Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)




 title of the newsletter: The Silverfish


March 2004

Vol VIII Issue III

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Adventures at the AAAS

By Phoebe Ayers, MLIS Day
From the 13th to the 16th of February, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference was held in Seattle. This annual high-profile extravaganza of scientific research featured symposia and speakers on topics as diverse as linguistics, marine science, and astrophysics. Throughout the conference, top researchers in each field presented on their new findings and on-going projects. The AAAS is the publishing organization for the journal Science, and their annual conference reflects the diversity found in the research published in this top journal.

I attended brief talks in all of these areas, among others. Although much of the research was well over my head, I still learned a lot. It was also very interesting to see a conference of some of the top scientists in the world in action. Considering that students got a special rate (cheaper than PLA, although the exhibits weren’t nearly as good), and this was the only time the conference will be in Seattle for several years, it was an opportunity not to be missed.

One thing I learned is that information science can crop up in surprising places. One of the earliest talks I walked into was about data used in marine ecosystem management. The speaker was talking about content management strategies for oceanographic datasets. These datasets could perhaps be shared and archived over a distributed network. He went on to describe the metadata challenges inherent in this, especially considering that scientists and managers use oceanographic data in very different ways. Hmm, I thought. This sounds familiar…

One particularly interesting library I encountered was the National Science Digital Library, or NSDL, which had an exhibition booth. I spoke to the very friendly Susan Van Gundy, who does outreach for the library. The NSDL is an NSF-funded venture to try and aggregate various existing digital libraries and collections and make them all available through one portal - the NSDL - for teaching and learning purposes. Considering that there are a huge number of different types of data and information on various subjects in these collections, there's obviously a big problem with incorporating metadata in all the collections so that they are all comprehensively searchable. A search for "Einstein" in the NSDL, for instance, brings up everything from a biography of the scientist from a K-12 curriculum resource site to physics papers solving Einsteinian equations which were published in There is currently a call out for experts to donate their time answering virtual reference questions about the collections (a service that the NSDL is developing in conjunction with Syracuse's Virtual Reference Desk), and the site explicitly calls for librarians and graduate students to get involved.

Ms. Van Gundy was quite interested in the iSchool and its curriculum, asking me particularly if there were any specific courses offered on digital libraries. She said that while she works mostly with the teacher community, librarians are an integral part of the NSDL. Apparently this project is the only one of its kind for science resources, and while still definitely rough it has come quite a long way recently. I asked if there were any student opportunities with the project and she said that while there weren’t yet they were actively considering offering internships to library students, probably in their office in Boulder, CO (and to stay in touch if any of us were interested).

In all, although the conference was somewhat of a stressful addition to my President’s day weekend, I am glad I made the effort to attend. Not only did I get to view famous scientists in their native habitat – I got a snazzy tote bag. And you can never have too many of those.  

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