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Weekly News Digest

March 31, 2020 — In addition to this week's NewsBreaks article and the monthly NewsLink Spotlight, Information Today, Inc. (ITI) offers Weekly News Digests that feature recent product news and company announcements. Watch for additional coverage to appear in the next print issue of Information Today.

CLICK HERE to view more Weekly News Digest items.

COVID-19 NEWS: 'Coronavirus Will End Tech Conferences and Events as We Know Them'

Bill Detwiler writes the following for ZDNet:

[S]ince I published my [original] list of tech conferences postponed or cancelled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic … nearly every event scheduled to happen before June has been pushed back or called off all together. And two events this week illustrate how the COVID-19 outbreak is permanently changing the nature of tech industry events. First, O’Reilly Media shut down its in-person events unit and second, the postponement and potential cancellation of DrupalCon is threatening the financial viability of the event organizer. …

Not all tech conferences will disappear as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the number will likely fall as companies that conduct them shift to virtual events (like O’Reilly) or face financial peril (like the Drupal Association). In addition, companies that sponsor or pay for their employees to attend these events will reevaluate the benefits of doing so versus the costs. Pent-up demand for face-to-face events after travel returns to normal will not trump economics.

For more information, read the article.

COVID-19 NEWS: 'Your Facebook Page Is Your New Public Library Branch'

Justin Hoenke writes the following on his blog, Justin the Librarian:

[J]ust because we’re not able to physically be in our public library spaces interacting with our community members doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to do amazing things. This is where social media, specifically Facebook, comes into the picture. … [W]e have a chance to reclaim the good that social media promised back in the day and then turn that around and deliver it to our community members. … We’re already very much in the business of being there for our community members with our many services. It doesn’t have to stop just because our buildings are closed at the moment. We can make a difference. We just need to turn towards our newest public library branch, our Facebook page. …

If there’s one thing I know about librarians during my time in this profession is that there’s an endless supply of energy, creativity, and drive in each and every one of you. If you’re a director or a leader of a library, all that you have to do is SAY YES TO YOUR STAFF and give them the freedom to try out these things. It can’t hurt. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Step up and lead by saying yes. It’s that easy.

Here are a few things we’ve been trying out at one of the branches I manage, the Johnsonville Library @ the Waitohi Community Hub in Wellington, NZ. 

For more information, read the blog post.

COVID-19 NEWS: Internet Archive's National Emergency Library Draws Backlash

Colin Dwyer writes the following for NPR:

Last week, when the Internet Archive announced its ‘National Emergency Library,’ expanding access to more than a million digitized works, the group explained the move as a goodwill gesture in the time of coronavirus.

With so many brick-and-mortar libraries forced to close their doors, in other words, the group was opening up its lending program: Now, instead of its usual policy of just one digital copy per reader for a 14-day period, many frustrated readers could borrow copies of the same book during the same time—and could do so through the end of June or the end of the global pandemic, whichever came sooner.

But there’s one major issue that several media outlets, including NPR, failed to mention in covering the decision: Many writers and publishers say the website, even before the creation of this National Emergency Library, has been sharing full digital copies of their books without their permission.

And over the weekend, dozens of prominent authors, from Colson Whitehead and Neil Gaiman to Alexander Chee, made clear that they were upset with the Internet Archive’s model—and doubly so now, with the expansion of lending services and its timing.

An Authors Guild statement from March 27 condemning the Internet Archive is here, and author Chuck Wendig issued a blog post—after being quoted in this NPR article—that features his full statement on the controversy.

For more information, read the NPR article (which includes the Internet Archive’s rebuttal).

COVID-19 NEWS: OCLC Launches Resource Page for Libraries

OCLC created a resource that “brings together timely information, valuable resources, and opportunities for online discussion and instruction to help library professionals continue to serve their communities during the pandemic.” Its COVID-19 page “offers options to provide remote access to library collections, optimize OCLC products and services, and connect and collaborate with other libraries.”

For more information, read the press release.

