Taking a Global Perspective on the Skills and Competencies Important to Digital Scholarship

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Lisa Spiro

    Fondren Library - Rice University

  2. 2. Jon Cawthorne

    Libraries - Florida State University

  3. 3. Vivian Lewis

    Libraries - McMaster University

  4. 4. Xuemao Wang

    Libraries - University of Cincinnati

Work text
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Despite the significance of digital technologies to contemporary culture, scholars across the mainstream academy have been slow to publish “discipline-based scholarship produced with digital tools and presented in digital form”(Ayers, 2013). In part, this dearth results from many researchers lacking (or lacking access to) required skills (a learned capability, such as programming expertise) and competencies (a more abstract ability in a particular domain, such as transdisciplinary collaboration). While some centers and programs excel at supporting digital scholarship, many institutions are trying to determine what skills are needed to produce such work and how to cultivate them (Sehat and Farr, 2009). Our benchmarking study thus examines how leading digital scholarship (DS) programs around the world define and nurture skills and competencies. With the support of the Mellon Foundation, we are conducting site visits and gathering data at four locations in the United States, one in Canada, two in Europe, and three in the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). As a result of this research, we hope to help institutions create strategies for supporting digital scholarship, inform the development of educational and professional development programs, and contribute a global perspective to the ongoing discussion about DS training. Although this study is necessarily constrained to approximately ten sites, we hope that it provides the foundation for further work.

Through benchmarking, we aim to understand the key workforce-related factors instrumental to a center’s, department’s or program’s success. In order to consider a range of methodological approaches and foster cross-disciplinary inquiry, we define digital scholarship broadly as creating, producing, analyzing, and/or disseminating scholarship using new technologies, with an emphasis on digital and computational techniques. Digital scholarship includes both creating and analyzing “born digital” content and bringing new meaning to digitized content, such as through textual analysis. Our study looks at digital scholarship not only in the humanities, but also in the social sciences. We are investigating both physical centers and distributed DS services and activities, which are often, but not always, located in a university library. In addition, we are examining to what extent cultural, institutional, disciplinary and national contexts influence what skills are important.

This poster will serve as an interim report on the study, outlining its goals, methods, and initial high-level observations. In selecting sites, we are considering criteria such as what research services they offer, staff expertise, numbers of different kinds of staff, reputation, and record of innovative, successful projects, as well as the program’s involvement with significant professional development and/or educational programs. We aim for geographical, cultural and disciplinary diversity. During our site visits, we are conducting semi-structured interviews with key faculty, graduate students, research staff, and administrators, asking questions such as what skills matter most to their work and how ideally to develop them. We are also gathering benchmarking data such as the skills of staff, the center’s support for professional development, and its approaches to developing digital scholarship.

By the time of the conference, we expect to have completed at least six of our site visits, including to locations in the United States, Canada, China, and Europe. Thus we will share general patterns emerging from the study, including the preliminary core skills and competencies that we have identified. We will also explore how centers develop these skills, such as by providing dedicated time for exploratory research and development work, hosting visiting scholars, enabling staff to teach, supporting training and conference travel, and fostering a “learning culture.” We will discuss the challenges in conducting the study, including identifying “best in class” digital scholarship programs in a global context, ensuring diversity in what centers and programs are represented, coordinating visits, and deciding what kind of data is important to collect and how best to capture that data. Through our interactive poster session, we will solicit feedback on our work to date and identify opportunities to expand our research.

Ayers, Edward L. (2013) “Does digital scholarship have a future?”EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 48, no. 4 (July/August 2013)

Sehat, Connie Moon, and Erika Farr. (2009) The Future of Digital Scholarship: Preparation, Training, Curricula. Report of a Colloquium on Education in Digital Scholarship, April 17–18, 2009. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2009. www.clir.org/pubs/archives/SehatFarr2009.pdf.

Zorich, Diane (2008). A Survey of Digital Humanities Centers in the United States. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources. http://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/pub143abst.html.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

XML available from https://github.com/elliewix/DHAnalysis (needs to replace plaintext)

Conference website: https://web.archive.org/web/20161227182033/https://dh2014.org/program/

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO