Sciences Advisory Group – Notes from Fall 2012 Meeting

The Sciences Advisory Group met on December 13, 2012.

Attending: Carrie Macfarlane (notes) and Daniel Scharstein, co-conveners; Alison Darrow, Bill Hegman, Jeff Munroe, Bob Cluss, Terry Simpkins, Joe Antonioli, Rebekah Irwin, Hans Raum, Rebekah Irwin, Wendy Shook.

The topics of this meeting were:

Data management
Etextbooks strategy
Curricular technology

1. Updates/Questions (Carrie)

a) Follow-ups from spring meeting:

Library Collection development:

  • List of journal subscriptions by subject have been generated for the departments that requested them. When is a good time to review? CSCI reviewed theirs only for IEEE offer, and Daniel would like to review the rest. Jeff Munroe is interested for Geology too. Lists has been generated for Math and for Chemistry already. We’ll send lists to CSCI and GEOL right away; liaisons will contact Math and Chemistry to inquire about timing (department reps weren’t able to make it to this meeting).
  • Weeding partial runs of journals: We’ve been doing this at the Davis Family Library. It requires careful review of holdings here and at other libraries. We’ll do this at Armstrong after our current weeding project (see below) is complete.

Information literacy survey:

  • Last year, faculty found our one-page summary of findings useful. We’ll produce a one-page summary of this year’s findings too.
  • Last year, faculty were concerned that students have trouble with evaluating sources and knowing how and when to cite sources. We’re looking for ways to make our instruction regarding these skills more interesting. For example, librarians can work with faculty to create assignments that present more opportunities to address these issues. In addition, librarians are incorporating more interactive teaching methods into their workshops.

Tech support in BiHall:

  • As promised, we have a new Science Data Librarian, Wendy Shook, and she is ready to help with specialized software issues! She already has been looking into the ChemDraw renewal issue.
  • We’re still understaffed, with vacancies in the librarian group, curricular technology, and helpdesk.

b) How should we send meeting invites? Some prefer Outlook calendar invites, some don’t use Outlook calendar

Fine to send both.

c) Armstrong weeding

We have lots of overcrowding in Armstrong; books are shelved where they don’t belong because they don’t fit. In January, Wendy will start reviewing lists of books that have never circulated; we hope to remove many. Wendy will contact faculty if she has any questions.

  • Question from Bob: Are we considering reuse of the space?
  • Answers from Carrie, Terry, Rebekah: Right now, priority is getting the overcrowded areas fixed up, but we’re open to considering changes in the space in future. For example, our most recent MISO survey showed that a top request from students is more group study space.

2. Data management: Relevance to grant funding, and what steps LIS is taking to support new requirements. (Wendy Shook)

Effective January, 2011, the National Science Foundation requires that all applications for research funding include a data management plan to describe how the data created from the funded research will be shared, preserved and described. LIS can assist Middlebury faculty, staff, and students in managing their data to meet this requirement.

For the short term, LIS can provide advice for writing the plan and guidelines for off-site data repositories. Wendy is putting the finishing touches on a web page with links to directorate-specific guidelines and a data management plan tool. It also has suggestions for off-site repositories.

For the long term, LIS will soon consider whether we should build a local repository, especially for data that might not be able to find a better home elsewhere in a discipline-specific repository.
Wendy would like to learn from faculty: What are your needs? How much data? What kinds of data? Would you use a local repository?


  • Daniel: Working on a proposal right now. Research is about sharing data sets. Usually puts data on his website. What is the benefit of a repository?
  • Wendy: Web pages aren’t permanent; NSF wants permanence. A few side notes: Personally identifiable data can be removed from public view but must be preserved. Some people produce small data sets and publish them in article, but even that is not publicly accessible if the article requires a subscription.
  • Jeff: Would we really want to host a repository?
  • Wendy: We are willing to consider, especially because some disciplines don’t have viable options. Off-site and discipline-specific repositories are potentially the best option. Inter-library collaboration on off-site repositories is also a possibility.
  • Bill: Are there implications for the college as a whole if we don’t have a repository?
  • Wendy: No; we just need to at least provide guidance.
  • Daniel: Good to think about the issues, but still seems not critical at this point since guidelines still lack detail. Kind of agree that it doesn’t make sense to build our own.
  • Jeff: Something to consider: Would there be a bias toward researchers who store their data in a discipline-specific, well-known repository vs a Midd repository?
  • Bob: Discipline-specific, well-known repository should be the default. Midd could be for homeless data.
  • Wendy: Could do both.
  • Daniel: To get more faculty input, send us email and keep following up if we don’t respond. This is important.
  • Wendy: Will send email!

