Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts; Carol A. Drost


IRIS: Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology. Access: http://www.iris.edu/hq/.

C. Jeff Lacy, Trinity University, clacy@trinity.edu

The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) “is a consortium of over 120 U.S. universities dedicated to the operation of science facilities for the acquisition, management, and distribution of seismological data.” Most of the information available through the IRIS website is appropriate only for advanced researchers. Select resources, however, are intended for educators, students, and the general public.

For advanced researchers, IRIS has information about seismological research centers as well as accumulated seismological data. Delving into the “Facilities” section of the site, users can find grey literature from numerous research centers on topics ranging from instrumentation specifications to best practices in operations management. The “Research” section presents a confounding wealth of observational and derived data. Researchers have several options for acquiring and working with this data, including requests to IRIS, 18 different web-based applications, and an even greater selection of installable applications. These applications are not user-friendly, but the site provides some documentation to those patient enough to look.

More accessible information is found in the “Education” section. Available here are teaching resources with content appropriate for courses from high school to graduate school. A search page helps users find materials by mixing and matching selections in three categories: resource types (lesson, poster, video, etc.), resource level (novice, intermediate, etc.), and concepts (earthquakes, plate tectonics, etc.). There is no search box for keywords. The teaching resources are geared towards instructors, but students might also find them useful.

The “Education” section also has resources on earthquake events. “Recent Earthquake Teachable Moments” is a chronological list of earthquakes, which includes a description, PowerPoint presentation, and links to information for either the general public or researchers. “Recent Earthquakes” offers an interactive world map displaying five years worth of earthquake activity, and allows users to view tables of local seismic data. The “Earthquake Browser” lets users search for earthquakes by time period, magnitude, and depth.

For academic librarians assisting students or instructors, IRIS is primarily a source of instructional material on basic seismological topics as well as descriptive information and maps of earthquake events. Librarians might also refer to IRIS’s collections of technical information and data, but researchers will need significant training to use these effectively.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR). Access: http://www.ohchr.org/.

Colleen Lougen, SUNY-New Paltz, lougenc@zmail.newpaltz.edu

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) website is a gateway for worldwide human rights information and advocacy resources. The High Commissioner is the United Nation’s principal official for human rights, and the OHCHR is mandated by the world body to “promote and protect all human rights” and provide a “forum for identifying, highlighting, and developing responses to today’s human rights challenges.”

The basic structure of the site is consistent throughout all the pages, and the top navigation includes the following categories: “About Us,” “Issues,” “Human Rights by Country,” “Where We Work,” “Human Rights Bodies,” “News and Events,” and “Publications and Resources.” The bottom navigation links to “Frequently Asked Questions,” social media links, and more. Additionally, users will find several language options, as well as a basic search box, on the top of the homepage.

The most helpful sections for users of the site are likely to be “Human Rights by Country” and “Publications.” “Human Rights by Country” provides extensive country-specific human rights information about OHCHR activities and various reports and procedural documents.

“Publications” offers a massive and ever-expanding collection of human rights documents such as fact sheets, reference and training materials, and policy and methodological materials, as well as a catalog of OHCHR publications. Users can easily access various OHCHR databases and information repositories for even more human rights research and data.

Under “About Us,” the site provides access to organizational information such as history, structure, mission statement and mandate, budget information, employment opportunities, and contact information.

The website’s one weakness lies in its clumsy basic search feature. Advanced search options should be available to allow limiting a search according to date, publication, and other filters so that a user is not forced to sift through hundreds of results.

Despite this minor drawback, the website is a portal to a vast and rich collection of materials to inform, educate, and advocate for international human rights. Besides its core audience of government and human rights officials, the OHCHR site is a valuable resource for students, teachers, researchers, and the general public.

Zooniverse. Access: https://www.zooniverse.org/.

Emma Oxford, Rollins College, eoxford@rollins.edu

Zooniverse began in 2007 with the wildly popular Galaxy Zoo, and now it hosts more than 40 “citizen science” projects on topics including astrophysics, history, ecology, and more. The site is run by the Citizen Science Alliance, which includes seven partner institutions from across the United States and the United Kingdom, but anyone can submit a project to be included on Zooniverse.

Citizen science projects allow laypersons to assist researchers in classifying his or her data, which often consist of large datasets that would take one researcher many years to go through on hs or her own. Zooniverse provides a quick portal and an intuitive interface for these numerous projects. Different projects involve different tasks, most requiring some form of either annotation (e.g., Snapshot Serengeti, Penguin Watch, Galaxy Zoo) or transcription (e.g., Old Weather, Operation War Diary). All of the projects are easily accessible and have quick tutorials for those new to the system. The variety of tasks and topics ensures that almost everyone is likely to find something of interest on Zooniverse.

Participation in any Zooniverse project does not require registration, but more dedicated citizen scientists can create a free account on the website. This allows users to keep track of projects, and it also gives them the opportunity to discuss images and post questions on the Zooniverse “Talk” pages.

If there is one negative to Zooniverse, it is that it is too easy to be sucked down a rabbit hole of never-ending annotations. It is perhaps both a pro and a con that most Zooniverse projects have no end in sight, at least not to the average user. Participants could classify for hours and still there would be more images to look at. It is unclear where the annotations are going and no immediate evidence that they are useful. But if the more than 100 papers that have been published using data from Zooniverse projects are any indication, they have been.

Zooniverse is a fun, educational site that teachers, students, and anyone else with even a passing interest in citizen science is likely to find fascinating.

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