Galbraith on why Universities should be contentious places [1]

Good universities have always been places of contention and dispute… And the best universities in their greatest phase have always been places of the most energetic and uninhibited contention. That is because, in great universities, ideas are important and issues are taken seriously and scholars are not cowards—and no one is so silly as to suppose there is such a think as orderly, well-regulated debate which, in the manner of a motion picture script, can be carefully tailored in advance to the taste of the audience and the prejudices of the censors.

Poor universities composed of craven men are inevitably very orderly places and bad universities have the silence and tranquility of the desert.

University of California. 1967. “Warren Joins Others in Urging Greater Understanding of UC, Academic Freedom.” University Bulletin: A Weekly Bulletin for the Staff of the University of California, May 8. 161

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The Real Crisis and the U of L… and why the Board must Act [1]

Full disclosure. I am a professor of English at the University of Lethbridge and a member of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) Executive. ULFA is a party to a labour dispute associated with the events discussed in this piece.

The opinions presented here concern the wisdom of the Board’s current actions and are mine alone. They are published under my contractual right as a Faculty Member to “participate in public life, to criticize University or other administrations, to champion unpopular positions, to engage in frank discussion of controversial matters, and to raise questions and challenges which may be viewed as counter to the beliefs of society” under Handbook Article 11.01.1. They do not advocate any specific remedy under the Association’s contract, beyond following well-established, previously negotiated procedures.

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How to accept an invitation to a SSHRC application

This is a quick guide for my non-Canadian partners on how to accept an invitation to participate in a SSHRC application.

  1. Look for invitation from SSHRC in your inbox
    1. You will need the highlighted invitation number later.
    2. First click on the login/register link and set up your account with SSHRC or log in (if you already have one).
    3. If you are setting up a new account, keep the password memorable: it is difficult to get a reminder if you forget.
  2. After you have registered and confirmed your registration (SSHRC sends an email to confirm), you need to sign in using your SSHRC user name and password (i. Read the rest of this entry »

Customized pronouns: A good idea that makes no sense (Globe and Mail)

Originally published as O’Donnell, Daniel Paul. 2016. “Customized Pronouns: A Good Idea That Makes No Sense.” The Globe and Mail, October 15.

The latest thing on campus is to introduce yourself by name and “preferred pronoun.” “Hello, my name is Dan and I prefer he/him. Read the rest of this entry »

The bird in hand: Humanities research in the age of open data (Digital Science Report)

Originally published as Daniel Paul O’Donnell. 2016. “The Bird in Hand: Humanities Research in the Age of Open Data.” In The State of Open Data: A Selection of Analyses and Articles about Open Data, Edited by Figshare, 34–35. Digital Science Report. London: Digital Science.

Traditionally, humanities scholars have resisted describing their raw material as
“data” 10.

Instead, they speak of “sources” and “readings. Read the rest of this entry »

“Nudge nudge, say no more”: What I think needs to happen next in the Scholarly Commons Project

In the follow up on the Force11/Helmsley Scholarly Commons Working Group workshops in Madrid and San Diego, participants (and steering committee members) have been asked to write a brief description of what we think is the “best direction to develop the principles.” Here’s my two cents.1

I think that the lessons we’ve learned over the last year are the following:

  1. There is (or perhaps could be) such a thing as a “Commons” in scholarly communication;
  2. This approach to scholarly communication could have an immensely disruptive potential, as it could provide a way of completing the always-threatening development of research communication into a Common Pool Resource;
  3. The disruption (and the commons) will not happen without leadership; somebody needs to propose a definition of the boundaries of the commons; explain how this defintion can be used; and create the mechanisms by which it is.

Given this, I think the next step is to work on (3): providing the le Read the rest of this entry »

But does it work in theory II

(A very inside baseball posting. Probably not of interest to anybody but me and a couple of people on the committee I refer to below).

Yesterday, I published some principles and rules that I thought might govern a “Scholarly Commons,” the topic of a Helmsley-funded Force11 Working Group that I am a part of.