3. Etextbooks strategy: We have launched a pilot involving e-textbooks, and would benefit from input and feedback into what direction we might head in based on what we have learned to date. (Terry Simpkins)

This fall, we undertook a pilot project with EDUCAUSE, who was working with McGraw-Hill as an extextbook provider. Approximately 20 faculty participated, with 450-500 students.

We will soon administer an EDUCAUSE survey of students and faculty pilot participants. Similar surveys will go out to other pilot schools. Results will be published in a report by EDUCAUSE.

Anecdotal feedback: Everything from easy to use after setup, to challenging. Some feedback about not being involved in the planning and decision process. Etextbooks can present new opportunities for teaching, but some of these opportunities are not necessarily seen as useful (eg, collaborative tools, annotation capabilities, etc.). Comments that etextbooks also can be problematic (for example, if the textbook needs to be used during class then each student needs to have a laptop in the classroom).

We’re currently waiting for approval to send surveys [1/9/13 UPDATE: they have now both been sent out]. Probably will have results in spring, with EDUCAUSE report to follow. Then we will want more input. EDUCAUSE pilot is continuing at other schools, and additional publishers including Elsevier are beginning to participate.


  • Jeff: Ordered an ebook for spring class, not McGraw-Hill. Would be strange if we in the future, McGraw-Hill textbooks were free for students and others not.
  • Bill: Interested in coursepacks-type usage, meaning portions of several books rather than whole of just one book.
  • Bob: What was the procedure?
  • Terry: EDUCAUSE approached Mike. They were hands-off about the process.
  • Bob: Recommends strongly that whatever we do in the future, we approach faculty council. Some faculty feel it was a rough launch; be aware that might have an impact on the survey findings. Use of eTextbooks should be set up as opt-in, not as opt-out. Would like to keep moving in this direction but should be very careful with the communication.
  • Terry: There were some unfortunate misunderstandings. We should err on the side of over-communication in the future. Keeping people in the loop is a big takeaway. Also, the survey was developed collaboratively with other participating schools, so we don’t have full control over the questions.

4. Curricular Technology Direction/Focus: A look at our current approach to support for technology in the curriculum, and a request for input on future directions. (Joe Antonioli)

We looked at statistics on fall curricular technology use. Here they are:

The course hub is one of the most used of web-based resources.

In fall 2012:

  • 84% of faculty put something in the course hub; 99% of students had some reason to interact with the course hub.
  • Middfiles is still one of the most popular resources.
  • 30% of faculty use Moodle. About the same as Segue.
  • 9% use WordPress
  • 30% faculty add a syllabus to the Course Hub. Would like to see that number go higher.


  • Question: What is the benefit of using the course hub vs just the classes folder?
  • Answer: Convenience. Students can go to one place to find all online course resources. When we did usability testing, that was one of the top requests we received from students. Students wanted it to be easier to find course sites that happened to be on different platforms.
  • Question: What’s the difference between ‘syllabus text’ and ‘syllabus upload’?
  • Answer: Text is where you’ve copied and pasted into the hub.

To come:

  • Online language lab.
  • Moodle 2. Biggest change is that link to allow faculty to see a site as their students would moves from right to left. One benefit: better file management. Also allows adaptive testing, online flashcards
  • What is adaptive testing? Different questions are fed to a student based on their answers. The goal is to get them quickly to a score. When available? March.
  • Question: Do students like Moodle?
  • Answer: Many students come from k-12 schools that used it.
  • Bill: Interested in investigating the online quiz feature. Needs to be able to upload diagrams/pictures.
  • Joe: Yes, Moodle allows this. Bill should talk with Joe and Wendy. Could also consider clickers?

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