The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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During the first 48-hour Sciathon hosted by the Council for the Nobel Laureate Meetings, Steve Acquah, the UMass Amherst Libraries Digital Media Lab Coordinator and Associate Research Professor of Chemistry, worked as part of a team (Group Clifton) to develop a science news verification tool, authentiSci (authentisci.com). The Clifton group became finalists at the end of June and were recently awarded second place in the category of ‘Lindau Guidelines’ and a shared prize of 1,000 Euros. AuthentiSci can be accessed through the website authentisci.com and will primarily be used through a Google Chrome Extension, which is now available at the Chrome Web Store. The extension is one of the first of its kind that gives scientists the ability to score science news stories, providing a measure of confidence for the reader.

The section of the Lindau Guidelines had the highest amount of competition, with 23 out of the 48 groups working on Lindau Guideline based projects. The other project sections focused on the topics Communicating Climate Change and Capitalism After Corona.

The extension was produced in response to the Lindau Guidelines introduced by Elizabeth Blackburn during the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting held in Lindau, Germany, in June 2018. To use the extension, scientists would authenticate through their ORCID account, insert a URL from a news story, and follow the prompts to evaluate the story on authentisci.com. With the extension now available, people from around the world will be able to see verified news stories.

Acquah produced a video during the 48-hour event highlighting the work of the team.

 “I thank the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and the judges for the opportunity to present our work,” says Acquah. “Our team will continue to develop authentiSci and support the communication of science news.”

Fifteen jurors decided on the finalists and winning project groups that presented their work during the Online Science Days to an audience of Nobel Laureates, Lindau Alumni, young scientists, young economists, and guests. The jury was comprised of scientific chairpersons of the Council, scientists, journalists, and friends of Lindau including:

Wolfgang Lubitz - Scientific Chairperson Chemistry, Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, Professor Emeritus, MPI CEC, Germany

Klaus Schmidt, Scientific Chairperson Economic Sciences, Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, Professor, LMU Munich, Germany

Hans Bachor, Secretary for Education & Public Awareness, Australian Academy of Science

Jürgen Kluge, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Andrew B Holmes, Melbourne Laureate Professor Emeritus, University of Melbourne, Australia

Himla Soodyall, Chief Executive Officer, Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf)

Andrew B Holmes, Melbourne Laureate Professor Emeritus, University of Melbourne, Australia

Adeline Lim, Deputy Head, National Research Foundation, Singapore

The UMass Amherst Libraries announce the publication of a chapter, "Sharing the End of the World: Students’ Perceptions of Their Self-Efficacy in the Creation of Open Access Digital Learning Objects," co-authored by Lisa Di Valentino, Law and Public Policy Librarian, Sarah Hutton, Head of Student Success & Engagement, and Paul Musgrave, Assistant Professor of Political Science, as a part of the Rebus Community's Open Pedagogy Approaches, released at the end of June 2020.

The chapter presents their study on the impact of student-authored, open, creative scholarship on student confidence in understanding content and conceptualization of ideas as part of the final examination for Musgrave’s course, “The Politics of the End of the World.” The students were required to research, record, and release podcasts that explored major changes in Massachusetts history.

For this study, Di Valentino, Hutton, and Erin Jerome, Open Access and Institutional Repository Librarian, have been working closely with Musgrave to build out a course content site for his students' podcasts, hosted on ScholarWorks, the digital repository for the research and scholarly output of the UMass Amherst community.

Research results from this course were encouraging; basing questions on Bandura's model of self-efficacy and previous studies on open content created in courses using open educational resources (OER), the study asked students about their perception regarding how well they had learned the content, how confident they were sharing that content with a global audience, and how an open pedagogical model changed their approach to research and project management. Student feedback included that the course model made them seek out high-quality and accurate details for their podcasts, knowing that others could listen to them and they didn’t want to mislead anyone. Students said they conducted in-depth research in historiography, and also applied modern social science theory, allowing them to see the broader application of content. The findings have implications for more engaging course designs for undergraduate student learners.

The intent of this open pedagogical model is to teach students about Creative Commons licensing, open scholarship, and how they themselves become scholars over the course of producing, and openly publishing, these informative podcasts as a part of a renewable assignment model. By hosting these podcasts openly, future iterations of the course can build on previous research.

