226 Capen Hall, North Campus
Fax: (716) 645-3710
In Physics during the spring 2013 semester in Fronczak 245: Tuesdays 1-2:30 pm & Fridays 12-1:30 pm.
M.L.I.S., Drexel University, 1975
B.A., Chemistry, Bloomsburg University, 1973
Chemistry, Physics including Astronomy/Astrophysics
Resources By Subject
Subject / Course Guides
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Beilstein Handbook of Organic Chemistry: User Guide
Finding Conference Proceeding & Papers
Gmelin Handbook of Inorganic Chemistry: User Guide
Spectra and Spectral Data Guide to Sources in SEL
Toxicology In-depth Research Guide
Curriculum Vitae / Bio
A. Ben Wagner joined the faculty of the University at Buffalo (UB) Science and Engineering Library as Sciences Librarian in June 2001 and received tenure in 2004. He is the departmental liaison and subject specialist in chemistry and physics.
Prior to his UB position, Ben had a 26-year career at the Technical Information Center of Occidental Chemical's Technology Department on Grand Island, NY, eventually serving as Team Leader/Director of the Library.
Ben received the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship in 2006. He is a former chair and former secretary of the SLA (Special Libraries Association) Chemistry Division. He is currently serving as the chair of UB Libraries Scholarly Communications Steering Committee and as the Silverman Library Collections Coordinator. In addition, Ben is a member of the UB Libraries Collection Committee as the representative the Science and Engineering Team.
Ben received his bachelor’s in Chemistry from Bloomsburg University and his master’s in Library & Information Science from Drexel University. He has been interested in citation metrics and scholarly communications since his research assistant days at Drexel, working on early research into co-citation analysis and visual mapping of science specialities under Dr. Belver Griffith. This work underpins the “Related Record” feature in the Web of Science.
Publications available from ResearcherID.com
Research / Service Area
Statement of Research Interests - 12/17/2012
A. Ben Wagner, Chemistry and Physics Librarian, Silverman Libraries
There are two central questions that drive my research interests. The first is how the shift from print to electronic access to scientific resources has affected librarianship and the ability of scholars to efficiently find the information they need. Electronic resources are available 24 hours a day. They permit rapid searching of millions of items down to the level of every word in the full-text of documents. However, a rapid search does not necessarily give a satisfactory or complete answer, as anyone who uses Google quickly discovers. This leads to a concern for how scholarly communications is evolving in this new world of electronic access, expensive databases and journals, and increasingly viable open access (free-to-read) alternatives. Central to the scientific enterprise are the questions of how scientists find the information required to advance their research and communicate their results.
The second question is how to measure and evaluate scholarly research based on bibliometrics. Bibliometrics uses citation patterns and content analysis to evaluate the impact of researchers, departments, institutions, and even entire countries. I have developed a lifelong professional interest in citation analysis since my days as a graduate student. A simple example of such a metric would be the total number of citations to the entire set of an individual’s published papers. A more complex example would be the h-index, which ranks papers by the number of times cited, noting how many papers are cited above a given threshold. Although no scholarly effort should be judged solely on citation analysis, citation metrics are increasingly used as an important quantitative component in evaluating scholarly publications and grant proposals.
In the sections below, I describe how these two questions inform my research on managing and using electronic resources, the open access movement, scientific databases, specialized scientific information retrieval, and citation metrics.
Electronic Resources and Open Access
Access to information has rapidly evolved over the past several decades in terms of content, formats, and search interfaces. The primary shift is from print to electronic information; first in databases and reference sources, then in journals, and more recently for monographs. Electronic formats have undergone their own evolution from the original command-based, pay-per-use online systems to CD-ROMs to flat-rate, web-based products. Each shift has created a new need to examine costs versus benefits, pricing and licensing models, usability, and the balance point between powerful features and ease-of-use. Despite all of the advances in computer technology, scholarly information still must be accessed in a variety of formats and through many different search interfaces and databases.
