's Beyond Beall's List: Better understanding predatory publishers in the March issue of College & Research Libraries News. Here was a well-balanced critique, lauding Beall for bringing attention to a serious problem, while also pointing to some of the justified criticisms he's received for the lack of rigor in his methodology and his clear antipathy to open access in general. As the title of the piece indicates, the authors recommend going "beyond Beall" to consider additional factors when making a determination about the quality of a particular journal.

I was happy to see it because I worry that some librarians and authors use Beall's list uncritically as definitive.   This article did a very good job of acknowledging the important contribution that Beall has made while putting it into the larger context of issues to be considered.

Beall didn't see it that way. In his petulant letter to the editor in the June issue, he complains about those who seek to discredit him.  He makes a number of interesting assertions, the most peculiar of which might be his claim that pretending that predatory journals don't exist is a "common strategy among academic librarians."  I do wish he'd provided some sourcing for this.  I try to follow this topic fairly closely and I've never seen any academic librarian anywhere make such a claim.

But it was his reference to "feeling bullied" by Walt Crawford (who he doesn't mention by name, but attempts to discredit by referring to him as "an author who writes and self-publishes his own non-peer-reviewed journal") that particularly caught my eye and raises issues about how critical discourse is conducted in our highly emotional and discordant times.

By using the highly charged word "bullied," Beall seeks to pull attention away from the content of Crawford's critiques to his own subjective sensitivities. If Crawford is being a bully, then right-thinking people need to come to Beall's defense, not because he's right on the merits of the critique, but because bullying is bad. By treating the critiques as if they were an ad hominem attack, Beall attempts to deflect attention from the substantive issues.  Make no mistake -- Crawford's criticism was strong and in-depth and surely must have stung.  But it was also rigorous and well-sourced.  Harsh, perhaps, but scarcely "bullying."

In the highly charged contentious playing fields of the internet we see this played out in many guises. In a discussion thread on the Facebook group ALAThinkTank about whether any white male would be acceptable as the next librarian of Congress, one of the disputants (female) castigated another (white male) saying, in essence, that he had no business even participating in the discussion because his privilege rendered anything he might say irrelevant. Certainly white male privilege affects one's views and needs to be taken into account, but even white males may have useful things to contribute to discussions treating of issues involving race and gender.

Similarly, I was struck by a comment in another thread from someone who, responding to some pushback on the point she was putting forward, said, in a tone of high dudgeon "So I'm not allowed to make the case for this?" Since the moderator hadn't deleted the comment it clearly was allowed. What wasn't "allowed" was that she be able to make the comment without encountering strong disagreement.

Alas, there is no clear line between criticism, even strong criticism, and personal attacks. The vicious mysogyny that infects so many online discussions, worse in some sectors, but rarely absent altogether, creates a hostile environment in which any woman might, quite rightly, flinch at even mild criticism, anticipating the vileness that may be in its wake. One can become inclined to treat all pushback as personally hostile, just to be on the safe side. 

The ease and immediacy of online communication seem to encourage this unhealthy conflation of emotion and argument.  When one's statements are questioned or one's opinions disagreed with, it's too easy to respond to the emotion, to feel personally attacked and to fight back, not against the issue or opinion expressed, but against the person.

In those quaint days of yore, when email was considered to be "instantaneous" communication, we sometimes cautioned each other to "write that angry email that you want to send, but then hold it overnight..."  That kind of caution, that sense that my first reaction might not be my best reaction, is eroding in the world of twitter and comment threads and Facebook discussion groups.  Beall's record of responding to his critics makes clear that reflection wouldn't have tempered his response much (although one can imagine that the first draft of his letter displayed an even greater sense of unjustified persecution), but his easy resort to the claim of bullying is very much in keeping with the tenor of discourse of the times.

 


Southern Heritage and the Confederate Flag

Suppose, for the sake of argument, I grant that the Civil War was not fought over the issue of slavery and that the Confederate flag is a proud symbol of Southern Heritage.

I've heard it said that the flag honors those who fought for freedom. We celebrate the soldiers of World War II, they say, those of the greatest generation who fought for freedom and democracy and against tyranny. Those that the flag represents did no less.

To make this argument requires that we stop right here, and not probe the question any further. That we not ask, what was this freedom for which the brave sons of the Confederacy fought and died? Because it wasn't some vague, nebulous, feel-good, peach pie freedom to live the good life. It was the freedom to destroy the United States of America. The tyranny against which they fought was the democratically elected government of these United States.

I've lived in the South for twenty years and I love it. I hope never to leave. There is so much to be proud of. The myriad contributions to music and literature and great food. The Tuskegee Airmen, the great Universities, and the incredible bravery of the heroes of the Civil Rights movement, sung and unsung. So many men and women of the South have done so much to make this country a better place. But this is not the heritage for which the Confederate flag flies.

A good friend of mine, a decade older than me, once said, "I don't remember World War II, but I sure remember the War Between the States." She meant that growing up as a barefoot red dirt girl in rural Georgia in the late forties & early fifties, World War II was something distant that the men had gone off to. It wasn't talked about much. But the Civil War -- or, rather, the War of Northern Aggression -- was a daily presence. For many in the South, it is still that way.

The virulent hatred of the federal government remains strong. The siren call of "states rights" still sings. When the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court proclaimed earlier this year that federal court rulings regarding same sex marriage should not be obeyed, he was hailed as a hero by his supporters. This is the heritage that the Confederate flag celebrates. It is anti-American in principle and as long as it flies as an official statement in state capitals it gives solace and support and encouragement to those who refuse to accept that we are one nation and who will, on horrific occasions, feel that they are entitled to use violence to "take our country back."

The Southern heritage that I want to celebrate will take that flag, fold it carefully and put it away gently as a reminder of the mistakes that men and women make on our march toward true democracy and the great promise of America. In putting it away, we will honor the best of those who died wearing the Confederate grey, thank them, and forgive them for the mistaken cause for which they fought.

The Southern heritage that I want to celebrate was shining in those stunning scenes on Friday, as family member after family member spoke to Dylann Roof of forgiveness. Felicia Sanders' son was killed.  She said, “You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same. Tywanza Sanders is my son, but Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. But as we say in Bible study, we enjoyed you. But may God have mercy on you.” "You took something very precious away from me," said Nadine Collier, whose 70 year old mother was among the murdered. "I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you."

This is the heritage of the South. It sings of the best that human beings can be. It proclaims that hatred never wins and that love is the most powerful force in creation. Can you live up to it? Can I?

 


Data Wranglers in the Edge of Chaos

I love these lines from Rex Sanders:

If the data you need still exists;

If you found the data you need;

If you understand the data you found;

If you trust the data you understand;

If you can use the data you trust;

Someone did a good job of data management.

It encapsulates the goal as well as anything I've seen.

I used it to lead into the first of what I intend to be more or less monthly informal discussion sessions with the folks I'm somewhat tongue-in-cheek referring to as Data Wranglers.  We gathered in the Café at the Edge of Chaos (conveniently just a few steps from my office).   I scheduled it for 4:00 with beer in the fridge and wine on the counter, gave a five minute intro to some of the issues (essentially, what does the institution need to do to facilitate good data management) and opened it up for discussion.  These folks are not shy.

Included among the dozen who came were an Institute of Medicine member who is a staunch OA advocate and leads several biostatistics groups, the PI of a very large multi-institutional longitudinal study of stroke risk factors, a computer scientist who runs a multidisciplinary team engaged in brain mapping, the director of the clinical data warehouse, an expert in decision support systems, and a woman working with NASA to link satellite, EPA and public health data.  The others were equally diverse and distinguished.  A fascinating group, all of whom have a keen interest in how we manage research data.

We touched on a number of key themes:

  • Concerns about data sharing contrasted with the value of data sharing
  • The limitations of metadata in supplying sufficient context for data re-use
  • The dangers of one-size-fits all policies
  • The need to provide good information support to investigators in response to imminent federal funder requirements for open data
  • Information sharing vs data sharing
  • Role of commercial interests

I have an ever expanding list of (currently about 40) people from across the campus that I'm inviting to these sessions.  My overarching goal is to build a community of interest, make connections among people who have similar concerns but may not know each other, and use these discussions to drive priorities and strategy.  It's a Wicked Problem, which is what the Edge of Chaos is all about.

After 15 years of working on these issues around the demands of my day job as LHL director, for the past nine months or so I've been able to dig in full time.  It's become clearer than ever that it requires strong collaborative efforts that cross institutional boundaries.  That is very tough to do, given the way that research institutions are organized and the siloed culture of those institutions.

In most places, it's the librarians that have taken the lead, usually in developing services around DMP requirements and, increasingly, tracking the new federal funder requirements for public access to publications and data.  But this is much more than a library problem.

