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

…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.”

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.”

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. https://books.google.ca/books?id=xm2mAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PP1&dq=The%20Voice%20of%20the%20Dolphins%3A%20And%20Other%20Stories&pg=PA121#v=onepage&q&f=false

“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 »


Could we design comparative metrics that would favour the humanities?

A quick, and still partially undigested, posting on metrics that might favour the humanities over the sciences in “open” competitions. I’m working this out in response to a discussion I had recently with a senior administrator who argued that the University’s tendency to channel resources disproportionately to the Natural Sciences was simply the result of their comparative excellence as measured in “open” competitions.


First thing we do, let’s kill all the authors. On subverting an outmoded tradition (Force2015 talk)

This is a rough approximation (with some esprit d’escalier_ ) of my speaking script from my talk at the “Credit where Credit is Due”: session at Force2015, January 13, 2015. We were asked to be controversial, so I tried to oblige._


The credit line

I think it is time to get rid of authorship altogether, at least in research communication.


The Lethbridge Journal Incubator: A new business model for Open Access journal publication (Elsevier Labs Online Lectures February 18, 2014)

The Lethbridge Journal Incubator: A new business model for Open Access journal publication by Daniel Paul O’Donnell with contributions from Gillian Ayers, Kelaine Devine, Heather Hobma, Jessica Ruzack, Sandra Cowen, Leona Jacobs, Wendy Merkeley, Rhys Stevens, Marinus Swanepoel, and Maxine Tedesco. Elsevier Labs Online Lectures February 18, 2014.

The Lethbridge Journal Incubator: A new business model for Open Access journal publication by Daniel O'Donnell with contributions from Gillian Ayers, Kelaine Devine, Heather Hobma, Jessica Ruzack, Sandra Cowen, Leona Jacobs, Wendy Merkeley, Rhys Stevens, Marinus Swanepoel, and Maxine Tedesco.

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