Open Access (MIT Press, 2012) by Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and Harvard Open Access Project, has been named an Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 by Choice. Published by the American Library Association, Choice is read by over 22,000 librarians and scholars who make collection development and scholarly research decisions for academic libraries. The designation of Outstanding Academic Titles recognizes works that show importance within a discipline, originality or uniqueness, and overall excellence in presentation and scholarship. In his preface to Open Access, Suber describes his book as “a succinct introduction to the basics, long enough to cover the major topics in reasonable detail and short enough for busy people to read.”
Peter Suber’s book, Open Access, is openly available in DASH. Suber’s home page for the book includes updates and supplements as well as links to reviews, translations, and open-access editions: http://bit.ly/oa-book.
In a recent New York Times article, published December 22, 2013, Samuel Mehr, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, summarized his recent work on the cognitive benefits of music education. “Does music make you smarter?” he asks. Mehr, along with his colleagues conducted two new randomized trials with preschoolers and parents at Harvard’s Laboratory for Developmental Studies. Their conclusion? “We found no evidence that a brief series of parent-child music classes improved preschoolers’ cognitive skills,” states Mehr. However, Mehr goes on to say that “even if future studies fail to support the existence of music’s cognitive benefits, this should not deter parents from providing their children with music lessons.”
Samuel Mehr’s paper (written with Adena Schachner, Rachel Katz, and Elizabeth Spelke) “Two Randomized Trials Provide No Consistent Evidence for Nonmusical Cognitive Benefits of Brief Preschool Music Enrichment” is available in DASH.
Photo by Gerry Szymanski
In a paper given at the 2013 conference of the Digital Islamic Humanities Project, Harvard professor Afsaneh Najmabadi outlines the disciplinary and theoretical considerations of establishing a multi-genre digital archive to document a historically underrepresented group in established archives: women of Iran’s Qajar dynasty (1796-1925). The Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran is a digital repository that, as of April 2013, provides access to 33,000 images, 43 private family collections, and ten institutional collections. Professor Najmabadi, Principal Investigator on this project, emphasizes the scholastic advantages of “pull[ing] together disparate archival threads” by gathering personal and family objects, photographs, and oral histories on a digital platform. “[This] has produced a fabric that is not simply the sum total of the separate threads. The resulting fabric generates connections that facilitate doing richer histories,” states Najmabadi.
Professor Najmabadi’s paper, “Making (Up) an Archive: What Could Writing History Look Like in a Digital Age?” is available in DASH.
A recent feature in The New York Times describes Harvard Professor of Psychology Matthew K. Nock as “one of the most original and influential suicide researchers in the world.”
In his article “Future Directions for the Study of Suicide and Self-Injury,” Prof. Nock calls for standard definitions of such terms as “suicide plan” and “suicide attempt;” use of technological advances to measure thoughts of self-harm; and a better understanding of risk factors, their relation to one another, and their correlation to actual instances of self-harm. “Whatever the specific directions we take,” Nock argues, “it is imperative that we act quickly, strongly, creatively, and comprehensively so that we can begin to decrease the tragic injury and loss of life due to suicide and self-injury.”
You can find a list of Prof. Nock’s works in DASH here.
In his article “Five Theses on the Future of Special Collections,” John Overholt argues that the stewards of special collections must embrace openness, unmediated access, and the changing profiles of users. “We are privileged to be working,” he states, “at the dawn of an era in which special collections will become the raw materials upon which the creative energies of the world can be exercised.”
Overholt is Curator of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson and of Early Modern Books and Manuscripts.
Research shows that even “good people,” those who make an earnest effort to make unbiased judgments and act only on their best intentions, still bear unconscious prejudices against certain social groups. In their book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald examine how membership in social groups can influence our deepest feelings about others based on such factors as age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality.
Five Harvard researchers have been awarded fellowships by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Sloan Research Fellowships recognize distinguished performance by early-career scientists and the researchers’ unique potential to make substantial contributions to their fields.
Three of the Harvard recipients have made works publicly available in DASH: Krzysztof Gajos, Assistant Professor of Computer Science; David T. Johnston, Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences; and Xi Yin, Assoicate Professor of Physics.
In 1848, railroad foreman Phineas Gage was packing explosive powder into a hole with an iron tamping rod. The powder ignited and the blast drove the rod–over three and a half feet in length–into the man’s cheek. It rammed through his brain and skull and then landed yards away. Miraculously, Gage survived.
However, according to the account of his physician, John Martyn Harlow, the man was no longer himself. Contrary to his previous character and demeanor, Gage appeared to Harlow to be “fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity.” He became “capricious and vacillating,” impertinent, and unwilling to take advice.
In their article, “Mapping Connectivity Damage in the Case of Phineas Gage,” Harvard Medical School Professor of Radiology Ron Kilkinis and his colleagues use modern neuroimaging techniques to take a fresh look at Gage’s case. Gage’s skull, along with the tamping iron responsible for his injury, can be found on display in the Warren Anatomical Museum of Harvard’s Countway Library of Medicine.
In their paper, “How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence From Project STAR,” Professors Raj Chetty and John Friedman report that students’ experiences in kindergarten and the first few grades significantly affect their financial future.
By matching up data from current federal tax returns with the results of a late 1980s study of over eleven thousand K-3 students, the researchers demonstrated that the quality of a student’s kindergarten classroom environment is “highly correlated” not only to earnings, but also to “college attendance rates, quality of college attended, home ownership, and 401(k) savings.” Further, they found that both poor and rich students enjoy a financial boost; the effects aren’t limited to those privileged to attend the best schools.
Profs. Chetty and Friedman looked at the aggregate effect of factors like class size, peer performance, and teacher quality on the students’ adult lives. While the available data did not allow them to examine each factor separately, the evidence strongly suggests that great teachers have the biggest impact of all.
Read more in a Gazette interview with the professors here. Raj Chetty is a Professor of Economics and recipient of a 2012 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. You can find a list of Prof. Chetty’s works in DASH here. John Friedman is an Assistant Professor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Find his works in DASH here.
David Simon’s HBO series The Wire dramatizes the lives of impoverished residents of the city of Baltimore, Maryland. As Ammol Chaddha and William Julius Wilson observe in their article, “Way Down in the Hole: Systemic Urban Inequality and The Wire,” the series critiques the widely-held notion that individuals are primarily responsible for their economic situations.
Over five seasons, The Wire examines crime and incarceration, gangs and street culture, joblessness and work, politics and urban policy, and education and youth. The series offers an alternative explanation of urban poverty, one supported by scholarship on inequality: “political, social, and economic factors reinforce each other to produce profound disadvantage for the urban poor,” disparities that “are reproduced across generations.” By presenting the lives and choices of individual characters, the show also demonstrates the ways in which “individuals’ decisions and behavior are often shaped by–and indeed limited by–social, political, and economic forces beyond their control.”
Anmol Chaddha is a doctoral student of sociology and social policy in the Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. William Julius Wilson is Lewis F. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. You can find a complete list of Prof. Wilson’s works in DASH here.