Sunday, 5 March 2017

Convert university libraries into institutional publishers

With the traditional publishing model, researchers used to publish articles in journals for free, transferring the copyright to the publisher, who then asked for a fee or subscription to anyone requesting the articles. Universities therefore had to spend money to pay for many subscriptions.
The current publishing model is gradually moving toward a "gold open access" policy, where researches are charged (up to 3000-4000 euro each article) in order to have their research published, retaining copyright. The publishers take care of managing the article during the editorial process and final publication, which usually consists in generating a PDF file of the manuscript and putting it online on their website. To be noticed, researchers also work as referee and editors for free. The publishing fee therefore clearly exceeds the publisher's expenses and generates a nice profit. The process is so simple and cheap from the publisher point of view, that many new publishers pop up, trying to make profit entering this growing publishing market. Some of them just seek to make money and don't care too much about the quality of the research being published; these are being called "predatory publishers".
One could imagine that the open access policy and the advantage provided by paperless online publishing process could create a positive competition leading to a decrease of publishing fees. Actually this is not happening because researchers aim to publish their research on journals with a high impact factor or, et least, indexed on search engines used by the other peers when they look for articles to cite (eg. Pubmed for biomedical research). A new journal has no impact factor and also is not indexed on relevant search engines, so it is not very attractive for researchers. Indeed, the publishing fees increase in an almost linear fashion with the impact factor of a journal, as you can imagine.
There are many unmet needs:
  1. publishing market should be regulated (one of the attempts was made by prof. Jeffrey Beall with his list of "predatory journals", recently shut down following unknown requests)
  2. researchers have the right to publish their research without having to spend more money just for the publishing process
  3. university libraries are gradually losing their importance since newer scientific literature is paperless and there is no need for a librarian or a place to store the books or paper journals, since all readers are able to search and download them through internet
So why not converting human and economic resources currently allocated to university libraries to create institutional publishers?
Such publishers will have the credibility provided by the institution, no commercial interests and therefore no risk to become "predatory", release publications following "gold open access" policy and save money for the already underfunded research.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Books to read... in 1992

During high school, my Italian literature teacher, prof. Giuseppina Lanera, suggested us some books particularly worth reading. Already fond of computer, I wrote one of my first electronic documents using a version of the very old Ventura Publisher running under DOS with GEM graphic. A few days ago I found out this a very old print dated 1992. These are the books. Only the surname of the authors is reported and the titles are in Italian. I read about one third of them during high school and plan to read the rest in the future (maybe when I will retire).
There are some books I read and I liked very much which are not in this list, but this is another story!


"Elenco dei Libri di Lettura"

Alvaro
    Gente in Aspromonte
Bacchelli
    Il diavolo di Pontelungo
Balzac
    Eugenia Grandet
    Papa Goriot
Borges
    Finzioni
Bassani
    Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini
Borghese
    Rubé
Brancati
    Don Giovanni in Sicilia
    Il bell'Antonio
Buzzati
    Il deserto dei tartari
    La boutique del mistero
Bulgakov
    Cuore di cane
Calvino
    Il cavaliere inesistente
    Il visconte dimezzato
    Il barone rampante
    Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno
    Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore
    Lezioni americane
Camus
    La peste
    Lo straniero
Cassola
    La ragazza di Bube
Cechov
    Racconti
Chandler
    Il grande sonno
    Il lungo addio
Conrad
    Cuore di tenebra
    Racconti di mare e di costa
    Lord Jim
D'Annunzio
    Il piacere
    Il fuoco
Defoe
    Robinson Crusoe
    Moll Flanders
De Marchi
    Demetrio Pianelli
    Il cappello del prete
Diderot
    Jaques il fatalista
Dostoevskij
    I fratelli Karamazov
    Delitto e castigo
    Il giocatore
    L'idiota
Eco
    Il nome della rosa
    Diario minimo
Fitzgerald
    Il grande Gatsby
Flaubert
    Madame Bovary
Fogazzaro
    Piccolo mondo antico
    Malombra
Foscolo
    Le ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis
Frank
    Diario
Gadda
    Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana
    La cognizione del dolore
Ginzburg
    Lessico familiare
    La famiglia Manzoni
Goethe
    Le affinità elettive
    I dolori del giovane Werther
    Faust
Gogol
    Le anime morte
Hemingway
    Il vecchio e il mare
    Addio alle armi
Hugo
    I miserabili
    Notre-Dame de Paris
Joyce
    I racconti di Dublino
    Ulisse
Jovine
    Le terre del sacramento
    La signora Ava
Kafka
    I racconti
    Il castello
    Il processo
Hammet
    Il falcone matese
Laclos
    Le relazioni pericolose
Lawrence
    L'amante di Lady Chattely
Levi C.
    Cristo si è fermato a Eboli
Levi P.
    Se questo è un uomo
    La tregua
    Se non ora quando?
    Il sistema periodico
    La chiave a stella
Mann
    I Buddenbrook
    Morte a Venezia
    Tonio Kroger
    La montagna incantata
    Doctor Faust
Manzoni
    I promessi sposi
Marquez
    Cent'anni di solitudine
Maupassant
    Racconti
Moravia
    Gli indifferenti
    Agostino
    Racconti romani
    La ciociara
    La noia
Morante
    L'isola di Arturo
    Menzogna e sortilegio
    La storia
Musil
    L'uomo senza qualità
Nievo
    Le confessioni di un italiano
Orwell
    La fattoria degli animali
    1984
Palazzeschi
    Le sorelle Materassi
Pasternak
    Il dottor Zivago
Pavese
    La casa in collina
    La bella estate
    La luna e i falò
    Dialoghi con Leucò
Pasolini
    Ragazzi di vita
    Una vita violenta
Pirandello
    Il fu Mattia Pascal
    Uno, nessuno, centomila
    I quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore
    Novelle per un anno
    Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore
    Enrico IV
Pratolini
    Metello
    Cronache di poveri amanti
    Cronaca familiare
Poe
    Racconti
Proust
    Alla ricerca del tempo perduto
Salinger
    Il giovane Holden
Sciascia
    Il giorno della civetta
    A ciascuno il suo
    Il mare colore del vino
    Candido
Scott
    Ivanhoe
Silone
    Fontamara
    Il segreto di Luca
Stendhal
    La certosa di Parma
    Il rosso e il nero
Stevenson
    Dottor Jeckyll e il signor Hyde
Svevo
    La coscienza di Zeno
Tomasi di Lampedusa
    Il gattopardo
Tolstoj
    Guerra e pace
Verga
    I malavoglia
    Mastro don Gesualdo
Vittorini
    Conversazioni in Sicilia
    Il garofano rosso
    Uomini e no
Voltaire
    Candido
    Racconti filosofici
Wilde
    Il ritratto di Dorian Gray
Yourcenar
    Memorie di Adriano
    L'opera al nero

