Nature of and Problems In Digital Humanities
Lisa Spiro, director of the Digital Media Center at Fondren Library, Rice University. May 9, 2008
In order to evaluate the feasibility of using electronic texts in scholarly work, Lisa Spiro conducted an informal survey of several major sources of electronic texts. In a blog post, she evaluated these resources with respect to several perceived issues with citing electronic sources.
Common issues with texts:
- Skewed or poorly scanned pages make reading and OCR difficult
- Missing metadata or lack of bibliographic information makes it necessary for scholars to search elsewhere for this information
- Restricted ability to download or view a work prevents analysis
- Frequent OCR errors make text analysis difficult or inaccurate
Beneficial features provided by some collections:
- Searchable text as well as image PDF--combines ease of reading with ease of analysis
- Full-color, high-quality scanning for ease of reading and conversion
- Providing access to HTML, XML, or plain-text versions makes analysis much easier
Spiro provides the following analysis of major online collections with respect to the six qualities she considers most important for online text resources:
- Quality of scanning: Google Books scans have some errors, but among a very large body of content. Open Content Alliance scans are higher quality, full color, available in various formats.
- Quality of text conversion: google Books doesn't provide text, Adobe OCR is error-prone. Early American Fiction, Making of America, and Project Gutenberg provide the most accurate texts, followed by Open Content Alliance and Google Books.
- Quality of metadata: GB metadata can be poor, especially for multi-volume works, but GB does provide page count, unique phrases, reviews, subject terms. Project Gutenberg provides only author, title, and, and subject; OCA, EAF and MOA provide complete metadata.
- Convenience: GB provides Zotero support, but scholars have to do text conversion themselves. Others (OCA, MOA) provide full-text access, but don't yet support Zotero.
- Reputation: GB has a relatively low rate of citation, being newer; OCA, MOA, Project Gutenberg are most frequently cited.
Spiro concludes that technological advancement is necessary to improve the quality of texts, and that scholars should make informed choices as to which repositories they use. Overall, the Open Content Alliance seems to do the best job of offering open access to a large collection of public works in different formats, but each repository has differing positive and negative qualities.
Don Waters, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 42, no. 5 (September/October 2007): 8-9.
In this article, Waters acknowledges the advancements in the availability of data for humanities and social science scholars, and argues for institutional infrastructure-building efforts to consider three broad areas of need:
- Aggregation for discovery and research
- Search for discovery is an important tool, but enabling more complex aggregation and combination of objects is important for supporting scholarly research and analysis.
- Enabling scholars to curate their personal data after the act of searching for it may lead to more rigorous and complete data preservation.
- Discipline-based informatics
- Infrastructures flexible enough to accommodate different disciplinary practices will be useful for scholars creating scholarly aggregations according to the standards of their disciplines.
- New publication emphases
- Building infrastructure for electronic peer review of both data and publications will encourage electronic publishing and help integrate formal and informal scholarly communication.
University of Oxford. 2006
This report documents a study conducted to scope the needs of humanities faculty at Oxford University. In addition to surveying faculty needs, presentations were made to demonstrate how faculty needs could be met, and analysis of the survey results led to recommendations for which tools and features to incorporate into a Virtual Research Environment for humanities faculty.
The intent of the researchers is for these findings to influence future development of a Virtual Research Environment and associated tools. By maintaining a relationship with the user base and encouraging enthusiasm at an early stage, researchers hope to engender a bottom-up approach to tool development.
The report recommends that the following tasks be supported by a virtual research environment:
- Research administration - provide notice of inter- and intra-institutional events, grants, funding opportunities, researchers, and research projects to promote interdisciplinary communications and research
- Resource discovery--interlink repositories, databases and data sets for greater convenience and learnability of search techniques
- Data creation, use and analysis--provide personal storage space for materials and tools to annotate, change and compare items
- Collaboration and communication--enable collaborative work on documents, real-time chat or videoconferencing, collaborative annotation to enable richer collaborative interactions
- Publication, curation and preservation--allow scholars to store and publish work either publicly or internally with assurance that documents will be preserved, to help scholars develop a personal electronic body of work or contribute to an institutional repository
The document represents the final report from a summit attended by scholars in different disciplines in the humanities and technologists to assess the state of development of digital tools for humanities research, as well as the effectiveness of the supporting and integrating cyberinfrastructure.
The discussion on the opportunities, needs and challenges associated with using and building digital tools for humanists provides Bamboo with more information on the issues humanists face with technology tools available to them.