I have been quite struck by how much my perspective has been shifted by the fact that I am doing this out of the Provost's Office rather than out of the library.  My focus is on engaging intensively with researchers across disciplines, the folks in IT and OSP and compliance, and using a very organic approach to surface issues and needs.  Out of that, we'll try to identify the things that the various components of the university can do to help us all do a better job managing research data.  My monthly Data Wranglers discussions are a key component of that approach.

I've come to appreciate that the challenges in achieving Rex Sanders' vision across the entire institution are practically insurmountable.  I've always had a deep empathy for Don Quixote's battle with the windmills.  That must be why I'm having such a good time.

 

 


The spinal cord in springtime

Email alert Wednesday morning that there was a message waiting for me in the patient portal.  Nervous as I logged in, anticipating the results of the previous afternoon's scan.

"Your cervical spine MRI looks good. There is some signal change consistent with old scar tissue. The lesion is slightly smaller in size and does not show any enhancement (active inflammation)."

Flooded with relief.  It's not a surprise.  It's what we expected.  I'd done a good job of not dwelling on the slender possibility that the inflammation would return, but there's no denying the fear.  Generally, transverse myelitis doesn't recur, but there's been nothing typical about my case, so that factoid hasn't given me a lot of comfort.  But now that I'm seven months from the last cyclophosphamide treatment with no recurrence of inflammation I can feel a little more secure.

Improvements continue, although they're slight and not very apparent to the observer.  For short distances (getting around the house, navigating a restaurant, making my way around a classroom building on campus) I can make do leaning heavily on a cane (I alternate between Mr. Whiskers and Roadrunner).  If I've got to do a bit more than that (for example, making my way around a conference) I use a walker, and if there are longer distances to negotiate, Lynn can push me in the wheelchair (Lightnin' McQueen).  It's not great, and I long for the days when I could stroll around interesting cities by myself for hours.  But I can still drive and throughout all of this I've kept up my normal work and travel schedule and gotten to much of what I would have done previously.  I'm grateful for that.

My hands remain too stiff to play guitar, but I still write in my journal with a fountain pen for an hour nearly every morning, and I can type.  I can cook, although I don't do it as much as Lynn or I would like. My overall stamina is the limiting factor there (but when I made the bolognese a couple of weeks ago I was on my feet in the kitchen for two hours straight).

I take baclofen daily, which minimizes the tremors & twitches & spasms that were so prevalent 20 months ago.  The arm, leg and back muscles are all in a constant state of tension, as if I'm flexing them all at once. They never quite relax. (As Hooks put it, I'm perpetually in neutral, never settling into park).  Instead of working smoothly in pairs, the muscles fight each other.  So all motion is difficult and tiring.  I started with a new muscle relaxant yesterday.  As always, we're in uncharted waters.

Strange to think that this has been going on for years.  Looking back, I now realize I was having symptoms three years ago, although it took another six months to get to the paralytic attack that sent me to the hospital the first time.  I don't expect ever to be "fully recovered" although it is still not unreasonable to think that I'll play guitar again and be able to walk more easily.  Exercise and neuroplasticity can achieve amazing things.

Here in the deep south we are fully into early summer.  When I drive home from work the trees on either side of the freeway are thickly lush in a calico of a dozen shades of green.  The good news from the scan of my poor chewed up spinal cord reminds me to pay attention and enjoy the gorgeousness of the sun splattered leaves even while I'm maneuvering through rush hour traffic.  I could be annoyed at the lousy drivers ahead of and next to me or I could grin with pleasure at the personalities of the trees.

Easy choice.

 


We Are Librarians

He's in the family room, half dozing over his evening scotch.  He's feeling pleasantly sluggish from the football game and the beer.  His team won.  Now the kids are watching their latest favorite show.  He's not paying attention, hears the voices drift in and out.  Some silly sci-fi something.  Some group of quirky, not quite normal eccentrics, out to save the world.  Snatches of dialog drift in. 

"Who are you people?"

"We're librarians."

He snaps awake.  The memory comes back.  The one that has mystified him all these years.  Oh my god!  They're real!  I met them!

****

It was 2000.  I'd gotten one of those Marriott timeshare offers -- 5 nights in a deluxe villa near Disneyworld for some ridiculously cheap price.  The only catch was that before you left you had to sit through the hour-long sales pitch.  Why not?  We like Disneyworld.  We'd bring Marian along.  We'd be polite during the pitch.  Hell, maybe we'd even buy in after all (this was just before we found Lynn's dreamhouse).

