Category Archives: Enterprise

Personalized Medicine, Biosensors, Mobile Medical Apps, and More

At the Quantified Self Meetup, someone was praising the Rock Health slides. Of course, I had to go explore and see what was so great. These are my favorites.

About FDA’s Guidance for Mobile Medical Apps

FDA 101: A guide to the FDA for digital health entrepreneurs by @Rock_Health: http://www.slideshare.net/RockHealth/fda-101-a-guide-to-the-fda-for-digital-health-entrepreneurs

I especially took note of slide 10, where they describe things I would think of as an app, but which do not qualify as such for FDA regulation. This is an important distinction I hadn’t previously considered. Slide 12 takes it further by describing the categories of regulation as based on risk to patients, with good clear examples. Slie 21 on “pro tips” would have really benefitted companies like 23andMe (even though that isn’t actually a mobile medical app, the pro tips still apply, and in spades).

Biosensing Wearable Tech

The Future of Biosensing Wearables by @Rock_Health http://www.slideshare.net/RockHealth/the-future-of-biosensing-wearables-by-rockhealth

This one definitely gets into topics relevant to the quantified self movement and self-tracking. Slide six emphasizes the shift from the low hanging fruit (fitness, pulse, sleep) to the long tail — more targeted solutions for specific challenges (hydration, glucose, salinity, skin conductance, posture, oxygenation, heart rhythm, respiration, eyetracking, brain activity, etc.). That’s really quite interesting, and it gives examples of companies working in each space.

Slides 19-24 get into several of the areas our own local meetup defined as challenges to success for companies working in this space and for the future success of the entire area — it has to work, easily, and dependably. Slides 27-30 extrapolate these challenges into the transition into healthcare environments.

Personalized Medicine

The Future of Personalized Health Care: Predictive Analytics by @Rock_Health http://www.slideshare.net/RockHealth/the-future-of-personalized-health-care-predictive-analytics-press Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJak41hIDWc

SLIDES

VIDEO

It’s probably safe to say that most individuals working in the quantified self / self-tracking space eventually end up struggling with the issue of how to use their data to anticipate avoidable problems. This idea can be translated into the jargon phrase of “predictive analytics.” Slide 11 does a nice job of lining this up with how traditional healthcare is practiced, which is very useful. Slide 12 places this in the context of big data resources, databases, and tools, listing several of the main players. This context is essential for making personal data relevant beyond the drawn out process of n=1 studies. Slide 14 identifies the BIG problem of how companies working in this space largely focus on hospitals and health care providers, and seem to have entirely missed the idea that patients are deeply and actively engaged in this space. And, frankly, there are more of us than them (even if our pockets aren’t as deep). I love the phrase on slide 18, “Symptom calculators are the “recommendation engines” of health care.” Most of the rest of the deck identifies challenges and opportunities, which I hope any entrepreneurial types would examine closely. Do notice that there is a video with this one. You can hear the entire webinar as well as reviewing the slides.

Big Beautiful Questions (A HOTW post from #hcldr)

Guy with questions 8

The other blog for which I was writing the “Hashtag of the Week (HOTW)” posts has changed focus, so I am no longer doing them weekly, but I am still doing them when available time and something amazing both intersect. The something amazing part happens ALL THE TIME, and if that was the only factor, I could do these daily! But this time, the conversation was so relevant and useful that I would feel like I wasn’t doing my job if I didn’t share it.

Yesterday evening, the Healthcare Leadership group had a conversation about the role of questions and questioning in healthcare. The conversation was lead by Bernadette Keefe, MD, and was triggered by Warren Berger’s work in the area of “beautiful questions.” He wrote a book, but you can find a short intro to the core ideas in his New Year’s article, “Forget Resolutions.” To help people ask better questions, more answerable questions, questions that have a higher potential for leading to positive change in their life, Bernadette pointed out the tips from the “Right Question Institute“, and I pointed out the “Question Prompts List” strategy.

Right Question Institute Question Prompt Lists

The real value of the #hcldr conversation, however, came from the questions. The questions posed for the group, and the questions posted as answers. My favorite of the questions posed was, “What are we not asking?” Keep that in mind as you read the following selections from the questions given as answers to the prompts.


T1 In our sizable efforts to make healthcare more efficient, accurate and safe,as well as less costly, what are the questions weʼre not asking?


T2 As you experience healthcare delivery today – is questioning valued?


T3 What are questions you, personally, would like to ask of your healthcare provider, medical insurance company, or hospital?


T4 How could the value of questioning be incorporated into healthcare delivery in an efficient and effective way? Programs etc?


Closing Thoughts

Fair Use & Figures: When Is It OK? (Part Two: Fair Use)

Fair Use?

Point 2: Is it fair use?

In part one of this post on using research tables and figures in social media, the focus was on, “Let’s find something that isn’t copyrighted, and just use that, because we know that will be safe” (sort of). But sometimes what you want is new, not old, and from a copyrighted publication, not something open access. When that happens, what do you do? Can you still use it?

It started with Andrew’s question, but he sure isn’t the only person asking!

The answer is (again) it depends. And, to be honest about it, the “it depends” is a whole lot messier. The idea of “fair use” makes the idea of “copyright” look like child’s play. As usual, I am not a lawyer (IANAL), so take the information here at your own peril, and don’t go quoting me to your own lawyers. That said, I’ll be giving references to a lot of information that IS from lawyers, so refer people to the original sources whenever possible!

This is a question that comes up a lot. Even more often, I suspect, it doesn’t come up at all when it ought to, because someone assumed it was alright and didn’t think about it more deeply. I may have even done that myself (and I’m afraid to go back and look too closely at my blogposts).

WHY ARE FIGURES DIFFERENT?

The shortest version I’ve found explaining why “fair use” for research figures from articles are DIFFERENT from other images is this snippet from Scholarly Publishing @ MIT Libraries:

“Note: an image or figure would commonly be considered a work in and of itself, weighing against fair use; or could summarize the key point of an article, also weighing against fair use.” Reuse of figures, images, and other content in theses http://libraries.mit.edu/scholarly/publishing/copyright-publishing-guide-for-students/reuse-of-figures-images-and-other-content-in-theses/

That’s the gist of it. Applying “fair use” to reusing content from a larger work depends on four factors:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
US Copyright Office: Copyright: Fair Use: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

The point from MIT regards the 3rd factor, “amount and substantiality.” If the image is considered a work independent of the article, then copying it is copying a complete work instead of a percentage, and that is not OK. If the figure is considered a fair distillation of the complete article, then that could be considered equivalent to copying the whole article. To be allowed to use something under “Fair Use” claims, it is recommended to meet all FOUR of the four factors: no money, factual or data-focused content, a tiny bit of it (insignificant amount), and little to no impact on sales of the original. If any of those are iffy, you’ve got a problem.

In a recently published article in the research journal CIRCULATION, the editors of the journal attempted a randomized controlled trial to test the success or failure of social media in promoting readership of articles. How did they do this? Well, they posted randomly selected articles to Facebook and Twitter, but a bit part of how they posted included (you guessed it!) FIGURES. For exactly the same reasons we are NOT supposed to use them, technically speaking.

“However, our social media postings were comprehensive in that they focused on the main message of the article and included a key figure from the article. Thus, it is possible that social media users did not find it necessary to access the full article and therefore experienced increased awareness of the article but not online access of the primary source. This raises the possible concern that social media could reduce the potential reach of original published research as demonstrated by altmetrics.” Fox CS, Bonaca MA, Ryan JJ, Massaro JM, Barry K, Loscalzo J. A Randomized Trial of Social Media From Circulation. Circulation 2015; 131: 28-33. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/131/1/28.full

In that test, it was the editors of the journal posting the figures, and even then, they questioned the utility and benefit. A big part of the question, which they highlight in that snippet, was whether it is better to have awareness of the article and its findings, or actual readers. This assumes that people who click through to the article actually read it, which is itself questionable.

So, that’s the short view. Just to round it out, here are a few more pieces relating to this topic.

WHAT IF I DRAW MY OWN FIGURE?

A common recommendation is to redraw the figure. Annoying, time-consuming, but supposedly legal, most of the time, as long as the content is primarily data (since data can’t be copyrighted). Indeed, this is recommended by many experts as THE solution to this problem.

Q: I want to use a figure from another thesis or dissertation from my group. Do I need to ask permission?
A: “Usually. The student who wrote the thesis or dissertation owns the copyright and must be asked for permission. Figures are generally considered works in and of themselves and do not usually constitute a small portion of the work. See “How to Use Copyrighted Materials” for more information. If, however, the figure is a simple representation of data, you may not need permission. Data cannot be copyrighted, so non-creative ways of representing the data are generally considered fair use.” Copyright Frequently Asked Questions | Michigan Tech Graduate School http://www.mtu.edu/gradschool/administration/academics/thesis-dissertation/copyright/faq/

It depends on who you ask, though. I don’t know the court law on this, but I’ve found recommendations on both sides. Overwhelmingly, what I’ve found it people recommending to redraw the figure. And then I found this, from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

“Redrawing a figure does not change the Fair Use analysis; the figure cannot be used without permission just because it is redrawn.” ACM Guidance for Authors on Fair Use http://www.acm.org/publications/guidance-for-authors-on-fair-use

WHAT IF I JUST GO AHEAD AND USE IT? NO ONE WILL CARE, RIGHT?

Another common approach (probably the one I am most guilty of myself) is to assume that you aren’t important enough to bother with, or that no one will notice you did it, or that if they do notice all that will happen is they ask you to take it out. I haven’t even attempted to figure out how often this happens. The gist of the idea is that, while it may not be strictly legal, it IS fairly common practice, and can be a win-win for each side (as long as you are saying nice things, anyway).

The “Win-Win” Argument:

“Most authors will probably be happy that their results are disseminated, and reuse is likely to lead to more people reading the full paper and citing the work.”
Martin Fenner. Why can’t I reuse these tables and figures? Gobbledygook (PLoS Blogs) 2010.
http://blogs.plos.org/mfenner/2010/09/30/why-cant-i-reuse-these-tables-and-figures/

The “Standard Practice” Argument:

“Posting figures from papers “was something we all did, all the science blogs, and I had been doing it since I started the blog. I always thought I was doing a public service, I wasn’t plagiarizing or claiming it was my own data.”” Andrea Gawrylewski. For blogger: A threat, then an apology. The Scientist May 2, 2007. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/25066/title/For-blogger–A-threat–then-an-apology/

So, it’s fine, right? Uh, not so much. If you are doing this on a work related blog or for your organization, it is awfully risky, since they can be held liable, which is a real can of worms. If you are only doing this on your personal blog, and it is made clear that these are your words and actions and not to reflect on your employer, … it’s your decision.