“We intend to work with students to help them develop and upload content, learning how repositories and open scholarship work,” says Hutton. “Learning about Creative Commons licenses, copyright, and fair use in their undergraduate career, these students will be better prepared to engage in global communications and scholarship in their professional careers beyond UMass Amherst.”

Krishna Poudel from the Department of Health Promotion and Policy received a Faculty Research Grant to help provide a video-based smoking cessation intervention for people living with HIV. Collaborating on the grant are Dr. Steve Acquah, Research Professor of Chemistry and Digital Media Lab Coordinator at the UMass Amherst Libraries, Dr. Damon Vidrine at the Florida Moffitt Cancer Center, and K. C. Prawchan at SPARSHA in Nepal.

As part of the feasibility testing for the faculty research grant, the team will evaluate the response to the videos from people living with HIV that attend an HIV clinic ‘SPARSHA Nepal’ in Kathmandu. The clinic already provides various services to including HIV testing and counseling, in-house crisis management, and community and home-based care. Previous work by the Principal Investigators in 2019 established the feasibility of cellphones as an effective delivery mechanism for videos in Nepal.

The UMass Amherst Libraries Digital Media Lab (DML) will develop a system to allow the participants to read messages and respond to questions. The participants will also receive text messages, including a link to video clips. During the pre-quit period, the participants will receive standardized motivational messages focusing on preparing them to quit smoking, highlighting the benefits of quitting. After the set quit date, the group will be asked if they have quit smoking. Those who quit smoking will receive a link to watch a subsequent video clip, while those who have not yet quit smoking will receive additional motivational messages for setting a new quit date.

“This project is the first step in creating better outcomes for smokers living with HIV,” Acquah says. “The media production team at the Digital Media Lab, including Yuntian Hu and Adam Quirós, are also supporting the development of the videos and the App. The DML is positioned to provide direct collaborative assistance on research projects, from the development of prototypes, audio/video production, and the drafting of proposals that address the research and broader impacts of federally funded grants.”

The Digital Media Lab has increasingly been involved in research projects supporting faculty and students, aligning with the strategic goals of the Libraries and UMass Amherst as well as reflecting the changing nature of the services it provides.

 

The UMass Amherst Libraries recently announced the recipients of their 2020 Open Education Initiative (OEI) grants. Six UMass Amherst instructors received funding to adopt, adapt, or create open educational resources (OER). OER are teaching materials released with an open license which allows for their free revision and redistribution.

The Open Education Initiative at UMass Amherst aims to:

  • Encourage the development of alternatives to high-cost textbooks by supporting the adoption, adaptation, or creation of OER
  • Provide support to faculty to implement these approaches
  • Lower the cost of college for students in order to contribute to their retention, progression, and graduation
  • Encourage faculty to engage in new pedagogical models for classroom instruction

Thanks to generous funding from the UMass Amherst Libraries and Provost’s office, this year’s winners represent a broad range of disciplines across campus, including:

  • Stacy Guifre and Melina Anne Masterson who plan to create an openly-licensed Italian textbook for Italian 110, 120, and 126
  • Matthew Sherwood, an Accounting instructor who is adapting software packages and instructional materials to integrate with original instructional videos, assignments, case studies, and quizzes into one centralized resource
  • Wayne Xu and Martha Fuentes-Bautista from Communication who plan to update and integrate existing mini-lecture podcasts and student blog entries on key class topics into "interactive lecture notes”

View the full list of winners here.

“We are thrilled to receive these funds so that we will be able to create two updated, more diverse Italian OER textbooks that will not only make Italian a more inclusive course offering for UMass Amherst students, but can be shared with other Italian programs in the US and abroad,” says Melina Masterson.

“We are seeing more and more faculty wanting to create customizable teaching tools that are not only free for students, but can also improve how students learn,” says Jeremy Smith, the Libraries’ Open Education and Research Services Librarian. “By utilizing or creating openly licensed teaching materials, instructors are removing a barrier to student success that high-cost textbooks often create. OER are not appropriate for every class, but as the number of newly-created OER has drastically increased over the past three years in a wide range of topics, it has become easier to find and customize material for college courses.”

Now in its eleventh cycle, the Open Education Initiative has generated a total savings of more than $1.8 million for students in UMass Amherst classes that utilize OER or existing Library materials. The Libraries partner with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), Instructional Design, Engagement and Support (IDEAS) group, and Provost's Office to support these efforts.

The UMass Amherst Libraries, in collaboration with the College of Natural Science and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, recently received an Interdisciplinary Faculty Research Award for georectifying, analyzing, and distributing historical remotely-sensed images from the William P. MacConnell Aerial Photograph Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst (SCUA).

The collection consists of photographs from 1951 to 1999 that “provide unmatched insight into the historical geography, land use, planning, and climate of Massachusetts.” With georectification, which “assigns geographic coordinates to an image in order for it to be displayed and analyzed spatially using a geographic information system (GIS),” the collection’s data would be accessible and usable by researchers and regional planners.

“The process enhances the research value of the photos because it makes them easier to find, if a geospatial search portal is set up, and use in geospatial software,” explains Dr. Rebecca Seifried, Geospatial Information Librarian at UMass Amherst and project team member. “Applications are limitless, from finding out what a specific property looked like in the past, which many members of the public want to know, to investigating large-scale changes to environment, infrastructure, and land use.”

Funding from the grant will be used to support a graduate research assistant who will work with the team on georectifying the collection. Additionally, the team plans to use the georectified images to develop an AI-enabled tool to assist with auto-georectification of future projects.

Once completed, the georectified photos will be available on Credo, SCUA’s online repository.

JUNE 2, 2020

The University of Massachusetts Libraries stand with the University and Chancellor Subbaswamy in denouncing acts of racial violence, anti-Blackness, and institutional racism. Recent acts that have ravaged the country have a long history and are deeply embedded in our society.

Over the last few days we have witnessed a national outpouring of anger and grief as communities across the Commonwealth and the nation express outrage at the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. One of many recent acts of violence against Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American people across this country, it comes at a time when tensions are high as the nation deals with the health and economic impacts of the global pandemic that has already highlighted entrenched disparities of treatment, care, and access among our communities. These overt acts of violent racism and bigotry are a highly visible part of a deeply-rooted systemic prejudice that goes back centuries.

Many of us in this country have been the beneficiaries of this system, whether willing participants or not.  The UMass Libraries, as part of a system of public land-grant institutions, exists to provide access to knowledge, and to help in the education of our students and the citizens of the Commonwealth.  Yet libraries are far from neutral, having benefited from a system that privileges a dominant narrative and the perspectives and experiences of a select portion of our society. Libraries, including ours, are working to make collections, spaces, and services more inclusive and reflective of a truly diverse society, but we still have a long way to go to in making substantial change. We must continue to strive to do better.

As Dean of the Library that is home to the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois, I have been inspired by his writing, and also saddened by the fact that 150 years after he was born in Great Barrington, MA, a system of institutional racism remains in place across this country. I am not a scholar of Dr. Du Bois, but I would like to think he would be inspired by the energy of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  I acknowledge the fact that I am able to move through the world on a daily basis with little thought to the systems of oppression that inspired Dr. Du Bois to dedicate his life to fighting for change, and I commit to working toward change, by first reflecting on how I can do better.  

I invite you to explore our guide on  Resources on Color and "Race”, created by members of the Libraries’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee.  I am inspired by those who have raised their voices in anger and protest, while recognizing that there is much work to be done to create real, sustained change.  We must all commit to engaging in the difficult work of anti-racism, with our colleagues at UMass, across the Commonwealth, and the nation.

Simon Neame
Dean, University Libraries

 

July 1, 2020

Restarting in-person library services and onsite access will be a gradual process. The campus Research and Libraries Working Group has developed a phased approach to restarting research and reopening the Libraries, and staff at the Libraries are working within this context to plan for the reintroduction of in-person services and onsite access. Over the next few weeks we will gradually reintroduce staff to the Du Bois Library to facilitate access to materials not available online, through our ILL and Library Express services. Limited scanning of some materials will also be available. Library staff continue to be available online through email and chat, to assist with finding online library resources, including navigating the many temporarily available electronic resources, including the HathiTrust Emergency Library.

As the campus plans for a phased reopening, the Libraries are working with campus partners to ensure a safe environment for the UMass community. We will be following state and campus directives as to when we can reopen library facilities, starting with the Du Bois Library.  Users can expect to see health and safety protocols, including physical distancing measures, in place when the Libraries begin to reopen physical spaces. Please visit our website or follow us on social media for updates on our services and onsite access to facilities. 

