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1. Prison library handbook

Came across this Library Journal review for an interesting book - The Prison Library Primer: a Program for the Twenty-First Century:

Vogel instructs fellow prison librarians on how to function in this environment. How does a librarian put together a viable book collection considering the censorship imposed by the prison authorities? How does he/she adjust to the watching, the listening, as well as the being watched that is a part of the culture? How can one keep one’s sanity when the logic of the prison environment would be considered outrageous in the outside world? Most of all, how can the librarian best make a difference in the lives of the inmates for whom the library is the only acceptable escape from their grim surroundings? Vogel gives her answers to these and other questions in 15 succinct chapters.

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2. UK’s Digital Economy bill and libraries don’t mix

Ars Technica writes about UK’s Digital Economy bill “3 strikes” rules. The author writes:

ISPs must log copyright infringement warnings, rightsholders can sue when anyone picks up three warnings within a year, rightsholders must prove they use a solid process to uncover violations, ISPs must prove they can properly match IP addresses to names, and there’s an appeals process.

But the articles asks “who counts as an ISP?” Apparently libraries offering Internet access (including WiFi), could fall into this category. Which means that libraries could be held accountable for the Internet activities of their patrons. Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator in Britain, says:

Those who wish to continue to enable others to access their service will need to consider whether [to] take steps to protect their networks against use for infringement, to avoid the consequences that may follow

This could mean that libraries (and other similar small ISPs, such as coffee shops) will have to start gathering information such as name, email or addresses of patrons before they use the Internet. Ofcom has indicated that small ISPs (libraries, etc.) will not be subject to the law at first. But this may change in the future, and libraries could be disconnected from the Internet if there are repeat offenders using their network.

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3. Day Against DRM

Day Against DRM

Defective by Design has designated May 4th as the Day Against DRM. The website has a great post entitled “The Decade in DRM” which lists all the significant DRM-related events of the last ten years.



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4. Concordia University’s Open Access mandate

I’m happy to report that my University has passed a Senate resolution (pdf) requiring all faculty members to deposit peer-reviewed journal articles in the University’s repository - Spectrum. Perhaps a little shameless promotion here, but the University Librarian and the Spectrum repository library committee really championned the cause of Open Access to Faculty in the last 2 years, and in the process, increased the visibility and importance of the library at Concordia. Small step for our library, big step for librarianship.

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5. Open government initiatives by Canadians

A great post by Michael Geist today lists many initiatives by Canadian citizens on opening up access to Canadian government data or information. Here are four that he listed:

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6. Delivering broadband to city’s poor

Another great article by Nate Anderson over at ars technica. He writes about an initiative by Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University to bridge the digital divide. The University is rolling out 1Gbps fibre to homes around campus. That area of Cleveland is among the poorest neighborhoods, with apparently 72% of homes without Internet. According to Case University, “[o]n a national scale, neighbors of the University have as much Internet access as Panamanians or Vietnamese.”

You can also read more about it on Case’s VP for Information Technology Services blog.

The initiative will be free to the community, as the University is using it as a research opportunity to see if large broadband can bring about new uses for the Internet, such as “public safety, more educational opportunities, and better medicine.” This initiative also fits nicely with the FCC’s new broadband plan in which Goal 4 states the following:

Every community should have affordable access to at least 1 Gbps broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.

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7. Québec government intimidating Open Source activists?

Le Devoir writes that the Québec government is asking FACIL, a non-profit association that promotes the use of open source software, to pay over 100,000$ of its lawyers’ fees. These fees were incurred when FACIL sued a service centre run by the government for giving a $10 million contract to Microsoft without a call for tenders. The case was thrown out of court, but the government wants FACIL to pay. FACIL has a 5,000$ annual budget, so the bill sent by the government would put FACIL out of business.

The group contends that the use of open source software would reduce the governments operating costs, and promote local job creation. The article also mentions that open source software has seen an increased use in Europe in the last year, fueling a $7 billion market.

