Friday, May 27, 2016

Oyez Finds A New Home at Cornell's LII

The National Law Journal (sub req'd) is reporting that Oyez has found a new home at Cornell's Legal Information Institute.

Oyez will move to the LII as its new home, with infrastructure and technical support from Justia, which had already been quietly supporting the Oyez site for several years.

Launched in 1993, Oyez.org boasts nearly 9 million visits annually, ranging from students doing term papers to Supreme Court practitioners rehearsing upcoming arguments.

The project is now housed at Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago under an agreement that expires soon. By the time the new term of the Supreme Court begins in October its home will be Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, though Chicago-Kent may stay involved.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Librarians Do - In Pictures

I ran across a recent BuzzFeed called "18 Cats Who Think They're Librarians." While it's amusing (especially for the cat-owning, sweater-wearing librarians), it also gives a good idea of what a librarian does on a day-to-day basis.


I also ran across a blog from Mr. Library Dude that discusses a librarian "career day" presentation. This presentation engages the students by discussion librarian stereotypes (cat-owning, sweater-wearing, anyone?). Mr. Library Dude uses the presentation to debunk some of the more popular stereotypes (he does not shush, his student workers are the ones who check books in and out, and he definitely does not read on the job).

And then he provides context for what a librarian actually does like:
  • Teaching and research assistance
  • Collection development
  • Helping with technology
  • Running events
This is a good way to get students interested in a library career while refuting deeply ingrained librarian stereotypes. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Friendly Reminder Re: Email Etiquette


According to Inc., the average US employee spends about a quarter of the work week combing through the hundreds of emails we all send and receive every day.

That sounds about right.

As we send and receive these hundreds of emails, we might get into bad habits that could cost us professionally. For a reminder on email etiquette, see the following list of 15 email etiquette best practices.

1. Include a clear, direct subject line.
2. Use a professional email address.
3. Think twice before hitting 'reply all.'
4. Include a signature block.
5. Use professional salutations.
6. Use exclamation points sparingly.
7. Be cautious with humor.
8. Know that people from different cultures speak and write differently.
9. Reply to your emails--even if the email wasn't intended for you.
10. Proofread every message.
11. Add the email address last.
12. Double-check that you've selected the correct recipient.
13. Keep your fonts classic.
14. Keep tabs on your tone.
15. Nothing is confidential--so write accordingly.

On any give day, I could use a direct reminder of these best practices. I ran into an issue recently where my tone and humor were lost on someone who had never met me in person. I was trying to diffuse a situation but probably ended up making it worse.

And it always surprises me when law students don't have a professional email address, yet it happens often enough. It should be something that everyone acquires during 1L year.

Attorneys (and prospective attorneys) would do well to adhere to these tips, along with Bryan Garner's advice for coherent email memos.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Publishers Propose Costly Injunction in Year 8 of Georgia State Copyright Case

The Chronicle of Higher Education posted commentary about the ongoing Georgia State Case.

A short overview of the long history of the lawsuit is as follows:
The lawsuit, now in its eighth year, challenged GSU’s policy that allowed faculty members to upload excerpts (mainly chapters) of in-copyright books for students to read and download from online course repositories. Four years ago, a trial court held that 70 of the 75 challenged uses were fair uses. Two years ago, an appellate court sent the case back for a reassessment under a revised fair-use standard. The trial court has just recently ruled that of the 48 claims remaining in the case, only four uses, each involving multiple chapters, infringed.

In the recent trial court ruling, Sage was the only publisher that prevailed at all, and it lost more infringement claims than it won. Cambridge and Oxford came away empty-handed. 

Given that Georgia State is considered to be the prevailing party in the suit, it's just a tad surprising that all three publishers have asked the court for a permanent injunction that would impose many new duties on GSU and require close monitoring of all faculty uploads to online course repositories.