WHAT IF THEY PULL OUT THE BIG GUNS?

There are publishers who have (or will) pull out the big guns. Yes, usually, even if they notice, they’ll just ask you to take it down, to “cease and desist,” but there is no guarantee. The best known case in science blogging of use of a figure gone wrong actually centered around a PhD student here at the University of Michigan, Shelley Batts, back in 2007.

“When Shelley Batts wrote up a report on an article about antioxidants in fruits, she never expected to get contacted by the copyright police, but that’s exactly what happened.” Munger, Dave. Is reprinting a figure fair use? http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2007/04/26/is-reprinting-a-figure-fair-us/

In Shelley’s words:

“In short, I was threatened with legal action if I didn’t take it down immediately. I used a panel a figure, and a chart, from over 10+ figures in the paper. I cited and reported everything straight forwardly. I would think they’d be happy to get the press. But alas, no.” Batts, Shelley. When Fair Use Isn’t Fair. http://scienceblogs.com/retrospectacle/2007/04/25/when-fair-use-isnt-fair-1/

The blogosphere went WILD. Some of the issues brought up included that this was government funded research paid for by taxes; the “amount used” argument (since it was such a small fraction, not even a complete image); the stifling impact on science discourse; the chilling of public awareness and policy discussions; and heavily, the critical distinction between “fair use” and being granted permission.

“First, the blogger Batts did not go through the usual process to request permissions to use published material in advance. It is not clear that had this been done that she would have been refused and indeed permission may eventually be extended. … Of course, once the appropriately senior person at Wiley was involved, the situation was resolved. This is not a “win”. This is a “loss” …” DrugMonkey. “This figure is reproduced with permission of the publisher.” https://drugmonkey.wordpress.com/2007/04/26/this-figure-is-reproduced-with-permission-of-the-publisher/

It is easy to find posts about this, but the one that seems to have really tipped the balance was when BoingBoing stepped in.

“This is, of course, bullshit. Reproducing part of a figure in a critical, scholarly essay is so obviously fair use that it hardly bears discussion. Wiley’s lawyers know this. You and I know it too.” Doctorow, Cory. Wiley threatens scientists with copyright law – UPDATED. http://boingboing.net/2007/04/26/wiley-threatens-scie.html

Eventually, it all calmed down, when Shelley was “granted permission” to use the image by the publisher. Many expressed concern that this ended up muddying the waters, that this was and should have been respected as fair use, that the publisher should have acknowledged this was fair use, and that granting permission implies that permission was theirs to grant (permission that is irrelevant in the case of fair use). Shelley was happy – she wasn’t getting sued, and her original blogpost was able to stay (although I can’t find it now, and I don’t know why).

“I was so surprised that anyone would think I was doing science a disservice. Science blogs bring pedantic ‘ivory tower’ knowledge to a completely new audience that would probably never hear about it otherwise. But in the end, I’m glad it happened — and that the entire blogosphere howled.”
Moments in Medicine at Michigan, Summer 2007. http://medicineatmichigan.org/magazine/2007/summer/moments

But the University of Michigan lawyers stated that she had done nothing wrong to begin with. So. Clear as mud, eh?

“Maybe if we weren’t so worried about copyright, we’d be able to report on more research.” Dave Munger, op cit.

Fair Use & Figures: When Is It OK? (Part One: Copyright)

Last week I spent some time in conversations that began with Andrew Maynard’s posting a question to Twitter: “When is it OK to post a figure from a paper in a blog post?”

There were a lot of interesting thoughts and responses (before the conversation detoured off into mac’n’cheese and samurai swords). Things along the lines of, “What!? You mean research figures are different from pictures?” and “Isn’t it OK if you give a citation?” and “Well, my journal won’t allow it, but maybe some others do.” And what did the answer turn out to be? “It depends.” Isn’t that the truth – intellectual property issues always seems to depend on a variety of factors and situations. But answers to the various responses and questions were also sometimes not what was expected.

Does giving a citation to the source make it ok to share? Turns out it is irrelevant, in the sense of what is required legally, although it is expected as part of being active in scholarly culture as a matter of courtesy.

Now, more about posting research figures in blogs. I found quite a lot of information online to help explain part of how this works (or doesn’t). I’ll include small quotations that I found particularly helpful in understanding this better. Please not, IANAL (“I Am Not A Lawyer”!), so hopefully someone with more legal experience will contribute thoughts in the comments or will reply in another post.

“REUSE OF FIGURES, IMAGES, AND OTHER CONTENT”

The absolutely most helpful piece I found was from MIT Libraries.

MIT Libraries, Scholarly Publishing: Reuse of figures, images, and other content in theses http://libraries.mit.edu/scholarly/publishing/copyright-publishing-guide-for-students/reuse-of-figures-images-and-other-content-in-theses/

Please note, this is describing rights to re-use content in THESES, not blogposts, so it might be a little different. The MIT resource emphasized two main points (copyright, and fair use), with a pointed twist (oops, figures ARE different!).

