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The times, they are a-changin’ (2/3)

junio 26th, 2011 Posted by aside to camera, blog, community, internet No Comment yet

In the first post on this topic, I wrote that scholarly e-journals are definitely better than their printed counterparts in many respects. They are, however, just an improvement on an existing research resource. The same is often said about digital libraries such as ACM, ISI Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar, although they should not be seen as catalogues or 

bibliographical databases, such as BITRA, but as sources for documents. These new libraries are actually turning good old packed and dusty shelves into computer directories cluttered with large numbers of pdf documents scholars need to manage.
 
Enter Mendeley, a user-friendly proprietary reference-and-pdf manager that will make your work much easier. This all-in-one program has too many features to explain them here, just have a look! Now this feels like something really new. On the one hand, boring, mechanical tasks such as maintaining your own library records and tracking and typing your references on a paper have now become nearly automated. On the other one, new needs such as pdf tagging and grouping are finally easier to perform, and features such as one-click document download and full-text searches might in time even change the way you gather, use, and present information. Now we are getting closer to scholarship 2.0. but there is even more to Mendeley than that, through social networking features.

Social networking

Social networking is not new to scholars, thanks to websites such as Connotea, Academia.edu and MyExperiment. And there is also Zotero, which has many of Mendeley’s features. in fact, Zotero and CiteULike may be better suited for the humanitites and the social sciences than Mendeley is (which is probably why Mendeley can be synchronized with both Zotero and CiteULike accounts). You may just silently follow the work of your colleagues simply by adding them to your contact list, very much like Google Alerts do (Mac users should also check MyPeers). One more step: Collaborative filtering helps you reduce the information overload while it expands your sources of knowledge (e.g. Logvynovskiy & Dastbaz 2010). In brief, rather than a sort of Facebook for scholars, it is more like a last.fm for researchers (Henning & Reichert 2008).
 
Mendeley also lets users establish public, open research groups, such as Translation Studies and Cognitive Translatology, and also closed, smaller ones, such as PETRA’s. Public groups let users share reading lists and closed groups let them share the documents and also collaboratively tag and annotate them. Thus, Mendeley is an invaluable tool to help us build an online scientific community for cognitive translatology (and other areas of Translation Studies, of course). However, there are some differences worth taking into account between Mendeley and Academia.edu. In Academia.edu, linking to colleagues is just a one-way step, whereby users may silently follow somebody else's work. In Mendeley, linking attempts must be accepted by adressees. This subtle difference provides for some embarrasing situations in Mendeley which in Academia.edu are simply out of question. My recommendation is to use both networks. Mendeley is better suited for smaller, topic-centered networks and Academia.edu is great for larger, interdisciplinary networks.
A community of practice
Beyond the hype of crowdsourcing, collective intelligence (but see Williams et al. 2010) and similar concepts, the web 2.0 (the read and write web) really supports easier and more varied ways to communicate and cooperate with colleagues. Sure, the new possibilities also have a dark side, such as the danger of trading scientific thoroughness for the wisdom of the crowds (check my next posts on cognitive biases). But before we dismiss scholarly social networking as a bummer, we might want to try some possibilities.Perhaps online scientific community is a little pompous; I prefer to think of it as a community of practice instead (see also Gannon-Leary & Fontainha 2007). Whatever the name, I sure hope that looking at a screen will never substitute face-to-face interaction. But there are often situations in which you simply cannot join your peers (didn’t get it? Look here). A community of practice for cognitive translatology (or TPR) is already slowly but steadily growing. We may arbitrarily date its start in the now extinct European network EXPERTISE (expert probing through empirical research on translation processes). Hubs or poles for this community are at least the Translog and CRITT nets, the TransPro database, TransComp seminars on translation process research, PACTE’s network, and even this blog, which should soon welcome many researchers to a neighborhood with street names such as cognitive translatology, translation process research, psycholinguistic approaches to translation and interpreting, bilingualism, etc.
 
Cloud computing and really smart smartphones are going to foster the development of scholarly communities of practice a little bit further. We should not drag our feet and we should not rush into it. Not because most of us are digital immigrants, but simply because we are witnessing the dawn of a new era and it is not clear which changes are just transitory, which ones are here to stay, and which ones are just one more step from a longer way. We just need to keep our research standards as high as we can, while we interiorize change and welcome innovation ‘cause the times, they are a-changin'.
 
 
References
 
Gannon-leary, Pat & Elsa Fontainha. 2007. Communities of practice and virtual learning communities: Benefits, barriers and success factors. @ Elearning Papers 5. ISSN 1887-1542.
 
Henning, Victor & Jan Reichelt. 2008. Mendeley - A last.fm for research? @ Proceedings of IEEE 4th International Conference on Escience, pp. 327–328. DOI 10.1109/escience.2008.128.
 
Logvynovskiy, Alex & Mohammad Dastbaz. 2010. Bibliography mapping with semantic social bookmarks. @ Proceedings of IEEE 5th Conf. of Intelligent Systems, pp. 7–12.
 