Here they are again:

P. The Scholarly Commons is a consensus among knowledge producers and users that
    P1. research and knowledge should be freely available to all who wish to use or reuse it;
    P2. participation in the production and use of knowledge should be open to all who wish to participate;
    P3. Read the rest of this entry »

But does it work in theory? Developing a generative theory for the scholarly commons

The “Scholarly Commons Working Group”

I am part of the Scholarly Commons Working Group at Force11. The goal of this working group is to “define and incubate” a “Scholarly Commons”—something we define as being a set of “principles, best practices, interfaces and standards that should govern the multidirectional flow of scholarly objects through all phases of the research process from conception to dissemination” in any discipline.

As part of this work, we have been working on developing the actual principles that can be said to… well, this is a bit of an issue, actually—govern?, describe (?), organise (?), define (?). Let’s just say, right now, “develop a set of principles that will help in some way identify and establish the Scholarly Commons in some useful, non-trivial fashion.”

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But does it work in theory? Developing a generative theory for the scholarly commons

…It is said that a learned professor of Heidelberg forbade his students the repetition of a certain experiment.

“But,” they protested, “it has always been successful.”

“Nevertheless,” he said, “its position among experiments is absolutely untenable from an intellectual point of view.”

The boys stared.

“The thing may answer very well in practise,” said the professor, “but it is not sound in theory.”

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Auschwitz I and II (Birkenau): Some thoughts on a tour

Last week, I was in Krakow for DH 2016. Because it is so close to Auschwitz, I took a day trip to visit the camp.

Mixed feelings about “touring” a concentration camp

I had very mixed feelings about the whole idea. On the one hand, it seems almost an obligation. As I’ve written of the Diary of Anne Frank: “the enormity of Nazi crimes requires documentation. We want and need first-person accounts of what happened to keep reminding us that it in fact did happen” (54). Read the rest of this entry »

The uleth ezproxy server

Paperpile allows users to put in their library’s ezproxy server. This allows the system to search for PDFs licensed through the university library, especially when off campus.

Although Paperpile has proxy addresses for a lot of Canadian universities, it doesn’t have one for Lethbridge. After doing some digging, I think I was able to find out ours:$@

I found information on the server here (specifically about how to log in to JSTOR using it). Read the rest of this entry »

Using find and rsync to extract files from a directory and move them

The context

I use for annotating PDFs (and websites). This works best, however, if the PDFs are online somewhere.

I use Zotero and Paperpile for citation management. Zotero in particular, stores all the PDFs that I collect via my bibliography locally in a very fragmented directory structure (each entry in the bibliography manager is its own directory, meaning in my case, the PDFs are spread over 7000 sub-directories.

The problem

So what I want to do is the following:

  1. find and extract all downloaded PDFs in my Zotero folders
  2. upload them to a (private) bibliographic server, where I can use hypothes. Read the rest of this entry »

Using to annotate print books is a web-based annotation service that I was recently introduced to by my friend Maryann Martone. It is extremely handy for taking notes while web-browsing, and, since it annotates PDFs, I also use it for things like preparing for Faculty-Board negotations regarding the U of L contract.

Today, however, I experimented with a way of using to annotate print books:

  1. locate the book in an online library catalogue, Google Books, or an online bookseller like or
  2. write notes beginning with the page number you are commenting on/quoting from in hypothes. Read the rest of this entry »

How to retard science? Set up a grant programme. From Leo Szilard’s Mark Gable Foundation (1961).

A story about how to wreck science, from Szilard, Leo. 1961. “The Mark Gable Foundation.” In The Voice of the Dolphins and Other Stories, 117–30. Stanford University Press.

“I have earned a very large sum of money,” said Mr. Read the rest of this entry »

World is a better place 3. Career 0.

The last couple of days have been, by any measure, a huge success.

A visit by Dot Porter to Lethbridge got my DH class revved up and also led to a breakthrough in our understanding of the Visionary Cross project and a blog posting yesterday that seems to be making its way around the DHosphere.

Over the weekend, the executive and members of GO::DH led to the development of a report on diversity and intercultural communications issues that also seems to be hitting a nerve

And finally, there was some cool twitter chatter about my ongoing Unessay research.

Or actually, I shouldn’t say that it was a huge success by “any measure.” In fact, it was a wash, as far as career progress went, since none of these are official citations or refereed publications. Although, as I’ve argued elsewhere, Canadian universities are better than many in their ability to use non-bibliometric measures of success, we’re not that good at it. Read the rest of this entry »


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