Intersections of Digital Humanities and Digital Social Sciences

With the increasing interdisciplinary nature of much research and the blurring of the boundaries between subject areas, perhaps the term “digital scholarship” is often more appropriately used than the narrower terms “digital humanities”, “digital social sciences” and “digital science” (sometimes used synonymously with “e-science”). In a recent posting “Defining Digital Social Sciences” in dh+lib Lisa Spiro (Rice University) discusses the first two of these subject areas, “digital humanities” and “digital social sciences”, pointing out that while there exist a distinct separateness between them, there are also some significant points of intersection. She acknowledges that both terms are rather fuzzy and do not easily lend themselves to clear definition. This is perhaps particularly so for the “digital social sciences”. Still, she advocates that scholars in both disciplinary areas seek “opportunities to deepen collaborations in order to share knowledge and build interdisciplinary community.” Moreover, “[d]eeper collaborations might also enable the two communities to band together in confronting common challenges.” She concludes: “The point is to enhance what discipline each does and open up new areas of inquiry, not to turn the humanities into the social sciences or vice versa. Conversations among digital humanists and digital social scientists could also deepen disciplinary self-awareness, since your own thinking often gets clearer when you explain your processes to someone with a different perspective.”

2014 Periodicals Price Survey — Library Journal

The “Periodicals Price Survey” for 2014 has just been published in Library Journal. It’s reported that while the general economic climate is positive, “if the broad figures are closely scrutinized, public funding and spending in libraries have not yet recovered to 2008 levels adjusted for inflation or population growth.” As usual, the report provides a diverse range of analyses, e.g. Average 2014 Price for Scientific Disciplines; Average 2014 Price Per Title by Country; Average 2014 Price for Online Journals in the ISI Indexes; Periodical Prices for University and College Libraries, etc. The report forecasts that not much will change price-wise in 2015: “The 2014 6% average price increase is expected to remain stagnant for 2015, hovering in the 6% to 7% range. That 6% seems to be a level of inflation that is neither too hot for libraries nor too cold for publishers, so for the time being, 5.5% is a safe bet. However it is only April, and a lot could change before 2015 pricing is finalized.”

This year’s “Periodicals Price Survey” also has a particularly interesting analysis “Measuring the Value of Journals”. The authors write that price alone is not the sole factor determining value. Increasingly, altmetrics are being utilized to assess the impact of journals. The report explores “the relationship between prices and metrics used to assess journals like Impact Factor, Eigenfactor, and the Article Influence Score.” The authors also analyze the relationships between the cost of periodicals and the number citations.

Open Access Map Collection


Trace the past with NY Public Library’s Open Access Maps Project

GPS can’t quite capture the beauty of historical maps. Thanks to the Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division at the New York Public Library, 20,000 high-res maps are now available for download.

For over 15 years, the Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division at the New York Public Library has been scanning maps from all over the world including those of the Mid-Atlantic United States from 16th to 19th centuries and even topographic maps of Austro-Hungarian empire ranging from 1877 and 1914.

Richard Poynder on the State of Open Access

PoynderIndependent journalist and blogger Richard Poynder who has interviewed many regarding their views on open Access is himself interviewed by neurobiologist and open access advocate Björn Brembs on his own views on the open access movement and its future. The complete 28 page interview may be accessed here.

The following are bullets of major points made by Poynder:

  • In my view, OA to research papers is inevitable.
  • I see a number of weaknesses in the way the OA movement has organised itself over the years, and as a result of these weaknesses it is likely that we will see OA policies introduced that OA advocates do not welcome, and that the research community at large dislikes intensely.
  • That said, as the research community moves toward OA I see two possible scenarios, one in which publishers effectively appropriate OA to their own ends, another in which the research community takes charge and oversees the development of an OA environment more suited to its needs than the needs of publishers.
  • Essentially, therefore, I believe OA is at an important transition point. If the research community wants to ensure that it gets an OA regime that best meets its needs it should be urgently embracing OA today, and on its own terms. If it waits until OA is thrust upon it will likely have to accept it in a far less pleasing way. Act Now or Repent at Leisure!
  • I believe that institutional repositories need to be filled with as much content as possible, as quickly as possible. So instead of advising researchers to opt for pay-to-publish Gold OA, OA advocates should be telling them to continue publishing in subscription journals and self-archive their papers in their institutional repository by means of Green OA.
  • Research institutions should also be moving quickly to follow the example of universities like University College London and Yale, and start publishing their own OA journals and books using their institutional repositories.
  • I expect that by the time the  transition period for the RCUK policy ends (in five years’ time), we will know whether the scholarly communication system is going to continue to be managed and controlled by publishers in the OA world, or whether the research community has found it in itself to get into the driver’s seat and begun moving full speed ahead to create a system in its own image.
  • Ideally, the research community should be working to develop a global scholarly communication infrastructure based on networks of OA repositories. However, what currently seems more likely (in the short term at least), is that there will be a bipartite system, with the developed world opting for a system based on pay-to-publish Gold OA journals, and the developing world adopting repository-based systems that build on the work of services like SciELO and African Journals Online (AJOL), along with networks of institutional repositories like La Referencia.
  • Please note that I am not an OA advocate, and so my aim is not to persuade anyone. These are just the views of someone who has spent ten years writing about OA.


A Catalog of Digital Scholarly Editions

Excerpt from Jane Austen's Persuasion

Excerpt from Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Patrick Sahle, Cologne Center for eHumanities (CCeH), has a very useful web page A Catalog of Digital Scholarly Editions. Presently the page lists 144 editions in Literature, 156 in History, 19 in Philosophy and 4 in Music.

Sahle provides criteria for inclusion in his list, first of all defining a scholarly edition as “the critical representation of historical documents”. He further defines the concepts/words in that definition: “historical documents”, “representation”, “critical / scholarly”. See his “About” page.

The list is an excellent overview of many of the most important digital humanities projects that focus on scholarly editions and include such projects as Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition; Codex Sinaiticus; The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London 1674 to 1834; Lord Byron and his Times; The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti – A Hypermedia Archive; Vincent van Gogh – The Letters; Letters and Texts; Intellectual Berlin around 1800, and many others.

Please note that while most of the editions are open access, a small number are not.

Developing an Effective Market for Open Access Article Processing Charges

Earlier this month a consortium of funders – JISC, Research Libraries UK, Research Councils UK, the Wellcome Trust, the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) and the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics – published the results of a study on open access article processing charges (APCs): Developing an Effective Market for Open Access Article Processing Charges. The goal of the study was to come up with strategies to ensure that the market would provide the best value for money to researchers.

The study’s report adduced three scenarios that funders might develop for supporting open access article processing charges. The scenarios apply to full OA journals, which operate almost solely through APCs, as well as to hybrid journals, some of whose articles are supported by APCs while the journal continues to operate through traditional subscription models.

Scenario I: Funders would continue to pay list prices for APCs of full OA journals. However, with respect to hybrid journals there should be mechanisms to safeguard that “double dipping” does not occur. “That is, institutions paying hybrid APCs must be reimbursed through rebates on subscriptions paid to that publisher to limit the increased costs of paying APCs along with subscriptions. Only journals which put in place mechanisms to lower subscription costs at the local level should be eligible to receive APC funding at the prices the publishers ask (either individual list prices or discounted prices in bundled deals).”

Scenario 2: “In this model, a maximum APC-price cap a funder is prepared to pay is set for each journal, based on some measure of its relative ‘value’”. Measures might include citation rates, publication times, streamlined peer review service, repository deposit, and so on. The report’s authors acknowledge that such measures might be difficult to quantify and assess.

Scenario 3: A third scenario is for the funder to pay only part of the APC with the remainder being borne by the researcher or the institution. This could provide a strong incentive to seriously consider cost of the APC when deciding where to publish an article.

The report’s authors conclude:

It was clear to us that there is no single best scenario. Different funding agencies and universities interested in funding APC have different needs and goals. We see these proposed scenarios as a starting point for further discussion and development and it is likely that a combination of strategies will be needed to promote a competitive reasonably priced market for APC funded scholarly publishing.

A brief analysis of the report, “Open access: report suggests funders ‘could set threshold’ for hybrid fees,” appeared in the 12 March, 2014 issue of Times Higher Education.


Proceedings of the Digital Humanities Congress 2012

A couple of days ago the University of Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute published the Proceedings of the Digital Humanities Congress 2012. It contains 28 articles classified under the following headings: Keynote Presentations; Practising Digital Humanities; Using Digital Resources; Working with Text; Visual Analysis; Knowledge Building. The articles provide an interesting overview of some theories underlying DH as well as of a number of quite diverse DH practices.

New Fagel Maps Project to Bring Golden Age of Exploration to Life

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin are developing an interactive website, Fagel Maps, featuring thousands of magnificent pre-1800 maps. This open access Fagel Maps project will comprise 10,000 maps including battle plans, urban streetscapes and architectural drawings. “The website will allow users to view the maps as an image gallery with full zoom functions and also via a Google Maps interface which will overlay these early modern maps on modern topography. The Google interface will include a ‘time’ feature which will allow users to drill down through maps of the same area drawn up at different periods to explore how the area developed. The website will also incorporate a number of novel visualisation tools including 3-D modelling of selected battle plans and urban streetscapes.” For more information see TCD’s press release.

Below is a brief video on the Fagel Maps Project:

The Modernist Journals Project


The Modernist Journals Project (MJP), a joint digital project of Brown University and The University of Tulsa, is a valuable resource for the study of modernism. Begun in 1995 The Modernist Journals Project’s primary focus has been the digitization of periodicals connected to the rise of modernism in the English-speaking world. The chronological range of the journals is 1890 to 1922. Numerous “little”, though often extremely influential, magazines have now been digitized. They include Scribner’s Magazine, 1910 — 1922; The Blue Review,1913 (edited by John Middleton Murry and Katherine Mansfield); The English Review, 1908 — 1910 (published works by D. H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, and Ezra Pound); Wheels, 1916-1921 (published work by Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell, Helen Rootham, Nancy Cunard, Iris Tree, Aldous Huxley, and Wilfrid Owen) and many others. MJP also has a very useful database of biographies of authors and artists whose work appears in the MJP journals in addition to a number of books and essays about MJP journals and topics.

“Recently, the MJP has also developed new sites that focus on the use of its materials: an expanded set of teaching and research pages, an instructional wiki that allows for user participation, and the MJP Lab, which makes a sampling of MJP data files available to the public and offers examples of the analysis and visualization of MJP data.”

Walk-In Access to Academic Research Available in UK Public Libraries

A new pilot initiative, a collaboration between librarians and publishers, in UK public libraries allows members of the public to freely access over one and a half million journal articles.

. . . . Access to Research will provide licensed online access to over 1.5 million journal articles and conference proceedings through library terminals. With 8,400 journals included in the initiative at the moment, this will make content in the fields of Health and Biological Sciences (20%), Social Sciences (18%) and Engineering (14%) available to the public for the first time. Users will also be able to read a wide variety of articles in the fields of Art & Architecture, Business, Environmental Science, History, Journalism, Languages, Politics, Film, Philosophy and Religion, Mathematics and Physics.

Access to Research has been launched under the leadership of the Publishers Licensing Society in response to one of the main recommendations of the Finch Group, a committee convened by the UK government, to explore how access to publicly funded research could be expanded. . . .

For more details see PR Newswire.