Observed issues with scholarly use of electronic search resources:
- The material scholars want to query is usually spread across many different repositories
- Access to many resources is restricted to paid users or users on a certain network
- Scholars cannot base queries on document structure (such as documents encoded in TEI XML) with most current search tools
Characteristics of an 'ideal search tool' to consider:
- Work with the strengths of commercial search tools, rather than replace them
- Allow scholars to gather and create personal collections of resources, query within them, and share them with others to encourage a shared scholarly infrastructure
- Preserve and make searchable document metadata and structure
- Allow researchers to visualize results in different ways, to help discover patterns or generate new research questions
Other observations of note:
- The analytic, precise nature of GIS technology both offers humanists the potential to analyze and visualize historical data, but can also be at odds with the ambiguity and imprecision of that historical data.
- Rich multimedia representations of data help to attract public interest and foster collaboration.
- Collaboration with other scholars and technologists is often necessary to build tools which enable these representations.
- Two basic categories of tools enable these collaborations:
- Underlying, multipurpose technology tools which enable access to data, high-speed communication, or sophisticated data processing
- Tools customized to the project or collaboration, which evaluate data in unique ways and allow sophisticated control of structure, content and quality of research
Franco Moretti. Published 2005
This book, noted by several projects Bamboo has encountered in workshops and narratives, seeks to advance the discussion of literary theory by using tools developed by the natural and social sciences: namely, graphs (quantitative history), maps (geography) and trees (evolutionary theory). By using these tools, the author proposes that greater understanding of a text can be drawn from building an abstract model of it.
This sort of discovery, reuse and reimagining of tools designed for work in field other than a native scholar's specialization is one of the primary tasks Bamboo proposes to support. In an ideal vision of Bamboo, a literary scholar would be able to explore the work of others, see how scholars outside her field were using visualization techniques to build models of their data, connect the underlying activities those scholars to do the activities she does, and reuse the same tools they used to build a visual model of a text she is studying.
University of Minnesota. 2005
This report summarizes an investigation into the research needs of faculty and graduate students. From the results of surveys and interviews conducted among both faculty and graduate students, the report also lays out changes and recommendations suggested to the research environment at the University of Minnesota.
Key findings among faculty:
- Most researchers consider their work to be interdisciplinary by nature
- The majority of scholars consult and collect a wide array of primary research materials
- The organization and storage of collected print and electronic resources are idiosyncratic at best, haphazard at worst. There is a general desire for improved assistance or better methods/tools of resource organization for the individual scholar.
- There is little thought given to the longevity, preservation, or accessibility of accumulated research resources due to constraints on time, funding, storage space, and lack of expertise.
Faculty interviewees noted the following challenges to interdisciplinary work:
- Identifying diverse collections necessary for research
- Negotiating different evidentiary standards across disciplines
- Difficulty knowing which norms must to be fulfilled to be convincing in various fields
- Increasing difficulty defining one's scholarship in a single field---possible culture clash between or among disciplinary histories
- Knowing where to publish, and if journals outside one's immediate field will count for tenure and promotion
- Not knowing whom to ask for counsel when everyone in a department works in strikingly different areas
Faculty interviewees noted the following benefits of collaboration:
- Value of talking about research as it is being done, not just when it's finished
- Meeting and working with interesting colleagues from all over the world
- Building lasting relationships with other scholars; learning new things ("staying sharp")
- Doing different things from what one did at the start of one's career
- Providing opportunities for graduate students to experience all aspects of scholarship and publishing, and having the opportunity to work with the rising stars of the field
Key findings among graduate students:
- Graduate Students routinely use archives and archival materials for their major research projects.
- Graduate students lack general archival and library research skills and knowledge about archival research protocol
- Graduate students report not having stable, physical space to work and store materials.
- The majority of graduate students do some form of interdisciplinary research
- Few graduate students engage in collaborative research. Current computer systems do not support collaborative work.
- Graduate students report that their organizational methods and storage systems for their research materials are insufficient.
The research team developed a prototype collaborative research environment based on study findings. Prototype development began with identifying key tasks and proceeded to more generally define abstract scholarly tasks, refine ideas, and decide on a few key tools for future development with community input.
The benefits of such a tool are laid out as follows: "Discipline-specific virtual research communities would incorporate a rich combination of content, tools, and services, bringing together the building blocks of successful research. As a one-stop environment tailored to personal research habits, it would be is possible to discover resources in multiple fields, organize a project, analyze and synthesize materials, and share results."
The authors list these keys tasks to address or consider in the design of virtual research communities:
- Create improved ways to find/identify research materials, address the obscurity/specificity of research topics, the lack of obvious sources, and the need for archival materials
- Make acquisition of desired content easier through federated search or other technological solutions
- Help scholars keep up with current research and events in their field(s)
- Enable greater organization of resources and materials scholars collect
- Develop collaborative tools to bridge the distance between scholars, provide a means of collaborative research, communication tools, file sharing, etc.
