Digital Treasures from the National Library of Scotland

JamesVIJust hours after the result of the historic referendum where a majority of Scots voted to retain the union with the United Kingdom, it might be opportune to consider one of Scotland’s great institutions, its national library. The National Library of Scotland is the country’s largest library. In addition to over 15 million printed items, it contains seven million manuscripts, two million maps, over 32,000 films, and 25,000 newspaper and magazine titles. It also has an outstanding number of digital projects which cover a broad variety of subject areas. Brief mention may be made of Jacobite Prints and Broadsides, a collection of portraits of people and illustrations of events relating to the Jacobite Rebellions in Scotland in 1715 and 1745-1746. Gazetteers of Scotland, 1803-1901 is a digitized collection of 20 volumes of the most popular descriptive gazetteers of 19th-century Scotland, covering towns, counties, parishes, glens and more. The Word on the Street is a collection of about 1,800 broadsides that informed and entertained Scots between 1650 and 1910. There is an Early Gaelic Book Collection of several hundred books in Gaelic and other Celtic languages, plus works about the Gaels, their languages, literature, culture and history. There is also a digitized copy of the very rare Gutenberg Bible, the first book to be printed with moveable type. Especially interesting perhaps, on this day after the referendum, is the website James VI and the Union of the Crowns which explores the union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603.  Numerous other fascinating projects are available on the National Library of Scotland’s Digital Gallery page.

Nature’s Citation Analysis

Nature Communications has published a complicated statistical analysis that shows a very slight citation advantage for OA journals. Interesting, however, is the huge effect of open access on downloads and views — which the Nature analysis mentions, but barely.

Overall, articles published OA appear to show a higher number of citations, though the effect is small, and the data provided does not allow us to control for possible confounding effects such as the posting of articles in repositories, the number and location of authors, and the possibility that authors are selecting their ‘best’ papers to publish on OA terms. Similarly, any effect of OA on the timing of citations appears to be small, and we have not been able to control for possible changes such as increased awareness of the journal on the part of both readers and authors. But although the impact on citations is small, the impact of open access publication on HTML views and PDF downloads is large and significant, suggesting increased visibility for the open access papers.

The citation effect found here is much smaller than results of other studies. To keep this in perspective, it is helpful to be aware of Nature’s recent actions with regard to the demand for authors to waive their institutions OA policy mandates.

Thanks to Kate Benning for bringing this to my attention.


The 2012-13 Survey of Humanities Departments at Four-Year Institutions

The latest survey on the state of the humanities in higher education was released today by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: The 2012-13 Survey of
Humanities Departments at Four-Year Institutions
. Particularly interesting are the findings regarding “digital humanities”. Though the latter has been increasingly in the news in recent years, “the survey found fairly limited engagement at the departmental level.”

A key finding respecting “digital humanities” included:

Among humanities departments, 24% had a center or lab dedicated to digital humanities research on campus, while 15% of departments offered at least one seminar or course that focused on digital methods for research or teaching during the academic year, and 12% had guidelines for evaluating digital publications for tenure and promotion.

These statistics are certainly underwhelming and especially so for the numbers of institutions with guidelines for evaluating digital publications for tenure and promotion. 12% seems very low though the figure is a little higher at 18% for institutions with a Carnegie classification of “Primarily Research”.

One may also access a brief Overview of Findings from the 2012–13 Humanities Departmental Survey.


Are Scientists Selfish?

In a recent article in Techonomy “Are Scientists Selfish?” (republished in Forbes) Meredith Salisbury considers why many scientists are reluctant to publish their scholarly articles in open access journals. She denies that they are selfish asserting that the situation is complicated. Rather, she blames “[t]he institutional inertia of the established scientific community [that] strongly favors researchers who go along with the data-hoarding norms.” Salisbury paints a convincing picture of the stereotypical scientist whose work is locked into a publish/get funding/publish again cycle that lasts throughout his/her career. This work cycle simply does not reward scientists who publish in OA journals. Salisbury proffers a couple of potential solutions:

What’s really needed is system-wide change. Some funding agencies have begun to require grant winners to ensure their publications become publicly accessible after a certain period of time, but those requirements need to be strengthened and should take effect immediately upon publication rather than six months or a year later. More importantly, the science community needs a better way to evaluate journals—one that doesn’t put such a premium on history—so that open-access publications and outlets with more open-minded approaches to data sharing are finally on an even playing field with traditional journals.

