Anthology of interest

A mixed bag of interesting things from last week:

qwant

  • Trombino at Festival du court métrage Clermont-Ferrand – fab way to display conference delegates’ photos and affiliations (and it’s searchable).  As well as being there on the website, it was also showing on a large screen at the conference centre (randomly switching between images every few seconds).  I can imagine this working well at an event like UKSG Conference.

trombino

Recent recommended reads: governance, geography, feminism

In an era of disinformation, educating yourself and others is an act of resistance 🙂 Here are my recent highly recommended reads:

The Blunders of Our Governments by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe [publisher | WorldCat] – gives an overview of some examples of bad government decision-making, and then outlines the circumstances which allowed these blunders to happen.  There are lessons here for all organisations – for example:

  • Brainstorming Murphy’s Law – think about all the things that can go wrong, and plan for them.
  • Objection is often misconstrued as obstruction – listen to criticisms and pay attention to potential pitfalls.
  • Ensure that the people responsible for the idea are accountable for the outcome.
  • Rather than just focusing on lauding innovations, which may be poorly thought-out or badly delivered, reward those whose initiatives are still in place several years down the line.

Prisoners of Geography: ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics by Tim Marshall [publisher | WorldCat] – a fascinating tour of how physical geography influences borders and nations.  “Strip out the lines of nation states, and the map Ivan the Terrible confronted is the same one Vladimir Putin is faced with to this day.”

Men explain things to me by Rebecca Solnit [publisher | WorldCat] – I would particularly recommend this 2014 edition, with its beautiful paintings by Ana Teresa Fernandez.  Seven essays on the theme of gender and power – essential reading for everyone.

Conflicting priorities on information security

EBSCO have just released a White Paper “from our partner, OpenAthens”, The Evolution of Authentication and the Importance of Information Security.

The focus is very much on the information security of EBSCO’s subscription content.  There is no mention of user privacy, despite the fact how individuals want their data to be used is often in conflict with how corporations want to use this information.

Rather like the Leave campaign’s messages that voting for Brexit would be all gains and no losses, ignoring the complexity of complex decisions creates blind spots and vulnerabilities in systems and societies.  I would like politicians and corporations to stop patronising us with simple, comforting, false solutions and engage bravely and intelligently with difficult decision-making.

Observe what happens if you click on “Download your copy for free today to continue reading”:

Please fill out the form to receive your free copy of The Evolution of Authentication and the Importance of Information Security. Fill out the form and immediately receive the white paper. The fields requested are: Name, Email, Organization Name, City, Phone. All fields except Phone are required.

je dis ça, je dis rien

See also: EBSCO EDS and Single-Sign On, and Consumer democracy? (reference to Adam Curtis’ film Bitter Lake, describing how politicians create oversimplified good vs evil stories rather than confronting the realities of a complex world).

EBSCO EDS and Single Sign-On

OpenAthens Single Sign-On (SSO) is a SAML-compliant Shibboleth-type authentication method used for University login to a wide range of electronic resources.

SSO works by mediating between an identity provider (e.g. a university, checking that the user’s account is current), and a service provider (e.g. a database, to which the user’s university has a current subscription).  Here’s a diagram of the data flow:

Authentication data flow. Image credit University of Florida.

Authentication data flow. Image credit University of Florida.

Critically, the identity provider and the service provider don’t communicate directly.  The user’s personal credentials are not transmitted to the service provider; just that their identity has been verified.

This means that when someone logs in to a database or journal platform, they are greeted by “Welcome, University of Sunderland user” or “You are logged in as University of Sunderland”, but the database or platform does not know anything further about their identity.

Why does this matter?  Service providers’ servers may be located anywhere in the world, often outside the EU.  The Data Protection Act 1998 controls how personal information is used by organisations, businesses or the government.  It requires that data controllers (organisations etc) handle personal data according to people’s data protection rights, and do not transfer it outside the European Economic Area without adequate protection.

Recently, EBSCO have started promoting the use of an enhanced version of SSO which means that a user will be authenticated into EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) and simultaneously logged in to their personal folders.  This will sound very appealing to many EDS customers, as currently the personal folders require the user to log in (again) with their EBSCOhost account (yet another userID and password to remember).  With the standard SSO setup, this would not be possible, so I started asking questions about what additional data exchange would be needed in order for the user to be individually identified.

Email from EBSCO:

Essentially the only requirement for setting up SSO is that your shibboleth releases a persistent unique ID. However we generally recommend releasing other attributes:

Which user data attributes must be included within the IdP-generated SAML assertion?

Only a unique user ID (e.g. employee ID, organization-specific email) is required to be sent in the SAML assertion. It is recommended that First Name, Last Name and Email also be sent to better support sharing and email from within the EBSCO user interface.

At the mention of persistent unique ID, I started to wonder about the data protection law implications.

I followed this up with a phone call, asking about compliance with data protection law.   It seems that this query hadn’t previously arisen in the UK, though it had in Scandinavia where they are more aware of the issues.  Safe Harbo(u)r was mentioned, but I pointed out that in 2015, the European Court of Justice declared invalid the Safe Harbor data-transfer agreement that had governed EU data flows across the Atlantic for some fifteen years.  I was directed to EBSCO’s White Paper about information security, but it didn’t mention anything about data protection.

In advance of last week’s EBSCO and OpenAthens webinar “Single Sign-On to a World of Knowledge“, I repeated my enquiry to OpenAthens and received the following:

All data that is given to OpenAthens is stored here in the UK. We provide the option of mapping attributes out to various publishers however this is controlled and decided by you. The default information that is sent to authenticate the user does not hold any data that identifies the user personally.