The report goes on to list these technological components to incorporate in developing a virtual research environment:
- Component flexibility and customization--enable customized, discipline-specific content and tools for users to choose from
- Architectural interoperability--choose technologies which enable information transfer, sharing and rights management between institutions as well as departments
- Social networking--leverage the knowledge and expertise of users by incorporating participatory, social technologies such as folksonomic tagging
These investigations led to the emergence of a 'Gathering Tool' as the central tool identified as being highly useful and desirable. This tool would allow scholars to find, store and share research materials as a 'Flickr-type' scholarly object collection. Items could be collaboratively tagged, and personal collections would inform a broad information environment, helping to suggest materials to other scholars.
The report makes clear that this sort of tool would be one part of a proposed 'Scholar's Collective', which "would address the dual challenge of creating useful tools for humanities scholarship, while simultaneously creating capacity for collaboration." The proposal additionally calls for the incentivisation of creation of new tools through research partnerships.
Carleton College, August 2008
This study combines several case studies and surveys conducted at Carleton college to evaluate the use of visual materials and media in a curricular setting. The focus of implications and recommendations was to evaluate existing support resources and recommend new approaches for curricular support specifically around the use of visual materials.
- The large majority of faculty assign students to interpret, create, or present visual materials, and to express ideas visually
- Larger time commitment from fraculty and students is the chief barrier to requiring students to express ideas visually
- Three-quarters of faculty would like additional support for curricular uses of visual materials
- Students most often seek assignment support from other classmates or professors
Key recommendations to consider in developing support infrastructure for students and teaching faculty:
- Integrate student support with existing student work spaces and work patterns, to encourage students to use support resources
- Fine-tune student support resources to target different class years and needs of specific courses, as different groups of students need different kinds of resources
- Provide tools and infrastructure for teaching faculty to discuss assignments and curriculum
- Identify and advertise existing support services to faculty and students; i.e. encourage discovery of existing support tools
- "Coordinate curricular support efforts that span academic departments and support units" to avoid duplication of effort and develop more consistent support efforts in all departments
Peter Monaghan, The Chronicle of Higher Education. July 31, 2008
This article highlights new tools released by Microsoft that are targeted at improving the creation, publication, and sharing of academic articles. These tools integrate with existing Microsoft Office products to add an additional layer of customization to help scholars produce and publish their work.
The article points out these key features and benefits of the new tools:
- Article Authoring Add-on for Microsoft Word
- Allows document structuring and formatting according within major academic publication formats.
- Allows scholars to develop new formats and document templates.
- Enables documents to be converted into different formats for preservation
- Creative Commons Add-In for Office 2007
- Embeds licensing and copyright information in Microsoft Office documents for more transparency in copyright and licensing information
The Chronicle of Higher Education - The Wired Campus. April 29, 2008
This interview with Eszter Hargittai points out the relative lack of technical knowledge that the average undergraduate student actually has regarding web technologies. Hargittai asserts that we have largely been assuming the younger generation's innate knowledge of technology, but that they lack much of the basic understanding of how to use and understand new web technologies. Hargittai notes that technical knowledge is highly variable based on a student's socioeconomic status, as one important influence on why this is the case. Additionally, she notes that while students may use cutting-edge web services, they are usually unfamilliar with the underlying technologies, such as RSS. Students lack formal digital research skills as well: "Students have been told Wikipedia isn't reliable, but they haven't been told why exactly." If students turn out to lack the technical savvy that has been ascribed to them, the burden of teaching basic technical skills may fall on professors who themselves lack technical training.
Christine L. Borgman. October 2007
Note: This is a textbook with limited online access
This book explores the effects technology and information infrastructure has brought to scholarly practice, closely analyzes the roles of data and information infrastructure in every aspect of scholarship, and lays out the importance of further infrastructure development as well as ideas for what features will be of greatest benefit to scholars.
- The increasingly important role of electronic tools, content and infrastructure in scholarly practice.
- Information infrastructure in society and its effects on scholarly information infrastructure, including current national and international scholarly infrastructure initiatives.
- Information theory, policy, and organization as it applies to scholarly information infrastructure.
- An overview of the many forms and functions of scholarly communication, and how they have adapted to use new technologies, including authorship, peer review and quality control, information dissemination and preservation.
- The state of scholarly publishing as it experiences a discontinuity between traditional publishing values and electronic publishing values. Stakeholder roles are changing, infrastructure is changing, and new publications forms introduce new benefits and drawbacks to publishing.
- The broad roles of data in scholarship; data sources, sharing and interpretation in research, legitimization and dissemination of data through scholarly communication, access and curation of data, intellectual property policy and data access.
- "Social, behavioral and policy contexts of data and documents"
- The roles of and practices around artifacts, documents and data in varying disciplines, including sciences, social sciences and humanities.
- Goals for the future of scholarly infrastructure: integrating content and context, balancing personal, local and global repositories, separating content, services and tools, ensuring control over and trust in content.
MINDS@UW. October 25, 2007
This report documents an inquiry by the University of Wisconsin at Madison's Department of Information Technology to assess the state of digital asset management in their institution. As the volume of digital scholarship and content increases, they reason, lack of proper IT support can lead to risk of loss for digital scholarly assets.
