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Graduate School of Library and Information Science - University of Illinois


Alumna Jeanine Finn: Researcher, librarian, and "ninja of information spaces"

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:13:52 +0000

As fake news reports spread like a disease over the internet, online users need to more carefully consider the credibility of their news sources. Jeanine Finn (MS '96), former reference librarian, recent PhD grad, and self-described "ninja of information spaces," has been doing research on information credibility for about eight years. For her dissertation, she examined the use and evaluation of scientific sources by journalists in writing about science news for diverse audiences. "From the ethnographic study of freelance science writers, I gathered extensive data related to the writers' work habits, their research processes, their education and professional training, and, more centrally, how they manage their professional identities as trusted communicators," Finn explained. "The question of information trust and credibility in digital spaces has been key for me throughout my research career—particularly in ‘high-stakes' areas where expert scientific information intersects with public understanding and government policy." Read Jeanine Finn’s blog posts on fake news In addition to this research, Finn has studied public perception of vaccine safety as debated in medical literature and how climate change science is argued in op-eds in The Wall Street Journal. Finn completed her PhD in information studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016 and is currently a postdoctoral researcher there. She worked as a reference librarian at the University of Houston and at the Texas Legislative Reference Library prior to returning to graduate school for her doctoral degree. Finn's interest in libraries began when she was an undergraduate at Illinois working part time at the University Library. "I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to jump into a great master's program with the encouragement of my library colleagues. At the time (mid-1990s), there was a lot of excitement about the web and what was going on at NCSA. Whatever area of information science you felt pulled toward—there was always a department or a collaborator you could find somewhere to further your interests," Finn said. After receiving her master's degree in LIS in 1996, Finn went to work at the University of Houston. "It was dynamic place—several new librarians had been hired, and the library had received a large grant to install over 100 internet-connected PCs in the library. This was the largest public-access internet space in Texas at the time. We really had no idea how to run it and what would happen by letting a large undergraduate student population new to this technology basically have free reign in this kind of 'lab.'" Later, at the Texas Legislative Library, she helped lead a large digitization project and relaunch the library's website, an experience that made her better appreciate the social elements of technology. "How different stakeholders thought about 'what this database should do' was a complicated question. It wasn't about just building the right tool—it was about understanding the practices and culture that surrounded the tool," said Finn. This experience cemented her decision to pursue a PhD. Once her postdoctoral research at UT Austin is completed, Finn will start looking for her next professional opportunity. She would like to continue to research and support open and collaborative data practices and the trust issues that surround them. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her children (ages ten and twelve) and making pottery, a hobby that began when she took a ceramics class at Illinois. "I have a pottery studio in my garage and like to be up to my elbows in clay as much as time allows," she said. [...]

Cooke's new book addresses need for diversity and social justice in LIS education

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 14:24:07 +0000

Assistant Professor Nicole A. Cooke's book, Information Services to Diverse Populations: Developing Culturally Competent Library Professionals, is now available from Libraries Unlimited.

Description: This textbook and comprehensive resource introduces students to the contexts and situations that promote the development of empathy and build cultural competence, examines the research in the areas of diversity and social justice in librarianship, explains how social responsibility is a foundational value of librarianship, and identifies potential employment and networking opportunities related to diversity and social justice in librarianship. 

A valuable book for students in graduate library and information science programs as well as LIS practitioners and researchers interested in knowing more about the topic of diversity in the profession, Information Services to Diverse Populations: Developing Culturally Competent Library Professionals addresses the political, social, economic, and technological divides among library patrons, covers transformative library services, and discusses outreach and services to diverse populations as well as how to evaluate such services, among many other topics. 

(image) The book is based on Cooke's course, Information Services for Diverse Populations (LIS 547), and its appendices include a sample syllabus and sample assignments.

"Considering the diversity of clientele in all types of libraries in the U.S., this should merit an entire course on the topic. However, this is not the case in most LIS programs. In this way, Illinois is ahead of the curve, thanks to Dr. Cooke's efforts and expertise. Dr. Cooke's book provides an introduction for students and a refresher for all professionals who work with these diverse populations. It is a landmark publication," said Dr. Blanche Woolls, ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited editor.

"I'm extremely proud of this book! This is the culmination of four years of teaching and research at the iSchool, and is based on the diversity class I created and currently teach," said Cooke.

