Posted by Chris M Saturday, October 20, 2007

A story on the need for open access

I am a supporter of open access, the idea that scientific/scholarly materials should not be locked-up and available only to those with the money to pay. However, as a student at a large university, I have never been directly affected by the closed access of our current system. Sure there were times I wanted an article in electronic form, but my school didn't have access so I had to go to the library and read it in a paper form. A few times I even had to use interlibrary loan to get a copy from another university. But I had never been refused the ability to read a scientific paper in any form.

Recently I was reading a paper and saw a reference that could be useful to me. It turned out to be a PhD dissertation at a university in a neighboring state. It was from 2001, so I suspected there was a good chance it was available in an electronic form. I went to WorldCat, searched, and found it was available in an electronic form. When I tried to download it, I was surprised when this came up.

At the request of the author, access to these materials is limited to the *** campus network only.

At request of the author? An author of a dissertation is limiting electronic access to their work to their university only? A journal restricting access is the status quo, but an author doing it.... I was not only surprised, but also dismayed. Fine I will just get the paper copy via interlibrary loan. I sent in my request and this morning I got this email in reply.

Dear ***,

A request you have placed:
Title: ***
Author: *** 2001

has been canceled by the Interlibrary Services staff for the following reason:

(NML) No More Locations.

We have exhausted all sources for your request. This doesn't circulate from *** and is not available for purchase from Dissertation Express.

If you have a question about this canceled item or any Interlibrary Services policies and procedures, please contact us at ***.

Not only was I being refused the electronic copy, but even the paper copy was restricted to their university. I was shocked. I didn't want to copy it or print it, I just wanted to read it. Why would somebody restrict access to scientific material? Why would a fellow student, a colleague, refuse me the right to read their work? I had never heard of this person before and I couldn't find where they currently were with a google search. I would like to ask them why they did it? Were they tricked into thinking that restriction on access is the same thing as protecting ones work from plagiarism. Did they consider the harm they would cause by doing this? How would they feel if this had been done to them?

A small issue to be sure. I doubt there was anything present in it that other studies haven't found, but I will never know. It is a reminder of the damage that can be done by restrictions on information.

Posted by Chris M

Last round of thesis photographs

As if you hadn't seen enough streams and pieces of woods, I bring you my last set of thesis field work photographs. Pretty self explanatory. The last image is two ~13 ft CBH Yellow Buckeyes (Aesculus flava) only a few feet apart. I mentioned the amazing Yellow Buckeyes along Dunn Creek in another post.
Dunn Creek Dunn Creek Dunn Creek Aesculus flava

Posted by Chris M Monday, October 15, 2007

USGS Podcast

It just recently came to my attention that the USGS now has a podcast called corecast. They just started in August, but are pretty good IMHO. They are short (<15 min), which is a plus in my book, good quality sound, and informative without being to dumbed down. Since this week is "Earth Science Week" they are doing one everyday. So go take a listen.

Posted by Chris M Saturday, October 6, 2007

Thesis photographs take 4

Time for another round of thesis photographs. These are from upper Dunn Creek, a quite amazing area. Although it is fall (and leaves are starting to change), there are still a few wildflowers. A found a very localized grouping of Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). In the streams there was tons of woody debris. The third image is a panorama that turned out pretty well.
Lobelia siphilitica Woody debris Woody debris panorama

The streams have more fish and salamanders than I ever saw in any other site while doing my field work. However, this may have to do with the weather. It was cool and rainy that day while all other days I was out were warm and dry.

However, the most amazing features were the trees. I had to hike through Albright Grove to get to the stream, but the huge trees didn't end there. Although there were numerous large Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) and Tulip Populars (Liriodendron tulipifera), the Yellow Buckeyes (Aesculus flava) were what stood out. Not only were their sizes amazing, but there were many of them (outnumbering the Hemlocks).

A large Yellow Buckeye is a beautiful site. The bark takes on an attractive and distinct shaggy quality. The trunk itself is massive and I would guess perhaps 3rd in wood volume of GSMNP species (after Hemlock and Tulip Popular?). Despite the trunk size, it is quite graceful looking.

The first image is a Tulip Popular with a nice looking symmetric buttress. The other two are Yellow Buckeyes. I measured the CBH (circumference at breast height) of the last one as 14 ft 9 in!
Liriodendron tulipifera Aesculus flava Aesculus flava