Bias in information

nbruce writes "Bias in information gathering is a fact of life, something we all need to remember when evaluating sources. “A plea for biased information,� by Thomas A. M. Kramer, MD in Medscape General Medicine 6(1), 2004 points out that “Collecting information from pharmaceutical representatives. . .can be enormously useful for both the practitioner and the patient, as long as one understands the inherent biases. Drug reps are paid to talk to doctors about their products, just as car dealership salespeople are paid to talk about their cars. It is my firm belief that pharmaceutical representatives should be made to earn their money. In their interactions with me, I demand that they teach me something. I will tell them what their competitors are saying about their product and listen to them respond to it, and I will ask them why I should prescribe their product instead of their competitors' and listen to what they have to say. More often than not, I learn something useful from this process. Whatever their bias may be, the representative has access to information from the company that can be quite useful.�

Should doctors shut out the drug rep when evaluating drug choices? Should pharmaceutical companies be denied the opportunity to sponsor CME classes for doctors? The author concludes, “. . . we must be involved with the pharmaceutical industry because these people make the drugs. If we don't work with them, not only will we destructively protect our ignorance, we will abdicate any influence on the process of drug development and marketing. The history of the human race is replete with examples of the danger of isolating ourselves from information and institutions because we are frightened of being influenced.�"


The Twilight of Digitization Is Now

The Twilight of Digitization Is Now, by Thomas E. Hecker.
"Contemporary wisdom holds that the scholarly community is in transition from a paper-based knowledge system to an electronically based system. 'Twilight' argues that this transition is not sustainable and that constraints on energy resources and other necessary resources will arrest digitization in the not-distant future. Thus, archives in physical formats, not digitized archives, are essential to preserve the scholarly record. "


How people use electronic resources funded by OCLC

Norma writes "The story, STUDY WILL HELP EXPLAIN HOW PEOPLE USE ELECTRONIC INFORMATION RESOURCES is in the December 2003 e-issue of Ohio State Research News.The $1 million project is a collaboration between Ohio State and the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC). The project will be partially funded with a $480,543 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The remainder of the funding will come from Ohio State and OCLC.

Full story here with links."

Darn it, reading stuff like this makes me wish I hadn't left OSU!


NY Times - Year In Ideas

Steve Fesenmaier points us to the NYTimes The Year in Ideas.

Each December, The New York Times Magazine looks back at the year through an unusual lens: ideas. This issue is not just a compilation of the year's most significant and thought-provoking ideas. It's also a salute to the schemers, oddballs and other unorthodox geniuses toiling away in their labs and libraries, bent on changing the world armed with nothing but a brand-new big idea.

So what were the big ideas in Library & Information Science?


Too Much Information??

This is a great article about information literacy. Please read the entire thing and then think about it. Here's the first paragraph.

Despite having more information at our fingertips than any generation before, there is little evidence that our ability to make
good, timely decisions has improved. A musician is not someone with an instrument and a songbook. Similarly, to be "information
literate" - able to extract knowledge from the welter of choice - we need to know how to orchestrate the technologies and "listen"
for the results. As a society we are computer and internet literate yet information literacy lags. We have computer hardware and
software but often ignore "wetware" - the first, most important, cog in the information seeking machine is ourselves.

The article also provides a great definition of information literate seeker:

The information-literate seeker "understands cultural, ethical, legal and socioeconomic issues surrounding" IT and "follows laws, regulations, institutional policies and etiquette related to the access and use of information resources".

The full article from

[via Aaron Tunn]


Internet 'snags for young'

" Using the internet at school can lead to teenagers losing their confidence and becoming frustrated, a new study by a North lecturer claims."

"Most teenagers lack the more complex information gathering skills necessary for internet searching, ultimately using the internet inefficiently, says Dr Alison Pickard of Northumbria University."

"Dr Pickard has just completed a four-year research study into the subject and will present her findings at the fifth International Northumbria Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services next week." (from Newcastle)


Excess of Virtue

SomeOne writes "Excess of Virtue, By Lowry Bowman, says the emergence of the Christian Right, the national tumult over abortion, creationism versus evolution, the Coalition for Better Television, library censorship, prayer in public schools- all such matters-can be seen in microcosm by looking at what happened in a small, rural community in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. They led to political chaos with neighbor against neighbor, clergy against clergy, and to fist-fights over such secular matters as land use planning. And payment of real estate taxes, too. It began over a profound morality play.


Essays Imagine the Future of Libraries

Here\'s A Short One [NOT Free] from The Chronicle of Higher Education on a recent essay contest sponsored by Fairleigh Dickinson University and the New Jersey Association of Colleges and Research Libraries spawned such visions by asking what college libraries will be like in 2012.

Steven Bell, the library director at Philadelphia University, thinks some of the essays mistakenly disregarded the library building in favor of virtual spaces. \"I think in the future the building will play a more prominent role in how the library will reconfigure itself as a cultural center on campus,\" he says.


Scripted Brains: Learning to read evokes hemisphere

Lee Hadden writes " From Science News, "Scripted Brains: Learning to read evokes hemispheric trade-off." From
childhood through adolescence, the process of learning to read involves an
amplification of specific types of left-brain activity and a dampening of
right-brain responses, a new brain-imaging study finds.
The complexities of pediatric brain imaging have precluded studies
that trace the neural development of cognitive skills acquired during
childhood. Using a task that isolates reading-related brain activity and
minimizes confounding performance effects, we carried out a cross-sectional
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study using subjects whose
ages ranged from 6 to 22 years. We found that learning to read is
associated with two patterns of change in brain activity: increased
activity in left-hemisphere middle temporal and inferior frontal gyri and
decreased activity in right inferotemporal cortical areas. Activity in the
left-posterior superior temporal sulcus of the youngest readers was
associated with the maturation of their phonological processing abilities.
These findings inform current reading models and provide strong support for
Orton's 1925 theory of reading development."


What is a library anymore, anyway?

Martin Raish points to an Interesting One @ First Monday. Michael A. Keller, Victoria A. Reich, and Andrew C. Herkovic write about how libraries in the future will undertake local control, especially for long-term preservation and accessibility of digital as well as analog collections.

"We have observed a propensity for information technologists to predict
with complete confidence the imminent demise of libraries. The seeds of
this prognostication may date back to Vannevar Bush's seminal paper of
1945, but the forest of such predictions has grown thick in the past
decade. In our observation, the confidence with which such predictions
are made is inversely proportional to the predictor's professional
habitual use of published information. . . .

So to some extent the question of what is a library anymore could be one
about which, "if you have to ask the question, you wouldn't understand
the answer." Our intention is to attempt the answer anyway."



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