Point 1: Is it copyrighted?

You see, if it isn’t copyrighted, if an image is in the public domain, you don’t have a problem — it is content you can use. That is more likely to apply to items that are quite old, or created by government employees in the performance of their job. But copyright gets complicated. What if the journal is from Australia instead of the United States? Whether or not a piece is copyrighted may change based on the country in which it was created.

Even if it is copyrighted, if it is licensed for open use, you are fine. Probably. OK, I’m going to show an image here that ought to be OK, and hope it really is. This stuff is tricky. If someone complains, I’ll blur out whatever part they are concerned about.

PubMed Example of Research Figure Searching & Display (Neuroinflammation Imaging) PubMed screenshot of:
Benjamin Pulli and John W Chen. Imaging Neuroinflammation – from Bench to Bedside. J Clin Cell Immunol. Author manuscript; available in PMC Dec 16, 2014. Published in final edited form as: J Clin Cell Immunol. 2014; 5: 226. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25525560

This is a screenshot from PubMed. PubMed is an open database developed and created by the US government. I had talked with our lawyers about using screenshots from databases in teaching and blogging about database interfaces. I was told (off the record) that it was probably OK to use the screenshots without asking for permissions as part of fair use. The idea was that even if the database legally has copyright protection for their user interface design (as they most assuredly do), that I am teaching and blogging about it is unlikely to impact on their sales negatively, which is one of the markers of “Fair Use” assessment. Chances are, if anything, my teaching and blogging about their database would serve as free advertising, increasing awareness and profits rather than reducing them. That assumes, of course, that I am saying good things about them. So, maybe it would be a different matter and not fair use if I was criticizing the database?

PubMed does this nifty thing where you can find images of research figures in the citations, if the original source is an article in PubMed Central, an extension of PubMed’s database that includes open access articles deposited by the publishers. (More info here about how they are different.) For the images displayed as thumbnails in PubMed, if you mouse over them, they get big and beautiful. This is what I’m showing in this screenshot.

This screenshot is of a citation record for an article that is open access and published in PubMed Central. Does the copyright permissions for screenshots in PubMed extend to the content? That this article is open access would mean that the article is copyrighted, but open for people who want to read it, and also available to re-use under specific guidelines. The guidelines given for the article are, “This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.” By the rules, I need to include a full citation with the image. I have done so, both in Flickr, where I put the screenshot, and here in the blogpost. BUT.

PubMed Example of Research Figure Searching & Display (Neuroinflammation Imaging) 2

BUT. But what? But this figure from the open access research article says that a portion of the image was modified from another source, WITH PERMISSION. Does that permission extend to me, since it was in an open access journal? I’m not sure. I’m not sure if I need to get two sets of permission to use this image, or none. Do I need to go back to the original authors of that portion and request permission myself? Do I need to blur out that portion of the image? Or did the process of these authors getting permission to use in an open access journal publication cover subsequent re-use? Do I need to check the policies for the journal where the source image was published? It’s … complicated.

For me, today, I’m electing to go ahead and use the image, trusting and hoping that the permissions cover this use. If someone complains, I will go back and blur out that portion of the image, and then replace it.

Many publishers have processes by which they establish policies that guide whether or not they give permission easily or if you have to jump through hoops or purchase permission. If you want to find out what the policies are for a journal with a figure you’d like to use, the place to check is SHERPA. If you want to know if a journal is open access, the you may want to check the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals).

SHERPA/RoMEO – Publisher copyright policies & self-archiving http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/

DOAJ: http://doaj.org/


Part Two will look more deeply at the idea of Fair Use in using research figures. That’s where it gets really interesting, so stay tuned! For now, I hope you have a better sense of the two-pronged sword of copyright in using research figures:

– Yes, it’s OK to use research figures that are copyright-free, public domain, or open access;
– BUT, sometimes those categories are less than straightforward.

Healthcare Risk Management (#ASHRM2014) – Hashtags of the Week (HOTW): (Week of November 10, 2014)

The American Society for Healthcare Risk Management recently had their annual conference using the hashtag #ASHRM2014 to collection conversation and nuggets of useful information. It looks like it was a lovely event.

Topics included Ebola, injections, infographics, informed consent, data security, emerging tech solutions for discharge followup, patient safety toolkits, and more! Here’s a few of the nuggets.

One thing I learned is that Magic Johnson is much taller than I had imagined.

Open Access or Not? Thoughts on Selecting Online Resources for MOOCs

Birthday: Saline Train Depot: Office - Upside Down Open

I had a very interesting pair of questions come up this week. So interesting and such excellent illustrations of issues in selecting open content for MOOCs that I wanted to share it, but will “change the names” for several reasons. That this is Open Access Week just makes this even more timely. Take this as an example, a case study or sorts, nothing more. However, I do hope that those of you with more experience in intellectual property law will please chime in to clarify any thoughts or misunderstandings I might insert inadvertently.