Stay safe and well,

Simon Neame
Dean, UMass Libraries

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Thanks to the UMass Amherst Libraries’ partnership with a consortium of academic and research organizations, UMass Amherst students, staff, and faculty now have temporary access to digital versions of approximately 1.5 million volumes held by UMass Amherst.

The consortium, HathiTrust, is providing emergency access to member institutions, including UMass Amherst, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on its 2018 holdings, about half of the Libraries’ print collection overlaps with the HathiTrust digital collection, so the new temporary service now provides access to the digital versions of more than 1.5 million print volumes for the duration of the emergency.

For information on how to access HathiTrust and other materials temporarily available, visit this guide or contact the Libraries.

“Through the UMass Amherst Libraries’ partnership with the HathiTrust, we are able to provide digital access to a portion of our physical collections while our facilities are closed,” says Simon Neame, UMass Amherst Dean of Libraries. “It’s during times like these where we see the true power of libraries working together to provide access to knowledge.”

Many items in HathiTrust are protected by copyright law, and no further reproduction or distribution is permitted by any means without the permission of the copyright holder.

UMass Amherst Libraries users may also take advantage of many other Resources for Remote Learning and Instruction available to support research and teaching needs.

The UMass Amherst Libraries are pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Undergraduate Sustainability Research Awards. 

A $1,500 scholarship was awarded to first-place recipient, Linda Black ’20, for the white paper, “FOOD/NOW: On Climate Mitigation, Sustainable Farming, and Food Security in Massachusetts.”

Two $750 scholarships went to the second place award recipients, the group of Margaret Dreishpoon ’20, Levente Haber ’20, and Waverly Lau ’20 for the paper, “Reusable To-Go Containers at UMass Amherst,” and James Mazarakis ’20 for the paper, “Bringing Life to a Hospital Site: 19 Years of Proposals for the Abandoned Malden Hospital Site in Malden, MA.”

A $300 scholarship went to the honorable mention recipient, Amanda Anderson ’21, for the paper, “New Shipment Just In! The Earthship.”

Winners accepted their awards and presented their projects virtually in short videos available for viewing on the Libraries’ YouTube channel.

The competition was open to all currently enrolled UMass Amherst undergraduates.

Winning projects will be made openly accessible by the end of April in the Sustainability Student Showcase in ScholarWorks, the digital repository for the research and scholarly output of the UMass Amherst community.

The awards promote an in-depth understanding of sustainability topics, research strategies, and the use of library resources, providing participating students with vital skills they will carry into future academic and vocational endeavors. The awards and event are made possible by the generosity of donors who support the UMass Amherst Libraries’ national award-winning Sustainability Fund.

The UMass Amherst Libraries are pleased to coordinate efforts for the Pioneer Valley’s participation in the fifth annual international City Nature Challenge (CNC). The Challenge consists of a submission period from April 24-27, 2020, during which participants observe and submit pictures of wild plants, animals, and fungi using the free mobile app iNaturalist, and a crowdsource-based identification period from April 28-May 3, 2020. Results of the Challenge will be announced on May 4.

According to the CNC website, the Challenge was started in 2016 by citizen science teams at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco “as a fun way to capitalize on their home cities’ friendly rivalry and hold a citizen science event around urban biodiversity.” Additionally, the wildlife information gathered during the Challenge “gives scientists, educators, urban planners, and policymakers insight into the biodiversity of urban locales throughout the world.” Last year, more than 963,000 observations were made.

Recently, Challenge organizers released a statement saying “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made some modifications to the City Nature Challenge to help keep our organizers and participants safe. Firstly, this year’s CNC is no longer a competition. Instead, we want to embrace the healing power of nature and encourage the collaborative aspect of the CNC. This will allow people to safely document biodiversity in whatever way they can, even from the safety of their own homes if necessary. We urge all participants to carefully follow public health guidelines provided by your local governments, as they are changing in real-time. Individual safety and public health are our utmost priority. Please refer to our COVID-19 FAQ page for more information.”

This year marks the first year that the Pioneer Valley is officially participating. Melanie Radik, librarian in the Science and Engineering Library, is spearheading organization efforts with an information guide and virtual workshops for interested participants.