ACRL 2011: E-Science–The Next Step in Information Literacy

David Osterbur

David Osterbur, Head, Public and Access Services at the Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, led off a well attended session on e-science by providing a definition of it.  He said that many people think that e-science is big data with everything archived, but it is better to think of it as networked data-driven science.  In working with e-science, the skills of a librarian are helpful, especially  in knowing how to search and knowing about metadata and how to apply it.

One of the big problems in e-science is proprietary software.  When it is brought in to an organization, one must learn how to use it and must find ways to make data interperable.  Although it takes time and effort to do this as well as some subject expertise, it is not necessary to have a Ph.D. to help researchers find what they need.  The best way to help them is to teach them how to use the resources in the library.  Many scientists don’t know what they have available to them.  A library catalog is an asset to working with e-science because it allows researchers to access the information they need.

Osterbur stressed that science needs to be more open.  A lot of data is available that could be put to good use, but it is not accessible because it is locked up.  Publishers are hurting science by hiding content behind walls, so that data mining is not possible.  Data mining cannot be done using only an abstract.  We must make data open and accessible so that the amount of knowledge that will be generated will increase.  Right now, that is being inhibited.  More open data will help libraries with their collection development activities because they can see what subject areas are hot.

Vivo is an example of a knowledge management  system where faculty members can list their expertise and find collaborators.  Osterbur thought that it might also function as a peer review system which would let universities eliminate commercial publishers by publishing research themselves.  They could gain the same reputation as publishers and make their content all open.  In Osterbur’s opinion, there is no room for profit in scholarly publishing any more.  Such a system might work well for humanities as well as the sciences.  It is time to change things, and we need to do this!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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