"Essentially, I wrote the book that I wanted to use in my classroom. It consolidates the literature in a way that I think will be helpful to students seeking an introduction to the topic, and to practitioners wanting to dive more deeply into the scholarship in this area. It also contains some reflections and thoughts about how we can consistently incorporate diversity into our professional practice and organizations, in an effort to better serve our diverse populations."

Cooke was named a "Mover & Shaker" by Library Journal in 2007 and was the 2016 recipient of the American Library Association's Equality Award as well as the Larine Y. Cowan Make a Difference Award for Teaching and Mentoring in Diversity. Her research and teaching interests include human information behavior, particularly in the online context; critical cultural information studies; and diversity and social justice in librarianship with an emphasis on infusing them into LIS education and pedagogy. She holds an MEd in adult education from Penn State, and a Master of Library Science and PhD in communication, information, and library studies from Rutgers University, where she was an ALA Spectrum Doctoral Fellow. Cooke serves as a member of the Spectrum Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the American Library Association Committee on Diversity.

Join the iSchool at ALISE 2017

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 15:15:04 +0000

The iSchool will be well represented at the annual conference for the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE), which will take place from January 17-20 in Atlanta. ALISE '17 will explore how LIS educators and researchers can develop curricula, programs, and research activities that support partnerships with communities to manage and create change. Meetings & Workshops Associate Professor Carol Tilley will participate in the Board of Directors Meeting at 3:00 p.m. on January 16, concluding her three-year term as director of external relations, an elected position to the ALISE Board. Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Programs Linda C. Smith is a co-organizer for the pre-conference workshop, "Pedagogical (Re)-vision: from Concept to Course," at 9:00 a.m. on January 17. Professor and Dean Allen Renear will serve on a panel addressing how programs are meeting enrollment challenges during the ALISE Council of Deans, Directors, and Program Chairs Meeting. Presentations and Panels Assistant Professor Nicole A. Cooke will participate in three presentations on January 18: "Communities in Crisis: What Everyday Acts of Terrorism Tell Us About Social Responsibility in LIS" at 8:30 a.m.; "Bringing Critical Librarianship to Your Classroom: Practical Approaches to Tough Concepts" at 2:00 p.m.; and "Engaging Diverse Local Communities: Lessons from the Archives" at 4:00 p.m.  On January 18, Assistant Professor Elizabeth Hoiem and Assistant Professor Daniel Tracy (MS '12), University Library, will present their paper, "Engaging the Public through Digital Publishing," at 8:30 a.m. Rhiannon Bettivia, postdoctoral research associate, will present her paper, "Colleagues and Communities: Engaging Labor Across Intra-Institutional Digital Divides," at 8:30 a.m. on January 18. Nicole Miller (MS '89), adjunct faculty member, will participate in the panel, "Connecting to Community: Curriculum and Projects for Family History Collaborative Services," at 8:30 a.m. on January 19. Ellen Knutson (MS '02, PhD '08), adjunct faculty member, will present her paper, "Teaching Community Engagement," at 10:30 a.m. on January 19. Associate Professor Terry L. Weech will participate in the panel, "Making International Connections:  Expanding Awareness of Non-North American LIS Education," at 10:30 a.m. on January 19. Assistant Professor Emily Knox will be the moderator for the panel, "Trends in the Ethics of Community Engagement," at 2:00 p.m. on January 19. On January 20, Assistant Professor Nicole A. Cooke will co-present "Sustaining Community Engagement and Fostering Social Responsibility: Teaching and Learning about Diversity in LIS Programs" at 8:30 a.m. and participate in the President's Program, "Best Practices for Incorporating Community Engagement and Outreach in Curricula," at 10:30 a.m.  Posters At the Works in Progress Poster Session at 6:30 p.m. January 17, Kristina Williams, master's student, will present two posters, “"Digital Space and Place: How LIS Students Connect and Collaborate on Critical Issues" and "Leadership Through Action: Student-initiated Program Development;" Julia Petrella, doctoral student, will present her poster, "Tumblr and Gender Pronouns;" DeAnza Williams, doctoral student, will present her poster, "Kids Create Apps - Lessons Learned from Creating a Curriculum for Elementary Students in a School and Public Library;" and LaTesha Velez, doctoral candidate, and Melissa Villa-Nicholas (PhD '16) will present their poster, "The evolution of critical theories in Library History, 1997-2015." At the Jean Tague‐Sutcliffe Doctoral Student Poster Competition at 7:00 p.m. on January 19, doctoral candidate Cheryl Thompson will present her poster, "Cultivating Data Expertise: Comparison of Approaches in Geoscience Data Centers and Academic Libraries." Associate Professor Kate McDowell will serve as a judge for this year's doctoral poster competition.   [...]

