Tuesday, 29 January 2019

The Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania's Election Security

Pitt Law Prof. David Hickton has just shared the Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania's Election Security (72 page pdf) which he chaired. From the announcement:
The 2016 elections revealed the vulnerability of the U.S. election system. This is especially true in Pennsylvania, where the vast majority of the voting systems are simply unable to provide the assurances of security and reliability our citizens deserve.
We formed this commission with the belief that with study and practicality, we would be able to identify achievable solutions for the Commonwealth’s election security. Solutions that ensure that all of us—regardless of precinct or party—can have faith in our elections. After an eight-month study and consultations with a range of experts and the public, we have done just that.
Implementing the recommendations in this report will allow Pennsylvania to be better prepared to manage the cyber threats that targeted us in the past—and anticipate the ones of the future. We urge officials throughout Pennsylvania to address the policy and funding aspects of these risks in a clear-eyed manner.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Access to government info during the shutdown

Over on the Free Government Information blog, James R. Jacobs posts an excellent article about the information access problems caused by the federal government shutdown. He notes that "There are at least two reasons why users cannot get the documents they need from government servers during the shutdown. In some cases, agencies have apparently shut off access to their documents. (This is the case for both NIST and CSRC.) In other cases, the security certificates of websites have expired — with no agency employees to renew them! — leaving whole websites either insecure or unavailable or both."
But he goes beyond this explanation to say that the loss of access was forseeable and avoidable because libraries, especially FDLP libraries, make decisions about how we select and preserve government documents.
"...too many libraries have chosen to adopt a new model of “services without collections.” GPO proudly promotes this model as “All or Mostly Online Federal Depository Libraries.” GPO itself is affected by this model. Almost 20% of the PURLs in CGP point to content on non-GPO government servers. So, even though GPO’s govinfo database and catalog of government publications (CGP) may still be up and running, during the shut-down GPO cannot ensure that all its “Permanent URLs” (PURLs) will work.
This no-collections-model means that libraries are too often choosing simply to point to collections over which they have no control — and we’ve known what happens “When we depend on pointing instead of collecting” for quite some time. When those collections go offline and users lose access, users begin to wonder why someone hasn’t foreseen this problem and put “all those publications somewhere public.”

Entire editorial board of Elsevier journal resigns

Nature has a story titled "Open-access row prompts editorial board of Elsevier journal to resign: "The board of the Journal of Informetrics has launched a new open-access publication." The International Society for Informetrics and Scientometrics has more:
Over the last few years, the editorial board of the Journal of Informetrics (JOI) has grown increasingly dissatisfied with Elsevier’s actions and policies. While some of those have specific effects on our field—such as Elsevier’s refusal to participate in the Initiative for Open Citation (I4OC)—others are affecting all fields of science—such as its restrictive open access policies and prohibitive subscription costs. The editorial board of JOI expressed these concerns to Elsevier on numerous occasions, with no success. Given the inability of Elsevier to address these issues, the editorial board unanimous resigned on January 10th 2019. As of January 12th 2019, names of associate editors and editorial board members have been removed from the website of the Journal of Informetrics."
You can read the entire resignation letter here. The group of editors that resigned has launched a new, freely available journal called Quantitative Science Studies (QSS). It is being published by MIT Press.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

A font to help you remember...

WIRED magazine has an article titled "Can't Remember What You Read? Blame the Font, Not Forgetfulness." The font, named "Sans Forgetica," was developed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia. According to their website,
Sans Forgetica is a font is a downloadable font that is scientifically designed using the principles of cognitive psychology to help you to better remember your study notes. It was created by a multidisciplinary team of designers and behavioural scientists from RMIT University.
WIRED says that "Sans Forgetica is purposefully hard to decipher, forcing the reader to focus. One study found that students recalled 57 percent of what they read in Sans Forgetica, compared with 50 percent of the material in Arial, a significant difference. No word yet on the retention rate of Comic Sans." You can download it for free from the RMIT website. There is also a Chrome extension that you can download and use to display any text on the web in the Sans Forgetica font. Here's what it looks like: