Saturday, 31 March 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

What’s Natural about the Natural?: A Curious 10-Year-Old and a Confused 45-Year Old Want to Know
via Big Think by Pamela Haag
“What’s a ‘natural flavour’?" my 10-year-old asks me from the back seat of our car. He’s munching on a rare treat – a snack that lists about 500 unpronounceable ingredients and boasts of its Natural Flavour.
“It means… Well, it’s a term that advertisers use.“ I wave the white flag of surrender immediately.
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The danger facing America isn't imperial overstretch, it's the idea that decline is inevitable. It isn't. Decline is a choice. Robert Kagan explains... more

Economics, Immigration, and Eugenics via Big Think by Will Wilkinson
In my last post, I mentioned in passing the eugenic dimensions of tax and immigration policy. The genetic quality of the national stock is a taboo subject, and for familiar, excellent reasons. Nazis! That said, the history of eugenics is fascinating, especially if one is also interested in the history of economics as a discipline with deep roots in ideologies of social planning and control.
Read More

Individual dolphins identify themselves to new dolphins they meet via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Here in the BoingBoing newsroom, we are dedicated to keeping you informed on the latest developments in cetacean friendship. You already know that dolphins and whales hang out and, in fact, play together
Now, some more awesome news: Dolphins apparently have a system of identifying themselves to each other similar to the way you and I use names.
The BoingBoing story is here with links to “the rest” at Not Exactly Rocket Science and some earlier stories about these magnificent creatures.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Philip Larkin presented himself as a librarian who liked to dabble in poetry. His private papers tell a different story. Writing was at the core of his identity... more

Danger: massive falling pinecones via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
Mayor Diane Blackwood of Warragul, east of Melbourne, Australia, has issued a warning about massive pine cones falling from a tree in the town centre: “They are the size of a watermelon, falling literally out of the sky from potentially 20 metres high. So you wouldn't want to be under one, I tell you.”
Warning over watermelon-sized pine cones” (, via Fortean Times)

Did the Digital Library of Alexandria Just Go Up in Flames? via Big Think by Daniel Honan
If Julius Caesar hadn’t accidentally burned down the Library of Alexandria, the story goes, we long ago would have colonised Mars. That notion, popularised by Carl Sagan [link to 10-minute video], among others, is that the intellectual adventure that has led us into space began at that library, “the brain and glory of the greatest city on the planet Earth”.
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
A world without war. What a bunch of naive, hippie hogwash, right? Don’t snicker, says John Horgan: The end of violence is possible... more
There were some ads on this when I viewed it that looked, to me, just a bit weird!

Colour Photographs of Kutno, October 1939 via Retronaut by Chris
These photographs had me close to tears.
“The Germans entered Kutno on September 15, 1939 and during the first months of the occupation the synagogue was destroyed, and many Jews were taken for forced labour. A Judenrat was apparently appointed as early as November 1939, but the ghetto was only established officially in June 1940. The ghetto was liquidated at the end of March/beginning of April 1942, with the deportation of all its inhabitants to the Chelmno extermination camp.”
Yad Vashem
This capsule was curated by Liz Elsby
Full set here

Babies’ Innate Sense of Justice via Big Think by Orion Jones
Two experiments involving children under the age of two have led researchers to conclude that fairness is an innate and universal concept. In one experiment, 19-month-old children witnessed a pair of giraffes and a pair of toys.
Read More

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Dating deception: Gender, online dating, and exaggerated self-presentation

an article by Bradley M. Okdie (Ohio State University at Newark, USA) and Rosanna E. Guadagno and Sara A. Kruse (The University of Alabama, USA) published in Computers in Human Behavior Volume 28 Issue 2 (March 2012)


This study examined how differences in expectations about meeting impacted the degree of deceptive self-presentation individuals displayed within the context of dating. Participants filled out personality measures in one of four anticipated meeting conditions:
  • face-to-face, 
  • email, 
  • no meeting, and 
  • a control condition with no pretence of dating.
Results indicated that, compared to baseline measures, male participants increased the amount they self-presented when anticipating a future interaction with a prospective date. Specifically, male participants emphasized their positive characteristics more if the potential date was less salient (e.g., email meeting) compared to a more salient condition (e.g., face-to-face meeting) or the control conditions.

Implications for self-presentation theory, online social interaction, and online dating research will be discussed.

Internet use and depression among older adults

an article by Shelia R. Cotten and Timothy M. Hale (University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA), George Ford (Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, Washington DC) and Sherry Ford (University of Montevallo, USA) published in Computers in Human Behavior Volume 28 Issue 2 (March 2012)


The findings regarding the impact of Internet use on well-being are mixed and studies are often criticized due to small samples and lack of consistency in measurement. Fewer studies have examined this issue among older adults.

The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between Internet use and depression among retired Americans age 50 years or older. Using data from the Health and Retirement Survey, the study estimates the relationship between Internet use and depression through combined use of regression and propensity score methodologies.

All empirical methods indicate a positive contribution of Internet use to mental well-being of retired older adults, reducing depression categorization by approximately 20–28%.

From recreational applications to workplace technologies: …

an empirical study of cross-context IS continuance in the case of virtual worlds

 an article by Saggi Nevo (University at Albany) and Dorit Nevo and Henry Kim (York University’s Schulich School of Business, Toronto) published in Journal of Information Technology Volume 27 Issue 1 (March 2012)


Although three-dimensional, immersive virtual worlds, such as Active Worlds, Second Life, and Teleplace have been in existence for several years, their organizational use is rather limited. This paper posits, perhaps counter intuitively, that the diffusion of virtual worlds within organizations could be enhanced by their recreational usage.

This argument is motivated by the notion developed in this paper that the use of technologies need not remain within a single context, but instead can cross-contexts, for example from recreational to vocational. We term such shift cross-context IS continuance.

This paper proposes that workers using virtual worlds for recreational (i.e. hedonic and social) use are suitably positioned to discover those technologies’ workplace applicability, thereby assisting in their diffusion within the organization. Building on the supporting results of an empirical study, this paper recommends that managers consider allowing for ‘playtime’ with virtual worlds as a mechanism for enhancing their adoption and subsequent diffusion in the workplace.

From an information systems (IS)-research perspective, this paper makes several important contributions.
First, it contributes to the IS continuance literature by arguing for, and providing evidence in support of, the existence of cross-context continuance. To date, this literature stream has examined only one aspect of continuance – for example, within-context.
Second, this paper identifies recreational and work as distinct dimensions of technology usage, and hedonic and social usage as sub-dimensions of the former, thereby contributing to the contextualization of this core IS construct.
Third, it is one of the early field studies dedicated to the empirical examination of virtual worlds.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Qualitative study of offender employment review: final report

a report by Del Roy Fletcher, John Flint, Tony Gore, Ryan Powell, Elaine Batty and Richard Crisp (CEntre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University) on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions Ref: RR784

In 2009, the Permanent Secretaries of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Ministry of Justice (MOJ) commissioned a joint strategic review of offender employment services. The aim was to improve such support by conducting a strategic review of current services offered by DWP and MOJ and implementing improvements to make services more coherent and effective without increasing existing resources. The recommendations of the review were announced in March 2010.

DWP commissioned the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University to undertake a qualitative study of offender employment services, with a specific focus on the progress made with the implementation of the recommendations of the joint review. The objectives of the study were to:
  • identify how well the recommendations of the review have been implemented;
  • identify the extent to which the changes implemented have contributed to improved offender employment services;
  • establish what further reforms should be developed to maximise the employment outcomes for offenders;
  • assist in developing future policy for the offender group; and
  • consider the role of drug treatment services in the offender employment journey.
The study was conducted across four case study areas covering England and Wales in both custodial and community settings. In terms of the former, the study team has visited twelve prisons and young offender institutions. The research involved conducting 131 in-depth semi-structured interviews with policy leads, practitioners and offenders. This has included policy leads in DWP, Jobcentre Plus, MOJ and National Offender Management Service (NOMS); Scottish policy leads; Employment and Benefit Advisers (EBAs) and Prison Resettlement staff; Jobcentre Plus staff; Probation Service staff; prisoners; offenders in the community and representatives from crime reduction charities.

This report presents the main findings emanating from the study. It identifies how well key recommendations have been implemented ‘on the ground’ in both case study prisons and the community; and assesses the extent to which changes have begun to improve offender employment services. It concludes with a series of recommendations to help further strengthen such services.

Full text (PDF 65pp) ISBN: 9-781-90852-342-6

Managing moral distress: A strategy for resolving ethical dilemmas

an article by Joshua E. Perry (Kelley School of Business, Indiana University) published in Business Horizons Volume 54 Issue 5 (September–October 2011)


Conflicts of interest.
The boundaries of confidentiality.
Right v. right dilemmas.
Matters of duty, responsibility, character, and consequence.

Ethical issues pervade professional life, and the moral distress they can create requires thoughtful reflection that moves beyond gut intuitions and knee-jerk reactions.

This article presents a practical framework for assessing and resolving ethical dilemmas in a sophisticated manner, guided by a circumspect and reflective analysis able to withstand the scrutiny of others and minimize the potential for personal regrets. Central to the analysis set forth in this article’s strategy are ‘interrogation questions’ – a series of inquiries that draw from the richness of moral philosophy and ethical traditions, while reflecting the practical concerns of contemporary business practices – which guide the decision-maker through a comprehensive review of primary considerations.

Additionally, the article highlights myriad obstacles that may challenge one’s awareness of a moral dilemma, a necessary precondition to employing the strategies of careful analysis and reflective judgement that this article outlines.

Equity and Quality in Education: Supporting Disadvantaged Students and Schools

a report published by OECD in February 2012


Across OECD countries, almost one in every five students does not reach a basic minimum level of skills. In addition, students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are twice as likely to be low performers. Lack of fairness and inclusion can lead to school failure and this means that one in every five young adults on average drop out before completing upper secondary education.

Reducing school failure pays off for both society and individuals. The highest performing education systems across OECD countries combine quality with equity. This report presents policy recommendations for education systems to help all children succeed in their schooling.

Further details, and links to print and E-book formats, are here

Print: £36 ISBN: 9-789-26413-084-5
PDF: £25 ISBN: 9-789-26413-085-2

Understanding Critical Distance Learning Issue: Toward a comprehensive model predicting student satisfaction

an article by Stephen K. Callaway (University of Toledo, USA) and Saad M. Alflayyeh (University of Toledo, USA) published in Information Resources Management Journal Volume 24 Issue 4 (2011)


Distance education has been the topic of a substantial amount of research. However, prior studies have shown mixed results when trying to determine if a difference exists in student satisfaction between students in distance courses versus traditional courses. Prior empirical studies have been too narrow in scope, and a more comprehensive model is needed to better explain the factors influencing student satisfaction.

Therefore, the current study includes student demographic factors, comprehensive measures of student motivation, and course format, as well as specific course features included, to fully explain student satisfaction. Structural equation modeling is used to test the model. Results indicate a positive association between demographics and motivation, between motivation and course format, between one demographic factor and course format, between course format and preferred features, between course format and satisfaction, and between course features and satisfaction.

DocBase: Design, Implementation and Evaluation of a Document Database for XML

an article by Arijit Sengupta (Wright State University, USA) and Ramesh Venkataraman (Indiana University, USA) published in Journal of Database Management Volume 22 Issue 4 (2011)


This article introduces a complete storage and retrieval architecture for a database environment for XML documents.

DocBase, a prototype system based on this architecture, uses a flexible storage and indexing technique to allow highly expressive queries without the necessity of mapping documents to other database formats. DocBase is an integration of several techniques that include:

  1. a formal model called Heterogeneous Nested Relations (HNR),
  2. a conceptual model XER (Extensible Entity Relationship),
  3. formal query languages (Document Algebra and Calculus),
  4. a practical query language (Document SQL or DSQL),
  5. a visual query formulation method with QBT (Query By Templates), and 
  6. the DocBase query processing architecture.
This paper focuses on the overall architecture of DocBase including implementation details, describes the details of the query-processing framework, and presents results from various performance tests.

The paper summarizes experimental and usability analyses to demonstrate its feasibility as a general architecture for native as well as embedded document manipulation methods.

Emotions in organisational research in nursing homes

an article by Elisabeth Reitinger published in International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion Volume 4 Number 3/4 (2011)


Emotions clearly play an important role in living and working in nursing homes. Therefore research in cooperation with nursing homes or other long term care settings has to find a way to deal with these phenomena.

This paper presents emotions as an integrated part of doing organisational research. The paper draws on transdisciplinary collaborative research with nursing homes on gender, ethical decisions and needs management.

Feelings and emotions are core dimensions for knowledge construction and theory building on these issues. Working within a qualitative paradigm and a relational approach, it will be argued that care ethics serves as important source of basic principles.

Hazel’s comment:
Until I read this I had not thought of ethics as an integral part of emotions at work.

Lost in the Cloud: Research Library Collections and Community in the Digital Age

an article by Dan Hazen (Associate Librarian for Collection Development, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts) published in Library Resources & Technical Services Volume 55(Number 4 (October 2011)


Digital technologies, renewed attention to the purposes of higher education, and changing models for scholarship and learning challenge our historic understandings of research libraries and their collections. Common assumptions and goals are giving way to diverse local agendas, many of which also reflect increasingly limited budgets. Cooperative ventures are taking new forms as well, with straitened resources again the rule. Our adaptation to this uncertain environment requires research libraries to reconsider the elements that are now necessary for success.

Hazel’s comment:
I read this article in the hard copy at the British Library, and then, rather than copy-type the abstract, tried finding it online together with the author affiliation(s).
I hit the jackpot! 
A couple of very favourable article reviews and then, joy of joys, a PDF of the whole thing.
Before doing anything other than reading the piece please note the copyright conditions:
Copyright of Library Resources & Technical Services is the property of American Library Association and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.

Read it here

New times, new thinking

an article by Nick Pearce published in New Statesman and republished by IPPR (23 March 2012)

At the beginning of the 20th century, Britain spent just 12 per cent of its national output on public services and welfare support. By the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, it spent 40 per cent. In common with most other advanced economies, Britain underwent a huge expansion of public spending during the 20th century. It was a societal transformation to which labour movements and their political parties were midwives, defining the core of their political identities.
Read on

Sunday, 25 March 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

Icebound, long-abandoned Communist flying saucer in the cliffs of Bulgaria via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Timothy sez, “This is a link to some photos I have took of Buzludzha (pronounced Buz’ol’ja) a very remote building in the Balkan Mountains. It is Bulgaria’s largest monument to Communism which was left to ruin after the revolution in 1989. An incredible 70 metre tall, 1970s “flying saucer” perched precariously in the snow on a ridge at 1500m. Full of beautiful communist mosaic frescos and an amazing central atrium complete with giant golden hammer and sickle. It took 6,000 workers seven years to build. I managed to fly over it in a microlight in mid winter to get some interesting pictures too. Such an amazing place.”
Look, read and wonder Forget Your Past (Thanks, Timothy!)

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Where have all the brides gone? Parents’ preference for boys might turn China into a nation of bachelors... more

Petticoat Lane, 1903 via Retronaut by Chris
“"Flat-capped men flow in a Sunday morning tide down Middlesex Street – better known by its unofficial name, Petticoat Lane – just as they have for generations.
This most Cockney of London markets caters to the second-hand clothes trade: at the time when this film was made, the market was dominated by the East End street sellers and the Jewish rag trade (almost all the names on the shop fronts are Jewish). As the camera pans across the market, we see the traders raised above the general level, barking at the crowd. The few women in the picture are stall-holders, selling patched-up trousers and restored boots, while a nearby card sharp tempts the punters.”
Bryony Dixon, BFI
Watch the film (silent, of course) here (Source: BFI Films)

Scientist Margaret Thatcher: The Iron Lady and Economic Liberalism via Big Think by Matthew C. Nisbet
Guest Post by Declan Fahy, AoE Science & Culture correspondent.
There is a scene in The Iron Lady when former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is asked by her doctor – soon after her husband, Denis, has died – how she is feeling. Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal, responds: “People don’t think any more. They feel … D’you know, one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than thoughts and ideas.”
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Cities used to accommodate people. Now they’re built around parking. The result in Los Angeles is collective irrational behaviour... more

Duckweed: The Next Bio Fuel Revolution? via Big Think by Daniel Honan
Shall we go hungry or go cold? That is the unfortunate question that some developing countries have had to face as food crops such as wheat and corn have been used to create bio fuels.
Read More

The Coal Mining History Resource Centre is the UK’s largest and most comprehensive website concerning the history of coal mining – including a searchable database of over 164,000 recorded accidents and deaths.
via Peter Scott’s Library Blog by Peter Scott

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In 1976, Ray Bradbury had an epiphany: “I don’t want to be accepted by certain intellectuals. If Norman Mailer likes me, I’ll kill myself.”... more

What a tangled web we weave by Robert Trivers (New Statesman 24 October 2011)
Just picked this up via 3Quarks Daily
From using euphemisms such as “collateral damage” to faking orgasms, we practise deception all the time. But in order to lie better to others, we must first fool ourselves.
Read the full article

Anatomy of an unsafe abortion via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin
Dr. Jen Gunter, who is an OB/GYN and a pain medicine physician, writes a harrowing account of receiving a patient who has undergone an unsafe abortion, and is bleeding to death:
On the gurney lay a young woman the color of white marble. The red pool between her legs, ominously free of clots, offered a silent explanation.
"She arrived a few minutes ago. Not even a note." My resident was breathless with anger, adrenaline, and panic.
And here's a follow-up post worth reading, by Dr. Gunter.
(thanks, @Scanman)

Saturday, 24 March 2012

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

Celebrating the wartime pleasure of getting loaded and cleaning your guns via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

This wartime ad from Life encourages you to get loaded on fine booze at home while cleaning your guns, to leave the roads and railways clear for Our Boys.
Life, October 16, 1944

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Carrie Nation is dead, but prohibitionism lives on, despite a history of hypocrisy and failure. Self-righteousness, it seems, never goes out of style... more

Ironclads, 1859-1899 via Retronaut by Chris
“Ironclads were steam-propelled warships protected by armour plates. The rapid pace of change in the ironclad period meant that many ships were obsolete as soon as they were complete.” – Wikipedia
See all the images here – I gave up trying to decide which one to include as I’m not that much into ships.

Georgette Heyer: the queen of romance via Reading Copy Book Blog by Richard Davies
Unless you are a fan of historical romance, then there is a good chance that you will be unfamiliar with Georgette Heyer. Who is she? For a start, she’s one of AbeBooks’ top 10 best-selling authors during the 16-year history of this company.
Last time we looked she was behind William Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie and Stephen King but ahead of J.K. Rowling, Charles Dickens and James Patterson.
Read more about Georgette Heyer and her literary legacy.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Few questions divide the classical-music world as starkly as this: Philip Glass – mind-numbing bore or bliss-inducing genius?... more
My money is on the former – but I have not listened to everything he wrote and my all-time favourite composer, Mahler, wrote some things I don’t like. You pays your money and takes your choice!

Why Online Dating Sites Don’t Work via Big Think by Orion Jones
In an analysis of 313 studies on established relationships, psychologists found that the metrics measured by online dating sites, such as personality traits and attitudes, had virtually no effect on relationship well-being.
Read More

Sleepy or Drunk? You’re Ready to Problem Solve! via Big Think by Orion Jones
In a scientific study, college students were asked to solve a brain teaser early in the morning and late at night to measure problem solving abilities relative to alertness levels. Prior to answering the riddle, most students self-identified as night owls, implying ...
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The adolescent brain. Children are reaching puberty earlier and entering adulthood later. The result: Considerable weirdness... more

Out of the lethal mouths of babes via Prospero by F.C. | New York
In a crisis, we rely on our ability to communicate. But what if speech made people ill? In The Flame Alphabet, a new novel from Ben Marcus, the voices of children are fatal to adults. It is a sudden, mysterious epidemic, which taxes the bonds of families and forces parents to make impossible choices. The story is narrated by Sam, a father in a small Jewish community, who recounts the toxic effects of his teenage daughter’s speech on himself and his ailing wife Claire. Fighting time, he begins experimenting on children in order to save himself and his family. For spiritual reserve, he and Claire tune in to underground radio dispatches from a religious figure of mysterious identity.
Mr Marcus’s previous novels have pushed at the limits of the form, earning him a reputation for work that is smart, experimental and not widely read. In The Flame Alphabet he has delivered a book that is both aesthetically interesting and a pleasure to read. 
Full article
The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus is published by Knopf and out now.
Book trailer

Toy-sized quadrotors flying in formation via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Researchers from GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania developed software to allow toy-sized nano quadrotors to fly in tight, precise and eerie formation. Gmoke sez, “William Gibson dreams of a mass of these things comprising a flying skyscraper. I imagine them as surveillance and policing drones ready to stop the OWS action or Arab Spring before it can start.”
A Swarm of Nano Quadrotors (Thanks, Gmoke!)

Friday, 23 March 2012

the use of narratives to contextualize the experiences and needs of unemployed, underemployed, and displaced workers

an article by Jessica C. Russell (Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University) published in Journal of Employment Counseling Volume 48 Issue 2 (June 2011)


The author examined the role of narratives used by unemployed, underemployed, and displaced workers seeking job training assistance through a government-funded One-Stop Career Center. Interviews with employees of a One-Stop Career Center provided insight on client rate of disclosure of personal narratives and how client narratives are used to facilitate the job search process.

Specifically, data from the interviews suggest that narratives give career center employees insight on job seekers’ background, barriers, and reemployment mind-set.

Furthermore, the act of listening was seen as legitimizing job seekers’ experiences. Implications of the findings are discussed.

Hazel’s comment:
Yet again we have evidence that one-to-one and/or face-to-face discussion is best in order to help people discern a way forward in careers. It’s not just about training, it’s not just about opportunities. It is about understanding that Ms A or Mr B is a person with an individual and unique personal history.
I can highly recommend that you access a copy of this if you possibly can.

Analyzing the Next-Generation Catalog

by Andrew Nagy published in Library Technology Reports Volume 47 Number 7 (October 2011)

Libraries have begun a transformation from physical materials to electronic media, and the so-called next-generation catalog is emerging before our eyes. This issue of Library Technology Reports analyzes five different academic libraries to better understand their investments, detailing the outcome thus far and drawing conclusions about the next-generation catalog.

Topics Include:
  • Defining the Next-Generation Catalog: Open Source versus Commercial Solutions
  • Deploying the Next-Generation Service
  • Understanding the Impact
  • Case Studies (Wake Forest University , Oklahoma State University, North Carolina State University, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Villanova University)

Lifelong Learning Account Guidance

Paragraph 15 of the Skills Funding Agency’s Update Issue 100 (21 March 2012) provides information for providers and others in the further education learning and skills sector as follows:

As communicated in Update 76 (28 September 2011), a Lifelong Learning Account is a free online service, available from the Next Step website, that offers greater flexibility, control and choice for skills and learning development in a single, easily accessible location.

The introduction and promotion of the Lifelong Learning Account to individuals is seen as essential for learning providers and the Next Step service (National Careers Service from April 2012).

The following guidance documents have been updated recently:
• Learning Provider Quick Guide to Lifelong Learning Accounts
• Lifelong Learning Accounts FAQs
• Next Step Adviser Quick Guide to Lifelong Learning Accounts.

All of the guidance documents are available from the Lifelong Learning Account section of the Skills Funding Agency website.

For further information or related queries, please contact your Divisional Area Relationship Team

National Careers Service: Course Directory

Paragraph 17 of the Skills Funding Agency’s Update Issue 100 (21 March 2012) provides some basic information as follows:

As communicated in Update 98, the National Careers Service will be launched in April 2012. The new website will offer an improved course search facility, with many new features that have been introduced as a result of customer feedback.
Please remember that it is a condition of funding that you ensure that your information is up to date on the Course Directory Provider Portal. [Available only to providers to view]

To improve data quality, so that advisers and customers can find the courses that they are looking for, and to ensure that the information we give them is accurate and comprehensive, please refer to the top tips [NB: You can view these] in the portal.

[I'd be happier with something a good deal more concrete than "description … what you would be happy to include in a prospectus" etc.
Reminder to self: look out "Standards for Data Input on Central Information Database" (title is sort-of right but I know it's not actually that).]

For any related queries or assistance, please contact The Data Service’s Service Desk [email link only].

The impact of polices on government social media usage: Issues, challenges, and recommendations

an article by John Carlo Bertot , Paul T. Jaeger and Derek Hansen (College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, USA) published in Government Information Quarterly Volume 29 Issue 1 (January 2012)


Government agencies are increasingly using social media to connect with those they serve. These connections have the potential to extend government services, solicit new ideas, and improve decision-making and problem-solving.

However, interacting via social media introduces new challenges related to privacy, security, data management, accessibility, social inclusion, governance, and other information policy issues. The rapid adoption of social media by the population and government agencies has outpaced the regulatory framework related to information, although the guiding principles behind many regulations are still relevant.

This paper examines the existing regulatory framework and the ways in which it applies to social media use by the U.S. federal government, highlighting opportunities and challenges agencies face in implementing them, as well as possible approaches for addressing these challenges.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health and Work

A new report (January 2012) from OECD


The costs of mental ill-health for the individuals concerned, employers and society at large are enormous. Mental illness is responsible for a very significant loss of potential labour supply, high rates of unemployment, and a high incidence of sickness absence and reduced productivity at work. In particular, mental illness causes too many young people to leave the labour market, or never really enter it, through early moves onto disability benefit.

Today, between one-third and one-half of all new disability benefit claims are for reasons of mental ill-health, and among young adults that proportion goes up to over 70%. Indeed, mental ill-health is becoming a key issue for the well-functioning of OECD’s labour markets and social policies and requires a stronger focus on policies addressing mental health and work issues. Despite the very high costs to the individuals and the economy, there is only little awareness about the connection between mental health and work, and the drivers behind the labour market outcomes and the level of inactivity of people with mental ill-health. Understanding these drivers is critical for the development of more effective policies.

This report aims to identify the knowledge gaps and begin to narrow them by reviewing evidence on the main challenges and barriers to better integrating people with mental illness in the world of work.

Further details are available from the OECD bookshop

E-book (PDF Format) Price: £31
Print (pbk) £45

The world’s oldest profession: indexing?

an article by Nancy K Humphreys published in The Indexer Volume 29 Number 4 (December 2011)


A closer look at the 3,000-year-old I Ching, or Book of changes, from China, yields some surprising conclusions about the origins of indexing. This ancient book of hexagrams contains the world’s oldest table of contents and index.

If you can get hold of the print copy, or if your institution provides online access, then do read this. It’s absolutely fascinating.

The Journal of Economic Perspectives is a labour of love

In order to bring you an article from this journal I have to:
  1. Request item from British Library catalogue for reading at the British Library.
  2. Actually receive the volume and issue number I have asked for (this does not always happen).
  3. Glance at first page or two of each article (no abstracts) to check for relevance/interest to readers.
  4. Search for the article title online (personally I find Google best for this simple task).
  5. Pick up URL for article
Here you now have Genes, Eyeglasses, and Social Policy by Charles F Manski published in Journal of Economic Perspectives Volume 25 Number 4 (Fall 2011)

And I hope the effort was worth it!

Job attitudes, behaviours and well-being among different types of temporary workers in Europe and Israel

an article by Francisco J. Gracia, José Ramos, José María Peiró and Amparo Cabeller (University of Valencia) and Beatriz Sora (Open University of Catalonia) published in International Labour Review Volume 150 Issue 3-4 (December 2011)


Applying an innovative typology based on preference for temporary employment and perceived employability, the authors empirically examine four types of temporary workers (and a group of permanent workers for comparison).

In a sample of 1,300 employees from six countries, they find significant differences between the four types on a broad set of variables – including demographic and job characteristics, attitude and insecurity – but not in life satisfaction and well-being.

They conclude with an argument against the equation of temporary employment with low-skilled workers unable to find a permanent job, stressing the valuable implications of more sensitive research for policy-making on flexicurity.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

How to Build an Orphanage, and Why

an article by Prof. Dr. Katharina de la Durantaye published in JIPITEC (Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and E-Commerce Law) Volume 2 Issue 2 (2011)


Currently, lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic are struggling with the problem of orphan works. In the impact assessment of its proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain permitted uses of orphan works, the Eurpean Commission mentions six possible ways of dealing with the problem. Three of the six (a statutory exception to copyright; extended collective licensing; an orphan-specific license granted by collecting societies) have each had their heyday during the past few years. This article examines how and why these changes in popularity occurred. In addition, it explains why a limitation on remedies would be the most adequate solution for the problem in Europe.

Full text (PDF 9pp)

Any party may pass on this Work by electronic means and make it available for download under the terms and conditions of the Digital Peer Publishing License. The text of the license may be accessed and retrieved via Internet at

New Law Cooking up a Storm for Websites

a short article from NFP Techno which seems to have taken me rather longer to get to you than I would like.

As the May 2012 deadline for the new EU law restricting cookies from websites gets closer, NFPs and businesses across the UK are hoping for a workable technical solution to the proposed legislation.

Read full story...

Monday, 19 March 2012

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it” (Antoine de Saint Exupéry)

an article by Derek Law (University of Strathclyde) published in IFLA Journal Volume 37 Number 4 (December 2011)


Libraries run the risk of obsolescence unless they can develop a digitally relevant new philosophy of what they are for. We need to identify the niche which differentiates what we offer, the unique selling point that means we are not competing with Google or Microsoft. Such a philosophy will then determine the approach to users, services, content and our own skill set.

The world is increasingly populated by those with different literacies, for whom reading and writing in the way past generations have understood these are becoming optional lifestyle choices and not the normal requirement of the intelligent individual. We must provide services and collections relevant to their needs rather than expect them to change to fit our preconceptions.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

How Positive Thinking Keeps You Healthy via Big Think by Orion Jones
It is no coincidence that you feel more energetic and relaxed when you are thinking positively, or that you feel lazy and tired if you are thinking negatively. Hormones secreted by the body, which are then carried into the blood stream, greatly affect how we feel.
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Leo Stein was a man of many ambitions – historian, philosopher, artist – but little follow-through. His was “a life of perennial self-analysis in the pursuit of self-esteem”... more

Europe invents the Gypsies via Eurozine articles by Klaus-Michael Bogdal
Social segregation, cultural appropriation: the six-hundred-year history of the European Roma, as recorded in literature and art, represents the underside of the European subject’s self-invention as agent of civilising progress in the world, writes Klaus-Michael Bogdal.
Full article (HTML)

The true fathers of computing via Guardian Technology by John Naughton
George Dyson’s new book challenges computing’s creation myth by highlighting the key role played by John von Neumann
Once upon a time, a “computer” was a human being, usually female, who did calculations set for her by men in suits. Then, in the 1940s, something happened: computers became machines based on electronics. The switch had awesome implications; in the end, it spawned a technology that became inextricably woven into the fabric of late-20th- and early 21st-century life and is now indispensable. If the billions of (mostly unseen) computers that now run our industrialised support systems were suddenly to stop working, then our societies would very rapidly grind to a halt.
Read the rest of the article here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Present at the creation. In 1604 scholars began to rethink the Bible. Their work wasn’t a miracle, but it’s a masterpiece, if a flawed one... more

Mathematicians: You must have at least 17 clues to solve Sudoku via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
A recent mathematics study showed that you have to have at least 17 clues on a Sudoku grid in order for the puzzle to be solvable. You could make the game easier, by adding more clues. But if there are fewer than 17 clues, then the game becomes impossible to solve. In this video, mathematician James Grime explains how the researchers figured this out.
Video Link
Via Grrlscientist and The Guardian

Another Day, Another Dragon via Big Think by Adam Lee
Some days, I hate writing about atheism. I want to tell you why. Two weeks ago, I was watching a PBS show called Inside Nature's Giants, about a team of biologists dissecting a sperm whale that died after beaching itself on a British coast (this involved heavy machinery and a chain saw, if you were curious).
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What explains high-energy cosmic rays? A trailer-park owner has an answer, but no Ph.D. Yes, he's a crank, but he knows something about physics... more

Untangle via How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game you get to test your puzzle solving skills by untangling complex patterns so that none of the threads are crossing each other. Are you up to the challenge?
As always I give the loink to Asian Angel’s walk-through here and direct to the game here.
This one seems to require a bit more thought than some of the other freebies!

Air France's 1947 sleeper service via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

There's loads to love about this 1947 ad for Air France's sleeper service – just look at that cutaway diagram! – but the chart-topping eye-grabber is that awesome sleeper-service bed. Man, if Air France was still flying planes with that interior, I'd never fly anything else.
Loads more mouth-watering vintage aviation luxury ads here.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


The Abraham Test via Big Think by Adam Lee
The story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son on Mount Moriah is one of the formative myths of Western monotheism. And most theists of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions look up to Abraham as a model of faith, believing that his willingness to kill his own child in obedience to God’s command is a praiseworthy character trait.
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
From Wittenberg to Facebook. Martin Luther was the original social-media revolutionary. Via pamphlet and song, the Reformation went viral... more

Our Dangerous Inability to Agree on What is TRUE via Big Think by David Ropeik
There were a lot of thoughtful comments on my observations last week about the ethics of denying that climate change is real. Many felt that I was arrogant, since my case was predicated on my belief that climate change is real. They felt it was arrogant for me to assume that I am rational and right, and that the deniers are wrong because their underlying biases blind them to the truth I am smart enough to know.
Read More

Philip Larkin, Sentimentalist? via Big Think by Austin Allen
Once in a great while, I write something that’s too long to fit comfortably in a blog post. This week one of those pieces, an essay on the notorious and beloved British poet Philip Larkin, is up over at Open Letters Monthly. Larkin is a writer I find continually fascinating: a major poet who produced a slim body of published work, and within that body, I think, only a handful of truly major poems.
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Authors’ ability to endlessly edit their digital work will overturn publishing. Maybe books will improve, but movable type is easily abused... more

MI5 file opens new chapter in Chaplin mystery via The National Archives Blog by Tommy Norton
Files released by the Security Service (better known to you and me as MI5) are among the most popular records in our collection, especially with journalists. The arrival of new material at Kew gives the press office and our colleagues …
Continue reading →

Dinosaurs and Meteors via How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game it is literally a fight for survival as you marshal your dinosaur defenders in a last ditch effort to survive the deadly meteors falling to Earth? Do you have what it takes to succeed or will you become extinct?
Follow Asian Angel’s walk-through here or take a chance and go straight to the game here.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
How to rebuild a blighted city? Lure the "creative class" with cosmopolitan amenities. Makes sense. Too bad it doesn't work... more

Surprising Science via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza

An elephant running in the Masai Mara, Kenya (courtesy of flickr user brittanyhock)
From Smithsonian: 14 Fun Facts About Elephants here.

Physics, Miracles, and Witchcraft: 50 Years of “A Wrinkle in Time” via Big Think by Austin Allen
It was a dark and stormy night.
By starting A Wrinkle in Time with the most famous “bad” opening in literary history – the same Edward Bulwer-Lytton line later adopted by Snoopy – Madeleine L’Engle was practically daring critics to doubt her.
Read More

Friday, 16 March 2012

The UK Qualifications and Credit Framework: a critique

a paper by Stan Lester (Stan Lester Developments, Taunton)
Final version published in Journal of Vocational Education and Training Volume 63 Number 2 (June 2011)


National and transnational qualifications frameworks are an increasingly present feature of the education and training landscape. The United Kingdom can be regarded as one of the pioneers of qualifications frameworks, with partial frameworks appearing from the mid-1980s onwards.

However, approaches in England if not in the whole of the UK have remained fragmented compared with the best examples from other countries. The recently-introduced Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) introduces partial innovations particularly in enabling credit for smaller achievements and allowing employers and practitioner communities to contribute content into the framework.

However, the framework is largely limited to vocational qualifications outside of universities; it is not particularly well integrated with the higher education, professional, and at present school sectors; and it lacks responsiveness to innovations in qualification design.

The QCF has been described as a ‘strong’ or regulated framework, although a more apposite term might be ‘brittle’.

Copyright reserved

Full text (PDF 12pp) but please note copyright notice.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Does it pay to be an artisanal fisher on the Kenyan coast?

an article by A. Allan Degen, Jan Hoorweg and Barasa C.C. Wangila published in International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Volume 15 Number 3 (2012)


Marine fisheries, mainly artisanal, are one of the few economic activities everywhere along the Kenyan coast. Artisanal fishers often live in poverty and, consequently, we predicted that fishers would not fare as well as non-fishers.

We compared earnings of fishers and non-fishers along the coast and examined the importance of income diversification for their livelihoods. Fisher households earned KSH 1,952 per week, about 48% more than non-fisher households. Income from fishing was higher for boat captains than crew, KSH 1,559 and KSH 1,357 per week, respectively, but total income for boat captains and crew was similar, KSH 1,714 and KSH 1,727 per week, respectively.

With livelihood diversification, boat captains did not increase earnings but crew members did. Contrary to our prediction, fisher households fared better than their surrounding neighbours; about 59% of fisher households fell below the poverty line compared to 64% for the population of coast province.

Hazel’s comment:
Whilst this study may not be directly relevant (it isn’t) to labour market information in the UK it reminded me that all may not be as it seems on the surface.

Developing a collaborative faculty-librarian information literacy assessment project

an article by Jackie Belanger and Rebecca Bliquez, (Campus Library, University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia Community College, USA) and Sharleen Mondal, (Department of English, Ashland University, Ohio) published in Library Review Volume 61 Issue 2 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to describe the process of developing an information literacy assessment project, and to discuss key findings from the project.
A variety of assessment tools were used to gather information about student learning and information literacy instruction: pre- and post-surveys, student feedback surveys, faculty feedback to librarians, librarian self-reflection, library worksheets, student research journals, and citation analysis of students’ final research paper bibliographies.
It was found that the authors’ initial suite of assessment tools did not provide the information wanted about students’ research processes, so the authors’ “assessment toolkit” was modified. It was found that more meaningful information could be gathered about students’ research processes when the authors worked closely with faculty to embed information literacy assessments into course assignments. From the authors’ analysis of student work, it was discovered that, for many students, library instruction was most valuable in helping them refine and explore research topics.
This paper will be useful to librarians and faculty seeking to implement an information literacy assessment project. The authors provide ideas for ways for faculty and librarians to collaborate on information literacy assessment, as well as on assignment and course design.

Over-optimism in forecasts by official budget agencies and its implications

an article by Jeffrey Frankel (Harvard Kennedy School) published in Oxford Review of Economic Policy


The paper studies forecasts of real growth rates and budget balances made by official government agencies among 33 countries.

In general, the forecasts are found:
(i) to have a positive average bias,
(ii) to be more biased in booms, and
(iii) to be even more biased at the 3-year horizon than at shorter horizons.

This over-optimism in official forecasts can help explain excessive budget deficits, especially the failure to run surpluses during periods of high output: if a boom is forecasted to last indefinitely, retrenchment is treated as unnecessary. Many believe that better fiscal policy can be obtained by means of rules such as ceilings for the deficit or, better yet, the structural deficit.

But we also find:
(iv) countries subject to a budget rule, in the form of euroland’s Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), make official forecasts of growth and budget deficits that are even more biased and more correlated with booms than do other countries.

This effect may help explain frequent violations of the SGP. The question becomes how to overcome governments’ tendency to satisfy fiscal targets by wishful thinking rather than by action. Chile in 2000 created structural budget institutions that may have solved the problem. Independent expert panels, insulated from political pressures, are responsible for estimating the long-run trends that determine whether a given deficit is deemed structural or cyclical. The result is that Chile’s official forecasts of growth and the budget have not been overly optimistic, even in booms. Unlike many countries in the North, Chile took advantage of the 2002–7 expansion to run budget surpluses, and so was able to ease in the 2008–9 recession.

Positive for Youth - A new approach to cross-government policy for young people aged 13 to 19

A guidance documents from the DFE (Reference: DFE-00133-2011) published: February 2012

This set of documents describes all of the government’s policies for young people aged 13 to 19 in England within the context of a vision for a society which will enable all young people to succeed. They set out a new partnership approach for giving young people more opportunities and better support – with young people themselves as key influencers and with voluntary and community groups and local businesses drawn in as full partners.

A number of the policies covered apply across the United Kingdom, such as those of the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Ministry of Defence. The government will work with the devolved administrations on areas of shared interest.

There has been an extensive period of collaboration and consultation with young people and those who work with them to develop these materials. In March 2011 the Positive for Youth summit brought together young people and professionals with Ministers and officials from seven Government departments to identify and debate the key issues faced by young people today. This helped to develop a shared understanding of young people’s concerns and the support and services they need.

  • Secretary of State Foreword
    Ministerial Foreword

  • Young People Today
  • A Vision for a Society that is Positive for Youth
  • Government Policy on Young People
  • Working Together to Support Young People
  • Making Progress Together
  • Annex 1: The Positive for Youth Discussion Papers
  • Annex 2: The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Annex 3: Index of Case Studies

Positive for Youth – A new approach to cross-government policy for young people aged 13 to 19 (PDF 102pp)

Positive for Youth  What it means for voluntary and community organisations (PDF 5pp)

Positive for Youth – What it means for young people (PDF 5pp)

Positive for Youth – What it means for business and other employers (PDF 5pp)

Positive for Youth – What it means for local authorities (PDF 5pp)

Positive for Youth presentation (PPT)

Related publications

Positive for Youth – Executive Summary (PDF 11pp)

Bereavement benefits: Findings from qualitative research

a research report (RR 790) by Katie Oldfield, Lorna Adams and Briony Gunstone (IFF Research) published by the DWP (February 2012)

Bereavement benefits are paid to surviving spouses in the event of their partner’s death. They are intended to provide some replacement for the deceased partner’s income, and reduce the impact of the disruption to the surviving partner’s own earning capacity at this time. Bereavement benefits are available to people who are married or in a civil partnership, subject to age conditions and National Insurance contributions.

This report presents findings from qualitative research with people who had received bereavement benefits during the last 18 months. Sixty in-depth interviews were carried out with recipients during September and October 2011. The interviews explored issues such as the financial impact of bereavement, the role of bereavement benefits, the impact of bereavement on the surviving partner’s career, and the impact of bereavement on childcare needs and arrangements.
The research was carried out by IFF Research.

Full report (PDF 41pp)

Wellbeing in the workplace: the impact of modern management

a research paper (CEPCP356) by Alex Bryson and Pekka Ilmakunnas CentrePiece – The Magazine for Economic Performance February 2012

How people feel about their jobs is an important part of their overall happiness yet until now, few studies have explored the links between employees’ well-being and their working environment. Alex Bryson and colleagues analyse data from Finland to assess the impact of modern management practices on well-being in the workplace.
Full article (PDF 2pp)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Ageing, skills and participation in work-related training in Britain: assessing the position of older workers

an article by Jesus Canduela, Matthew Dutton, Ronald W McQuaid and Robert Raeside (Edinburgh Napier University), Steve Johnson (University of Hull) and Colin Lindsay (University of Strathclyde) published in Work, Employment and society Volume 26 Number 1 (February 2012)


Policy makers have introduced a number of measures to encourage older workers to stay in the labour market, with improving access to training a particular priority. Policy action appeared justified by evidence that older workers are less likely to participate in training, and more likely to have never been offered training by employers – a key finding of Taylor and Urwin’s (2001) review of Labour Force Survey (LFS) data from 1997.

This article models LFS data from 2007 to assess whether age remained a predictor of inequalities in training. It finds that men over 50 remained among those least likely to have been offered training by employers. There were other significant inequalities in participation, suggesting a polarization in access to jobs that offer opportunities for training and progression.

The article concludes that policies promoting ‘active ageing’ need to challenge negative employer attitudes and acknowledge fundamental inequalities in access to skills.

Youth violence at school and the intersection of gender, race, and ethnicity

Anthony A. Pegueroa (Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, Virginia Tech) and Ann Marie Popp (Department of Sociology, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh) published in Journal of Criminal Justice 
Volume 40 Issue 1 (January-February 2012)


Research has revealed that school-based activities are related to youth violence at school; however, the intersection of gender, race, and ethnicity in this relationship remains uncertain.
This study utilises data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 and incorporates multilevel modelling techniques to examine the intersectionality of gender, race, and ethnicity in the relationship between school-based activities and youth victimisation at school.
Racial and ethnic minority male involvement in school sports is linked to an increase in school-based victimisation, while White American male involvement in school sports is associated with a decrease in school-based victimisation. On the other hand, school sports appears to be an insulating factor against victimisation for girls regardless of their race or ethnicity.
This research underscores the importance of understanding the intersection of gender, race, and ethnicity when examining youth violence.

Are freelancers a neglected form of small business?

an article by John Kitching and David Smallbone  (Small Business Research Centre, Kingston-upon Thames University) published in Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development Volume 19 Issue 1 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that freelancing is neglected by researchers as a form of small business activity. It aims to consider whether it is possible and useful for researchers to distinguish freelancers from other types of small business owner.

The paper does this in three ways:
  • first, by conceptualising freelance status; 
  • second, by examining the research literature on freelance workers; and, 
  • third, by estimating the size of the UK freelance workforce to demonstrate their importance.

The definition proposed permits identification of many types of freelancer hitherto neglected by researchers. Freelancers are a large and growing proportion of the UK business stock and the recent recession has led to a further expansion.

Given the size and distinctiveness of the freelance workforce, researchers might explore the similarities and differences between freelancers and other small business owners with regard to:
  • their motivations for starting and continuing to operate on a freelance basis;
  • experiences of business ownership and management;
  • the heterogeneity of the freelance workforce; and
  • the wider social, economic and political causes and consequences of freelance working.

Resource sharing in a cloud computing age

an article by Matt Goldner (OCLC, Inc., Dublin, Ohio) and Katie Birch (OCLC (UK) Ltd, Sheffield) published Interlending & Document Supply Volume 40 Issue 1 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the historical development of interlibrary loan, identify key milestones such as the codification of ILL practices and development of new technologies to facilitate those practices, and assess the impact that changes in technology and publishing are having upon resource sharing in the digital age.
The authors conduct an extensive historical review of global developments in resource sharing and then conduct a PEST analysis of societal factors affecting present day resource sharing.
Resource sharing continues to grow but there is a need to work together to find solutions to problems of distributed knowledge bases, incompatible systems, and electronic formats which often prohibit sharing of materials between libraries. Librarians must work with publishers, politicians, and systems developers to ensure that there is the same or equivalent rights to electronic materials as there is to print publications and that resource sharing systems can support new models of sharing and acquiring materials in multiple formats.
This paper provides a global perspective on the challenges of library resource sharing in the digital age.

Destinations of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support and Employment and Support Allowance Leavers 2011

a research paper (RR 791) by Lorna Adams, Katie Oldfield, Catherine Riley and Andrew Skone James (IFF Research) published by the DWP (February 2012)

This report details findings from a study conducted to explore the destinations of a cohort of individuals who ended a claim for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), Income Support (IS) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This study aimed to provide the best possible estimate of the immediate and substantive destinations of leavers from JSA, IS and ESA benefit groups. The study explores movement into paid employment and the sustainability of this employment for each benefit group; movement onto and between different out-of-work benefits; and other reasons for ending a benefit claim. Information on leavers’ salaries and number of hours worked was also collected.

Full report (PDF 120pp)

Gender gaps in PISA test scores: the impact of social norms and the mother's transmission of role attitudes

a discussion paper (IZA DP No. 6338) by Ainara González de San Román (UPV-EHU) and Sara de la Rica Goiricelay (UPV-EHU, FEDEA and IZA) published by Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit (Institute for the Study of Labor) February 2012


The existence of gender gaps in test scores has been documented in the relevant literature for a wide range of countries. In particular, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted by the OECD over the past ten years reveals that on average female students underperform (outperform) males in maths (reading) test scores in most of the countries that take part in the evaluation programme.

We find that differences in culture and social norms across countries and across regions within the same country are crucial determinants in understanding gender differences in PISA 2009 test scores: girls perform relatively better in both maths and reading in societies where gender equality is enhanced, and the effect varies over the distribution of scores. In addition, we find substantial evidence for the intergenerational transmission of gender role attitudes, especially from mothers to daughters, as the performance of girls, not that of boys, is better in families where the mother works outside home.

Full text (PDF 30pp)

Still evidence-based? The role of policy evaluation in recession and beyond:

The case of the national Minimum Wage

 an article by Tim Butcher (Low Pay Commission) published in National Institute Economic Review Volume 219 Number 1 (January 2012)


This article explains the role of evidence in determining the recommendations made by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) for the National Minimum Wage (NMW). First, it sets out the process of recommending the minimum wage including the role of evidence. Second, it summarises the evidence available on the impact of the minimum wage before discussing how that evidence has informed the recommendations for the adult rate of the minimum wage in the LPC’s reports. It concludes by assessing the extent to which the NMW might be regarded as a success and considers whether the recent financial crisis will alter the evidence-based approach so far adopted by the LPC.

School inspections: can we trust Ofsted reports?

a research paper (CEPDP358) from CentrePiece – The Magazine for Economic Performance  February 2012
OfSTED inspections of schools have been a central feature of state education in England for nearly 20 years. Research by Iftikhar Hussain explores the validity of the school ratings that Ofsted produces, the impact of a fail rating on subsequent pupil performance and the extent to which teachers can 'game' the system.
Full article (PDF 4pp)

Monday, 12 March 2012

How do public libraries create social capital? An analysis of interactions between library staff and patrons

an article by Catherine A. Johnson (Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario, Canada) published in Library & Information Science Research Volume 34 Issue 1 (January 2012)


In this qualitative study exploring the content of social interactions between library staff and patrons, interviews were held with 15 library staff members in three neighbourhood branch libraries in a large American mid-western city. An analysis of the interviews suggests that public libraries may contribute to social capital through the relationships and interactions that occur between staff and patrons.

Some of the ways in which these relationships and interactions may contribute to social capital include: building patrons’ trust in the library and its staff, connecting people to both community and library resources, providing social support for patrons, reducing social isolation, helping patrons gain skills to function in an increasingly online world, and providing a positive place for neighbourhood residents to gather. The kinds of social interactions occurring in libraries that may help to build social capital are highlighted.

If Physics Is an Information Science, What Is an Observer?

an article by Chris Fields published in Information Volume 3 (Pages 92-123)


Interpretations of quantum theory have traditionally assumed a “Galilean” observer, a bare “point of view” implemented physically by a quantum system.

This paper investigates the consequences of replacing such an informationally-impoverished observer with an observer that satisfies the requirements of classical automata theory, i.e., an observer that encodes sufficient prior information to identify the system being observed and recognise its acceptable states.

It shows that with reasonable assumptions about the physical dynamics of information channels, the observations recorded by such an observer will display the typical characteristics predicted by quantum theory, without requiring any specific assumptions about the observer's physical implementation.

Full text (PDF 32pp)

The bring your own device nightmare

an article by Graeme Batsman, Data Defender published in lasa knowledgebase (February 2012)

This article looks at the increasing trend of staff bringing their own mobile or portable devices into the work environment and how you can secure your network against intrusion.

Read in full (HTML)

Requiring the long-term unemployed to train: is benefit conditionality effective?

an article by Heather Rolfe (National Institute of Economic and Social Research) published in National Institute Economic Review Volume 219 Number 1 (January 2012)


Conditionality has increasingly been part of benefit entitlement and its effects have been examined in a number of ways. While the focus of previous research has been on general conditions such as job search and acceptance of job offers, this paper examines conditionality specifically in relation to participation in training.

Using data from a qualitative evaluation of a government programme, the Skills Conditionality pilot, the paper uses two hypotheses to critically assess the effectiveness of conditionality as a benefits policy: that it is successful in increasing participation in training; and that it is harmful by reducing time for job search.

Applied taxonomy frameworks

an article by Alan Flett (Smartlogic) and Judi Vernau (Metataxis) published in Business Information Review Volume 28 Number 4 (December 2011)


Taxonomy is one of the most used and abused frameworks in all of Knowledge and Information Management. The attraction of taxonomies is obvious: ostensibly they have an everyday simplicity that is familiar to all – they help organize similar things into simple and accessible structures. However, their actual application often leaves a lot to be desired.

There are two main issues that crop up again and again in the application of Taxonomy frameworks.
First, Taxonomy often gets confused with arrangement; that is, classification and interpretation get confused with placement and presentation.
Second, there is often no practicable and principled mechanism for applying the taxonomy to the content.

This article addresses both these issues and maintains that, to be successful, Taxonomy should be held in clear distinction to arrangement and that it needs to be sustainably, consistently, and coherently applied to content.

Big ideas: wellbeing and public policy

a paper CEPCP355 from CentrePiece – The Magazine for Economic Performance February 2012

Richard Layard outlines the development of CEP research on what makes people happy and how society might best be organised to promote happiness.

Full article (PDF 4pp)

The relationship between networking behaviors and the Big Five personality dimensions

an article by Hans-Georg Wolff, (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany) and Sowon Kim, (University of Geneva) published in Career Development International Volume 17 Issue 1 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to suggest a comprehensive framework to elucidate the relationship between personality and networking. Using the Five Factor Model as a framework, the paper aims to argue that traits tapping into social (i.e. extraversion, agreeableness) and informational (i.e. openness to experience) features are relevant in explaining how individual dispositions facilitate networking behaviours. Moreover, it aims to delineate structural and functional differences in networking (i.e. building, maintaining, and using contacts within and outside the organisation) and to theorise how these differences yield differential relationships of personality traits with networking dimensions.
Online surveys were administered to two samples, from Germany and the UK, respectively (n=351). Structural equation modelling is used to test the hypotheses.
Personality traits reflecting social (extraversion) and informational aspects (openness to experience) are broadly related to networking in general. The paper also finds support for differential relationships, for example, agreeableness is related to internal, but not external networking. Both conscientiousness and emotional stability are not related to networking behaviours.
Practical implications
The findings help explain why some individuals experience more barriers to networking than others and can be used in networking trainings. Practitioners should also note that there is more than extraversion to accurately predict networking skills in selection assessments.
The paper provides further insights into determinants of networking, which is an important career self-management strategy. It also offers an integrative framework on the personality-networking relationship as prior research has been fragmentary. Establishing differential relations also furthers understanding on core differences between networking dimensions.

Commission on adult vocational education and training

Skills Minister John Hayes has announced that the Principal of City and Islington College Frank McLoughlin CBE will chair the independent commission on adult education and vocation pedagogy.
Mr Hayes said: “It is great news that Frank McLoughlin has agreed to chair this Commission. His wealth of experience in delivering further education and skills in a challenging inner-city environment gives him the right credentials to lead work which will shape the future of teaching and learning for adults in England.”
Read the press notice. (via FE & Skills Newsletter 44th edition)

The letters page

a paper (CEPCP363) by Alan Manning published in CentrePiece – The Magazine for Economic Performance  produced by the CEP February 2012


Alan Manning questions the value of researchers conducting debates about economic policy through the pages of newspapers.

Full article (PDF 2pp)

Hazel’s comment:
I’d question the wisdom of conducting any debate through the pages of newspapers or on Twitter or, indeed, in any written medium. It is far too easy for words to take on a different meaning in the mind of the reader from that which was in the mind of the writer. Face-to-face debate can be questioned with “Did you really mean what I understood you to be saying?” Much harder to do on paper/screen.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

Wellcome Library: Here Comes Good Health! via Peter Scott's Library Blog
Here Comes Good Health! is a new exhibit in the Lightbox (Wellcome Collection, Euston Road until 3 June) which showcases some of the health propaganda films and other health promotional activities devised by Bermondsey Borough Council during its hey-day of civic activity between 1920-1939. Originally, the films were taken out into the streets of Bermondsey and back projected from a specially customised “cinemotor” van. The films were also shown repeatedly in schools, clubs and other institutions so they became familiar fixtures. However, after the Second World War, the films became relatively obscure. The display includes the rear of a recreated cinemotor together with seating so that the films can be viewed in a sympathetic environment. The films are also available to view online via Wellcome Film and YouTube. The four digitised films in the exhibition have been acquired with permission from the Southwark Local History Library and Archive and the British Film Institute where the film masters are held.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
There is no God and no free will. Right and wrong don’t exist. Nor does love. There is, in fact, nothing Alex Rosenberg is unsure about... more... more

Who’s More Creative? Introverts or Extroverts? via Big Think by Orion Jones
Extroverts and introverts are not different in the ways we usually consider them to be. Introverts want lower-stimulation environments – less noise, less action – while extroverts crave stimulation to feel their best. Introverts may be very outgoing people, just as an extrovert may be shy.
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25 Things Learned From Opening a Bookstore via Reading Copy Book Blog by elizabethc

As someone who has often wistfully dreamed of opening my own bookstore (with a lovely soft couch-and-cushion section with story hour for kids, free coffee for grown-ups, and a leave-a-book-take-a-book section for swaps..), I enoyed reading this blog post called “25 Things I Learned From Opening a Bookstore”. It further confirmed my suspicion that not only have I been wistfully dreaming of opening a bookstore, I've also been unrealistically romanticising the hell out of the idea. Still, for all the pitfalls and drawbacks and foibles and pain, it sounds like something I'd like to do.
Here is the list, funny and insightful:

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
When the Berlin Wall fell, a myth arose: Humanity - or at least Europe - had converged on a shared set of institutions and values. Well, every utopian project comes to grief in the end... more

Psychedelic drugs: more a case of 'turn off, tune in, drop out' | Johnjoe McFadden via SocietyGuardian
Magic mushrooms work by shutting down parts of the brain, not expanding the mind, according to new research
Six thousand years ago palaeolithic hunters painted images on the walls of the Selva Pascuala caves in Spain that look remarkably similar to locally abundant Psilocybe hispanica, one of the many “magic mushrooms” that contains the hallucinogen psilocybin. The same or similar mushrooms have been used throughout the ages to induce states of religious ecstasy, spiritual enlightenment, mystical meanderings or simply to have a great time. But how do they work?
Timothy Leary, who famously told a generation of Americans to “turn on, tune in, drop out”, claimed these “mind-expanding chemicals … acts as a chemical key – it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures”.
But a few weeks ago an Imperial College-based research group headed by Professor David Nutt (who was sacked as the government’s chief drug adviser in 2009 after claiming that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol) reported a study that appears to show that, far from expanding the mind, psilocybin shuts it down.
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Tallest mountains in the solar system via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

 Gallery Atlas Images 3Dom
Mount Everest’s got nothing on Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in our solar system. At 15.5 miles high, it’s also the largest volcano on Mars, covering the size of Arizona. Smithsonian listed the the top ten tallest mountains in the solar system. Earth barely made the list with Mauna Loa. And you thought Everest was our tallest? It’s the highest peak, but mountain height is actually measured from base to peak and Everest's base is way above sea level. “The Tallest Mountains in the Solar System

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The multiverse idea. Let's face it, says Alan Lightman, physics has hit a dead end. We are living in a universe incalculable by science... more

Social graph analysis reveals criminal conspiracy of slumlords via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
OrgNet, a data-mining consultancy, describes how it mined the social graph of the interlocking, every changing owners of several slum-buildings to show that they were all in a criminal conspiracy to avoid having to do the legally required maintenance necessary to keeping their buildings habitable and safe.
Uncloaking a Slumlord Conspiracy with Social Network Analysis (via Kottke)

Electronic pioneer Daphne Oram recordings now available via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
Daphne Oram (1925-2003) was a pioneering electronic musician and sound engineer at the famed BBC Radiophonic Workshop. I've posted previously (linklink) about her amazing creativity and invention of Oramics, an electronic musical instrument based on converting drawings on 35mm film into sound textures. The Young Americans label has just issued a luxurious 4 LP vinyl collection drawn from Oram's massive sound archives. "The Daphne Oram Tapes" includes 46 tracks, a total of 2.5 hours of previously unreleased material. And this is just volume one!
Continue reading this post here
You can purchase it from Amazon in the US and Boomkat in the UK