BCCB honors the best books of 2016 with Blue Ribbons

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 22:34:54 +0000

The staff at The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB) has announced the 2016 Blue Ribbons, their choices for the best of children's and young adult literature for the year. Blue Ribbons are chosen annually by BCCB reviewers and represent what they believe to be outstanding examples of fiction, nonfiction, and picture books for youth. Thirty-three titles received Blue Ribbons for 2016; the full list is available on the BCCB website.

According to BCCB editor Deborah Stevenson, "This year's list runs the gamut from hilarious picture books to pulse-pounding true tales of history to captivating takes on classic folktales. What's not to love about a lineup that includes samurais, bears dealing with bedtime, and Baba Yaga?"

Founded in 1945, BCCB is one of the nation's leading children's book review journals for school and public librarians.

Get to know Tim Lockman (MS '05), reference and instruction librarian—and musician

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 20:12:43 +0000

Tim Lockman discovered on the job that the field of librarianship is "broader and deeper than I imagined when I began, and I find myself doing work that I hadn’t pictured myself doing as a grad student." He is currently pursuing a master's certificate in instructional design from the University of Wisconsin-Stout to add to his professional training. With a full-time job, graduate school, and a side career in music, Lockman is one busy librarian. Where do you work and what is your role? I have been a reference and instruction librarian at Kishwaukee College, a community college in rural northern Illinois, since 2006. In addition to reference and instruction, I do collection management and teach a one-credit-hour information literacy class. I have faculty status at the college, so I'm involved in standing committees on academic policy and online learning and regularly work with faculty colleagues on projects like our campus-wide assessment effort. As a side project, I've been heavily involved in technology implementation and training on campus. And I also create online instructional materials. A sample of my video tutorials is available on the Library's YouTube channel. My "How To Read a Scholarly Journal Article" video has been included by librarians at other institutions in some graduate-level learning tutorials.  What do you like best about your job? The best part of my job is working with the students. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the light bulb turn on when a student grasps a new concept I'm showing him or her. That's exhilarating to me.  What do you see as the most important impact of your work? I would say that the most important thing I can do is to provoke students to think critically about information sources. This seems increasingly important in the world of fake news, native advertising, and the "echo chamber" effect of customized information dissemination and consumption. How did the School help you get to where you are today? Besides giving me the credential that I needed, the iSchool challenged me to think like a professional. From my professors and classmates, I learned to seek knowledge in many different places, both traditional ones (journal scans, new professional books) and unexpected ones (blogs, writings outside the library science profession). I have become an omnivorous seeker of knowledge, and the iSchool taught me how to do that.  What advice would you like to share with our students? Find somebody who's doing what you want to do, or what you think you might want to do. Then ask them what it's like and how they got there. This is why a mentoring program is such a great thing.  What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Besides reading, of course, I enjoy riding my motorcycle (in warmer weather), and playing the guitar and singing. I've been doing music for about 25 years now, and this past year I released a new recording called Castles in the Snow, which is available on CD Baby and from streaming outlets like Spotify. I often perform Celtic, classical, and folk-style instrumental guitar at special events, and I do an occasional concert. Most recently, I played and sang Christmas music at the annual Steeple Walk event in Geneva, Illinois.  [...]

Mak discusses interdisciplinarity at MLA 2017

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 16:12:06 +0000

Associate Professor Bonnie Mak will present, "On Interdisciplinary Endings," as part of a panel at the upcoming Modern Language Association Annual Convention (MLA 2017) in Philadelphia. Sponsored by the discussion group on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Culture and Society, "The Ends of Interdisciplinarity," will feature an open conversation about different aspects of interdisciplinarity in research, media, and teaching. Mak has been invited to reflect on the status of "inter-discipline" in academic practice with faculty drawn from across North America in Comparative Literature, East Asian Studies, and History. 

"Because my research is located at the intersection of the humanities, social sciences, and the arts, I look forward to exchanging ideas with colleagues who are conducting different kinds of interdisciplinary work," Mak said. Complementing the other papers that will focus on scholarly life and pedagogy, Mak's presentation explores the products of interdisciplinary research. "Academic institutions continue to encourage interdisciplinary research and collaboration, but there has been little thought as to the infrastructures required to make such endeavors attractive, feasible, or legible. For example, who might be qualified to review a collaborative project that combines aspects of medieval studies, information science, and design? Who is the audience for such work, and where might it be published? What metrics does the university propose to use to gauge its value, and how do institutions plan to support its dissemination and preservation?"

