This is the fourth blog post in a series authored by twelve individuals who received scholarships to attend the 2018 Science Boot Camp held at Brandeis University on June 13-15, 2018. In this installment, a fresh look at how science boot camp for librarians is valuable for those entering science librarianship from the humanities. Please watch for more posts about this event and from scholarship recipients in the upcoming weeks.
I had the pleasure and privilege of being awarded a scholarship to attend the Science Boot Camp at Brandeis University in June of this year, and I’m pleased to be able to acknowledge what a positive and enriching experience it was.
I am new to the world of science librarianship, having come from the humanities, as many of us have. So this boot camp seemed a perfect opportunity to learn from my peers, as well as science and engineering professionals, specifically about what is expected of the STEM librarian in academia. The topics selected this year were all timely and cutting edge: ecology, genetic counseling, materials science, with a keynote of publication retraction and policing. Each one of the topics held good kernels of truth and intellectual depth that really couldn’t have been conveyed in a different setting.
For our ecology talk on Wednesday, I found myself fascinated by Dr. Davis’ understanding of the current and future trends in ecology, and I was also deeply interested in Dr. Olson’s granular knowledge of the tick problem in New England, and how he uses our offerings as librarians to help in his research. Both interestingly acknowledged that, in order to be an effective ecologist, you had to be a sucker for pain, considering the precision involved in mapping ecosystems from the individual all the way to the biosphere. Nota bene: invest in getting more opossums around my property, as they are natural-born tick killers!
Our Wednesday evening speaker, Retraction Watch co-founder, Ivan Oransky, was an engaging advocate for accountability in the academic publishing sphere, a subject near and dear to the heart of every academic librarian that I’m aware of. One key takeaway is that he insisted that the hallmark of a good academic publisher was its willingness to retract articles that require it, which is in contrast to my initial presumption of considering those with few-to-no retractions as the gold standard. Such is the state of academic publishing today: every one of them has likely had occasion to retract, but not all have done so. These retractions, it should be noted, can be performed for reasons ranging from something as generally benign as publisher error all the way to something as pernicious as plagiarism and faked data, or even faked peer-review, which is another type of duplicity on the rise.
On Thursday, we had separate panels on two flourishing scientific fields. The former panel was an interesting overview on genetic counseling, which is one of the hottest careers in the United States and Canada, with projected growth of 29% over the next eight years! The ubiquity of retail genetic tests such as 23&Me and Ancestry also make this a hot-button conversation as well, considering the amount of personal data being willingly given to companies by millions of people. The latter panel was a fascinating look at materials science, with Dr. Christopher Schuh speaking as head of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MIT, and Dr. Seth Fraden speaking as a professor of Physics at Brandeis. They engaged in a very spirited discussion regarding the direction of the profession, as well as whether it’s a time for optimism or pessimism for materials science in both the near and distant future. (Unsurprisingly, good cases were made for both.) The capstone on Friday tackled the subject of predatory journals and open access, which has become a leech on the hide of many academic fields, and it encapsulated rather nicely Mr. Oransky’s talk on publication retractions two nights previous.
But perhaps the most important takeaway of the entire conference was how kind and accessible so many of the librarians were at this conference, from the organizers to the attendees. I’ve been to other, larger conferences, and they can easily devolve into a networking nightmare, with previously-formed cliques dominating the social scene. This retreat created an experience of bonhomie and openness. I met so many friendly librarians from so many interesting places, and I went back to my home library with a quiver full of new techniques and information. It was a truly worthwhile experience, and one I hope to repeat, perhaps even as a mentee, if time allows in the coming years.
Daniel A. Neal, MLIS
Reference & Instruction Coordinator
Douglas D. Schumann Library & Learning Commons
Wentworth Institute of Technology
I hope you enjoy the latest installment of the Science Boot Camp for librarians. To read the first post please click here. For information about last week’s reflection please click here. For more about this year’s Science Boot Camp resources or other upcoming events, please visit the NNLM NER website, or contact anyone in the NNLM NER office.