Williams Woolley, Anita, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi & Thomas W. Malone. 2010. Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. @ Science 330/6004: 686-688. DOI 10.1126/science.1193147

 

The times, they are a-changin’ (1/3)

abril 30th, 2011 Posted by aside to camera, blog, internet, journals, research No Comment yet

The printing press was one of the major inventions that took humankind out of the darkness of the Middle Ages and into a more egalitarian, learned modern era. Many people think that the Internet is but leading to a comparable or even greater revolution (e.g. Bawden & Robinson 2000, Dewar 2010). And so it seems, by the looks of the sweeping democratic revolutions taking place in many countries, which might well be heralding the beginning of deep changes at home too.

Many colleagues are at odds. Some think that the new scholarship 2.0 is just a fad (Wheeler 2008), while others think new media can and must change universities in the 21st century (Thompson 2009). What is sure is that, just as the printing press enlarged the number of readers and shrank physical and 

cultural distances, the Internet is widening and strengthening the ties amongst distant members of scientific communities in ways that were just unthinkable back in 1989, when I sent my first e-mail to a friend sitting in front of another computer across the hall. Let us start with scholarly e-journals.

Scholarly e-journals

Scholarly e-journals seem to be the digital counterparts of their print forebears: their focus on research, their author style guides, their double blind peer reviews—uh, yes, and their ISSNs—make us feel that they are pretty much the same. Not quite, though, you may object, for we need to read in front of a screen. Also, electronic sources are not easy to cite, and Internet addresses are often bulky and always ugly. And then we also get this gut feeling of the ephemeral: Sic transit gloria mundi.

On the other hand, they have some important pros. Remember the mixed feelings of finally seeing your article published when you already knew better or thought differently? Well, e-journals are much faster at delivering content. This is so because, in contrast to using snail-mail, turning in a paper to an e-journal is often just a breeze (e.g. IEEE). That is especially important for reviews, which are often published in print when most addressees have already made up their minds about the reviewed text. The peer review system has also become automated (e.g. Mutatis Mutandis) and there are plenty of tools for typesetting and online publishing in general.

Another reason for this faster pace is that e-journals do not need to fit content into a fixed number of pages every x months. For instance, the forum on shared ground, which spanned from Target 12:1 (2000) to Target 14:1 (2002), would probably have taken just an (evolving) issue in an online format. In fact, many e-journals have ceased to impose (strict) limits on the length of the articles. More importantly, scholarly contributions are not constrained to words or still images any longer, and they may include video (e.g. JOVE) and other materials, such as audio or eye tracking files (e.g. JETVCE)

New features

Some e-journals offer new interactive possibilities, such as appending public comments to articles, (e.g. PloS ONE), or entering such comments in a discussion list. E-publishing can in fact be too fast. Thus, interaction may also take place before submitting manuscripts for publication. There are many repositories for preprints or working papers, such as arXiv and PhilSci-Archive, which authors use to gather feedback from their peers before they submit their (improved) work somewhere else. Some e-journals even have this interaction built in their peer review system (e.g. JIME, Ocean Science, Economics; see Nwagwu 2006).

Last, but not least, e-journals offer many advantages at handling copy. Searching through the issues, copying quotes, compiling bibliographies, sorting and storing articles is simply much easier. C’mon, you even have customizable publisher alerts! (search through your library). In brief, e-journals are now a must (Williams, Nicholas & Rowlands 2010). That is why print journals, such as Meta and Translation & Interpreting Studies, are offering now online tables of contents and abstracts of all issues. Often, new print journals, such as Translation Spaces, are hybrids supported by their own websites and blogs. More on this topic here.

Translation Studies already has quite a list of peer-reviewed e-journals, but only a couple of them have reached stardom. The cause does not seem to be their e-format, nor an alleged crisis in the peer review system (Ware 2011). It is not because of the tension between open access and toll access either. The reasons might rather be related to the scarce specialization of the journals (but see, e.g. IJIE, Tradumàtica). That is, exactly the same problem of their print neighbors and predecessors, a problem that electronic formats may easily solve because distance between like-minded peers and publishing costs are not an issue any longer, 'cause the times, they are a-changin'.

References

  • Bawden, David & Lyn Robinson. 2000. A distant mirror? the Internet and the printing press. @ Aslib Proceedings 52/2: 51–57.
  • Dewar, James A. 1998. The Information Age and the printing press. Looking backward to see ahead. RAND corporation Report # P-8014. @ http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/P8014.html
  • Nwagwu, Williams. 2006. Peer-review and the electronic journal: Opportunities for the participation of developing countries’ scientists in mainstream science. @ Africa Media Review 14/1&2: 73–93.
  • Thompson, Gary. 2009. How the Internet (our 21st century printing press) can and must transform universities. @ http://cloudinc.org/ecosystems/article/how-the-internet-our-21st-century-printing-press-can-and-must-transform-universities
  • Wheeler, Brad. 2008. E-Research Is a Fad: Scholarship 2.0, Cyberinfrastructure, and IT Governance. @ R N Katz, ed. The tower and the cloud: Higher education in the age of Cloud Computing. Boulder (CO): EDUCAUSE, pp 108–117.
  • Williams, Peter; David Nicholas & Ian Rowlands. 2010. E-Journal usage and impact in scholarly research: A review of the Literature . @ New Review of Academic Librarianship 16/2: 192–207.

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