Mak is jointly appointed in the iSchool and the Program in Medieval Studies at Illinois. Her first book, How the Page Matters (2011), examines the interface of the page as it is developed across time, geographies, and technologies. A second book-length project, Confessions of a 21st-Century Memsahib, examines the digital texts and images that are increasingly being used as resources for humanistic scholarship. She was inaugural Senior Fellow at the Center for Humanities and Information at the Pennsylvania State University for the 2015-2016 academic year and currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.

Witt selected as 2016-2018 iSchool Research Fellow

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 15:27:53 +0000

(image) Andreas Witt, director of the Research Infrastructure Division at the Institute for German Language, has been selected by the iSchool faculty as a research fellow for the 2016-2018 academic years. Research fellows are chosen because their work is relevant to the interest of the School's faculty and students. Each will give at least one lecture during their appointment.

A leading figure in digital humanities, Witt has been involved in large infrastructure projects such as CLARIN-D, TextGrid, and the SFB 441 linguistic data structure at the University of Tübingen. He was one of the early promoters of linguistic annotation standards such as TEI for Linguists and is an active member of international annotation standards steering committees as well as the steering group of the Leibniz Research Alliance Science 2.0. In addition to his affiliation with the iSchool, he holds an honorary appointment at the Institute for Computational Linguistics at Heidelberg University.

"As a computational linguist working in the field of text encoding, annotation science, and markup technology for many years, I have always regarded the University of Illinois as one of the most interesting environments in my field. Almost 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Urbana-Champaign for the first time when it hosted the conference, Digital Humanities 2007," Witt said. 

"As a research fellow, I would like to work with iSchool researchers in two different fields I am currently interested in: (1) automatic assignment of impact types for text passages in official project reports published by research institutions; and (2) legal and ethical issues within the social sciences and humanities in the digital age."

Witt received his PhD in computational linguistics and text technology from the Bielefeld University in 2002. He served as an assistant lecturer in the Text Technology group at Bielefeld before moving to Tübingen in 2006, where he was involved in projects on the sustainability of linguistic resources and the interoperability of language data. Since 2009 Witt has served as a senior researcher in the Institute for the German Language in Mannheim. 

Interest in archives leads Glasco to take the "Leep" to LIS

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 14:26:40 +0000

After working for several years as a bank examiner with the federal government, Erin Glasco switched gears to pursue her interest in archives and special collections, enrolling in the iSchool as a Leep student in 2015. While Glasco enjoyed the variety of her work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she was frustrated by her inability to help consumers solve their issues with financial institutions until after the damage had been done.  "I changed careers because I wanted one that I could feel passionate about, and one that would allow me to take a more proactive role in repairing harm," said Glasco. "I best see that happening in my role as an archivist through my commitment to meaningfully diversifying the historical record via archives." She chose Illinois after attending an information session in Chicago and discussing the program with an acquaintance who is an iSchool alum. Those interactions, along with the flexibility of the Leep online option, helped cement her decision to apply. Glasco's research interests include the use of survivor-centered, post-custodial archival theory in praxis, exploring the decolonizing power of community-led archives, and government surveillance of the Movement for Black Lives. Now in her second year of study, Glasco feels she has learned a great deal from her iSchool coursework and forged lasting connections. "My favorite class in the program thus far has been Community Archives taught by Rachel Matteson and Chris D'Arpa. The class was special because it moved beyond being a mere survey course of community archives. We spent a lot of time considering the varied notions of 'community' and 'memory' and explored the ways in which community archives succeeded or failed in centering the communities they purport to serve," Glasco said.  The class included an optional trip to New York City to participate in Alternative Spring Break, an experience which was "career-affirming" for Glasco. Students toured several community archives/historical societies including The Lesbian Herstory Archive; the Interference Archive; and the Weeksville Heritage Center, which is the site of one of the first free Black communities in the U.S.  Glasco served as an archival intern at the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) at Columbia College Chicago from May 2014 to July 2016, assisting with reference and contributing to some of the center's finding aids. In addition, she conducted research and curated a small exhibit at the CBMR on the FBI surveillance of noted singer, actor, and civil-rights activist Paul Robeson. In August 2016, she presented a graduate student poster about her research on Robeson at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) annual conference.  This fall Glasco was selected as a 2016-2018 Association of Research Libraries (ARL)/SAA Mosaic Program Fellow. The Mosaic Program promotes diversity in the archives and special collections workforce by providing financial support, practical work experience, mentoring, career placement assistance, and leadership development to emerging professionals from underrepresented groups. Fellows receive up to $10,000 in tuition assistance. As part of the Mosaic Program, Glasco is currently serving as an intern at the Roosevelt University Archives in Chicago, helping to process the papers of two former professors and assisting in the library technology department.  "I take the charge of making archival spaces more meaningfully and thoughtfully diverse seriously. I'm hopeful that my fellowship year will allow me many opportunities to discuss and take action in conjunction with my peers as we continue the work of making archives more representative spaces," said Glasco. A native of Austin, Texas, Glasco holds a bachelor's degree in business administration and MBA with a concentration in management from Florida A&M University. In her free time, she enjo[...]