The villas were quite nice and the vacation was lovely.  By the time we entered the sales office on the morning of our departure we were in a mellow mood.  We weren't inclined to buy, but we were willing to have them try.  It was all relaxed and low-key.  First a video, then we sat down with the very nice, professional agent.  He asked us questions about our likes and dislikes, trying to sort out which of his categories to slot us into.  No, we didn't golf or ski.  No watersports.  More interested in cities than mountains or beaches.  He flipped through the album of pictures of the various properties.

He started to talk about financing options, but Lynn stopped him.  "If we do this, we'll probably just pay cash." An eyebrow went up.  We could see him mentally recalibrating.

So do you travel much?  Quite a bit, actually.  And is that for business or pleasure?  A pretty even mix of both.

And what do you like to do when you're traveling?

"Have lunch," said Lynn.  He looked confused.  I elaborated, "If it's a day when neither of us is working, we'll sleep late and then try to find a nice place for a leisurely lunch.  Then maybe a bit of sightseeing or a museum.  Find an interesting restaurant for dinner and then maybe a local dive bar for drinks and some live music.  That'd be kind of a perfect day."

I could see that we weren't making this easier for him.  "So where have you been in the last year?"

"Oh, let me think...  Chicago, Cairo, New Orleans..." (It had been a particularly busy year). "London & Paris, Vancouver... DC, Charleston, Bucharest..."

He looked back and forth at the two of us as we sat quietly smiling at his perplexity.  "I'm sorry," he said.  "But I have to ask, what do you do?"

Without missing a beat, and in perfect unison, we said, "We're Librarians."

We didn't buy, but we left content with the knowledge that we had rearranged his impressions of librarians forever after.  I do hope that he sees the show and thinks of us.

****

I know the members of my tribe are split on the merits of the show but Lynn and I rather love it.  Some of my favorite lines:

"Dad? Who are those people?"
"They're librarians, honey."
"Librarians? Wow."
 
"Librarians win with knowledge.  Librarians win with science."
 
"What is a librarian?! [Sighs] They're the ones who protect the rest of us from the magic and the weird and the things that go bump in the night."
 
Story of my life.
 

Of Course She's Going To Get Hurt

I went with JoBug and her Mom to Andrews to have her hand x-rayed.  She'd started having a sharp pain after a particular move during practice the day before.  Her Mom didn't think anything was broken, but better to be sure.  Josie wasn't too concerned about the pain, but there was a competition coming up in two days that she did not want to miss.  Dr. Miner was superb -- working with a doctor who understands young athletes makes a world of difference.  When she came into the examining room she sat down and talked directly to Josie first.  The x-ray showed nothing broken -- most likely an irritated tendon.  Ice it, have the trainer wrap it if need be, but nothing to prevent her from competing.  That's what we wanted to hear.

When I tell people about Josie and her passion for gymnastics and the 20 hours a week she spends in the gym, someone will inevitably ask, "But aren't you afraid she'll get hurt?"  "No," I say, as gently as I can.  "I assume that she'll get hurt."  I certainly hope she doesn't get seriously injured, but the odds are good that there'll be some broken bones along the way.  

In just a few weeks she'll be ten.  The big One-Oh, as Alejandro Escovedo would have it.  During her first year there were times it seemed that I was the only one of us that could settle her when she was colicky.  I'd hold her close, rocking her gently, pacing around the living room mumbling nonsense to her and she'd sleep and snore gently.  I was fifty years old and for the first time I understood the deep terror that accompanies being a parent.  For the rest of my life, I now knew, I'd have to carry the worry about what she would have to deal with.

And the knowledge of how little I could do about it.

Perhaps, if I'd become a parent at twenty, I'd've imagined I could protect my child from harm.  But much of my adult life has been growing to appreciate my own helplessness and by the time I held the little critter in my arms I knew that I could protect her from very little.

More than that, though.  Hasn't it, after all, been my own sorrows and heartaches and mistakes that have formed me just as much as the moments when the best of me has had the good fortune to shine?  Why would I want to keep her from the fullness of a messily wondrous human life?