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8. State of the media 2010

The Pew Research Center has given a good overview of the 2010 edition of the State of the News Media. Things that I found of interest in the Executive Summary include the following:

Roughly a third of the newsroom jobs in American newspapers in 2001 are now gone, and those cuts come particularly in specialty beats like science and the arts, suburban government and statehouse coverage. (p. 9)

This is particularly worrisome in consideration with the finding that “self-interested information providers are now growing rapidly”(p. 6):

As newsrooms get smaller, the range of non-journalistic players entering the information and news field is growing rapidly. The ranks include companies, think tanks, activists, government and partisans. Some are institutions frustrated by the shrinking space in conventional media and the absence of knowledgeable specialists to cover their subjects. Others are partisans and political interests trying to exploit a perceived opportunity in journalism’s contraction. There are varying degrees of transparency in these efforts about the financing and intentions. Some are quite clear. Others present themselves as purely journalistic and independent when in fact they are funded by political activists, yet only by digging and cross-referencing websites can the agenda and financing be divined. In an age where linking and aggregation are part of journalism, news organizations must decide how they want to interact with this growing cohort of self-interested information players. Will they pick up this material and disseminate it? Can they possibly police it? Can they afford to ignore it? The only certainty is that these new players are increasingly vying for the public’s and the media’s attention, and their resources, in contrast to that of traditional independent journalism, are growing. (p. 6-7)

With self-interested parties and media conglomerates defining what gets reported, the future of the media looks grim.

For me, the most alarming report was the following:

Perhaps the biggest news in media ownership in 2009 was the pending sale by General Electric and Vivendi of NBC Universal to the cable company Comcast. The sale includes NBC’s broadcast network, cable channels and company-owned local TV stations.

There should be a clear division between content provision and network provision because vertical integration of Internet Service Providers can only mean bad news for net neutrality. Self-interest will win out as Comcast will want to (and will be able to - since they own the network) provide easier, faster, and more ubiquitous access to their content.

To see vertical integration in action, check out Pew’s “Who Owns the News Media“.

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9. Bibliothèques Sans Frontières

From an article in La Presse this week, I learned that a French organisation, Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (BSF), has been to Haiti to evaluate the extent of the damage to libraries in and around Port-au-Prince. They’ve written a 42 page report (PDF) entitled “Rapport de la mission de sauvegarde des archives et des collections patrimoniales haïtiennes et d’évaluation des besoins en termes de reconstruction” (Report on the mission to rescue the archives and Haitian heritage collections and to evaluate the reconstruction needs).

The report states that in the metropolitan zone, over 80% of public schools and 90% of private schools have collapsed. Thankfully, the National Library is still standing, with only minimal damage. Many university libraries were affected, but apparently some of the material was removed from the rubble. (there was another article in La Presse a few weeks ago about this).

They suggest some courses of action for the short, medium, and long term. For example, for the short term, BSF suggests creating mobile libraries that would travel from camp to camp which would help with schooling and to counter delinquency. They also suggest donating books and other materials for libraries in other cities, where many people have fled to.

For universities, they suggest creating a central location where 1) they could provide access to electronic resources, in partnership with French universities and 2) taking 6 months to buy (with the help of Haitien librarians from the Haiti State University) a whole new collection (that would be housed in the outskirts of Paris) and create a catalogue. Once a building is built in Port-au-Prince, the whole collection would be moved and ready to use.

A very inspiring document!

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10. College librarian recognised for work to encourage respect and tolerance on campus

Lisa Spieker, a librarian at Rasmussen College, won a Pathfinder Award a couple of weeks ago for her work on the college’s Diversity Committe, and her work to educate staff and students on campus via panels and open discussions about diversity.

The local newspaper in Minnesota, where the award was presented, quoted Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Board members as saying that “Lisa sets an air and expectation of tolerance and respect from staff and students [....] (She) has created a culture where people can ask questions, respect and be respected, and learn from each other.”