COVID-19 NEWS: 'Now Is the Time for Open Access Policies—Here's Why'

Victoria Heath and Brigitte Vézina write the following in a blog post for Creative Commons:

One of the most important components of maintaining global health, specifically in the face of urgent threats, is the creation and dissemination of reliable, up-to-date scientific information to the public, government officials, humanitarian and health workers, as well as scientists.

Several scientific research funders like the Gates Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust have long-standing open access policies and some have now called for increased efforts to share COVID-19 related research rapidly and openly to curb the outbreak. By licensing material under a CC BY-NC-SA license, the World Health Organization (WHO) is adopting a more conservative approach to open access that falls short of what the scientific community urgently needs in order to access and build upon critical information. …

The current race to find a vaccine for COVID-19 exemplifies why rapid and unrestricted access to scientific research and educational materials is vital in the most open terms possible. Due to the very nature of the illness, including the fact that it was completely unknown to scientists before the outbreak and is now global, it’s impossible for just one organization, institution, and/or government to tackle this crisis alone. In fact, current global efforts to find a vaccine for COVID-19 wouldn’t be possible without Chinese health officials and researchers initially sharing critical information on the nature of the virus in early January 2020.  

For more information, read the blog post.

COVID-19 NEWS: 'FCC: Closed Schools, Libraries Can Still Get E-Rate Funding'

John Eggerton writes the following for Multichannel News:

The FCC has confirmed that schools and libraries can open up their WiFi networks to the public during the coronavirus pandemic without losing e-rate funding. …

The bureau said it was up to those individual institutions to establish use policies for those WiFi services, including hours of use, but advised them to follow health and safety guidelines on social distancing. 

The bureau also said it hoped the clarification will promote connectivity during the pandemic. 

For more information, read the news item.

COVID-19 NEWS: ProQuest Unveils Coronavirus Research Database for Its Customers

ProQuest rolled out its Coronavirus Research Database, which gives “all ProQuest users no-cost access to full-text content covering all facets of COVID-19 and related infectious diseases.” It aggregates “authoritative content from ProQuest with content made available at no cost by members of the International Association of STM Publishers—including Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis and The BMJ. Journals, preprints, conference proceedings and dissertations provide comprehensive coverage of COVID-19 and other past coronavirus outbreaks, such as MERS and SARS, for context around the current global pandemic. Full-text content in the database is available either directly from ProQuest or via links to publisher sites.”

For more information, read the press release.

COVID-19 NEWS: EBSCO Creates Portal for Healthcare Info Pros

EBSCO Information Services announced that a “team of healthcare professionals and evidence-based medical experts at EBSCO … launched a COVID-19 portal which aggregates real-time information updates from authoritative sources to provide information on all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The healthcare information community can use it to get “real-time, credible information. Librarians and information professionals are also called upon to suggest resources that should be added to the site.”

For more information, read the press release.

COVID-19 NEWS: 'Smartphone Data Reveal Which Americans Are Social Distancing (and Not)'

Geoffrey A. Fowler writes the following for The Washington Post:

If you have a smartphone, you’re probably contributing to a massive coronavirus surveillance system.

And it’s revealing where Americans have—and haven’t—been practicing social distancing.

[A] company called Unacast that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data launched a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that grades, county by county, which residents are changing behavior at the urging of health officials. It uses the reduction in the total distance we travel as a rough index for whether we’re staying put at home. …

Unacast’s location data comes from games, shopping and utility apps that tens of millions of Americans have installed on their phones—information the company normally analyzes for retailers, real estate firms and marketers. It’s part of a shadowy world of location tracking that consumers often have little idea is going on.