She was beautiful as a baby, and is growing into an even more beautiful young girl.  Already, when friends see pictures, I get the jokey comments about having the shotgun ready when the boys start coming around.  But I'm not going to be that guy.  Her magnificent mother is making sure that I won't need to be.  She will be able to stand on her own, with a strong moral sense.  She is kind and gentle and coming to understand that what is right and what is easy are often very different things.  I don't think she will give her heart foolishly, but she will give it completely.  So inevitably she will have her heart broken.

 Without a doubt, she will make decisions that she will come to regret.  It makes my stomach turn over to acknowledge these things.  I can't protect myself from that hurt either.

Bones, hearts, the aches of disappointment and failing to live up to one's own standards.  No wonder parents go crazy.

Walking her around the living room ten years ago I knew I could protect her from almost nothing.  Now watching her twirl through the air and catching my breath while I watch for her hand or foot to slip and send her crashing to the mat, I know that the breaks are likely coming.  I can't stop it.

What I can be is part of the safe harbor.  That when the inevitable happens she will never have to face it alone.  Her Mom, Nonni & me, the people that she populates her planet with.  Keeping her safe isn't the goal, helping her to be strong and open to the world is what I hope to contribute to.  It would be foolish in the extreme to think we have the power to do anything more.

 

 


Conversation in Charleston: Public Access and Data

"Promote ORCID."

That was Greg's "if you take just one thing from this session" recommendation.  Howard agreed, but added, "...equally promote having your researchers submit their funder information when submitting manuscripts for journal publication.  Having the Researcher ID and Funder ID together married up to the article DOI is a powerful combination."

On the other hand, just having Howard & Greg chatting together on the same stage was a pretty powerful combination.   When SHARE & CHORUS were first launched, just a few months after the Holdren memo was released, many observers saw them as competitive.  In this corner, the publishing lobby making a policy end run to try to maintain their market dominance; and in this corner the combined might of the research libraries and universities seeking to leverage their investments in institutional repositories into some greater relevance.  Which of these mutually exclusive solutions would the federal funding agencies settle on? (Or would PMC simply vacuum everything up into an expansive PubScience Central)?

Fortunately, it didn't take too long for the developers to see where the projects overlapped and where there were advantages to be gained for both projects by sharing expertise and perspectives.  By the time I had lunch with several of my Roundtable colleagues at the AAAS meeting last February those conversations had gotten to the point where a joint appearance at Charleston was starting to look like a real possibility.  I immediately thought of Greg as a potential participant.  He's a Charleston regular and has been working with SHARE as a consultant.  Turns out that he had been having discussions with Judy Ruttenberg about a similar panel proposal and when the Charleston directors got wind of all this, they put us together.

Bringing Howard in was a natural given his role with CHOR., and I wanted to include John Vaughn, whose experiences with handling scholarly commnications issues for the AAU go back many years, and whose roles in chairing the Roundtable and in helping to develop the SHARE concept have amply demonstrated his commitment to including the views of all stakeholders in working through these very complicated issues.

The concept that Greg & Judy were developing was broader than just SHARE & CHORUS, however, and when the three of us spoke by phone over the summer we agreed on the necessity of bringing in a data person.  We were very fortunate that Laurie Goodman, editor-in-chief of Gigascience, was able to join us.

I've done several sessions like this over the years -- "facilitated conversation".  No presentations.  Some informal agreement among the participants about the likely themes.  I prepare half a dozen or so questions ahead of time, but once we get to the event, I rarely use more than two.  With the right people, the conversation flows naturally and takes its own course.  My job is just to keep it moving.

With this group, my task was extremely easy and the 45 minutes went by in a flash.  Of course we could have gone on much longer, but I'm happy with the range of topics that we were at least able to touch on.  (The session was recorded, so there will be a link on the Charleston website at some point). 

One of the most striking moments was when Greg asked how many in the audience were involved in managing institutional repositories.  Half the people raised a hand.  Then he said, "Keep your hands up. Now how many of you are successful in getting your authors to submit directly to your IR?" Only 2 hands were left up and one of the two was wavering in uncertainty.

Reshaping the scholarly communication eco-system is a massive job.  As John said, developing achievable policy will require adult deliberations and negotiations among all the key players – universities, libraries, publishers, and government.  It is also clear that a focused effort in data access and interpretation, management, and preservation will become increasingly important, and is one of the areas that currently is both most volatile and most challenging.

So in addition to promoting ORCID, noting funding sources, sharing best practices for effective IR management, and a whole host of other things that came up during the session, John suggests getting one of the nifty yellow Data t-shirts like the one Laurie wore.  Cafe Press has some nice options.