An informatics approach helps better identify chemical combinations in consumer products

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:19:12 +0000

courtesy of the University of Illinois News BureauBy using products such as soap, shampoo, body lotion, toothpaste and makeup, the average consumer may be exposed to dozens of chemicals each day. It's not easy, though, to know exactly what is in many consumer products or what potential risks they pose, either individually or in combination. A doctoral student and a professor in the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences are using an informatics approach to help prioritize chemical combinations for further testing by determining the prevalence of individual ingredients and their most likely combinations in consumer products. Doctoral student Henry Gabb and professor Catherine Blake published the results of the first phase of their work in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. People are exposed to significantly higher levels of chemicals now than in the past from many sources, including consumer products. "We are, in effect, test subjects in an uncontrolled biochemistry experiment. This has become an accepted, or perhaps ignored, trade-off of life in modern society," Gabb said. In order to identify the chemicals present in consumer products, Gabb used a web-scraping program to gather product names, categories and ingredient lists from online retail sites such as The database he created includes nearly 39,000 products and more than 32,000 ingredient names. Once he had information on the ingredients in consumer products, he had to solve the problem of chemical synonymy – the use of different names for the same substance. "The same chemical can appear on multiple product labels under many different names. Unless you can resolve them to a unique chemical, you don't really know what you're counting," Gabb said. For example, according to the PubChem Compound database from the National Library of Medicine, wintergreen oil is another name for methyl salicylate, a suspected endocrine disruptor. Gabb and Blake targeted 55 potential endocrine-disrupting and asthma-associated chemicals from a prior study that used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis to measure the levels of these chemicals in consumer products. They found 30 percent of the products in their database contained at least one of the 55 target chemicals, and 13 percent contained more than one. The informatics approach allows the researchers to look at many more products and detect many more chemicals than the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry approach, which is limited by the time it takes to prepare samples and run the experiments, among other things. However, the informatics approach is limited to what is actually listed on product labels, which are not always complete. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry can identify chemicals that are not listed on a product label or even part of the product formulation, such as "chemicals that leach from the product packaging, degradation products or other impurities," Gabb said. The researchers said the two approaches should be considered complementary. The initial informatics analysis considered chemical combinations within the same product, but combined exposure also occurs when several products are used in a given timeframe. "This work provides another piece of the environmental-exposure puzzle and, unlike our genetic material, we can easily change our product usage," Blake said. "The combination of genetic susceptibility and individualized cumulative exposure – not just to other chemicals in consumer products, but from other sources such as air quality – empowers people to make informed decisions about changing the factors that directly influence their health outcomes." Gabb and Blake hope their informatics approach can help prioritize testing b[...]