Awarded in Mankato, Minnesota, the Pathfinder Awards are intended to recognise people who or organisations that “exemplify the ideas of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”


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11. Prisoners’ right to read

The Library Service to Prisoners Forum (part of the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies) has posted on the ALA website a Prisoner’ Right to Read Statement, for which they are seeking comments. The document is a vibrant plea against censorship and for the right to access information. It concludes with the following statement:

We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society and destroys the hopes of those segregated from society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours. When free people segregate some of their own, they acquire the responsibility to provide the tools required to bring the prodigal home. Chief among those tools is a right to read.

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12. Ecoomic Benefits of Net Neutrality

A great story from Ars Technica looking at a new study out by the Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI) entitled: “Free to Invest: The Economic Benefits of Preserving Net Neutrality.” (pdf) The article summarizes IPI’s cost-benefit analysis this way:

Were the big ISPs allowed to offer priority access tiers, it would represent a siphoning of money from the Internet’s content sector to its infrastructure sector. Free to Invest’s cost-benefit analysis calls this transfer bad economics. Competition in the Internet content market is much stronger than it is in the market for broadband service, the report contends. (…) [A]bandoning net neutrality would transfer money from the most competitive parts of the Internet and actively reinvest it in the least competitive.

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13. Search Neutrality

Very interested article in the NY Times by Adam Raff, co-founder of Foundem. In the context of the FCC’s request for public comments on net neutrality rules, he raises the question of “”search neutrality”: the principle that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance.” He gives many interesting examples where Google uses its market dominance to alter search results in ways that can be damaging to competitors. And what will this mean in the era of new “personalized” searches on Google? Will this be another way to boost Google products and “disappear” competitors?

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14. Fair Use and Public Domain days

Every January 1st is Public Domain day, where copyright expires for thousands of works across the world — except in the United States, where decades of copyright extensions have eliminated public domain day for many years to come. Notable authors whose works will be in the public domain in Canada (where copyright is life + 50 years) and other countries (where copyright is life + 70 years) include author, singer, and songwriter Boris Vian, Canadian doctor Norman Bethune, Canadian inventor of basketball, James Naismith, and former Québec Premier Maurice Duplessis, one of Canada’s most repressive politicians, especially when it came to freedom of expression.

Connected to Public Domain day is a new celebration created, by Public Knowledge, called World’s Fair Use Day (WFUD). It will be a day of free talks in Washington, D.C. on such things as ACTA, emerging media, and participatory culture.

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15. Israeli publisher closing gaps between Hebrew and Arabic literatures

You may have read recently about a recent announcement from the Egyptian ministry of culture, permitting translations of works by two of Israel’s leading writers, Amos Oz and David Grossman. Now, the Guardian has a great article about Andalus Books, based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Andalus translates Arabic-language books about “social, cultural and political issues as expressed through Arabic literary, poetic and expository writings.” Small steps in a larger journey towards greater understanding, but still. A story to warm your heart on a chilly autumn day.

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16. Philadelphia libraries closing?!

According to this post in BoingBoing, the Philadelphia Free Library System is shutting down. How can this be possible? From the library website:

Specifically, the following will take effect after the close of business, October 2, 2009:

  • All branch and regional library programs, including programs for children and teens, after school programs, computer classes, and programs for adults, will be cancelled
  • All Parkway Central Library programs, including children programs, programs to support small businesses and job seekers, computer classes and after school programs, will be cancelled. We are exploring the possibility of relocating the Philadelphia Author Series programs to other non-library facilities.
  • All library visits to schools, day care centers, senior centers and other community centers will cease.
  • All community meetings at our branch and regional libraries, and the Parkway Central Library, will be cancelled.
  • All GED, ABE and ESL programs held at Free Library branches will be discontinued, students should contact their teacher to see if other arrangements are being made.

In addition, all library materials will be due on October 1, 2009. This will result in a diminishing borrowing period for books and other library materials, beginning September 11, 2009. No library materials will be able to be borrowed after September 30, 2009.

Even as we remain hopeful that the State Legislature will act and pass the enabling funding legislation, we wanted to notify all of our customers of this very possible outcome.

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17. Possible US telecom antitrust investigations

Ars Technica talks about an article in the WSJ about a possible antitrust investigation of At&T and Verizon who apparently own 90% of landlines and 60% of the mobile market. The article also mentions that non-net neutrality may be examined as it pertains to wireless providers.

I wish the CRTC was having a look at what is happening in the US regarding telecoms. I’ve been listening to and reading tweets (#netneutrality or #crtc) today from the net neutrality hearings in Gatineau. In my opinion, Chairman von Finckenstein is blatently biased and poorly informed, siding with ISPs at every opportunity. It’s extremely frustrating.

And why has no one yet mentioned that I just noticed that yesterday, the Open Internet Coalition (which includes Google) mentioned that the FCC found Comcast guilty of discriminatory behaviour when it was caught throttling P2P. Yet, I feel as though von Finckenstein is always alluding to the fact that throttling is not discriminatory. Maybe he should read the FCC ruling. The first three lines say:

We consider whether Comcast, a provider of broadband Internet access over cable lines, may selectively target and interfere with connections of peer-to-peer (P2P) applications under the facts of this case. Although Comcast asserts that its conduct is necessary to ease network congestion, we conclude that the company’s discriminatory and arbitrary practice unduly squelches the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet and does not constitute reasonable network management. Moreover, Comcast’s failure to disclose the company’s practice to its customers has compounded the harm.

Also, why hasn’t anyone mentioned that The Open Internet Coalition also mentioned that Comcast can manage it’s network (and was forced to by the FCC) without DPI.

This morning, someone mentioned Comcast as an example of an ISP gone wild and the Chairman would not believe that Canadian ISPs would act in the same way. Perhaps the methods used to discriminate against P2P are different (I don’t think Canadian ISPs are using RST injections), but the result is the same.

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18. SaveOurNet Ottawa Town Hall meeting

SaveOurNet.ca had a town hall meeting in Ottawa yesterday that I was fortunate enough to attend. I’m not sure if it will be podcasted, but the Toronto one was.

Here is a summary of the Ottawa event. (I hope I was able to get everything right):

Steve Anderson’s introduction:
Anderson defined net neutrality and went on to mention that net neutrality is like electricity. You can plug any toaster into an electrical outlet, and it will work. That’s because Hydro companies do not tell you which toasters can or cannot function. Similarly, if two guys in a garage make something (an application or service, etc.) for the Internet, it should just work, no questions asked.

Speaker #1: Michael Geist:
Geist mentioned “four” hanging fruit relating to Net Neutrality that need to be addressed by a combination of groups such as the CRTC, the Competition Bureau, the legislature, the privacy commissioner, etc.:

  1. No content blocking
  2. Transparency (all ISPs should disclose their network management practices, etc.)
  3. No undue preference (ISPs should not provide preferential treatment to their own content. Pelmorex gave a good example of this happening by wireless service providers (WSPs) during the new media hearings.)
  4. Deep Packet Inspection (the privacy commissioner has raised serious privacy concerns regarding this technology).

Speaker #2: Charlie Angus:
Charlie Angus (NDP MP for Timmins) talked about how the Internet is a tool that empowers citizens. According to his website “Charlie Angus was a major organizer in the fight to stop the Adams Mine dump and the battle to stop toxic waste imports into [his] region.” He said that it was the Internet that allowed the organizers to win these battles by educating themselves on the issues.

Speaker #3: Rocky Gaudrault (Teksavvy):
In his short speech, he mentioned that we need to challenge the use of the word “choice” in the context of choosing ISPs in Canada since the large telcos and cablecos own 96% of the market.