Under the proposed injunction, colleges and individual faculty would have to:

  • Determine whether digital licenses were available for excerpts they wanted to use. 
  • If so, faculty would have to decide whether to license that material or determine that uploading parts of in-copyright books would be fair use. 
  • Faculty members would have to assess whether their uses of the relevant materials were narrowly tailored to serve their pedagogical purposes, were not excessive in quantity, and were not the "heart" of the book. 
  • And faculty members would have to consider how much harm their use would cause to the publisher if other faculty members teaching similar courses made the same uses of the book chapter.
  • The proposed injunction would also require university personnel to confirm that every excerpt uploaded to course websites met the fair-use criteria and to keep track of information about the book, which parts were used, the number of total pages, the sources that were consulted to determine whether digital permissions were available, the date of the investigation, the number of students enrolled in the course, and the name of the professor. 
  • The university would have to maintain those records for three years.
  • The publishers want the court to require GSU to provide them with access to the university’s online course system and to relevant records so the publishers could confirm that the university had complied with the record-keeping and monitoring obligations.

This would apply not just to Sage publications, but to every use of in-copyright books on online course websites. If the injunction is granted, it would also set precedent for all other universities to follow.

As noted, the proposed injunction contrasts with the trial court’s 2012 injunction, which directed GSU to change its copyright policy to conform with the court’s order about what uses were fair and unfair, and to tell the faculty about the changed policy. The court wisely declined to impose burdensome and expensive record-keeping obligations on the university when first asked to do so. The requirements would be too onerous and costly for colleges, given that such a small percentage of uses were found to infringe on copyright.

While a narrow injunction is expected, it is a near certainty that the publishers will appeal, and the case will inch closer to year 10.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Elsevier Acquires SSRN

When news first broke that Elsevier acquired SSRN, my initial thoughts, given Elsevier's reputation, were:
  • This is a way for Elsevier to shed its bad reputation for sharing
  • Elsevier could use SSRN to make money through advertisements
  • Elsevier could use SSRN’s scholarship network to distribute announcements about all of its articles (paid or otherwise)
  • Elsevier could use SSRN to keep a better eye on authors who might be breaking publication agreements 
  • Elsevier could start charging for access to otherwise open articles
According to Gregg Gordon, president of SSRN, Jan Reichelt, co-founder of Mendeley, and Tom Reller, a senior Elsevier executive, Elsevier has been pursuing a strategy of reducing the share of its revenues coming from content and increasing the share coming from analytics and other services. Among other things, the SSRN acquisition is another step in Elsevier’s path towards data and analytics.

Elsevier has committed that the use of SSRN as a hub for content discovery and distribution will not change - free of charge for authors to upload and readers to download. 

In a number of ways, Mendeley is the linchpin for this acquisition. When Mendeley itself was acquired by Elsevier in April 2013, there was much discussion and debate about whether Mendeley should continue to be trusted by scientists under Elsevier’s umbrella.

Although Mendeley has been to all users, it clearly has strengths in the STM fields, so SSRN will now provide it with an opportunity to acquire a new user population as a result of a variety of integrations between the two services. We should expect these to include connections between SSRN author pages and Mendeley professional profiles, and workflow connections that allow Mendeley collaborative groups to submit papers for distribution and perhaps eventually review and publication.  There will also be other opportunities to strengthen SSRN for its authors, with plans to link preprints on SSRN with Scopus, bringing analytics about article “performance” to SSRN authors, and to bring improved links between working papers and preprints with their eventual published versions.

By acquiring an open access service with its focus in the social sciences, Elsevier is further building out its capacity to provide workflow services, data, and analytics to the scholarly community. Some might see this development as good for open access, given the nature of the investment that Elsevier is planning to make in the SSRN, while others may be concerned to that over time an open repository is somehow co-opted. Smart observers will be trying to puzzle together what it means that Elsevier is growing in its ability to shape its own future as a workflow, data, and analytics enterprise, well beyond its roots in publishing. Finally, universities, their libraries, and other publishers, should have on their minds some of the policy and governance issues around the data that Elsevier is accumulating and the uses to which they may be put.

It does ease my mind to know that Mendeley is still trusted and thriving under Elsevier's umbrella. Hopefully we'll see SSRN continue to thrive, as well. So long as Elsevier is truly looking for ways to expand its reach with data and analytics, everything may just be okay. As noted, however, libraries and others need to be aware of the data accumulation and ways in which the data is used. 

More to come...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Using Artificial Intelligence to Answer Questions

IBM's Watson is being used in a variety of arenas to test AI in different capacities. We know that ROSS (a Watson progeny) is currently in development for legal research, and Watson has been used in medicine and cooking, for example.