Jiang and Mishra to present natural language processing research at COLING16

Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:18:45 +0000

Doctoral students Ming Jiang and Shubhanshu Mishra will present research papers at the 26th International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING), which will be held December 11-16 in Osaka, Japan. The COLING conference, held every two years, is one of the top international conferences in the field of natural language processing and computational linguistics, which covers research topics such as question answering, text summarization, information extraction, discourse structure, and more.  Jiang will present a paper coauthored with Assistant Professor Jana Diesner titled, "Says Who...? Identification of Expert versus Layman Critics’ Reviews of Documentary Films." Abstract: We extend classic review mining work by building a binary classifier that predicts whether a review of a documentary film was written by an expert or a layman with 90.70% accuracy (F1 score), and compare the characteristics of the predicted classes. A variety of standard lexical and syntactic features was used for this supervised learning task. Our results suggest that experts write comparatively lengthier and more detailed reviews that feature more complex grammar and a higher diversity in their vocabulary. Layman reviews are more subjective and contextualized in peoples’ everyday lives. Our error analysis shows that laymen are about twice as likely to be mistaken as experts than vice versa. We argue that the type of author might be a useful new feature for improving the accuracy of predicting the rating, helpfulness and authenticity of reviews. Finally, the outcomes of this work might help researchers and practitioners in the field of impact assessment to gain a more fine-grained understanding of the perception of different types of media consumers and reviewers of a topic, genre or information product. During the COLING16 workshop on noisy user-generated text (WNUT), Mishra will present a paper coauthored with Diesner titled, "Semi-supervised Named Entity Recognition in noisy-text."  Abstract: Named entity recognition (NER) has played an immense role in improving information retrieval, text mining, and text based network construction. However, the most of the existing NER techniques are based on syntactically correct news corpus data, and hence don’t give good results on noisy data such as tweets because of issues like spelling errors, concept drifts, and few context words. In this paper, we describe our submission to the WNUT 2016 NER shared task, and also present an improvement over it using a semi-supervised approach. Our models are based on linear chain conditional random fields (CRFs), and use BIEOU NER chunking scheme, features based on word clusters and pre-trained distributed word representations; updated gazetteer features; global context predictions; and random feature dropout for up-sampling the training data. These approaches alleviate many issues related to NER on noisy data by allowing the meaning of new or rare tokens to be ingested into the system, while using existing training samples to improve the model.  Diesner joined the iSchool faculty in 2012 and is a 2015-2016 faculty fellow in the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at Illinois. Her research in social computing combines theories and methods from natural language processing, social network analysis, and machine learning. In her lab, she and her students develop and advance computational solutions that help people to measure and understand the interplay of information and socio-technical networks. They also bring these solutions into various application context, e.g. in the domain of impact assessment. [...]

Stodden to discuss reproducibility at Columbia symposium

Fri, 09 Dec 2016 14:46:00 +0000

Associate Professor Victoria Stodden will present her research at A University Symposium: Promoting Credibility, Reproducibility and Integrity in Research on December 9 at Columbia University. Hosted by Columbia's Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and other New York City research institutions, the symposium will bring together leading experts, journal editors, funders, and researchers to discuss how issues of reproducibility and research integrity are being handled by institutions, journals, and federal agencies.  

Stodden will participate in the session, "Repeat After Me: Current Issues in Reproducibility," with Jeffrey Drazen, editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine; Hany Farid, professor and chair of computer science at Dartmouth; Leonard Freeman, president of the Global Biological Standards Institute; and Londa Schiebinger, John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science at Stanford. Stodden and the other experts will present examples of irreproducibility from their various disciplines and discuss ways of identifying, managing and avoiding such problems.

According to Stodden, several reasons exist for irreproducibility in empirical research, including, but not limited to, small study sizes, early or novel research without previously established evidence, poorly designed protocols that permit flexibility during the study, conflicts of interest, publication bias, and statistical biases.

Stodden is a leading figure in the area of reproducibility in computational science, exploring how we can better ensure the reliability and usefulness of scientific results in the face of increasingly sophisticated computational approaches to research. Her work addresses a wide range of topics, including standards of openness for data and code sharing, legal and policy barriers to disseminating reproducible research, robustness in replicated findings, cyberinfrastructure to enable reproducibility, and scientific publishing practices. She serves as an associate editor for reproducibility for the Journal of the American Statistical Society and was recently invited to serve on the Transparency and Openness Promotion (TOP) Coordinating Committee.

At Illinois, she holds affiliate appointments at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NSCA), College of Law, Department of Statistics, and Department of Computer Science. Stodden earned both her PhD in statistics and her law degree from Stanford University. She also holds a master's degree in economics from the University of British Columbia and a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Ottawa.

Report proposes standards for sharing data and code used in computational studies

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 19:45:51 +0000

Reporting new research results involves detailed descriptions of methods and materials used in an experiment. But when a study uses computers to analyze data, create models or simulate things that can’t be tested in a lab, how can other researchers see what steps were taken or potentially reproduce results?

A new report by prominent leaders in computational methods and reproducibility lays out recommendations for ways researchers, institutions, agencies and journal publishers can work together to standardize sharing of data sets and software code. The paper "Enhancing reproducibility for computational methods" appears in the journal Science.

"We have a real issue in disclosure and reporting standards for research that involves computation – which is basically all research today," said Victoria Stodden, a University of Illinois professor of information science and the lead author of the paper. "The standards for putting enough information out there with your findings so that other researchers in the area are able to understand and potentially replicate your work were developed before we used computers."