It’s not alone. Google also collects and shares where we go. Long before the coronavirus, the Google Maps app has included a live read of how busy popular destinations are, based on location data. Facebook’s Instagram, too, lets you see other people who’ve recently shared updates from places. Both tools are useful for anyone who wants to practice social distancing and avoid spaces that are busy for a jog or fresh air during shelter-in-place orders. …

Unacast assigned an A grade to places that show at least a 40 percent decrease in average distance traveled. On March 20, the first day in its database, the states as a whole that earned an A included Alaska, Massachusetts, Nevada and Vermont. Big reductions in movement are also visible in areas hit hard by the virus, such as New York City (a 57 percent change) and California’s Santa Clara county (a 54 percent change).

Unacast deemed anything less than a 10 percent change an F. Only Wyoming earned that grade. …

Unacast’s scores, which haven’t been vetted by public health authorities or epidemiologists, don’t pick up on whether people are staying at least six feet apart, a central tenet of social distancing. But the company says it is exploring adding layers to its view, including a change in the number of locations visited.

For more information, read the article.

ACS Researchers Delve Into Better Braille Displays

The American Chemical Society (ACS) shared the following:

Refreshable braille displays translate information from computer screens into raised characters, often along the bottom of a keyboard. But this technology can cost thousands of dollars and is limited, typically displaying a string of characters much shorter than most sentences. Researchers now report an improved material that could take these displays to the next level, allowing those who are blind or who have low vision to more easily understand text and images, while lowering cost.

The researchers are presenting their results through the [ACS] SciMeetings online platform.

‘With more development, we think this new material’s properties could make it possible to create much higher resolution devices, perhaps even those capable of displaying information other than text, such as diagrams or maps,’ says Julia R. Greer, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator.

Braille displays currently on the market rely on the piezoelectric effect: A small crystal expands when voltage is applied to it, pushing a pin upward to create a dot. A single character, such as a letter, is encoded by up to eight such dots. Devices on the market typically display at most 80 characters at a time, or a fraction of a sentence or tweet.

For more information, read the press release.

Exact Editions Rolls Out the Complete Archive of BBC World Histories Magazine

Exact Editions is now offering the complete archive of BBC World Histories, a magazine that “gives a fresh perspective on how the past has influenced today’s events, exploring the context that [has] forged today’s global, political and economic landscape.” Individuals and institutions can purchase the 21-issue digital collection and view it on web, iOS, and Android devices. Each monthly issue will be added to the collection as it is published.

“The new archive is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in world history. It casts an eye over today’s events whilst keeping one foot in the past; such retrospective analysis is greatly important for historical studies today,” says Daryl Rayner, Exact Editions’ managing director.

For more information, read the press release.

ACM Launches Digital Threats OA Journal

ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) introduced a new peer-reviewed, OA journal, Digital Threats: Research and Practice (DTRAP), which “targets the prevention, identification, mitigation and elimination of digital threats.” It “seeks to bridge the gap between academic research and industry practice, [and] is aimed at concrete, rather than theoretical, threats.”

“DTRAP plans to publish a new class of articles called ‘Field Notes.’ Designed to capture interesting empirical observations that may provide a data point for future research and unusual or novel occurrences, a Field Note is envisioned as an article that provides some insights into some problem that is interesting and relevant for further research investigation.”

Regular columns will include With the Benefit of Hindsight (featuring “what authors have learned from past cybersecurity successes or failures, exploring themes such as lessons learned during a security event, how the landscape has changed since the event, and what further development remains to be done”) and Leaving the Laboratory: Putting Research Into Practice (which will “examine a peer-reviewed research article from a recent issue of DTRAP with respect to implementing research, essentially taking the research into practice. Topics for this column will include general concerns for both researchers and practitioners that relate to doing research effectively, or examining actual changes seen in the security landscape as a result of researchers and practitioners collaborating”).

“We encourage submissions from people with a wide range of expertise in all fields related to cybersecurity,” says Arun Lakhotia, DTRAP’s co-editor-in-chief. “Too often, leading-edge cybersecurity researchers at universities, and practitioners working on the front lines of keeping systems secure, have worked within their own silos. We believe the DTRAP journal will be a way to foster more dialogue and engagement between these two important groups, which will vastly improve the toolbox cybersecurity professionals are working with.”

For more information, read the press release.

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