Question Period and Discussion:
Marita Moll, the discussion facilitator, summarized the issues and themes that were discussed. These are the issues that we need to move forward on regarding Net Neutrality advocacy:

  1. Spectrum reform: It was mentioned that we need to get prepared on the issue of auctioning off the white space (it should happen in 2010) which will become available in the analog to digital transition in 2011. Geist mentioned that it should be allocated for unlicensed use (like WiFi) so that anyone can connect to it.
  2. Net neutrality is an economic issue just as much as it is a social one. The Internet drives a big part of our economy and we cannot let that be controlled by a few ISPs.
  3. Innovation: There is less innovation in Canada because the prices to access the networks are so high. There will also be less innovation on the network if ISPs can decide what runs (applications, services, content, etc.) on their networks and what doesn’t.
  4. Competition: There needs to be much more competition to lower prices and increase innovation and improvements on the network (speeds, access, etc.)
  5. Geist’s four hanging fruit (see above)
  6. We need to enable legislation to protect Net Neutrality (Charlie Angus and his private member’s bill C-398)
  7. Create toolkits to help citizens get involved (SaveOurNet is working on this)
  8. Infrastructure buildout: Australia, for example, is spending billions on their broadband infrastructure. We also learned that Industry Canada is planning on building a map that will show broadband deployment in Canada that will include speed of connection as well.
  9. The debate needs to be framed as a free speech issue
  10. The debate needs to be framed as an access issue
  11. The debate needs to be framed as a citizens rights issue (Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication)

Other people in the room commented on the fact that we need to engage the research, medical and educational communities as this will affect all of them. It was mentioned how so much research is being done in the Arctic now, but because there is so little broadband penetration there, it is actually quite difficult to send the data back to the researchers’ institutions.

All in all, it was an excellent and well attended evening with a lot of pertinent and interesting discussions.

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19. Open source textbooks in California

Ars Technica has an interesting story on “Open source, digital textbooks coming to California schools“.

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20. PLG Statement on Elsevier

The Progressive Librarians Guild has issued a statement regarding Elsevier’s publication of fake journals. Here’s a quote:

The Progressive Librarians Guild decries the distortion and abuse of research and science by corporate greed exemplified by Elsevier and Merck, and calls upon librarians to educate the public and researchers about all instances of collusion of academic and scholarly publishing with profit-making business entities in palming- off corporate propaganda through deceptive publishing practices, which debase scholarship and science, conspire against the public interest, and pollute the well of genuine scholarly information and communication.

On another note, in 2007, a coalition called PRISM (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine) started a website whose goal it was to “advocate for policies that ensure the quality, integrity, and economic viability of peer-reviewed journals.” This group was established by the Executive Council of the Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP). On the AAP Board of Directors sits an Elsevier representative.

This group has nothing to do with the current Elsevier scandal (the coalition was created to lobby against government mandated Open Access policies), but perhaps Elsevier should go back and read some of the principles (see how often the word integrity is used) and goals of this coalition, which was created to tout the importance of private sector publishing:

PRISM seeks to educate all stakeholders about the importance of maintaining the integrity of published information, and sustaining the incentives for all publishers to invest in the system of independent publishing that continues to sustain the public’s trust in scientific and medical research.

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21. Anarchist bookfair

If you’re in Montreal this weekend (Saturday May 16), check out the annual Anarchist Bookfair. There will be dozens of book and zine vendors as well as a series of very interesting short films and workshops.

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22. 4 social change organizations, 1 library catalogue

I just happened to come across the Alternative Libraries database that catalogues the materials in the libraries of four social change organizations: 2110 Centre, QPIRG Concordia, QPIRG McGill and the Union for Gender Empowerment. From the website:

We each have a unique library with a plethora of rare, independent and hard-to-find, and sometimes out of print, local & international publications books about justice, identity, diaspora, diy, politics & political thought, economics, community, biography, sexuality, sex & gender, and much more. In our database, we have combined the titles and publication information for our four libraries.