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"It is becoming increasingly accepted for researchers to value open data standards as an essential part of modern scholarship, but it is nearly impossible to reproduce results from original data without the authors' code," said Marcia McNutt, the president of the National Academy of Sciences and a co-corresponding author of the study. "This policy forum makes recommendations to enable practical and useful code sharing."

Sharing complete computational methods – data, code, parameters and the specific steps taken to arrive at the results – is difficult for researchers because there are no standards or guides to refer to, Stodden said. It's an extra step for busy researchers to incorporate into their reporting routine, and even if someone wants to share their data or code, there are questions of how to format and document it, where to store it and how to make it accessible.

The report makes seven specific recommendations, such as documenting digital objects and making them retrievable, open licensing, placing links to datasets and workflows in scientific articles, and reproducibility checks before publication in a scholarly journal.

The authors hope that disclosing computational methods will not only allow other researchers to verify and reproduce results, but also to build upon studies that have been done, such as performing different analyses with a dataset or using an established workflow with new data.

"Things like how you prepped your data – what you did with outliers or how you normalized variables, all the things that are standard in data analysis – can make a big impact on results," Stodden said. "Some researchers make code and data accessible on point of principle, so it's possible. But it takes time. We know it's hard, but in this report we're trying to say in a very productive and positive way that data, code and workflows need to be part of what gets disclosed as a scientific finding."

2016 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award given to Wendy Campbell

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 15:33:40 +0000

In a small town in western Montana, Wendy Campbell turned a difficult situation into an opportunity to show her fellow citizens how libraries are vital to communities as safe places for education and communication. For her efforts, Campbell, director of the Darby Community Public Library, has been named the 2016 recipient of the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, given annually by the faculty of the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and cosponsored by Libraries Unlimited. Earlier this year, the Darby Library hosted a series of lifelong learning cultural programs for its service community of 4,000 people. As described in Campbell’s article in American Libraries, one of the three programs, “Perspectives on Islam,” sparked strong protest by several community members. In response, Campbell met with the library board and spoke with several groups—including library staff and volunteers, library patrons, community leaders, the local school board, high school teachers and administration, the county sheriff’s office, the state librarian, and the Office for Intellectual Freedom—to find a way to hold the program and help expand cultural awareness in her community. The commitment she received from these groups supported her steadfast efforts. Campbell's unwavering resolve to turn the controversial event into a success paid off. On March 9, 2016, so many people turned out for the presentation by Samir Bitar, a lecturer of Arabic language and cultures at the University of Montana, that library officials were forced to turn back the overflow at the door. Campbell set the stage with her welcome: Libraries are vital to our communities as safe places for education and communication. This program is one of three in a series on historical and contemporary cultures. Tonight we learn of the culture of Islam. I will be honest with you that the culture is intrinsically tied to its religion, so you will also learn of this religion tonight. Libraries do not promote or condemn. We offer opportunities for education. It is a safe place where we come together for respectful and peaceful discourse. James LaRue, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation, noted in his letter nominating Campbell for the award, “At a time when libraries are seeking greater civic engagement, at a time when many of us are looking for more meaningful and dignified discourse, Campbell’s approach proved to be definitive: the speaker was welcomed warmly, listened to attentively, and questioned respectfully. The library, meanwhile, secured its position in the community as a force for education that neither promoted nor condemned various ideas, but provided a safe and courteous forum for their consideration.” A reception to honor Campbell will take place during the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, January 21, 2017, from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. in Room A-703 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. Libraries Unlimited provides an honorarium for the recipient and cosponsors the reception. The Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award is given annually to acknowledge individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual freedom, particularly as it affects libraries and information centers and the dissemination of ideas. Granted to those who have resisted censorship or efforts to abridge the freedom of individuals to read or view materials of their choice, the award may be in recognition of a particular action or long-term interest in, and dedication to, the cause of intellectual freedom. The award was established in 1969 by the iSchool[...]