The issues encountered and their proposed solutions are of particular relevance to Bamboo. Understanding these issues and the reasons for the soultions proposed by the report can help Bamboo to develop infrastructure which enables scholars to manage their digital identities and communicate to discover new tools and technologies.
Issues and proposed solutions:
- Transfer to digital resource management causes loss of curatorship and threatens the preservation of institutional memory.
- Solution: Promote open access and the open data movement to encourage more digital curatorship.
- Adoption of solutions "depends upon the implementation of trusted, comprehensive, interfederated identity management and access control."
- Solution: Adopt open, standards-based identity management and access control mechanisms that support interfederation of credentials and access control policies.
- Scholars view current tools as disassociated from their workflow and outside of their control.
- Solution: Realign focus along simplicity of use and supporting current work rather than introducing new work. Develop solutions that directly address disciplinary needs.
- Technical knowledge varies wildly between and even within departments; scholars need greater support for collaborative projects
- Solution: Provide liaison functions for cross-discipline and cross-institutional communication networks
Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley
Diane Harley, Jonathan Henke, Shannon Lawrence, Ian Miller, Irene Perciali, David Nasatir, Charis Kaskiris and Cara Bautista
This report combines:
- A survey of digital resources available in the humanities and social sciences
- A review of the role of user research in studying the use of digital resources in the humanities and social sciences
- The results of faculty surveys and discussion with regard to their use of digital resources
- The results of discussions with digital resource providers regarding the role of user research
Findings among faculty regarding digital resource use, from interviews and surveys:
- Key factors encouraging digital resource use in teaching: Improves learning, integration of primary sources, providing context for topics, gets students excited
- Key factors discouraging digital resource use in teaching: Poor substitute for current teaching methods, time investment, distraction from core goals of teaching, students copying from web
- Key barriers to use: no access to resources in classrooms, distribution of resources makes organization difficult, overwhelmed with number of resources, hard to assess credibility
- Greatest areas of need for support: Setting up technical infrastructure, creating websites, digitizing physical resources, learning how to use learning management system, finding, collecting, organizing and maintaining digital materials
- Most faculty maintain a personal digital collection
The report lists these findings from interviews with digital resource providers regarding their structure, management, and user data gathering and research policies:
- All sites interviewed have some form of open access
- Most digital resource providers report using personal contacts as a primary tool for reaching new markets
- About half of all interviewees reported that current funding was not sustainable, looking for new economic models
- User research among digital resource providers can rely on extremely biased samples
- The degree to which user research and gathered user data informs the ongoing strategy was not clear for most digital resource providers
Finally, the report draws these conclusions to consider when integrating user research into digital tool development for the humanitites:
- Develop tools for what faculty do, rather than trying to replace current pedagogical approaches
- Help faculty build new resource aggregations and collections of interoperable tools to support their changing needs
- Leverage the value of the personal collections that the majority of faculty develop over time
- Work toward better communication and standards among resource providers to gather more and better user data and apply it to supporting digital resources
International Conference on Digital Libraries, Proceedings of the 4th ACM/IEEE-CS joint conference on Digital libraries. 2004
This report documents the creation of a geospatial digital library for use in undergraduate geography courses. In doing so, it was discovered that understanding how professors prepare for their classes could have major implications for the design of the library.
- Professors both actively and passively search for new course material, typical of both research/teaching and mutually reinforcing (teaching materials inform research and vice-versa)
- Searching within one's own locally-stored collection is a common activity
- Maps and images, including their associated metadata, are a common resource
According to the report, these findings have the following design implications which should be considered when building digital library resources and tools:
- Include the ability for scholars to create their own personal digital libraries or collections
- Organize map and image resources and search functions by concept as well as by the physical place they document
- Construct the digital library as a shared space for scholars so as to encourage sharing between individuals' collections
- Enable tools which allow sophisticated manipulation (resizing, clipping, etc.) and annotation of images and maps
University of California, Los Angeles. February, 2005
This article describes one professor's efforts to encourage student engagement and creative thinking by creating a multimedia online representation of Berlin's history. Using rich multimedia course materials to structure a new history course, he encouraged students' exploration of course material and contribution to the project itself.
This case study demonstrates collaboration around a digital tool in a teaching context; students were able to create online profiles for themselves, do research using the tool, and contribute back by annotating the sources and maps with their discoveries.
Scholarly Communication and the Library
Center for Studies in Higher Education (CHSE). Ongoing
This interim report documents the ongoing efforts of a UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education project to understand faculty needs around archival publication and scholarly communication during research.
The report documents the following observations regarding faculty values and behaviors, "such as sharing, collaborating, publishing, and engaging with the public," important to an understanding of "how and why scholars do what they do to advance their fields":
- Researchers made the decision to focus more on disciplines with greater needs centered around limited resources (astrophysics, biology, music) to discover how institutions are implementing new scholarly communication models.
