Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oxford University Press and the "Anti Google"

ArsTechnica reports on the launch of a new approach to patron and consumer research by OUP that will attempt to combat 'information overload' and the prevailing issue of 'authority'. This is a potentially revolutionary approach by a highly respected information publisher to draw back under a subscription model consumers of information who are increasingly dissatisfied with 'good enough' which is endemic to google and wikipedia.

From the article:

The OBO tool is essentially a straightforward, hyperlinked collection of professionally-produced, peer-reviewed bibliographies in different subject areas—sort of a giant, interactive syllabus put together by OUP and teams of scholars in different disciplines. Users can drill down to a specific bibliographic entry, which contains some descriptive text and a list of references that link to either Google Books or to a subscribing library's own catalog entries, by either browsing or searching. Each entry is written by a scholar working in the relevant field and vetted by a peer review process. The idea is to alleviate the twin problems of Google-induced data overload, on the one hand, and Wikipedia-driven GIGO (garbage in, garbage out), on the other.

"We did about 18 months of pretty intensive research with scholars and students and librarians to explore how their research practices were changing with the proliferation of online sources," Damon Zucca, OUP’s Executive Editor, Reference, told Ars. "The one thing we heard over and over again is that people were drowning in scholarly information, and drowning in information in general. So it takes twice as much time for people to begin their research."
To trust OBO's content, you have to trust its selection and vetting process. To that end, OUP is making the list of contributing scholars and editors freely available. Each subject area has an Editor in Chief who's a top scholar in the field, and an editorial board of around 15 to 20 scholars. The EIC and editorial board either write the bibliographic entries themselves, or they select other scholars to do the work.

1 comment:

Inkling said...

Thank you Oxford!

This deals almost perfectly with my twin frustrations as a researcher who uses the Internet. Google Books is a giant digital book bin with no way to judge the value of individual books. Wikipedia is of limited credibility, with ''truth' being determined by the last person to post to an entry. That said, I wouldn't characterize this project as "anti-Google," like the Arstechnicia article does. It simply makes the use of Google lest fraught with danger and difficulty.

Let's hope this project continues to grow and gets the funding to expand the categories covered.