How can librarians and scholars cope with all these changes? How can librarians help researchers sort through all this? I explored many of these issues early in my academic career in an article that appeared in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (2003), a prestigious journal ranked 7th by impact factor in the field of information science. In that article, I discuss the key issues in decisions to shift resources to electronic-only access, such as licensing terms and ownership of content.
My research interests in changes in the scholarly communication system are reflected in an invited essay on the impact of open access on databases and journal publishers published in Learned Publishing and an annotated bibliography of studies on the increased citation rates for open access vs. traditional subscription-based articles published in Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship. The essay notes the possibility that open access will disrupt and perhaps positively transform the entire publishing industry and its reliance on costly annual subscriptions. Researching the impact of open access is critical since various government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health have established mandates requiring publicly funded articles be made open access. Hence, authors need to know how to make good open access publishing decisions. In addition, widespread open access would allow librarians to redirect budgets from expensive journal subscriptions to services and finding tools that directly benefit researchers. Scholars worldwide would find no barriers to reading research of interest to them. The citation advantage of open access articles is a prime motivator for authors to consider open access options in preparing for tenure or promotion.
I foresee further publishing opportunities in scholarly communications, especially in affordability and new models of communications. Since I serve in the subject areas with some of the highest cost journals, chemistry and physics, I am in an excellent position to research the impact of journal price models and inflationary costs on libraries and the scholarly community.
Scientific Databases and Interfaces
Can scholars find all the information needed and only the information they need? As web sources proliferate, patrons are increasingly retrieving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of results from commonly used web search engines. Subscription databases can provide more precise results and may include material not available in a web search. Yet researchers often prefer simple, familiar web interfaces such as Google. In response, traditional databases have made significant improvements in their interfaces. I firmly believe that research and education is needed to assist researchers in expanding their knowledge and use of the full array of information discovery tools available to them.
One of my core competencies is my detailed knowledge of chemical information systems and their underlying data structure. SciFinder, produced by Chemical Abstracts Service, is the core database in chemistry. My article in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, the top chemical information science journal, is a detailed analysis of the innovative natural language query processing algorithms behind research topic searching in SciFinder. It was the most downloaded article from the entire journal for three consecutive quarters. I followed up this article with an extensive study on searching inorganic substances in SciFinder, which was recently published in Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship. Both of these articles provided the first detailed descriptions in their respective areas available to chemical librarians and researchers. Written for librarians, students, and researchers, these publications provide easy-to-follow instructions for novice searchers while also giving detailed explanations for more experienced searchers. The article in Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship led to an invitation by Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS), a division of the American Chemical Society, to develop web-based training materials on searching inorganic compounds. I will be traveling to CAS headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, this August to record an e-seminar on the topic. Future plans for publishing in this area include an article I have begun work on detailing how to search for coordination compounds in SciFinder, another area with little published information.
I continually update and keep current an earlier publication of mine on finding physical properties of chemicals that was originally published in Science & Technology Libraries on my personal web site at http://www.buffalo.edu/~abwagner/PhysProp-STL-ArticleRevised.pdf. In particular, the publication critically reviews free web resources for this type of information.
I am also interested in ways to make scientific information useful in non-scientific disciplines. As research becomes more multi-disciplinary, librarians must promote and publish articles on how to find information across disciplines. In collaboration with a business information specialist, I helped produce an in-depth guide to mining technical resources for business information that was published in the major journal in the field, the Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship.
My second area of research interest involves citation metrics. My work in this area dates back to my graduate school days at Drexel University where I was a research assistant for Dr. Belver Griffith, a pioneer in co-citation analysis. We looked at how frequently pairs of citations (co-citations) are cited in the same reference list. This minimized various anomalies that often plague citation analysis. We produced cluster maps that indicated the relationship between the social structure of scientists in sub-disciplines and their pattern of citing each others’ works. This research was eventually published by Dr. Griffith.
As governments and academia face more limited funding, increasingly scholars are being asked how many citations their articles have received. The emphasis is shifting from “publish or perish” to “get cited or perish.” The National Research Council released a report in 2010 that ranked doctorate programs in the U.S. in part based on number of citations received by each department. Our own university has used this approach in recent internal program assessments. Some countries have begun using measures of citedness in allocating grant funding, while institutions are factoring it into hiring and promotion decisions.
Fundamental to any citation analysis is proper identification of authors and their institutions. I surveyed and evaluated the current projects underway to disambiguate authors. A successful implementation of these projects would assure that citation counts for an individual are accurate by including all publications of that person while excluding publications from others with the same or similar name. In 2009, I published a review of author identification systems in Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship.
The journal impact factor, perhaps the oldest citation metric, was not designed to compare journals across disciplines. I developed and published a technique in Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship that normalized journal impact factors based on percentiles that allows librarians and scholars to directly compare journals in different fields and subfields. This will assist interdisciplinary researchers in publishing decisions and help librarians in collection development decisions, both what they should add and what they should consider canceling. The technique I developed can even compare the relative importance of a single title across the various disciplines covered in the journal. The approach is simple enough to be used by practicing librarians who may not have strong statistics backgrounds.
This research has informed and enhanced my role as a citation/tenure metrics consultant here at UB and throughout the country. My consulting activities are described in my service statement. I am confident that I will have many opportunities to publish future articles on the use and potential abuse of citation metrics in measuring individual and institutional research and publication impact.
Service Statement - 12/17/2012
A. Ben Wagner, Chemistry and Physics Librarian, Silverman Libraries
For me, the great attraction of my profession is the centuries-long tradition of public service. One of the exciting aspects of being a subject specialist and departmental liaison is the opportunity to serve library patrons at so many different levels: students, faculty, researchers, administrators, our local community, and my library colleagues here at the University at Buffalo, the region, and throughout the world.
Underpinning my service philosophy is my belief that each individual request is vitally important to the patron and deserves the best response that I can give. Every reasonable effort should be made to either meet the need or provide a referral to another person or resource that can. The patron should never be left with no place else to turn. I believe that exceptional service should be the rule.
Service to University Libraries colleagues and patrons
Serving the University Libraries staff and patrons is my core mission. I feel privileged to interact with such a large staff of librarians and am enriched by their diversity and wide ranging experience. In return, I have the responsibility and pleasure to share my own areas of expertise with them. Most of these areas arise from my strong science background and decades of work in an industrial research library. UB faculty and library colleagues here and at other institutions often turn to me for assistance in patent, chemical structure, and materials property searching.
I also am frequently consulted on scholarly communications issues including open access (non-traditional free-to-read journals), citation-based tenure metrics, and departmental evaluation based on publications. These topics strongly align with my research interests. As noted in my research statement, increasing attention is being paid to citation metrics as a way to evaluate individuals for tenure and promotion, departments, institutions, and even the research impact of entire countries. I am often asked to work with individual faculty, departments, and other groups, ranging from collection development librarians at the University of British Columbia to dean’s committees evaluating graduate programs. This past year, I served as a consultant to a committee of SUNY vice presidents of research as they evaluated institutional analysis tools based on citation data.
Although the excitement of being on the “large stage” of national meetings and via international communication networks is undeniable, what I really enjoy most is working one-on-one with individual students and faculty helping them solve an immediate information need, whether it is a statistic needed for a grant proposal, resources for writing a paper, or the solution to a knotty research question. When people ask me to describe my job, I tell them that I am an information detective. Every day is a new challenge, and every question a new puzzle to solve. This is why after 35 years I can still honestly say that I enjoy my job as much today as my very first day as a professional librarian.
Although the word is overused, I am also committed to pro-active service. This is why I was one of the first librarians here at UB to begin providing on-site reference/consulting hours directly in an academic department. My article describing the on-site services, co-authored with a social science librarian, led to invitations to speak at Cornell University, at an annual national meeting of the Special Libraries Association, and at a regional conference for New York State science librarians. One result of this engagement is a recurring credit-bearing information literacy course sponsored by the department, taught by me, which is more fully described in the next section of this service statement.