- Some humanities departments are becoming more open to multimedia work as opposed to traditional publishing. This work must still be seen as rigorously peer-reviewed and is usually not part of tenure cases.
- Scholars note that stature and selectivity of publication venue is the most important quality when choosing a publication medium. No scholars indicated the existence of any easy-to-use tools for publishing multimedia monographs and articles. This is particularly pertinent with respect to Bamboo's focus on tool-discovery and usability.
- Personal websites and listservs were noted as important communication tools, blogs tend to be seen as non-scholarly in their lack of peer review.
- Collaboration is common and usually multi-disciplinary, most collaboration outside the sciences occurs by emailing documents back and forth and tracking changes. This is relevant with regard to Bamboo's focus on tool-discovery and usability.
- Sharing information on in-progress research is more common in the humanities and social sciences, but is usually not done until the project or deliverable is in a fairly polished state. This point in particular can influence an understanding of how and when to encourage scholars to share project information.
Association of Research Libraries, 2008
(Summary quoted from report by Arno Bosse)
The report is a survey (based on interviews with faculty) of new forms of networked digital scholarship (such as Open Access e-journals, blogs and discussion forums) that are either emerging or already in active use alongside traditional scholarly monographs and journals.
The final report identified eight principal types of digital scholarly resources:
- E-only journals,
- Preprints and working papers,
- Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and annotated,
- Content data,
- Discussion forums, and
- Professional and scholarly hubs.
This report then profiled each of these eight types of resources, including discussion of how and why the faculty members reported using the resources for their work, how content is selected for the site, and what sustainability strategies the resources are employing.
The report notes these findings to consider regarding digital scholarly resources:
- E-only journals which operate under similar editing and peer-review structures to traditional journals were the most-cited scholarly resource among all disciplines.
- Scholars in the humanities and social sciences were much more likely to appreciate resources that facilitate informal exchanges between researchers (discussion forums, blogs).
- Digital innovations are taking place in all disciplines and new technologies are being adapted to specific disciplines; more innovation tends to take place in the sciences, however.
- Many of the most popular, robust resources are also the oldest, since it takes time to attract good content and a dedicated audience
- Many digital publications are focused on small, niche audiences
- New types of data mashups and multimedia publishing are emerging due to the popularization of Web 2.0 technology
- To attract scholars, digital publications are working to establish credibility and tight quality control.
- Establishing financial sustainability is a universal challenge for digital scholarly resources, especially when adopting open-access models
Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). November 2007
This report summarizes a meeting held by the Scholarly Communications Committee of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) to discuss how changes in scholarly communication affect the various stakeholders involved, including libraries and parent institutions. The discussion was broken into several themes, some of which are of particular interest in the context of Bamboo.
The report notes these challenges and opportunities in scholarly communication:
- In virtual collaboration across departments or institutions, little is done to disseminate, document or archive the output of a collaborative group. Both libraries and institutions themselves have opportunities and interests in doing so, both to assist scholarly groups and build global partnerships.
- "Current means to match up scholars to each other and to tools and methods are ineffective." This problem is explicitly the issue which the Bamboo Commons proposes to address. The report specifically suggests that librarians can be effective in monitoring the ongoing evolution of tools and help to adapt existing tools to scholarly needs.
- Libraries may also have an interest in collecting specifically the informal information surrounding research projects and scholarship, preserving a record of communications and communication networks. Bamboo seeks to build and facilitate these networks, perhaps providing the opportunity to capture this information through the service platform.
The main focus of the report is on identifying research opportunities around many aspects of scholarly communication, but many of the recommendations can also be applied to projects building tools, services and infrastructure. The report gives these specific recommendations which apply well to projects seeking to improve scholarly communication:
- Provide institutions ways of documenting and sharing information about their investments in and management of cyberinfrastructure
- Help facilitate the use of new authoring formats--Bamboo proposes the Commons as a means to help scholars discover new tools and how others are using them, including new forms of electronic publishing (blogs, wikis, etc.).
- Help institutions investigate how to integrate digital scholarship more fully into the promotion and tenure process.
- Investigate metrics other than citation analysis to determine the value of scholarship and scholarly output--this may have an influences on tenure processes and help promote electronic publication and distribution
Catherine H. Candee, Lynne Withey, University of California Systemwide Library and Scholarly Information Committee (SLASIAC). October 2007
This report was drawn from a survey of faculty and institutional attitudes toward academic publishing at the 10 University of California campuses.
- "Junior faculty are beginning to struggle to get the book contracts they need for tenure and promotion; faculty working in innovative fields or on non-traditional projects are constrained by a publishing model that cannot serve their needs; and campus resources are increasingly compromised by the commercial publishing culture."