Get to know Kayleigh Van Poolen, CAS student

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 19:45:14 +0000

S.K. (Kayleigh) Van Poolen is a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) student who has advanced degrees in political science, urban planning, information sciences, and law. On November 15, Van Poolen's talk, "Started with a Hurricane Named Katrina," won third place at the 2016 Research Live! competition sponsored by the Graduate College. In the Q&A below, she explains her interest in social and economic justice and her decision to return to Illinois. Why did you choose the iSchool at Illinois for your MS/LIS, and what made you decide to return for your CAS? How I ended up in the iSchool in the first place is a bit of a story. I took an hourly position in the Main Library and was asked to stay on, working on several projects. I intended to head off to law school, so I planned to turn down the Library’s offer initially. But after some discussions with my supervisor, I was convinced to stay and completed my master’s at the iSchool while working at the Library. Then I headed to law school, and Hurricane Katrina hit the very first weekend of classes. Because of Katrina, I started extensive work related to social and economic justice. However, upon graduation, life took me for a ride, and I found myself wandering and still searching. As I told one of my iSchool professors, I returned to what I knew, the iSchool. And although many students take the step into the CAS realm shortly after their master’s work, I just did it quite a bit later—over six years later. And when one takes a risk, it helps to take that risk at a school with reputation I knew and a curriculum that had some familiarity. What particular topics interest you most? I pursued social and economic justice projects while in law school and will continue to do so with information science. Thanks to a meeting that included a data science related topic, I have added data science to my interests, building on my days in IT and project management as well as my academics in law. I see data science as a critical aspect of social and economic justice and intend to combine both worlds whenever possible.  What do you do outside of class? I work, and I research. After being out of academics for a while, I spend little time doing anything but class and research-related activities. I took on a practicum this semester, in addition to a full-time course load and GA position with the Law Library, so that has taken up a substantial amount of time. I have spent any available time on research-related activities, pursuing grants, presentation opportunities, conferences . . . pretty much everything, outside of family, is focused on research and job possibilities. In the past, when time permitted, I painted, mostly with acrylic and watercolor; designed jewelry; and volunteered with arts, sciences, and various community-oriented programs. I also play the bass, although that is strictly an in-house activity at this point. What career plans or goals do you have? Ideally, I would love to work for a social/economic justice organization, independent or part of a University, to advocate as well as support their research needs. I am also looking for law schools that have active pro bono and public interest law programs where I can support related research needs. The legal field and law schools are starting to grasp data; instead of limiting data science to the benefit of firms, we need to be outward-looking and use data science to determine policy and legislation as well as advocacy that supports our communities. One thing my journey has taught me is this: you can plan and plan and plan . . . and then something entirely different takes place. Essentially, I am open to possibilities because very little of what I have ever planned[...]

HTRC releases new dataset with features extracted from over 13 million volumes

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 19:43:51 +0000

Unique in its sheer size and breadth, a new open dataset released by the HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC) will provide researchers with access to otherwise restricted information. The HTRC Extracted Features (EF) Dataset reports quantitative counts of words, lines, parts of speech, and other details extracted from each page of the more than thirteen million volumes found in the HathiTrust Digital Library. 

An earlier release of the EF Dataset, drawn from a subset covering only the five million volumes in HathiTrust's public domain collection, has enabled novel research from scholars in economics, history, linguistics, literary studies, and sociology, among other fields. The new EF dataset, released under a Creative Commons Attribution license, provides access to features drawn from the remaining eight million volumes that otherwise would be unavailable to scholars because of copyright restrictions.

"Right now, many arguments about literary history come to a stop in 1923. Most works after that date are still covered by copyright in the U.S., so it has been very difficult to organize digital collections that would allow us to survey a broad, representative sample of writing. We know there’s a big literary landscape out there, but we can only map it with a flashlight, looking at one book at a time," explained Professor Ted Underwood, one of the dataset's developers. "The extracted features released by HathiTrust Research Center are like turning on the moonlight. For the first time, literary historians will get to survey the whole landscape at once. In order to comply with copyright law, we use only limited data about the books. But there’s still an enormous amount we can learn about literary history."

Underwood has used the dataset to research why novelists spent less time discussing women from the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. He found the decline was visible both as a shift in gendered pronouns and in personal names.

"If we expected to see growing gender equality in fiction, we’re actually seeing the reverse," said Underwood. "The overrepresentation of male characters in fiction gets worse all the way down to the 1960s. The trend is visible in works written by men and women alike. A lot more research will be required to understand this phenomenon, but without data from HathiTrust, literary scholars wouldn't even know it existed."

HTRC is a partnership between Indiana University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the HathiTrust. Established in 2011, HTRC develops cutting-edge software tools and cyberinfrastructure to enable advanced computational access to the growing digital record of human knowledge. 

"The HTRC EF Dataset creates opportunities for scholarship and teaching that were previously impossible," said J. Stephen Downie, codirector of the HTRC and professor and associate dean for research at the iSchool. "We look forward to learning how the scholarly community incorporates them into research, labs, and classrooms."