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The evolution of Short Messages

Short Messages (SMS) were very useful to send messages in real time to a mobile phone. Before smartphones becoming widely used and permanent internet connection available at reasonable prices, sending SMS was the quickest way to send brief informations without talking. Whatsapp was the first app to exploit the new digital environment to provide free SMS for everyone. Whatsapp developers had the intuition that people want things easy and were already used to SMS, so they developed something similar to SMS but sending messages as internet traffic, exactly as for emails. Nowadays the number of Whatsapp messages is reported higher that the number of SMS and many alternatives appeared, such as Telegram.
When Whatsapp was launched I wondered why people needed such a service when emails can perfectly do the job. A properly configured e-mail client can send messages in real time and received messages can pop up just like SMS. Moreover you can attach every file you want, use it on any device, also if you don't have a cell phone number.
People want it easy like SMS? Well, "it shouldn't be too hard to write an email client looking like Whatsapp" I told to myself short after Whatsapp was launched.
I just found out that I was not the one thinking about that. F-droid, my favourite software repository for Android, showed Delta Chat in the new software list. The developers not only had my same idea, but actually made it real!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Linnux is bad

Recently I took my son to the cinema to watch the movie "Rock Dog". Nice, although the plot is not entirely convincing to me. Anyway I am not writing a comment to the movie. I was astonished because of the name that was chosen for the boss of the evil wolves: Linnux. As a supporter of free and open source software (FLOSS or "software libero" in Italian), of course including Linux kernel, I was puzzled about this choice.
I am glad that FLOSS is more and more used, Linux kernel is the core of Android OS (the most used mobile OS), the most used kernel on servers and supercomputers, but I see that the name "Linux" never comes out in commercials or in common peoples' talking, as if "Linux" was a bad word or drawing bad luck. For example: on Lancia cars the USB port has the "MS Windows" label well shown, claiming the property of the built in MP3 audio player. Why Toyota cars don't have a Linux logo?
It seems to me that somebody (or more than some) doesn't want to make the "Linux" name popular or, alternatively, wants to make people think it is evil, like the boss of the bad wolves in "Rock Dog".

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Teaching activity in Italian Universities is not valued for professor career progression

After years of forced stop, career progression for researchers and professors in Italian University is allowed again. With the new "Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale" (ASN) many submitted their curricula and publication list to the Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR). There have been uncertainties about the bibliometric cutoffs that changed from the previous "mediane" to the new "soglie" and changed again since the first calculation was not acceptable. I was not shocked by that, but by the very low importance given to education for career progression. In the "DECRETO 7 giugno 2016, n. 120" the only parameter related to teaching activity was teaching in PhD courses (see Annex A, #7 in the list of "Elenco dei titoli"). And what about the other massive amount of teaching activity? In my teaching registry the portion devoted to PhD courses is less than 10%; other colleagues of mine do much more hours of lesson so that this percentage goes even lower. This clearly means "Dear professors, we don't care how many hours of lessons you do, nor how well you teach or how satisfied are your students". To be noticed, much obsessive emphasis is otherwise directed to research activity, concerning both publishing (number of publication, number of citations, H index) and related activity (member in editorial boards, international fellowship, research projects leadership, etc).
What will be the consequence in the next years? Obviously professors will spend less and less time in preparing lessons and they will try to avoid teaching activity as much as they can, in order to dedicate most of their time to research activity.
I suspect that the number of courses in Italian Universities will shrink in the next years much more than predicted by the the retirement of the professors born during the "baby boom" period. A solution could be to call even more non-university personnel to teach ("professori a contratto"), with a further obvious reduction in teaching quality. Otherwise I hope that the solution will be to allow increased recruitment ("punti organico") of professors and researchers in Italian Universities.