- Opportunities in the arts and humanities diminishing most quickly--nontraditional publication also has the strongest participation
The report's findings lay out the key issues to be understood, as well as making a number of recommendations, directed at the University, which are meant to encourage changes in the university publishing system. These issues broaden the understanding of the state of publishing within a university system, with administration and disciplinary groups as the key stakeholders, rather than the state of publishing within a particular discipline.
Issues and proposed solutions to be considered
- Individual faculty have not been greatly affected at a personal level and so maintain the status quo.
- Present the current problems and opportunities of new publishing models at a very personal level to engender excitement among faculty and encourage change
- Individual faculty cannot risk their academic lives to fight the commercialization of publishing
- Encourage the university to act on behalf of scholars to introduce changes and promote new publishing models
- A significant minority of faculty are engaged in experimental, non-traditional publishing, which puts the burden of work on the scholar, brings in no revenue, and frustrates faculty with the lack of recognition in tenure review
- Create systems which support alternative publishing, including: "selection criteria, editorial and technical development, criteria for determining if the project will be sold or made available on an open access basis, marketing and sales strategies, and maintenance and preservation."
- Introduce publishing support for scholars
- Encourage discussion around nontraditional publishing and its role in tenure.
Laura Brown, Rebecca Griffiths, Matthew Rascoff
This report presents an analysis of the current state of academic publishing, predictions of future changes within academic publishing, and recommendations for administrators, librarians and presses. The authors support in particular the idea of building a shared electronic publishing infrastructure and the creation of stronger links between university presses, library resources, and university administration.
- Make the case that universities should become more actively involved in publishing scholarship
- Galvanize action and investment to support revitalization of university publishing
- Explore challenges and opportunities unique to university presses
- Start a conversation around collective investment in a technological platform to support innovation in university publishing
Current challenges and motivations behind the report:
- Scholars' use of information is moving online; publishing should support scholarly behavioral change
- Drive to understand and innovate around new electronic publishing models
- Commercial publishing is increasingly turning to consolidation to maintain revenue, smaller publishers and market diversity threatened
- Financial stability and necessity of university presses is coming into question
Based on research and scholarly feedback, the report has these predictions for what future scholarly publishing should deliver:
- Electronic accessibility of all published content to support scholars' move to online information access
- Electronic platforms and tools for research and publishing
- Delivery of multimedia content, as scholars wish to include multimedia content in their research and teaching
- New pricing structures and access models to enable a broader continuum of access (between tight subscription-based models and open access models)
The report has these recommendations for universities with regard to revitalizing university publishing, some of which are directly applicable to the development of electronic tools and infrastructure to support scholarly publishing (quoted from report):
- Recognize that publishing is an integral part of the core mission and activities of universities, and take ownership of it.
- Take inventory of the landscape of publishing activities currently taking place within your university.
- Develop a strategic approach to publishing on your campus, including what publication services should be provided to your constituents, how they should be provided and funded, how publishing should relate to tenure decisions, and a position on intellectual assets.
- Create the organizational structure necessary to implement this strategy and leverage the resources of the university.
- Consider the importance of publishing towards an institution's reputation, especially when associated with core academic strengths.
- Develop online publishing capabilities for backlist and frontlist content and for new emerging formats.
- Develop a shared electronic publishing infrastructure across universities to save costs, create scale, leverage expertise, innovate, extend the brand of U.S. higher education, create an interlinked environment of information, and provide a robust alternative to commercial competitors.
- Commit resources to deliver an agreed strategic plan for scholarly communication.
Lawrence McGill, Rice University Press. September 21, 2006
In order to assess the state of art history publishing, this report was compiled from interviews with art history scholars and publishers, as well as publishers' data regarding trends in art history publishing.
Research questions (quoted from report)
- Understand how scholarly publishing in art history has changed during the past 20 years.
- Understand how the size and scope of art history and related fields have changed over the past 20 years.
- Assess current opportunities for art historians to publish monographs (especially first books).
- Assess the implications of changing publishing opportunities for the credentialing and professional development of younger scholars in art history.
- Assess the impact of rising permissions costs on opportunities to publish in art history.
- Assess the potential of other outlets (including e-publishing, museum publications and journals) for monographic scholarship in art and architectural history.
Findings and key challenges to understand regarding publishing in History of Art and Architecture
- The high cost of printing images has hit art history publishing especially hard
- Publishing is changing; fewer books are being purchased, wider audiences are being targeted
- Scholars face a conflict between specialization to demonstrate scholarly competence vs. the breadth of appeal that publishers demand
- Publishing single-author monographs is important for newer faculty seeking tenure, but aren't being purchased by libraries
- Some question whether publishing single-author monographs should remain the standard for tenure cases
- Electronic publication currently seems best for dissertations, books which would have small print runs
- Value/prestige of publishing a physical artifact vs. an electronic document is still an important difference
Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 56, no. 11:1140-1153.