DOE plan for OA disappoints


The Department of Energy has been the first Federal agency to respond publicly to the White House OSTP requirement that agencies develop plans for open access to articles resulting from federally funded research. Unfortunately the plan is not as robust as open access advocates would like; it does not specify reuse rights needed for maximum downstream uses of content.

This post from the Nature newsblog summarizes the issues.

Michael Eisen finds it “completely unacceptable”.

Siegfried Sassoon’s War Diaries Published Online

"The Soul of an Officer"

From today, almost 100 years since Britain declared war on Germany, the First World War diaries of the poet, writer and soldier Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1867) are freely available online. Cambridge University Library, holder of the world’s richest assemblage of Sassoon’s manuscripts and archival papers, has digitized 23 of his journals and two of his wartime poetry notebooks.

The digitisations make available online for the first time 23 of Sassoon’s journals from the years 1915-27 and 1931-32, as well as two poetry notebooks from 1916-18 containing rough drafts and fair copies of some of his best-known war poems. Sassoon wrote in a small and legible hand, frequently using his notebooks from both ends. The images of them are both powerful and evocative, showing mud from the trenches and spilled wax, presumably as he sat writing in his dug-out by candlelight.

Access to the Sassoon Journals at Cambridge Digital Library.

P.S. Burns Library has an original manuscript of Sassoon entitled AN UNWRITTEN ESSAY ON SATIRE, as well as letters to Katherine Kendall.


Harvard’s DASH: Scholarly Access to All

This week the Harvard Gazette published Scholarly Access to All, an update and overview of DASH, Harvard’s digital repository, the free and open repository for peer-reviewed literature written by Harvard faculty. There are now over 20,000 articles, dissertations etc. deposited in DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard) and since the repository’s beginning in 2009 its contents have been downloaded more than 3.4 million times. Peter Suber, director of the Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication, is quoted as stating “We’re sharing Harvard research with everybody with an Internet connection not just with the people lucky enough to be affiliated with libraries rich enough to subscribe to the journals in which those authors publish.” Suber, the author of “Open Access” (MIT Press, 2012), continued: “Open access removes the barriers between authors and readers. It connects authors and readers in a way that conventional publishing cannot. . . . We tear down the toll booth. We make it easier for authors to find readers. We make it easier for readers to find authors.”

Important James Joyce Collection Digitized

joyceThe National Library of Ireland has digitized and made freely available the important James Joyce collection owned by the Zurich James Joyce Foundation. This significant collection, the Hans E. Jahnke Bequest, is valuable for revealing a more personal aspect of Joyce. The collection includes “[l]etters of a personal nature to Joyce’s son Giorgio, daughter-in-law Helen, and Georgio and Helen concerning everyday matters such as health and weather, offers from publishers as well as Lucia Joyce and her illness. Joyce’s marriage to Nora Barnacle in London and the Frankfurter Zeitung affair are also addressed. There are also some letters to Joyce’s grandson, Stephen, and to the Joyce family in general. Papers on Joyce’s work consist of notes and galley proofs from Finnegans Wake and one sheet from a fair copy of the Circe episode from Ulysses, fair copies of poems from Pomes Penyeach as well as other autographs and typescripts.”

An Ecumenical Community of Students: Yale Divinity School Exhibit

yaledivinityYale Divinity Library currently has a very interesting exhibit that traces the history of ecumenical student Christian movements, An Ecumenical Community of Students: Archival Documentation of Worldwide Student Christian Movements. The Divinity Library has extensive archival holdings in this area in addition to support agencies and leaders of related national and international movements.