The catalogue contains books, zines, DVDs, videocassettes, reports and kits. It’s even possible to rate and review the items in the catalogue.

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23. Tim Wu on the future of the Internet

Great video on Geek Enternainment TV features Tim Wu and his take on the future of the Internet without Net Neutrality.

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24. Canadian Universities and Traffic Shaping

A colleague and I will be giving a presentation at the upcoming CLA conference in Montreal on Net Neutrality and What it Means for Libraries. I’d like to do a small informal survey targetted to librarians, faculty or staff working in Universities in Canada by asking the following two questions:

  1. Does your university (or library) network adminstrator shape traffic (i.e. slow down or block traffic from certain sites or for certain applications – for example MySpace, Facebook, YouTube or streaming video or P2P traffic)
  2. How does this affect you?

At Concordia University, for example, Facebook is blocked (but not on the wireless network) and traffic is throttled at certain times of the day in order to “manage the network”. (I think the idea is to limit the amount of video streaming that occurs, you know that web 2.0, user generated world that we live in? Apparently a University is not the appropriate place for living and learning in the 21st century.)

This has obvious consequences on the library. For Facebook, it means that if we want to advertise there or keep in contact with University groups that have pages there, we have to work from home (not with the VPN, of course) or we have to work on a laptop using the wireless network (when it’s working. The connection in the library at Concordia is not very reliable).

As for traffic throttling at Concordia, it affects library databases that have streaming video, such as Theatre in Video. (Notice the warning we’ve put up)

Other possibilities include how it can affect teaching and research. See this great post by a professor at the University of Ottawa: The University Shouldn’t Shape My Traffic

So please forward this post around, and contact me with your experiences. (danielle dot dennie at concordia dot ca)

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25. Black swans and the dismal future of science in Canada

It’s been in many of the main news outlets. Many Canadian scientists are signing a letter of protest to the Prime Minister on a website called “Don’t leave Canada Behind.” The letter bemoans the cuts to NSERC and CIHR, as well as earmarking money for specific (business and finance) research. NSERC cuts are already affecting the types of library services that will be offered by CISTI. (Here are 10 things you can do for CISTI)

The damage that these cuts will cause are compounded by a scientific culture that is already “becoming too conservative and constrained by social pressure and the demands of rapid and easily measured returns.” There is a great article in PhysicsWorld called “In search of the black swans” that looks at the stiffling culture of result-focused science. Here are a few good sections:

(…) modern science is in danger of losing its creativity unless we can find a systematic way to build a more risk-embracing culture.

The voices making this argument vary widely. For example, the physicist Geoffrey West, who is currently president of the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in New Mexico, US, points out that in the years following the Second World War, US industry created a steady stream of paradigm-changing innovations, including the transistor and the laser, and it happened because places such as Bell Labs fostered a culture of enormously free innovation. “They brought together serious scientists — physicists, engineers and mathematicians — from across disciplines”, says West, “and created a culture of free thinking without which it’s hard to imagine how these ideas could have come about.”

Unfortunately, today’s academic and corporate cultures seem to be moving in the opposite direction, with practices that stifle risk-taking mavericks who have a broad view of science. At universities and funding agencies, for example, tenure and grant committees take decisions based on narrow criteria (focusing on publication lists, citations and impact factors) or on specific plans for near-term results, all of which inherently favour those working in established fields with well-accepted paradigms. In recent years, tightening business practices and efforts to improve efficiency have also driven corporations in a similar direction. “That may be fine in the accounting department,” says West, “but it’s squeezing the life out of innovation.”


The result, he suggests, is that science is becoming less a “bottom-up” enterprise of free-wheeling exploration — energized by the kind of thinking that led Einstein to relativity — and more a “top-down” process strongly constrained by social conformity, with scientific funding following along fashionable lines.

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