For background, I’ve been taking a variety of MOOCs in recent years, few of which I complete, and most of which I register for with three reasons in mind. Reason One: The content interests me, and I wish I had time to learn more about it. Reason Two: I’m curious what the bibliography and resources will contain, and hope to add those to my collection, even if I don’t have time for the class. Reason Three: I’m interested in different MOOC platforms and methodologies, and learn about these best by actually trying them out hands on. As a librarian, I have a special interest in the bibliographies, the links, the readings, and where those come from. Part of my interest is personal and part of it comes from our own institution being engaged with MOOCs through the Coursera platform, and wanting to see best practices for how to identify and select content for these types of classes.

EXAMPLE ONE: OLDER PUBLICATION, RECENT COLLECTION

One of the MOOCs I took included in the recommended readings a link to classic content from the 1800s, but which is included in several anthologies, both new and old. A particular anthology was recommended, and a link provided. The link was to a PDF of the entire book hosted in a site for a Slovenian high school English teacher. Meanwhile, given the importance of the work, copies are also available in several well known and highly regarded collections of open access content. These included Project Gutenberg, EServer (hosted by Iowa State University), the American Studies Project (hosted by the University of Virginia), the Internet Archive, Electronic Classics Site (hosted by Pennsylvania State University), and others, such as societies honoring the author and other academic organizations or collections.

I was alarmed to see a link to a suspect source (Slovenian high school?) provided in preference to authoritative sources which track provenance and verify rights to content posted. I dug around in the downloaded PDF and the pages linking to it, hunting for any indication that the teacher had received permission to repost the full book for his students. All I could find was a copyright statement in the PDF that the work was under copyright and that electronic conversion was not allowed, with a statement explicitly asking readers to not encourage electronic piracy. I wanted to bring this up, but did not want to cause any problems for the professor in charge of the MOOC nor for the school hosting the content. For this reason, I did not bring it up in the class forums, but instead hunted for the faculty member’s email address to send a message about the concern and alternate locations to access equivalent content, even if it is not the same anthology.

I received a note from the faculty member explaining the selection, with an interesting perspective. Briefly the logic follows this progression.

1. The contents of the anthology are all out of copyright, and in the public domain.
2. The anthology as a whole and the editorial comments would indeed fall under copyright protection, however, these were not included in the required readings for the class.
3. The professor had asked the students to read selected pages in the work, not the complete anthology nor the introductory content by the editor. The content on those specific pages is not copyrighted.
4. The professor did not himself create the PDF, nor reproduce the pages, but merely linked to them.

As the professor put it, “the assertion of copyright is not the same as having copyright.”

I find this a very intriguing justification, but incomplete and perhaps a bit of nitpicking. I suspect that if push came to shove, if the publisher of the book chose to contest the availability of the PDF online, the professor MIGHT find that his logic stands in a court of law. I suspect that the publisher (widely international, but the work scanned was from an American imprint) might find it easier to establish a suit against American use of the work than trying to take the case to Slovenia. Copyright itself is not the only concern. Additional concerns are placing at risk the institution that provides the MOOC online, the school for which the faculty member works, as potential collaborators in linking to the suspect content. If the school and organization were aware of this and chose to support the use of this link, that would be one thing, but I am not sure that they were or are aware.

Lastly, but not least, I am concerned about the example being set for the students. In my eyes, the faculty have a duty to model information use and resources following methods recommended for their students. Here at the University of Michigan there have been times when the University has elected intentionally to push the boundaries of Fair Use in order to prevent the erosion of the rights, and knowing that they might find themselves the subject of a lawsuit. The Google Book Project is a notable example of this. Google Books is a definite example of the concept the professor noted, that “the assertion of copyright is not the same as having copyright.” If the use of this Slovenian full text link was intended to explicitly test that legal provision, that would be lovely, and I would applaud the bravery and purpose of both the professor and the institutions supporting the content. If so, I would have personally appreciated having that made clear to the students. If not made clear there is the more subtle risk that students will interpret the Slovenian link to a possibly pirated work as having the approval of the professor, especially when so many other clearly open access copies of the work are available and the link is provided in preference to those open and legal copies. That is what baffles me most.

EXAMPLE TWO: RECENT PUBLICATION, OPEN COLLECTION

This example is almost the complete opposite of the first one! This is what makes these two such an exciting pair of examples for me to explore. In this MOOC which I took, the professor had as required readings almost entirely works which were free to the students. There were just a couple notable exceptions, for which you either had to find a print copy in a library or buy a copy. I was lucky, in that I already owned a copy, but when I accidentally stumbled on a free electronic copy online, I thought the professor would appreciate knowing about it, and that it would make life even easier for the students of that course. The professor, quite rightly, was reluctant to pursue making that link available because the author is still alive and the book still in print, making it pretty clear that the copyright is still in force. So, the question became, when is it alright to share an online copy of a copyrighted work? Ever?

The first important concept to understand is that an author may retain the right to share their work, and still keep it under copyright. Even a Creative Commons license does NOT mean that the author has given up their intellectual property rights, only that they’ve simplified the process of requesting certain types of rights. Which rights are simplified depends on which CC license was chosen. So, it is possible that an author could make the choice to permit use of their work in a specific circumstance.

The second important idea is the question of whether the author or the publisher actually owned the copyright in the selected work. Just because an author wrote a book does not mean that they have the RIGHT to make the decision about whether or not it is alright to put up a free copy online. Frankly, based on what I’ve observed, authors are more likely to choose to make a work Creative Commons than publishers. There are publishers that have chosen to make ebook versions of their backfile free when the original is out of print, but that is still more the exception than the rule. For this example, the copyright is owned by the author, se we really don’t have a clue (unless we ask them).

In this example, again, there was a complete PDF of the book, but in addition to the PDF there were also multiple file formats for different e-reader devices, including accessible formats for persons with disabilities and raw text (ASCII). The PDF was not in some distant country or on the web site for a particular local school, but was instead part of a major online collection of full text works. My first step was to look at the credibility of the provider, which is pretty similar to what I did with the first example.

While I’m not listing the specific title, I will list the collection in which it appeared: The Basic e-Learning Library (BeLL) of the Open Learning Exchange, but not the version housed at their main site, rather the BeLL collection housed in the Internet Archive. I tried first to look at the actual work as posted to see if there was any statement about the rights. I couldn’t find anything. Next I tried looking for some sort of statement on the OLE site. I couldn’t find one there either. I wanted to find out more about the OLE, what they do, and how reputable they are. Well, WOW! They are an international initiative focused on providing high quality education resources to 3rd world countries. And do they have powerful partners: UN High Council for Refugees; US Agency of International Development; US State Department; Oxfam …. And those are only a few. My gut reaction was, “They are partners with the US State Department? Well, they MUST be legitimate and responsible!”

I came very close to stopping there, placing my trust in the State Department and the United Nations to properly vet their partners. The group is doing such a good thing, and I really WANT deeply to believe in them and support this wonderful thing they are trying to do, helping low income countries. But then I tried to reverse verify this, and again ran into problems. I tried to find anything on the UN or UNHCR sites to show that they have a partnership with OLE. Hunh. I couldn’t find them listed on the UN site, but there were a couple links on the State Department site. Not anything saying they are partners, but at least people connected with the organization are presenting at State Department events. Normally, I would really not be working this hard. Normally, I would have called this credible and dropped it, which is what I had done when I made the recommendation to the faculty member. But it was starting to really bug me that I had spent so much time on their OLE site and could NOT find anything explicitly about their licensing of copyrighted content, efforts to negotiate in good faith with living authors or their representatives, or anything else. Most of the links that turned up in my searches were broken. Here is what I did find.

“Part 2: Quality Open-Source Content”
“Did we mention that all of these resources are freely available to members under the Creative Commons License?”
http://ole.org/open-educational-resources/

Now this just reads wrong. Open source applies to hardware and code, not to, well, books. Open ACCESS is the correct phrase for books, literature, articles, and other written works. And, well, if the works actually are open source, or open access, or creative commons licensed, then they are available to EVERYONE, not just members. It sounds wrong, at least to me, to even imply that the content is limited to members-only.

I kept digging. I found their Learning Toolkit page, which stated:

“The Open BeLL – Coming Soon!
Our virtual interactive library will now be available for public preview”

Preview? That again makes it sound as it, well, the content isn’t actually open. And I thought their “virtual interactive library” was already available through the Internet Archive? By this point I am so baffled, I don’t know what to think. I start asking my colleagues, one of whom actually finds the official OLE Copyright Statement. The reason I couldn’t find it was because I was looking on their web site. Now, why on earth would I expect to find their legal statements on their own web site? [sarcasm] It was instead on the Internet Archive site.

Open Resource Library - Copyright Statement
OLE Copyright Statement: https://archive.org/stream/OLECopyrightStatement/OLE_Copyright%20Statement#page/n0/mode/2up

Briefly, what this says to me is that they are putting up full text of commercially available copyrighted works under a Creative Commons license with the assumption that this falls under Fair Use. Let’s take a second and look at fair use a bit more.

“Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.
1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work”
US Copyright Office, Fair Use. http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

I’m no expert on Fair Use. You can find more information on this from Stanford, Texas, and our own University of Michigan Copyright Office.

One of my favorite resources from these groups is the UM “Fair Use Myths.

Fair Use Myths: http://guides.lib.umich.edu/content.php?pid=396670&sid=3248179

The first myth states approximately that just because what you are doing is educational is not sufficient in and of itself to make it fair use. OLE says that they are putting up copyrighted content under a Fair Use claim. They don’t anywhere say that they ask permission, but instead assume it will be ok, because they are good folk. (I’m paraphrasing.) The author might have agreed with them, but there is no way for us to know. But the final of the four factors to be considered is the economic impact. If OLE did not have permission, then making a PDF and text of a complete book available for free does seem like something that might possibly have an impact on sales. For me, it seems like this would fail the “four factors” test.

As I said, I’m not a lawyer, and certainly no expert, but I am a librarian, and I tried really really hard to find any evidence to show that OLE did the right work to protect themselves and their partners. I began this post believing in them, and I ended it with an opposite view. During the days I was working on this post, the work in question, the one that sparked this inquiry, has disappeared from the Internet Archive and now gives a statement of not being available due to an enquiry into a metadata error. I am wondering if someone told the author or their publisher.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you should doesn’t mean you can.

Who says so?

But what will the neighbors (students) think?

Case Study: I F***ing Love Science & Rare Diseases

"Did you know 1 in 10 people have a rare disease?"