To me, “this is controlled and decided by you” sounds very much like ducking the question.

I appreciate that decisions on the release of personal data are ultimately the responsibility of the data controller, but I am concerned that neither EBSCO nor OpenAthens seem to acknowledge the legal and ethical difficulties that this presents to libraries having to make these decisions.  I believe that if they are advocating this enhanced use of SSO, they have a moral obligation to point out the data protection implications, even if they can’t advise libraries on these matters.

I would be grateful to hear from anyone who knows more about this – please leave me a comment.  Thanks for any wisdom you can offer!

What is hyperauthorship?

Hyperauthorship

Historically, authorship of a journal article referred to those who contributed to the writing of the document.  More recently (and especially in the sciences because of the nature of the subject) authorship attribution is extended to a larger number of people who have contributed to the research behind the article.  Hyperauthorship refers to articles with more than 50 authors.  This 2015 physics paper lists over 5,000 authors.

It may be that there are over 50 people making a legitimate contribution to a paper, but in the context of citation metrics where researchers’ success is measured by the number of times a publication in their name has been cited, it is easy to see the potential for gaming the system.

This reminded me of Goodhart’s law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

Contributorship and attributions models

Project CRediT arose from a workshop involving stakeholders interested in exploring contributorship and attribution models, and a working group developed a controlled vocabulary of roles that could be used to describe typical research “contributions” – here is the draft taxonomy.

PLOS Journals have their own taxonomy, and ORCID now supports the display of contributorship open badges on ORCID records.

Contributorship badges - image credit http://orcid.org/blog/2015/08/11/contributor-recognition-update-orcid-project-credit-and-contributorship-badges

Contributorship badges – image credit ORCID blog (Laura Paglione)

Further reading

Journey to Full Text Finder – arrival in the Celestial City

Following my presentation Journey to Full Text Finder: A Pilgrim’s Progress at the EDS conference in July, here’s an update on how I got on with the migration from the old EDS to the new Full Text Finder (FTF) version.  Thanks again to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) for the inspiration for the title of this post.

On the whole, everything went smoothly, and I would particularly like to thank Seoud, Abid, and Adam at EBSCO for their help throughout the process. I have written this summary to help other people know what to expect from the process, and in particular the cascade effects on data checking and linking for which it is essential to set time set aside.

Side by side

Our migration to EBSCO Discovery Service Full Text Finder began with a visit from Seoud.  He talked me through the steps, and we agreed the timings.  We also discussed running the old and new EDS alongside each other, to allow students completing their courses in July and August to continue using the old version, while having the new version available for testing and experimentation before the beginning of the new academic year in September.

I asked a colleague in IT to create a redirect URL for EDS FTF which I then used wherever required, and this saved time later in updating URLs individually.

Data migration and checking

Following the data migration, our Periodicals Librarian spent time checking that our subscriptions in EDS FTF matched the old system, focusing on a few known trouble spots e.g. where we have single title subscriptions rather than a whole package. In some cases, a journal which existed from e.g. 1997-present but for which we only have access from 2015-present had been enabled for the full run, and not the years to which we have access.  This was particularly frustrating for titles for which our subscription is administered through EBSCONET, as EBSCO clearly have correct information in their system about our entitlements, but it was not being migrated or applied accurately.  Although this happened only for a small number of titles, there did not appear to be any pattern to predict which would be affected, and so all had to be checked.

Admin interfaces

Our test EDS FTF was up and running in June.  The old EDS was controlled through two admin interfaces – EBSCOadmin to control EDS itself, and A-to-Z Admin to control journals and databases A-to-Z lists.  The areas of overlap (and not) of the two admin mechanisms were sometimes unclear to me. The new EDS FTF is administered via EBSCOadmin, and it is great to have just one admin interface to drive this system.  As we had old and new EDS running simultaneously for a period, any changes would have needed to have been made to each system separately.  I decided that from the launch of new EDS FTF, any changes would only be made to the new EDS, and this did not cause any problems.

ebscoadmin

Databases A-Z

The new EDS FTF has access to journal titles via the Publications link, but it has no Databases A-Z feature.  I have been told by EBSCO that they did not include this feature, because only librarians wanted it, not students (and also perhaps because there is less demand for it in EBSCO’s primary market, the USA).  However, there are some essential databases which are not indexed by EDS (such as Westlaw) and our users must have a route to access these.  EBSCO have an A-Z solution which can be added to your EDS FTF but you have to request it, and it is basic (just a list of links, like in the old days…).  It also has its own admin interface.

a-z

Linking

Permalinks created in the old EDS are different from permalinks in the new EDS FTF.  EBSCO have redirects in place, but “there is no timescale of how long these will be in place”.  It is therefore necessary to create new permalinks anywhere these are used, such as reading lists.  We also had links to journal titles using a linking template that worked with the old journals A-to-Z, and these had to be re-created based on the new “Publications” journal-finding tool in EDS FTF.  This was more urgent, as no redirects would be in place for the old journals A-to-Z.  This can add considerably to the workload of staff who maintain reading lists.

permalink

Google Scholar

If your library is set up for “Library links” to allow your users to use the library’s link resolver with Google Scholar, your settings will need to be updated to reflect the new resolver within EDS FTF.  EBSCO told me that this update would be included in the migration.  When I contacted EBSCO for confirmation, they confirmed that our resolver in Scholar had been updated to Full Text Finder, but that it could take 1-2 weeks for the changes to take effect, suggesting that my enquiry had prompted a change in the settings rather than this happening without my intervention.

scholar