The WSJ is reporting that Watson, "Jill Watson" as it were, has been a TA in an online course at Georgia Tech since January 2016. “Jill,” as she was known to the artificial-intelligence class, had been helping graduate students design programs that allow computers to solve certain problems, like choosing an image to complete a logical sequence.

And how exactly did "Jill" work?
Last year, a team of Georgia Tech researchers began creating Ms. Watson by poring through nearly 40,000 postings on a discussion forum known as “Piazza” and training her to answer related questions based on prior responses. By late March, she began posting responses live. She answers only if she has a confidence rate of at least 97%.

“She was the person—well, the teaching assistant—who would remind us of due dates and post questions in the middle of the week to spark conversations,” said student Jennifer Gavin. Ms. Watson—so named because she’s powered by International Business Machines Corp.’s Watson analytics system—wrote things like “Yep!” and “we’d love to,” speaking on behalf of her fellow TAs, in the online forum where students discussed coursework and submitted projects.

Time after time, the students commented that “It seemed very much like a normal conversation with a human being,” or “I didn’t see personality in any of the posts, but it’s what you’d expect from a TA, somewhat serious and all about giving you the answer.”

TA robots powered by Watson may help revolutionize online learning by providing answers to routine questions. As Mr. Goel, the professor in the class noted, “Our TAs are getting bogged down answering routine questions," noting that students in the class typically post 10,000 messages a semester.

Mr. Goel estimates that within a year, Ms. Watson will be able to answer 40% of all the students’ questions, freeing the humans to tackle more complex technical or philosophical inquiries such as, “How do you define intelligence?”

As I contemplate how ROSS will change the landscape for law librarians, I am optimistic that "he" will help us answer routine questions like finding a source by citation. And we will be freed up to tackle more complex technical inquiries, such as performing a 50-state survey on sunshine in litigation laws or laws that are equivalent in effect.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ROSS Intelligence Partners With Big Law

Cognitive computing is very close to reality in the legal research realm.

Recently, BakerHostetler, an AMLaw100 firm, released a joint press release with ROSS Intelligence announcing a partnership.

ROSS Intelligence is proud to announce that AmLaw100 law firm BakerHostetler has agreed to retain use of ROSS Intelligence's artificial intelligence legal research product, ROSS.

The ROSS platform is built upon Watson, IBM's cognitive computer. With the support of Watson's cognitive computing and natural language processing capabilities, lawyers ask ROSS their research question in natural language, as they would a person, then ROSS reads through the law, gathers evidence, draws inferences and returns highly relevant, evidence-based candidate answers. ROSS also monitors the law around the clock to notify users of new court decisions that can affect a case. The program continually learns from the lawyers who use it to bring back better results each time.

ROSS Intelligence began out of research at the University of Toronto in 2014 with the goal of building an AI legal research assistant to allow lawyers to enhance and scale their abilities. In June of 2015, after receiving funding from famed Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, ROSS Intelligence relocated from Toronto, Canada to Palo Alto, California. Just ten months after they began teaching ROSS bankruptcy law, the company has been commercializing its first offering. The company is currently in the process of teaching ROSS a variety of other practice areas with the aim that every legal practitioner in the world will have ROSS as a member of their legal team.

To say that people are excited about ROSS is an understatement. There is also a bit of trepidation for what is being touted as a technology that will revolutionize the practice of law - mostly because it seems to be happening so fast.

With law and policy (including professional responsibility rules) often lagging behind the latest, greatest technology, we have our work cut out for us to keep up with ROSS's implications.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Vetting Reliable Research The John Oliver Way

HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver had a wonderful segment about the skewing of scientific research and how information is ultimately shared. 


Librarians would do well to incorporate this segment into a session on information literacy.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Librarians at Forefront of Preserving Collective Knowledge

The Chronicle of Higher Ed ran an article written by a historian about the ever-increasing need to preserve our vast amounts of data.

As the historian notes, the radical reduction of barriers to reading and publishing online has resulted in an abundance of cultural expression in audio, video, textual, and numeric formats. Yet paradoxically, in this age of digital abundance it is harder, not easier, to secure knowledge for future generations. How much will future generations know about today’s online culture when the average webpage lasts just 100 days? 

One of the biggest challenges of our time is to find a way to archive material. If we learn to manage the abundance of digital information as quickly as we learned to manage print, solutions will come within several generations, approximately when the first few cohorts of digital natives mature, age, and begin to reckon with their own legacies. By that time, though, much will be lost, not by choice but by default. Preserving data, crafting polices for their use, and paying for the benefits of future access are all formidable problems, but the challenges to long-term access are not only technical, political, and economic.

As stated, we have two urgent tasks:

  • The first is ensuring that the wealth of knowledge in our analog collections can be found on the Internet, either by putting them online or by creating digital records to indicate where those artifacts are. In 20 years, if a collection cannot be discovered through a web search, people will effectively not know it exists. We need to accelerate digitization efforts. As part of the digitization effort, we will need to stabilize analog sources that are rapidly deteriorating — notably 20th-century audiovisual formats — and create digital reference copies.
  • The second task is to rescue the present from oblivion. Oblivion can begin as soon as the next software update. The challenge here is posed by scale. Given the upfront expenses of publishing books or making movies, our model of stewardship has been to ask what we can afford to save. Now, given digital abundance, we must ask what we can afford to lose.

These tasks are well understood by librarians. But librarians cannot do it alone. And the prestige economy tells [many faculty] that data management is mere "housekeeping," by definition a second- or third-order profession, someone else’s job (typically a postdoc or grad student, in fact.) 

OR a librarian, for that matter.

Like the hard scientists in the prestige economy, humanists have similar reward structures that keep them at a remove from libraries, museums, and archives. In the 19th century, building and editing collections was the core work of history and literature disciplines. Over the course of the 20th century, a division of labor emerged between the scholars who were users of collections and the librarians who were builders and custodians of collections. Today libraries and archives are positioned within higher education as service organizations, not laboratories of discovery.

However, a new generation of scholars is confronting the urgent demands of analog and digital stewardship. One of the unintended consequences of the shrinking humanities faculty is that many highly accomplished humanities Ph.D.s are now drawn into libraries and creating rewarding careers.

And librarians welcome the help of the other professions.

Not only is preservation a huge issue, we also need to make students understand these archival formats to be able to use the information. Most students are more fluent than their professors with current consumer technologies. But they have yet to gain true literacy, digital or textual, visual or audio: the ability to assess the authenticity and truth value of a source. It is from the faculty that they learn about the values that need to be built into the use of data — our own and everyone else’s.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Law Student Summer Access to Legal Databases

This is a question that inevitably comes up around this time every year. A student asks, "can I use my Westlaw, Lexis, and/or Bloomberg account for my summer internship?"

The Harvard Law School Library Blog has put together a wonderful post about using the various legal databases during the summer. 

BLOOMBERG LAW

If your workplace has a Bloomberg Law account, you are expected to use that, but there are no restrictions on your Bloomberg accounts over the summer. Need an account? If you law school has a subscription, just sign up with your law school email address. 

LEXIS 

Your law school ID will let you access Lexis Advance all summer for:
  • Academic, professional, and non-profit research (note: some employers may give you an ID to use for work purposes)
  • All legal content and news you have as a law student
  • Unlimited hours per week
You do not have to register for this access. Your law school ID will remain active all summer for the above purposes and you will continue earning points as well! Summer access begins on the date your classes end through the date your classes begin in the fall. Normal law school terms of service apply outside of these dates.

New graduates, your school Lexis IDs will automatically turn into graduate Lexis IDs on July 01, 2016. Graduates can use Lexis Advance to study for the bar, prepare for job interviews, and at their new position. They will have unlimited access to Lexis Advance until Dec 31, 2016.

WESTLAW

Current students may extend the access on their student Westlaw passwords for the summer if you are:
  • working for a law review or journal
  • working as a research assistant for a law professor
  • doing moot court work
  • taking summer law school classes, or completing papers or other academic projects for spring semester
  • doing an unpaid private non-profit (non-government) intern/externship or pro bono work required for graduation
Law school student passwords may not be used for government offices or agencies, law firms, corporations or other purposes unrelated to law school academic work.

To extend your password for summer access, visit this Westlaw password extension page.

New law school graduates may extend their Westlaw subscription through November 30, 2016 by completing a short survey. This extension will begin on June 1, 2016 and will last through November 30, 2016. It will allow graduates a total of 60 hours of access during that six month period (6 months or 60 hours).