“Did you know 1 in 10 people have a rare disease?”
http://globalgenes.org/rare-diseases-facts-statistics/

If IFLScience didn’t know before that 1 in 10 people have a rare disease, they do now! Last Saturday, IFLScience put up a post on rare diseases. In this post, they chose 10 conditions to highlight, evidently because the popular names for the conditions were reminiscent of Halloween and monsters.

10 of the Strangest Known Medical Conditions
Here is the link:
http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/10-strangest-known-medical-conditions

I’m no fan of zombies or gore, and had my own issues with the images selected for this post, but am trying to see both sides. For the record, IFLScience has done a lot of good work engaging and educating the public around science, fostering science literacy and awareness. They are very popular, and (overall) popular science education is a good thing for science. Those of us working in science and in STEM/STEAM education and outreach want people to be willing to learn about science.

This particular article, however, was not received well by many in the rare disease community. Because the article was perceived as misrepresenting not only one rare disease, but TEN, many people in the community banded together, even though these were not conditions that they necessarily had themselves. The rare disease community objected to several points, and have been actively using social media to spread the word in attempts to get IFLScience to take down or withdraw the post.

In the meantime, the rare disease community is also finding themselves in the awkward position of attempting to manage the largely offensive comment stream, educate, correct, and respond, but are having to do this as interested outsiders, not partners, and without the support or cooperation of IFLScience.

The primary concerns I’ve heard from the rare disease community are these.

1) The post was written in a way that provoked unkind comments and trolls, setting up persons with rare diseases as an object of ridicule.

2) The unkind comments (on the post, Facebook, and Twitter) have failed to elicit any response, clarification, management, or revision on the part of IFLScience. There is no acknowledgment of any error of content or presentation. Similarly, there is no response to the rare disease community’s concerns.

3) The images were selected as “clickbait.” The images are themselves offensive, or provoke offensive comments. Evidently, IFLScience has a prior history of not providing attribution of images and not getting a license to use images, although those don’t *appear* to be issues in this particular post. I take it back. They did use several images that specified no commercial use; they use Getty Images without a link back to the source; and they used “share alike” images which is even more strict than a non-commercial use requirement.

4) The content provided contains inaccuracies, which were not being corrected. There are no sources given for where they got the content which is being identified as inaccurate by patients with the conditions mentioned.

Evidently, the issues of non-response, questionable images, and questionable content are simply part of the IFLScience ‘charm’, or modus operandi, as these have been reported several times before.

“After finding one of my photographs posted to IFLS yesterday without permission, I surveyed the most recent 100 images in the IFLS stream and tallied the percentage of images that were credited (26%), uncredited but with the linked site giving a credit (15% – hint: still not legal), and not credited at all (59%). Most of the material on I F*cking Love Science is pirated.” Facebook’s “I F*cking Love Science” does not f*cking love artists
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/compound-eye/2013/04/23/facebooks-i-fcking-love-science-does-not-fcking-love-artists/

“Uncharacteristically, Andrew was silent on social media. Her lack of response suggested less media savvy than I’d begun to give her credit for; it smacked of a hobbyist, someone who doesn’t hold herself accountable.” Do you know Elise Andrew? http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/elise_andrew.php?page=all

“A string of posts this summer suggested that IFLS endangers facts on a fairly regular basis; these included a photoshopped, uncredited image of a snake (“…this gorgeous creature is found in California” – except it doesn’t look a thing like the over-saturated, edited version the site posted), a re-posted cracked.com photo suggesting spiders had taken over trees in Japan (and showing what was actually a landscape in Iran), an astronomy news story that misstated the entire premise of the discovery in the first sentence and went on to bungle facts throughout.” Guest Post: Elise Andrew, science popularizer with a spotty attribution record, gets a pass from CJR. https://ksj.mit.edu/tracker/2014/09/elise-andrew-science-popularizer-with-a-spotty-attribution-record-gets-a-pass-from-cjr/

Because I’m such a fan of all-things-science, I really did not want to believe anything bad about IFLScience. From what I’ve been reading it sounds like most people, even those who complain about some of their less desirable qualities, mostly love the idea of what they do and just want IFLS to commit to doing it responsibly and ethically. Most of the posts excerpted above at some point say something along those lines.

In the conversation with rare disease advocates on Twitter, I was trying to defend IFLScience, as a source that successfully promotes science literacy in the public, presumably for the right reasons. I argued that the piece was intended as educational, not to be hurtful. That you can’t always control who posts comments. I argued for the importance of an open dialog rather than censorship and removing content. This became much harder to do when the conversation went on, and on, and IFLScience did not respond to either the concerns, complaints, or kudos. They didn’t respond to comments on the blogpost. They didn’t respond to posts on their Facebook page. They didn’t respond to any of the myriad comments on Twitter.

Here is what I posted on Facebook:

Concerned about the lack of response from “I f***ing love science” to reactions from the ‪#‎raredisease‬ patient communities to their blogpost by Lisa Winter. Extensive commenting on the blogpost and a rich discussion on Twitter. Hard to defend them as good folk with a heart in the right place when they don’t stand up for themselves.

It was about that point in time when I found a way to track down the author of the piece on Twitter, and made contact.

UPDATE September 20, 2014: The author’s comment has been removed from the end of the blogpost and is no longer there.

I don’t know if these will content the persons who were concerned, but I hope it shows a good faith attempt in that direction, and keeps the door open for future dialog.


LESSONS LEARNED?

Those changes and the response from the author are a good start, and certainly better than no response. There are, however, obvious lessons to learn.

1) Contact information easily findable.

By the time I was engaged in the conversation, there were a LOT of comments on the original post, and the comment thread along meant scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling. There evidently IS a “Contact” link in a small font at the very bottom of the page. Sounds like they are working on fixing this problem.

2) Respond in a timely manner.

This is one of the easiest & most common ways to avoid getting into news media trouble for your social media buzz. I have a Pinterest board where I collect educational stories and best practices for social media troubleshooting, and this shows up a lot there. Consider it fundamental.

3) Social media policy posted where it can be found.

When we found that IFLScience wasn’t responding to our hails, I went hunting for a social media policy on their web site, in case they actually say, “We don’t moderate comments, and don’t reply to comments, and don’t reply on Facebook or Twitter, but here, this is what we do.” Actually, I was hoping that they would have some sort of guidelines for participation in the community, something along the lines of “Yeah, we’re all wild and crazy characters, but let’s play nice anyway, eh, folk?” I couldn’t find one. There may be a social media policy that I couldn’t find, and I hope so, but perhaps make it easier to find? Certainly, for a company that has based their entire operations on social media, they need a proper social media policy up front and center more than most traditional companies.

4) Pictures: Licensed, & Attributed. Information: Researched & Cited.

I know, I know. This has come up a LOT. They are young, they are new, they are learning. Please, IFLScience, go visit your friendly neighborhood university library and talk with one of the librarians who specializes in intellectual property of images. Most universities have someone who knows about this. Aside from the concern of whether or not the images were appropriate or inflammatory, I should not find as many images problems as I did in this post. IFLS is a commercial entity. They sell stuff and make money from their web site. They have advertising / sponsored links. They are not authorized to use images that are licensed non-commercial (as was the case for 4 of the 10 images in this post) without negotiating licensing before using the image. I know you’re trying to fix this ongoing problem, but you either need a lawyer on staff to review every single post before it goes live, or you need to learn your stuff, and make sure all staff who post images also know the rules.

And citations? Many of the complaints about the quality of the content could have been addressed by having credits for your information sources. “Oh, you said this wrong thing because you used this source that is famous but out of date.” People may cut you some slack for those types of errors if they can see how they happened. Also, it provides a service for your readers, if they want to go learn more about what you just said. Win-win! Protects you, and serves the best interests of your audience.

5) Style guide! Or Checklist!

It’s obvious that IFLScience has a publication calendar, and some rudiments of a style guide. I can’t be certain, but would love to see them take a leadership role in transparency about how they create and share science information, setting an example for others. I was hoping to see a checklist at least, if there wasn’t a style guide.

Since I couldn’t find one on the IFLScience site, I started looking for other science blogging guides. I found some excellent ones, but will make that a separate post. For today, and here, suffice it to say that having one is another strategy that might help protect IFLS from complaints as well as helping to ensure quality control for their content.

6) Say Sorry

If you make a mistake, say you’re sorry, and fix it. Science knowns all about retractions and corrections. Don’t be afraid of them in science blogging. It’s cool, and actually makes you look more cool. Not being afraid to say you made a mistake makes you look more competent and confident, and can inspire confidence in you. Another win-win!

FINAL THOUGHTS

There was one checklist I found that I thought rather relevant to this particular situation: The Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist. Why? Because a big part of what caused the problem this past week was a clash of cultures, and that is what this checklist addresses.

Discovery: Cosmic Variance (Sean Carroll, June 19, 2007): The Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2007/06/19/the-alternative-science-respectability-checklist/

IFLScience is trying to be edgy and catchy and engaging, fun and funky and funny all at the same time. They are focused on science, but break boundaries all the time there, and have made a name for themselves (literally) based on breaking some of the standard assumptions and rules for science communication.

In this post they crossed the boundary over into healthcare, where the culture is a little different. It might still be fun, funky, catchy, edgy, etc., but within an overarching framework of CARING. Compassion is at the heart of most of healthcare communication, and that is what was missing (albeit inadvertently) from this post.

What the The Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist recommends is taking the time to address issues of different cultures when you try to communicate across these invisible boundaries. Here’s how Sean Carroll said it.

1. Acquire basic competency in whatever field of science your discovery belongs to.
2. Understand, and make a good-faith effort to confront, the fundamental objections to your claims within established science.
3. Present your discovery in a way that is complete, transparent, and unambiguous.

To paraphrase:

1) LISTEN. Get to know something about the audience for the content you are communicating. Get to know their culture, standards, expectations. Expect to make mistakes, and expect to apologize. Be good-humored about it.

2) TRY. Understand, and make a good-faith effort to be authentic and respectful (even if you, like IFLScience, are famed for your snarkiness — you can be snarky without being mean, even accidentally). If you don’t have time to do this well and thoroughly, be up front about that in the piece, and ask for forgiveness in advance. Yes, you can be entertaining about it, if you are creative enough. You’ll figure it out.

3) SHARE. Present your thoughts & information in a way that is complete, transparent, and unambiguous. Be honest. Be inclusive. Be open. Let them know about you, and that you want to know about them.