Monthly Archives: June 2011

An information-reich account of the current economy

The economy in 2 mins and a few diagrams


Richard Reich connects the dots. The argument is persuasive but it’s the calm simplicity of the delivery that attracts here, the simple marriage of clear language and enhancing figures. It surely demands a response from the other side……


Information is intelligence

I enjoyed the IAFIE conference this week where educators in the field of intelligence gathered to discuss their work. In so many ways, the parallels to information conferences were uncanny. At a workshop on curriculum I was surprised to hear calls for greater standards and the value of accreditation through ABET or CHEA being discussed by the group. The general concern seemed to be that intelligence education was in danger of being overrun by diploma mills and that the relatively small number of serious programs needed to ensure quality control. I argued that there seemed too few schools in the intelligence arena to warrant heavy investment of time and resources in establishing accreditation standards when we stood to make more progress at this point sharing curricular ideas and experiences, and working on articulating the nature of intelligence work that we could support through education. A vote on the group’s plan was taken at the end but the results were not tabulated until later so we shall see.

Surprised as I was by the nature of the discussion in the opening workshop, I should have been better prepared for the experience over the next few days when presentation after presentation spoke of information collection and organization, analysis and mining etc without once mentioning librarianship or archival practice. A highly engaging keynote by Brigadier General Vincent Stewart raised the need for better evaluation of open source materials, less emphasis on tools and IT infrastructure and better means of identifying¬† skilled intelligence practitioners in advance. He quickly listed 19 countries that are viewed as failing or failed states which he monitors daily, many of whom are allies of the US. Some of the variables they measure are wealth distribution, political stability, youth demographics, corruption, internet usage etc to gain an index of a nation’s likely stability. Pointing to the harrowing cost of intelligence mistakes in his world, he made a compelling case for improving the education of future practitioners that struck me as a natural charge for some iSchools.

An interesting group of papers explored the predictive accuracy of individual analysts or the use of supplementary models to enhance predictive power. In much the same way as we might model medical predictions by doctors, intelligence researchers are trying to determine the accuracy, biases, and shortcomings of analysts’ processing of intelligence data so as to improve outcomes. There were also many papers outlining specific programs at universities across Europe, North America and Australia, and one pertinent paper from Canada pointing to the lessons learned from competitive intelligence.¬† All in all, this is an emerging area that is seeking some improved collective identity and structure but there is no doubt that this is potentially fertile ground for graduates of information programs.


The iSchool goes international

Sheffield University seems to have formally renamed its Information Studies Dept as the “Information School”, which adds one more to the growing number of LIS programs that have changed names over the last few years. In their case they are labeling themselves the first ischool in the UK, though given the rather inclusive nature of the iSchool label, some might argue with that claim. The University of South Florida also changed its name from SLIS to School of Information this Spring also. Once upon a time such changes were accompanied by much complaining and doomsaying from some quarters but with other matters pressing down on higher education and libraries these days, a little more perspective on name changing seems to have resulted. That, or nobody notices anymore. A quick look at the ALA’s listing of accredited programs shows nearly 40% of them are in departments or schools that don’t have the L word in their title any longer. At this rate, in another 10 years, one imagines this will be so for the majority of accredited programs, though one hopes this is by program choice rather than closure.