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Science & Engineering Library

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What is your vision for the Science and Engineering Library?

SEL Focus Groups Website

Students: share your ideas for improving the Science and Engineering Library!

Sign up for our focus group sessions April 9-27.

Free pizza and soda at all sessions!

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Workshop: Increasing Openness and Reproducibility in Quantitative Research

September 21, 2017, 9 a.m. - Noon. Register by August 21, 2017

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Increasing Openness and Reproducibility in Quantitative Research

Are you interested in ensuring your work is reproducible? Please join us for a workshop, hosted by the Center for Open Science, to learn easy, practical steps to take to increase the reproducibility of your work. This workshop will be hands-on. Using example studies, attendees will actively participate in creating a reproducible project from start to finish.

The workshop takes place on Thursday, September 21, 2017, from 9 – 12, Amherst Room, 10th floor of the Campus Center. 

This workshop is open to any researcher, including students, faculty, and staff, and does not require any specialized knowledge of programming.

Topics covered:

-          Project documentation

-          Version control

-          Pre-analysis plans

-          Open source tools like the Center for Open Science’s Open Science Framework to easily implement these concepts in a scientific workflow

Attendees will need to bring their own laptop in order to fully participate.

RSVP by August 21 - Seating is limited, so please register now!  

If you have any questions, please get in touch with Thea Atwood –

Sponsored by the UMass Amherst Libraries and the College of Natural Sciences.  

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Interested in Open Data?

There's a recent article in Nature called "An Open Mind on Open Data" which outlines various positions on sharing research data (see and it occurred to me that we in the Science & Engineering Library, or the UMass Amherst Libraries in general, could provide a forum for discussion among UMass Amherst researchers for topics like this. We are interested in "scholarly communication" and tend to pay attention to overarching issues, where faculty and students might be more focused on the particulars of their research projects. Open Data is a movement which has the potential for accelerating the pace of scientific discovery, but there are thorny problems and barriers - these are described in the article, so I won't reiterate them. If you find this intriguing, or have been musing on similar ideas, come talk to us! Maybe we can work together to get the conversation going on campus.

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Interview with Google Scholar co-creator, Anurag Acharya

In my instruction sessions with students, I often do a quick poll of how many people use Google Scholar to find articles - the percentage has gone up substantially in recent years, and it makes me wonder about the money we spend on buying access to bibliographic index databases. But that's a discussion for another day.

These days, every faculty member and grad student I have asked in individual consultation sessions uses Google Scholar.

I'd say most librarians have conflicted feelings about Google Scholar, and this interview doesn't do anything to change that. We still don't know where Google Scholar is looking - or where it is not looking. But it's interesting to hear from a person who is instrumental in developing something which in ten years has transformed how scholarly research is discovered.

How to tame the flood of literature - Recommendation services claim to help researchers keep up with the most important papers without becoming overwhelmed.

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Spooky citations!

I often like to cover citations and citation management when I teach a class -- it's an interesting and important part of any scientific conversation and scientific publication, and I like to help folks understand why it's so important!

This morning, I came across a post on the APA Style Blog* on citing works from the spirit world. Just in time for Halloween!

From the 2013 blog post:

Noncorporeal beings have dictated a number of bestsellers, yet they never seem to cash their own royalty checks. For bibliographic purposes, the author is the person through whom the work entered the corporeal realm.

So, such a citation would be:

Medium Last Name, Medium First Name. (Year). Title of publication. Location: Publisher.

There are also entire subject headings on Spirit Writings (a search of which [search su:Spirt writings. in our catalog] will bring up all sorts of resources from UMass and the Five Colleges!

Happy haunting searching, little spooks! :-)

*APA is the format I know best, so I am biased towards it!


Hume-Pratuch, J. (2013, October 31). APA Style Blog: How to Cite Works From the Spirit World. Retrieved October 30, 2014, from
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Agriculture Census Stats

Massachusetts is doing great!

Gary Keogh, New England field office State Statistician, in a blog post from July 2014 on the USDA website, used data from the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture to illustrate the rise of community-supported agriculture (highest percentage of farms), and other aspects of Massachusetts' growing agriculture sector.

Massachusetts Agriculture Defies National Trends

The Census of Agriculture is available to all.

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The Scientist Issue on Sex

I like the science news site, The Scientist, which, despite it's title is focused on life sciences only. This week, they have an issue devoted to sex, a hot topic, if you will excuse the pun.

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Author of Keeping the Bees

NPR interview

I heard a Fresh Air interview with Laurence Packer, entomologist from York University in Toronto, on our local public radio station, and thought it amusing and informative. He was talking about his book, Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees Are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them (excerpt here). Although that subtitle is somewhat alarmist, he had a refreshingly low-key style. Although he talked about the threats to various crops, he also pointed out that there were many food plants that aren't pollinated by animals, and that we wouldn't immediately starve if all the bees died. He did note that there would be many long-term consequences of lower diversity among pollinators, and that feral honeybee colonies are much rarer than before, having been decimated by various parasites. Much of our focus on colony collapse disorder is focused on domesticated honeybees, but there are many other insects (and other animals) that pollinate.  The key to a healthy ecosystem is keeping high biodiversity.

The interviewer, Dave Davies, asked about a number of our more unusual pollinators and the mites that afflict them, and Packer had some stomach-turning examples, which I will leave to your imagination!

I have not yet purchased this book for the Libraries' collection, but I will!

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Two hypotheses for our two-faced moon

Our moon has two very different faces: the near side and the far side are quite different from one another. Today, Slate's Phil Plate covers two hypotheses on just why the two sides of our moon are so different. Definitely check out Plate's quick synopsis of the two hypotheses, and if you are hungry for more, dive in to the two resources he covers!


Hypothesis one comes from Nature:

Jutzi, M., & Asphaug, E. (2011). Forming the lunar farside highlands by accretion of a companion moon. Nature, 476(7358), 69-72.

Hypothesis two you'll find via

Roy, A., Wright, J. T., & Sigurðsson, S. (2014). Earthshine on a Young Moon: Explaining the Lunar Farside Highlands. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 788(2), L42.

If you have any trouble accessing either of these two resources, feel free to ask a librarian! We are happy to help you figure out how to get access to all sorts of resources.

Happy searching!

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Science magazine section

"Scientific Communication", October 4, 2013

Just in time for Open Access Week later this month (October 21-25), Science has published a section on scientific publishing, a topic regarding which they surely are not unbiased.

I love the infographic,  The Rise of Open Access, by Randall Monroe of xkcd fame which claims that new scientific papers are published at an accelerating rate, currently about one every 20 seconds, and that since 2011, half of new papers are open access. That part of the article comes from an article by Jocelyn Kaiser in another issue of Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6148.830).

There are other worthy pieces in this section, but the one that got my goat was a piece by John Bohannon, "Who's Afraid of Peer Review", an account of his sting operation, sending a scam article to a large number of open access journals to see which of them would catch its problems in their peer review systems. He made some valid points, but overall, I think the project was flawed by not including non-open access journals. The inferences drawn by him and others (see/hear the report on NPR) make it seem like the problems arise from open access rather than from poor peer review. Other bloggers  have written more articulate posts about the shortcomings (see Peter Suber's or Michael Eisen's).

Science is hosting a live chat session on this issue with the article's author and several others including Eisen, on Thursday, Oct 10, 2013 at 3pm EDT.

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