I have carried over this pro-active service ethic in engaging faculty in decisions about library resources in our challenging budgetary environment. I believe it is vital to make the best possible decisions in direct collaboration with the affected faculty. One of my key roles is to creatively figure out a way to provide the maximum level of useful content at the least possible cost to the University. I have done this using a variety of approaches including faculty surveys, investigating consortia deals, meetings with departmental library committees, and aggressively shifting content to electronic only access.
Service to the library and information science profession
I consider myself fortunate to be living in the Internet age where networking is fast, easy, and ubiquitous, making it possible for me to share my knowledge and learn from colleagues. This drives my involvement in professional associations and a wide range of electronic interactions now available.
Our profession is about communications. In that regard, I believe it is important to contribute to my profession through communication outlets such as the major email lists in chemistry and physics that have hundreds of subscribers worldwide. I often comment on library issues such as journal pricing and open access, explain database features, and assist others in formulating search strategies. I recently shared my analysis of two major competing databases—Scopus and the Web of Science—with colleagues at other institutions making a choice between the two. My input has been of use not only to librarians, but also to the people who produce and market information resources and tools to libraries; at one national professional conference I attended I was surprised and pleased when a database vendor exhibiting there said that they appreciated my fair and balanced messages.
There is no higher calling than being a teacher of the next generation of professionals. I come from a family of teachers and look forward to every opportunity I have to conduct classes, workshops, course-integrated instruction, and informal learning experiences. Three times I have had the opportunity to teach a 1-credit information literacy course to physics graduate students offered through the Physics Department. As their major assignment, they conduct an extensive literature search on their thesis topic. In the spring of 2011, I was specifically sought out by the Chair of the UB Library and Information Studies graduate program to teach the 3-credit “Information Sources and Services in the Sciences” course. Having been a science librarian for over 35 years, I deeply appreciated this opportunity to share my experiences with students just entering the profession.
A special recent honor was a two-year appointment as one of two librarian advisory members of the American Physical Society’s (APS) Publications Oversight Committee. This committee meets three times a year and channels input directly to the publisher and high-level editors of the prestigious Physical Review journals. I have provided feedback about pricing policy impact on libraries, a new journal launch, and how librarians use citation metrics to make collection decisions.
In an exciting new development, this August, at the invitation of Chemical Abstracts Service, I will be traveling to their headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, to develop and record a web-based training seminar on searching inorganic chemical compounds.
I believe strongly in the importance of taking leadership roles in professional organizations. As chair of the Special Libraries Association’s Chemistry Division, I was the primary program planner for the 2007 Annual Conference attended by over 5,000 information professionals. The culmination of 18 months of intensive planning effort was a program of 16 engaging events that was well received by attendees from across the world.
Service to my community
Approximately 8% of our library reference services are provided to the public outside our institution. This has given me a marvelous opportunity to make a difference in the community by providing technical information to lawyers involved in product liability and personal injury suits, background information for local inventors, and data to local businesses. For example, I have provided chemical product information to Bureau Veritas, a global leader in consumer product testing.
Finally, I am a firm believer that social engagement with one’s surrounding community is the true hallmark of a professional. Since 1981, I have been a homeowner on the Upper West Side of Buffalo and an active member and officer of two religious organizations heavily involved in urban neighborhood stabilization and renewal. Starting with Italian immigrants in the late 1800s, this area has been a “landing zone” for newly arriving populations. The neighborhood, with a 57% non-Caucasian population, is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Upstate New York, with large Somalian, Sudanese, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Central American, Puerto Rican, and Southeast Asian enclaves. Over the past two years, hundreds of Burmese and Nepali refugees have settled on the West Side. I have provided a welcome, advice, and material support to some of the first arrivals, helping them get settled into their new life in America. As treasurer and a senior deacon of His Dwelling Place, a small church on the Lower West Side in one of the most ethnically diverse census tracts outside of New York City, my wife and I remain committed to making a difference in the incredibly diverse and challenging environment of the West Side.
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