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Date:  Tue, 26 Mar 2002 12:56:33 -0800 
From:  Preston Hardison  Add to Address Book Add To Spam Block List 
Subject:  Introduction and Bibliographies 
Reply To:  Ecol/Env Anthropology  


>I'm constantly amazed at the bibliographies that you post.  Since Im
>sure im not the only one on the list that's curious, I have to ask:
>how do you do it??? -Rick

No real mystery - hard work.

I suppose it's time to tell "my story," such that it is. The references
come from a software system I've developed over the years called Icons. One
of its component databases is a Sources database that contains about
100,000 references on a range of topics - from evolutionary biology to
indigenous knowledge, community-based conservation and natural resources
management, biodiversity conservation, conservation biology, intellectual
property rights, common property resources, ecological economics,
community-based development, human rights, environmental rights and related
issues. There is a companion directory of organizations globally that
covers the same range that runs to about 40,000 organizations. There's also
a periodicals list (about 5,600, many with web links, and still working on
latter), an encyclopedia (1,600 entries: most pretty thin at this point), a
species database (16,000+ species), a legal database (150+ international
laws, legislation, declarations, etc.: currently working up a database of
US federal Indian statutory and case law, environmental law) I've built
both databases by hand over the last 10 years or so. I spend a lot of my
spare time doing this, so it's not for those of you who have better things
to do, which is most of you.

In 1990, I developed a software program with an anthropologist friend in
Panama for use in community-based conservation, which we called Icons (we
gave it an acronym, but it's really more like Gap analysis - the name is
Icons, because we saw it as a pointer system rather than something that
could truly "store" indigenous knowledge, which is beside the point because
that's what persons are for). I was working out of the Smithsonian Tropical
Research Institute at the time, and was irritated by the working style of
most of STRI's scientists, and also irritated at NGO's such as the Nature
Conservancy, which had set up a Conservation Data Center in Panama. Data
passed between Alexandria, Virginia and the offices of Ancon, and not
anywhere else, so that the one elite environmental NGO in the region had an
information-based power monopoly and the TNC had better information (well,
debatable) on biodiversity in the area than local NGOs, community
organizations and communities.

We saw the need to create some systems for networked data exchange (this
was before the public release of the Web). I was working as a Fellow of
EcoNet, an arm of the Association for Progressive Communications
(, an activist network for progressive social change, human
rights, environmental justice and related issues, that had started in the
mid-1980s, and so knew of the power of such networks.

What's been interesting in seeing the Internet unfold is that although it
has embraced HTML as a format standard, few have addressed the need for
metadata standards. Metadata standards are those used to structure and
describe data. For the last decade, it's been enough for people to throw up
web pages, or construct site-specific databases that users can search. This
isn't really networked information - it's information on a network.

This is changing. With the advent of XML and other technologies, people are
recognizing the need for structured information. Structured information
allows for better control over the protection, indexing, search and
interchange of data than simple HTML pages. As many have probably noticed,
the problem with most web search services is that they index everything.

If you adopt indexing and data structure standards, however, things change.
Think of on-line library catalog searching. Many of you have used your
local library holdings catalogs. What you may not realize is that there are
tools that allow you to simultaneously search 1-100's of library catalogues
around the world simultaneously using what is called a distributed search.
The reason this can happen is that:

1. Libraries agreed on a limited number of formats for making bibliographic
standards (the leaders are Bib-1, used by the Library of Congress, and
MARC, a British Standard). By limiting the formats, there is some hope you
can cross-map one system on another in a common format. This isn't
conceivable with the current "Do whatever you like" mentality of most Web

2. The agreed on a connection protocol. In order for these things to work,
database managers have to support requests for information in a common
format, to package the data, and to send it out in a common way. The
library catalogs use what is called the Z39.50 protocol to achieve this,
and over the next decade this will likely be replaced by XML standards.
Under the current system, every database has enough of its own quirks to
make such distributed searches very difficult to set up.

3. They have adopted an institutional philosophy that allows this to
happen. This is often overlooked. Most web portals want you to gaze upon
their resplendence, and force you to enter their palaces through the
entranceway. Z39.50 connections are made anonymously, through the back door.

What you get:

Rather than long pages of HTML, you get a database divided into
well-defined records, that can be recompiled, filtered, sorted, reindexed,
transmitted quickly in part or in whole. You gain control over what records
can be viewed by whom, what parts of records can be viewed by whom. You get
a system where on-line services can be linked to off-line databases, which
can be independently copied and transmitted by CD-ROM, DVD, ZIp disks, or
other electronic media.

What you lose:

Ego and Identity.

You may not know the technical details of this change, but you have
probably experienced them. If you are one of the elite, then you have
access to Nature, BioOne, Science, Ingenta, or any other of the many
on-line journal sources. You may have experience going to a reference list,
clicking on the author name and getting a list of other references by that
author, or a title and being taken directly to the linked reference. This
is because publishers are beginning to rally around a small number of
document description standards. This will only increase with time.

Most academics couldn't raise a spit over these technical issues, but I
suggest that they pay attention. Buried in the way academic business is
conducted are a large number of issues related to the information commons.
The adoption of standards is an important step, but doesn't determine
whether we will find increasing enclosure or openness to information flow.

As I mentioned, one outfall of this kind of approach is increased control
of information flow. This is important, for example, to indigenous peoples
that want to have greater control over the dispensation of their
traditional knowledge. It is a double edged sword, however, because it
gives greater control over information access.

In our current system for the flow of scientific information, we've
developed some institutions that look highly suspect from a communitarian
point of view. Academics regularly take in large sums of public money,
crank them through the research process, and spit them out as a propertized
bit of information property owned by a publisher. Some small segments of
the public then get this information back if they have the resources, or
belong to an  institution that has the resources, to buy this information
back from the publishers. Actually, even this is changing. In previous
times, authors and publishers only held "rights of first sale," so that any
copy purchased by one could be given to another. More products are showing
up as licenses now - you don't actually own the product, and so cannot
transfer the title to any other.

This perhaps worked at a time when academics talked mostly among
themselves, and few outside academia paid much attention. As the cultural
and ecological situation deteriorates, and as academics begin to turn
towards more applied work, there is a greater civil society need for access
to ideas and factual data. In my experience, most academics tend to get
worked up over information commons issues when it affects their access to
information they want, but then become more proprietary when it comes to
sharing the products they have largely derived from other's work.

What sort of principles should be discussed?

1. What is the status of scientific information vis a vis other kinds?
There is, after all, a kind of mythology that as scientists, you are trying
to produce ideas for the great storehouse of knowledge of mankind. And
there are legal principles that seem to say that facts of nature shouldn't
and can't be copyrighted (but - the European Union has done just that with
the implementation in November of the European Rules on Databases. It's
likely the developing world will stand for this - but they've gone to
implementation stage so you had better take this seriously. Under these
rules, even phone books, or a list of movie times at a particular theater
could be copyrighted). Should scientific publications recieve that same
protection - 70 years after the death of the author - that novels have?
(remembering the "Disney Gambit" - every time Mickey Mouse comes up for
public domain, the copyright gets extended 20 years). Where is the public
domain relative to the private domain when it come to scientific information?

2. What are the duties of scientists to make their information available?
Right now it's left up the commercial and NGO abstracting services to
provide even abstracts of scientific work (can you find the difference in
pricing between Biosis, an academic NGO, and Silver Platter? I can't). And
these are only open to subscribers, and not to the general public that
largely paid for the production of the knowledge in the first place.

3. What IS the legal status of information produced under government
grants? This is a minefield no one has been willing to step into. I have in
front of me a volume written almost entirely by government scientists, the
rest contracted by the government to write chapters for this book, and
published by Elsevier Press. The cost of the two volumes is US$260. There
is a similar situation for products emerging under the global programs of
work under such international initiatives as the IGBP, GISP, GTI, GBF, HDP,
CBD-CHM, UNESCO-MAB and so on, many of which propose global policy that has
direct impact on local and indigenous communities without any opportunity
by them to read or discuss the policy documents. In my experience working
directly with a number of these initiatives, local communities are
something to be consulted somewhere down the line, but getting the policy
discussion directly to communities is largely ignored. The situation is
even more dismal hen it comes to the sharing of technical data (the US NBII
has until now, over 10 years of operation, built almost entirely without
Native American input into national planning. Not to bash them - this is
changing - but indicative of the stance.). As with the TNC situation above,
I've seen a new wave of NGOs getting into the information game, again
collecting  tax exempt donations and receiving many government grants, to
produce what arte esentially privatized systems.

What this has to do with the Bibliographies

We can either let the publishers and abstractors retain control of the
knowledge, or use the technology to build open systems of data
exchange.  One way around the impass is for the producers of the knowledge
and their professional societies to take responsibility and deal with the
issues,  and pass by-laws and adopt standards of conduct that foster open
exchange of information. We can continue to produce massive encyclopedias
that enrich Academic Press, Garland Press and others but have little chance
of really reaching the larger public, or we can get just a wee bit more
smart about finding ways to create an aware and informed public.

If you design a networked system, then it is possible for each producer to
spend a small amount of time formatting their data in the proper way,
tagging it, and exposing it to distributed agents. These many small,
locally controlled databases can then appear as a single large database in
a distributed network.

The bibliographies are my, admittedly crude, first step. I've adopted the
Bib-1 format for storing the source information. We are working to put this
system on-line in the next couple of months. Later in the year we hope to
be able to implement Z39.50 and create some client software that can
connect to the bibliography and download records at the database level.

Where do they come from?

I spend a lot of time in the library. I have a large personal library of
photocopies and books. My background is that I trained as a sociobiologist
in the Alexandrian school of sociobiology, and worked on animal
communication in gerbils and colonial swallows, social evolution in prairie
dogs, primate community ecology in colobus and mangabeys, and the evolution
a sex change in the androdioecious lantern bass, Serranus baldwini, which
involved the use of game theory and sex allocation theory to explain the
evolution of a species that has both a simultaneously hermaphroditic phase
and a sex changing phase. My experiences overseas changed my interests, and
I began working on indigenous rights/indigenous knowledge and
community-based conservation issues in the late 1980's-early 1990s. I was
trained in psychology, so I have an abiding interest in cogniton - and tied
this to my interest in conservation after stumbling on Platt and Cross and
Guyer in the early 1980's. The commons issues took me to Thayer, Ainslie,
Schelling and others in economics, to the "bounded rationality" researchers
in sociology and psychology, and the commons institutions folks that don't
need to be named here. I currently work for a tribe in Washington State in
intergovernmental affairs and watershed policy, and am working on a project
to record and restore cultural landscapes, thus my interest in historical
ecology, cosmography, and federal Indian Law. I have worked on the
Convention on Biological Diversity for the past decade, and participated
directly in negotiating sessions since 1995 on indigenous knowledge issues,
which requires I keep up with international indigenous and human rights
law. I sit on a number of councils and working groups that are building
international biodiversity information networks, and so need to track the
technology. I use Icons to store the references used in my work.

I use a number of tools:

Procite has an Internet search tools using the Z39.50 protocol. This a a
simpler implementation of SeaChange's BookWhere software, a more
sophisticated (and pricey) Z39.50 client. Bleu Angel Technologies also
produces a Z39.50 client (, but I haven't
used it. Ther a couple of freeware clients out there, but I haven't found
one that is very robust or sophisticated.

I use Copernic Pro to search the web. There are a number of similar
"multiportal" search tools. Go to C/Net,, Tucows or similar
software archives on the Internet and look for and try out your favorite
engines. Copernic puts out a free version that is adequate for most people,
but information junkies probably want the pro versions of these things
(automated routines and more engines).

Some leading references:

Lax, Stephen (ed.)(2001). Access Denied in the Information Age. Palgrave,
New York, New York, USA.

Lessig, Lawrence (2001). The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a
Connected World. Random House, New York, New York, USA.

Litman, Jessica (2001). Digital Copyright: Protecting Intellectual property
on the Internet. Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, USA.

Maurer, Stephen M.; Hugenholtz, P. Bernt; Onsrud, Harlan J. (2001).
Europe's database experiment. Science (Washington) 294(5543): 789-790.

Mcsherry, Corynne (2001). Who Owns Academic Work? Battling for Control of
Intellectual Property. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

NRC (National Research Council) (2000). The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual
Property in the Information Age. National Research Council - Computer
Science and Telecommunications Board - Committee on Intellectual Property
Rights in the Emerging Information Infrastructure. National Academy Press
(NAP), Washington, DC, USA.

NRC (National Research Council) (1997). Bits of Power: Issues in Global
Access to Scientific Data. Committee on Issues in the Transborder Flow of
Scientific Data. National Academy Press (NAP), Washington, DC, USA.

Norris, Pippa (2001). Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information
Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide. Communication, Society, and Politics.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Onsrud, Harlan J. (1998). Tragedy of the Information Commons. In: Taylor,
D.R.F. (ed.): Policy Issues in Cartography. Elsevier Science Ltd.,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands. pp. 141-158.

Onsrud, Harlan J.; Lopez, X.R. (1997). Intellectual property rights in
disseminating geographic data, products, and services: Conflicts and
commonalities among European Union and United States approaches. In:
Masser, I.; Slagé, F. (eds.): European Geographic Information
Infrastructures. Taylor & Francis Ltd., London, United Kingdom.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva (2001). Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of
Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity. New York University
Press, New York, New York, USA.

Preston Hardison
Seattle, Washington



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