Carole L. Palmer
This article covers the growing development and usage of digital tools and repositories by individual scholars to support their research, either alongside or in place of major institutional repositories. The author argues that these tools support complex and varied methods of research and provide an important alternative to tools which only support some subset of common uses.
To bridge the gap between large digital collections focused on a broad user base and highly specialized tools and collections gathered by individual scholars, the author supports the concept of the 'metaindexical' to provide a system in which to accumulate and store diverse knowledge in a way which "supports the generation of new knowledge." Essentially, this system focuses on building links between smaller sets of specialized resources which may be curated by individual scholars but together "combine access resources to cover the range of activities practiced by a given research community."
*The e-Framework for Education and Research is an international initiative that provides information to institutions on investing in and using information technology infrastructure. It advocates service-oriented approaches to facilitate technical interoperability of core infrastructure as well as effective use of available funding.
"The primary goal of the e-Framework is to facilitate technical interoperability within and across education and research through improved strategic planning and implementation processes. The e-Framework is a collaborative effort that recognizes greater coherence in development is needed and thus aims to provide an overview of current development and experiences in services-oriented approaches."
The e-Framework provides information about services, standards and service compositions to provide a picture of current implementations, good practices and guidance.
David Green & Michael Roy, Educause, July/August 2008
This article, on the heels of several notable papers on cyberinfrastructure and its role in the liberal arts, summarizes further work done around building cyberinfrastructure and suggest further steps that can be taken to move institutional work forward.
The article mentions a number of key issues and challenges facing the development of cyberscholarship, and offers the following recommendations for those developing electronic tools and infrastructure based on current research and projects underway:
- Traditional humanities research and publication is seen as individual, not collaborative.
- Develop of new easy-to-use tools which allow scholars to collaborate or to respond to the large amount of available data, thus encouraging a more collaborative view of scholarship.
- There is an increasing gap between scholastic imperative of printed publication and its increasing economic infeasibility.
- Develop electronic publication and dissemination tools to encourage new media scholarship among institutions and departments
- A first requirement for cyberinfrastructure is simply making digital content available
- Make as much digitized, cataloged, interoperable, accessible content as possible available such that scholars need not build their own nonstandard repositories.
- There are two main potential approaches to cyberscholarship discovery and analysis: data-driven and algorithmic search, sorting and categorization, or semantic-driven approaches
- Develop and refine working semantic solutions to content discovery through social networking and collaboration tools like Zotero, helping scholars discover the work and associated content of those in their social web.
- Cyberscholarship projects require 'villages' of specialists to staff them
- Enable a networked, collaborative approach to scholarship and authorship; this can help solve the problem of how to staff cyberscholarship projects with the broad combination of faculty, technology specialists, designers, and other staff necessary.
- Input from a broad range of institutions seems to be necessary to advance cyberscholarship
- Open the discussion around standards and tool development to institutions who have not developed software or had a say in the past to help advance digital scholarship as a whole.
ECAR: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research
Harvey Blustain, Sandra Braman, Richard N. Katz, Gail Salaway
This report's findings document the current and potential future involvement of IT in academic research, which is increasingly computational and data-intensive. Findings are drawn from literature review, interviews and case studies.
- How had data-intensive research evolved?
- How do IT professionals in higher education see the research landscape?
- What investments are institutions making in IT research infrastructure?
- How are IT organizations staffed to support research?
- How are research support services distributed across central and local IT organizations?
- How are IT organizations adapting to the changing needs of researchers and research technologies?
- Significant increases in the need for computational, networking, and data storage needs are expected over the next three years
- There is expectation of significant growth in data-intensive research in arts and humanities
- Data storage is the fastest-growing infrastructure component, expects the greatest increase in funding
- Central IT organizations have very few (56% of departments have less than 1 FTE) dedicated staff for research support
- More funding for high-performance networking and operations, less for applications/tools, IT support
San Diego Supercomputer Center. May 12, 2005
The report focuses not only how how the development of cyberinfrastructure will impact the lives of social and behavioral science researchers, but on how these researchers and technology professionals need to work in tandem to develop new cyberinfrastructure and interfaces to it. In developing cyberinfrastructure, social and behavioral science researchers can contribute to the understanding of the social impacts of the technology while technical research staff can describe the technical possibilities.
The report has the following suggestions for increasing the role of social sciences scholars in cyberinfrastructure development:
- Social and behavioral scientists' knowledge of human-computer interaction can be useful in helping to design and build cyberinfrastructure systems.
- Social science scholars can help to study malicious human behavior in cyberinfrastructure systems and to clarify the rights and responsibilities of its use.
- Sociology and economics research can help to determine better models of research allocation and incentive to encourage efficiency and effective sharing in cyberinfrastrucutre usage.
- Provide greater support for predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows to attract new talent to cyberinfrastructure projects.
The report suggests that the following technologies should be targeted for social science research:
- Portals and accessible user environments--can be used to provide access to a broad range of data
- Instrumenting technology for data collection--there is growing interest in instrumenting cell phones, PDA, etc. for data collection, as well as an increasing need to perform larger web-based surveys at low cost.
- Coding, managing, extracting meaning from multimedia data--research is moving beyond text to include audio and video data, so develop tools and infrastructure that process these files as well as manage and code the resulting data.
Hosted by the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University and the Maryland Institute for Technology and the Humanities. 2008.
(summary quoted from report by Arno Bosse)
The purpose of this workshop was to build on the work of the 2005 Summit on Digital Tools for the Humanities. At the outset of the workshop, the organizers condensed the current challenges facing tool makers into three general areas:
Issues facing potential users and developers of digital tools:
- Most tools built do not have the potential to connect to or interoperate with any other tools.
- Collections of content also largely lack methods for communication with tools
- Scholars not directly involved with tool creation usually don't use any of the applications at their disposal
- Tool visibility is low; scholars cannot find tools to suit particular needs
- Distinction between tools and content--should tools stand alone or be integrated with a specific collection?
- Lack of guidance for finding skilled staff to work on tool development, and making the project accesible for participants
- Lack of guidance for managing the development process results in inefficiency
According to the report, in developing cyberinfrastructure around digital tools for humanities research, one should think about ways to:
- Promote discovery of new tools and encourage reuse
- Embed or integrate tools with prominent sources of humanities content to encourage use among all scholars
- Encourage open standards and interoperability of tools
- Build a tool development infrastructure, which provides a humanities-focused sophisticated development environment to help tool builders manage tool development and encourage standardization.
- Develop and curate a repository of tools which allows for community review, submission, and publication of tools.
- Incentivize tool development. Increasing the recognition scholars recieve for developing useful tools, perhaps through formal peer review, could increase confidence in the tools themselves and encourage further tool development and 'publication'.
Project Bamboo aims to address the ongoing challenges identified by workshop participants as major issues for tool builders. By creating a service platform, Bamboo hopes to create an infrastructure by which individuals can begin to build interoperable tools which can be used separately or in combination. Bamboo also aims to link together a broad range of tools and content, allowing scholars to access new content through new tools and enabling tool builders to "connect better with content and use that content in a more robust way." And by encouraging scholarly community and social networking, Bamboo hopes to connect the right audiences with the right tools.
Future Scholarly Practices
Ryan Randall, Jane Smith, Katie Clark, Nancy Fried Foster. September 17, 2008.
This document reports on a user research study conducted among graduate students in order to inform the design of a suite of authoring tools to be integrated into an institutional repository. By conducting interviews with graduate students in the humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences, the authors developed the following design goals for the authoring environment:
- Integrate authoring, search, and publishing tools
- Help graduate students share work online
- Help graduate students move works seamlessly from authoring environment to institutional repository
- Enhance findability of documents through creation of metadata during authoring
- Find greater readership for graduate dissertations
User research findings:
- Graduate students are acutely aware of their need to broaden their knowledge and connect with other scholars for assistance
- Collaboration on papers and sharing work widely via technology is important to graduate students
- Barriers to technology adoption include time investment of learning and relearning, converting from other systems, interfaces not user-friendly, fear of technology failure
- Work processes change frequently during projects and over the course of a graduate student's career
The report authors suggest these implications for the design of authoring tools:
- Ways to manage drafts or versions of files
- Ways to sync files between multiple computers for backup purposes
- Ways to share work with other scholars or grad students for collaboration or feedback
- Ways to easily create backups or backup reminders, and to backup files from any computer to a secure location
- Enable easy ways to print documents or to coordinate paper and electronic versions of documents, as many prefer to edit paper copies
- Help graduate students convert a work into different final products (journal article, conference presentation, etc.)
- Allow for different publishing styles (chapter-by-chapter publishing, online dissemination, monograph publishing)
- Enable online repository use to help others discover works
- Include tools for annotating and organizing notes, readings and research materials
Margaret Henty. Adriadne, Issue 55, April 2008.
This report documents a survey of Australian researchers and IT staff involved with activities focused on eResearch practice, infrastructure and support.
- List of necessary technical skills for eResearch is long and varied -- includes data management, information modelling, software engineering, informatics
- Key non-technical skills include problem solving, knowledge of copyright/intellectual property issues, project management
- Bridging the communication gaps between technical and non-technical team members is a key issue
- Assembling team members with all of these necessary skills is a major barrier to eResearch projects
- In the future, more researchers will be 'digital natives' with higher technical proficiency, so finding skilled team members may be an issue that resolves itself
Recommendations for developing tools and infrastructure to support eResearch
- Develop sophisticated tools for data management (locating, evaluating & using data) to support the generational change among scholars to greater technical proficiency
- Deliver on-the-job training and support in new, accessible ways, especially at the beginning of research projects
- Investigate formal training and certification programs around eReseach to help potential project members assert their qualifications