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Posts by Jennifer Howard

December 16, 2009, 02:29 PM ET

Give a Humanist a Supercomputer ...

... and you'll be surprised what he or she can do with it. That's what the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Department of Energy figured. Last year, they staged a competition for "computationally intensive" humanities projects that would draw on the DOE's High Performance Computing (HPC) resources at Nersc, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Was the gamble worth it? Yes, to judge by the results on display at the Coalition for Networked Information membership meeting, held in Washington, D.C., this week. Several scholars involved in the HPC competition reported on their supercomputing experiences. Among them were Gregory Crane, editor in chief of the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University, and David Bamman, a computational linguist with the project, which has been experimenting with computer-enhanced ways...

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December 15, 2009, 11:23 AM ET

The All-Digital Library? Not Quite Yet

Washington, D.C.—Don't de-accession those print materials yet. The digital research library is not quite ready for prime time, according to Lisa Spiro, director of the Digital Media Center at Rice University, and Geneva Henry, executive director of Rice's Center for Digital Scholarship.

At a session of the membership meeting of the Coalition for Networked Information, held here yesterday and today, Ms. Spiro and Ms. Henry talked about research they have done into how close we are to all-digital (or even mostly digital) research libraries. To find out, they did case studies of several libraries founded since 2000, including facilities at the University of California at Merced, Olin College, Soka University of America, California State University-Channel Islands, and New York University's Abu Dhabi campus.

Signs of the digital shift are everywhere. E-resources expenditures "are only...

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December 4, 2009, 02:03 PM ET

A 'New Digital Class' Digs Into Data

Fifty-three thousand 18th-century letters. Twenty-three thousand hours of digitized world music. The records of more than 197,000 individual trials held in Britain over 240 years. What can humanities scholars and social scientists do with such large tracts of raw material? This year the Digging Into Data Challenge invited research teams to submit proposals for big-scale, computer-enabled "cyberscholarship" or "data-driven inquiry."

On Thursday the National Endowment for the Humanities, one of the challenge's sponsors, announced that the first Digging Into Data grants have gone to eight international (mostly trans-Atlantic) teams. Other sponsors include the National Science Foundation, the Joint Information Systems Committee in Britain, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada.

So a team of scholars from Stanford University, the University of Oklahoma, and the...

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November 10, 2009, 02:56 PM ET

Working on the Chain Gang

Meet the latest acronym in the world of digital humanities: Chain, the Coalition of Humanities and Arts Infrastructures and Networks. Born at a meeting at King's College, London, in late October, Chain brings together eight digital-technology undertakings, several based in Europe (e.g., Dariah, or Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities) and a few stateside (e.g., Project Bamboo).The idea behind Chain, the organizers said, is to overcome "the current fragmented environment where researchers operate in separate areas with often mutually incompatible technologies."

No more "working on the highways and byways and wearing, wearing a frown," as Sam Cooke would say. Chain's goal is to "create a shared environment where technology services can inter-operate and be sustained, thus enabling new forms of research in the humanities."


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October 28, 2009, 10:00 AM ET

Columbia and Cornell Libraries Announce 'Radical' Partnership

Collaboration is old news. "Radical collaboration" is the way of the future. That's the idea behind a new partnership announced by the libraries at Columbia University and Cornell University.

Called 2CUL (pronounced "too cool") after the partners' acronyms, the project will first focus on how the libraries can jointly transform their operations (and save money) in three areas: managing electronic resources and other nuts-and-bolts library work, building global-collecting capabilities, and creating a digital-preservation infrastructure. Those "mass-production activities" will require developing a shared library-management system "in which we would both be able to see and work seamlessly," said James G. Neal. Mr. Neal is vice president for information services and university librarian at Columbia.

Although it is in no way a merger, the venture will require Mr. Neal to work hand in glove ...

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October 16, 2009, 02:00 PM ET

Special Collections as Laboratories

Washington--Don't lock your special collections away in neglected corners of the library -- use them to teach students about the possibilities and principles of research. Such collections should be put to use as laboratories where students work hands-on with primary documents, incorporate them into original research projects, and even publish the results in institutional repositories.

Panelists at a session on "An Age of Discovery: Special Collections in the Digital Age" -- part of the Coalition for Networked Information's fall forum, co-hosted by the Association of Research Libraries -- laid out case studies of what can happen when you turn undergraduates loose in special collections. Barbara Rockenbach, director of undergraduate and library education at Yale University Library, described how students in an urban-studies course, "The Mediated City," created annotated digital city...

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October 15, 2009, 03:21 PM ET

Open Access to Research Is Inevitable, Libraries Are Told

WASHINGTON, D.C. Public access to research is "inevitable," but it will be a slog to get to it. That was the takeaway message of a panel on the role libraries can play in supporting current and future public-access moves. The panel was part of the program at the membership meeting of the Association of Research Libraries, held here yesterday and today.

"I now believe that having public access to most scholarly communications is inevitable," said David Shulenburger, vice president for academic affairs at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. "Faculty are coming to understand, finally, that this has to happen if they're going to have the most scholarly opportunities to get things done."

Still, many scholars need the hard sell from colleagues and librarians about the benefits of open access. Lorraine J. Haricombe, dean of the University of Kansas Libraries, described the ...

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October 8, 2009, 04:30 PM ET

New Guide Describes Models for Open-Access Journals

Want to take your scholarly journal open access but confused about how to pay for it? The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, or Sparc, has just posted a guide to "Income Models for Supporting Open Access."

Written by publishing consultant Raym Crow, the guide looks at both supply-side and demand-side income models that include article processing fees, internal and external subsidies, and "contextual e-commerce" approaches. It gives examples of journals that fall into each category, and allows users to share their experiences with open-access journal publishing.

"These resources will be a useful tool both for publishers exploring new potential sources of income and for libraries weighing where to direct meager library funds," Sparc says.

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October 7, 2009, 12:00 PM ET

Why the FTC's New Rules for Bloggers Could Hurt Publishers, Too

At least one university press does not like the Federal Trade Commission's new guidelines governing "endorsements and testimonials." Laura Sell, a senior publicist for Duke University Press, wrote on the press's blog that the new rules "will have a chilling effect on the online book-reviewing community" -- a community that publishers rely on more and more as print review outlets fade away.

The FTC guidelines now say that "the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service." If they don't, they risk substantial fines. The worry among publishers and reviewers is that "in-kind payment" could include review copies of books. 

"We send these books with the hope of a positive review, but with no agreement...

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September 21, 2009, 02:00 PM ET

Archive Watch: Good Samaritans

The Samaritans of biblical fame still exist, although their numbers are small: The current community, split between Holon, Israel, and Mount Gerizim in the West Bank, numbers just over 700 people. In 1901, a Michigan industrialist named E.K. Warren traveled to the Middle East and was asked to bring home a collection of sacred Samaritan objects for safekeeping. The objects include prayer books and centuries-old versions of the Samaritan Pentateuch, or Torah, which has some significant differences from the Jewish Pentateuch. The collection has been housed ever since at Michigan State University.

In 2007, as a graduate student at Michigan State, James Ridolfo came across an electronic index to the collection. He got in touch with a Samaritan elder, Binyamin Tsedaka, who had been asking Michigan State to “promote Samaritan studies.”  Working with William Hart-Davidson, co-director of...

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