ACCESS | Asia 's Newspaper on Electronic Information Product & Service
March 2004 No.48  
  In this issue
Asia's national librarians to note 
 
Asia has the Conference of Directors of National Libraries in Asia and Oceania (CDNLAO). In Europe, there's The European Library, a transcontinental service that will ultimately provide access to the combined resources of the national libraries of Europe. And what's more, they've all cooperated on the concepts, tools, standards and vision. Could it happen in Asia? Britta Woldering tells us how, if we want to, starting  here.
 
 
Computing Reviews gets a makeover 
 
It's invaded our lives and created a huge global industry. But the number of affordable and reliable information resources for computing sciences is limited. One of the leaders is Computing Reviews which in 2004 is bringing subscribers more reviews, a new look and an easier product to use. The Computing Reviews folks are also planning a sister journal: Biotechnology Reviews. Don't forget you read it   here , first, right now.
 
Hong Kong libraries in Academic Library Link pleaser    
 
Three university libraries in Hong Kong have got together to make library loans much easier for their combined students and staff. They've compiled a physical union catalogue of more than 3 million items that can be borrowed by any of their patrons. What's even nicer is that even though among the three there is a David and a Goliath, there aren't any limits (we think) on the number of books that can be lent by any library at any one time. Oh yeah, the libraries are...  here  is the answer.
 
Is that the milk police snooping around your kitchen? 
 
Or is that the thought police taking notes on what you're reading on the bus? Consumers in the UK and the US have been fed such nonsense by the tabloid press and liberal crazies who believe that RFID technology will open their lives to the prince of darkness, the FBI and the Republican Party. We in Asia on the other hand, can be justly proud that we have pioneered the technology in our libraries making Asia a world leader. The company responsible for this is TagSys. An interview with its Managing Director is  here.  
 
Novel Knovel growing fast in Asia
 
Odd name. Great service. Knovel, the enterprise portal for scientists and engineers is spreading through Asia like the flu. Sneeze, and its come to a library near you. And although it's got just 500 books in its collections, they've been cherry picked as the best there is, proving that quality is better than quantity. ACCESS recently met Knovel's Vice President. Read the interview   here.
How much is your library worth?
 
If we could estimate how much a library service contributes to a national economy, we'd be able to argue more cogently for funds, staff, premises and equipment. People, it's just happened! The results of a research study estimating the British Library's impact on the UK economy have been made public. Have a guess: 2 million quid? 200 million? 350 million? The answer is  here.   
 
Crazy Congress copyright cogitations    
 
ACCESS readers might have heard that the US Congress is discussing legislation to provide enhanced ownership rights to content in online databases. A good idea? Not if you are a member of ARL, a SPARC groupie, a learned society, or just a humble researcher. The kerfuffle is pitting libraries and researchers against commercial database publishers. The ACM in its statement about the new legal protections, sums up the feelings of many. Read it here.
 
Names beginning with Sc    
 
Elsevier has an affinity with names beginning with Sc. First came Scirus, the internet search engine. Now there's Scopus. It sounds like a medical procedure. But make no mistake: Scopus is a database that's set to make waves. For one thing, it is the largest A&I database ever. And it has abstracts from more than 12,900 journals from 4,000 publishers. What's more, industry gurus are saying that its main rival is ISI's Web of Science. Whether true or not, Scopus is not to be ignored. Read about this juggernaut here.
 
Meetings and Exhibitions more... 
China's science and technology: Views from the West 
 
 
On 13th March, in Beijing, Nature Publishing Group celebrated a collection of articles on Chinese science, published as a special section of Nature's current issue, v.428 No. 6979. China: Views from the West, was originally published in Chinese as a supplement to the 18/25th December 2003 edition of Nature . The China Supplement, called China Voices, was NPG's first ever Chinese language publication and was distributed to some 37,000 Chinese scientists throughout China with the cooperation of the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Peking University and Tsing Hua University.
The Supplement, which explores China's scientific prowess and potential, comes at a time when China's economy is booming. This economic success is due in part to the natural entrepreneurship of Chinese people, and also to their dedicated pursuit of new technologies. 'Equally important, China has over many years sustained its efforts to turn itself into a world-class scientific power' wrote Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief, Nature in his Introduction to the Supplement. 'No-one who visits China can fail to be impressed with the results.'
 
Campbell cautions however, that 'there is a worrying aspect to these trends. Despite such continuous development, and despite major expenditure on science by the Chinese government, China is not yet fulfilling its scientific potential, for reasons that are discussed in [the Supplement]. This results not only in a low scientific profile on the world stage, but also in lost opportunities to make the most of what the rest of the world can offer, both scientifically and technologically. This also leads to missed opportunities for China to improve its economy and the quality of life for its citizens.'
 
  Independent experts invited for their Chinese perspective
 
For an independent and Chinese perspective, Nature invited experts to give their views on how China should move forward to make the most of its scientific and technological potential. All of the authors writing in the Supplement are of Chinese descent and based in the West, but with an intimate knowledge of China. 
 
In recent years, China has invested significantly in nanotechnology and biotechnology. But turning research into profits can be challenging, caution James C. Hsiao and Kenneth Fong. Good management, product design, a market drive and alternative sources of cash can all help to smooth the transition. 
 
With appropriate funding and support, China could take the lead in other areas. The country's liberal views on human embryo technology could place it at the forefront of human stem cell research, says Xiangzhong Yang. 
 
But despite its potential, China's scientific output remains low. The reasons may be cultural, argues Mu-ming Poo. Political conformity may be stifling scientific creativity. This may be compounded by the country's education system and inadequacies in peer review for funding, says Ray Wu. Teachers may not be encouraging critical thinking, he says. Researchers need training in scientific thinking, priority setting, problem solving and communication skills, says Alice Shih-hou Huang. Only then will they find themselves able to compete in the international scientific arena. 
 
 
Collaborative projects will also help to boost China's scientific standing, say Kenneth Chien and Luther Chien. A modern day Silk Road could forge scientific links between China, the US and other Western Nations.
 
  China should not ignore its agricultural economy
 
In the meantime, China should not ignore its agricultural economy, says T. C. Tso. By 2050, the demand for food is set to double, whilst the amount of arable land will fall by a fifth. With current technologies in place, it will be impossible to increase food production to the level that is needed. Scientists could work to produce plants with improved yields. New farmland could also be developed, but not at the expense of biodiversity. China is home to 10 percent of the world's biodiversity. Conservation is urgently needed, argue Chung-I Wu, Suhua Shi and Ya-ping Zhang, but to be taken seriously it needs a strong scientific basis and must attract the brightest scientists. 
 
 
The Supplement and especially its Chinese edition, China Voices, is indicative of the weight NPG gives to China's rapidly expanding impact on world science. While many publishers still worry about haphazard enforcement of copyright laws, NPG is determined to carve out for itself a greater presence in China. "China is a very important market for NPG and Chinese scientists value the importance of Nature journals," said Dr. Antoine Bouquet, NPG's Asia-Pacific Publisher based in Tokyo, talking to ACCESS . "NPG's commitment to the Chinese market is not just as a traditional journal publisher with English language content, but also as a Chinese language publisher.
 
"Since late 2003, we have started a number of initiatives in Chinese language publishing. The China Voices supplement, published in December 2003, was NPG's first ever supplement in the Chinese language and was widely distributed in China. We shall be publishing these supplements as a regular series.
 
"Since January 2004, we have introduced a new Chinese language section into the front of all copies of Nature distributed in China. This section includes content describing the content of that week's issue in Chinese, as well as summaries of papers appearing in other Nature journals. This content is also freely available on our Chinese language website .
 
"Finally, we are looking at the possibility of starting a new publication in Chinese based on content from the Nature News Service although this will depend on prevailing economic conditions."
 
  Special subscription rates for Chinese scientists
 
In an effort to make Nature available to a larger number of scientists in China, NPG has also introduced a special personal subscription rate for individual scientists. Dr. Bouquet told ACCESS that these special subscriptions are available through the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and are priced at 1,400 RMB per subscription, less than one quarter of the standard price. More than 900 subscriptions have been taken up, many by institutions buying in bulk.
 
NPG is also expanding its library subscriptions. "Site licenses are also expanding through NPG's relationship with CALIS, the leading consortium in China for Academic libraries," said Dr. Bouquet. "Currently over 400,000 people have access to Nature titles through CALIS, and we have extended the number of titles available to the consortium in 2004 to include 24 NPG Academic Journals."
 
Content from the Supplement is available free online in English here in Chinese here and here . The press conference in Beijing was organized by China Bridges International Foundation based in the University of Connecticut, whose aim is to promote progress in Chinese science and Technology.
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