Number 57 • May/June 2007
Searching Isn’t Everything by Barrie Howard
National Centers for Cyberinfrastructure: CLIR’s Strategic Contribution
by Chuck Henry
OUR CULTURAL COMMONWEALTH,1 the recently released report of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences, includes several recommendations for large-scale investment in facets of cyberinfrastructure that would promote, sustain, and advance research and teaching in the humanities and social sciences. One recommendation, addressed to universities, Congress, and public and private funding agencies, urges the establishment of “national centers to support scholarship that contributes to and exploits cyberinfrastructure.” Such national centers currently exist for the sciences. One example of a virtual center is the Long-Term Ecological Research Network, a networked collaboratory of 26 field sites and a network office focused on answering questions about the long-term dynamics of ecosystems; another example is GriPhyN: the Grid Physics Network, which focuses on computer science and grid research applied to the distributed computing and storage requirements of the high-energy physics community.2
Creating National Centers for the Humanities and Social Sciences
The centers for humanities and social sciences, which the ACLS cybercommission report intentionally leaves undefined, would enable research and development that would contribute to a strong and dynamic cyberinfrastructure. The centers are conceived as federated, interdisciplinary laboratories that would operate in a range of areas. Some centers might focus on methods or tools that could enhance and extend knowledge discovery in the humanities and social sciences. Visualization, data mining, and the application of geographic information systems are noted examples. Other centers might focus on issues such as copyrighted digital materials, the curation of unique materials, or confidential data integral for social science research.
The rationale for the national centers is based on observations that the human, institutional, and technical resources needed for this kind of research and development are generally beyond the capacity of a single institution; that greater collaboration between technical experts and scholars is necessary to address these challenges; and that more advanced training for students and faculty is fundamental to the advancement of the humanities and social sciences. In the report, Georgetown University Provost James O’Donnell underscores the importance of “zones of experimentation and innovation for humanists.” To be successful, he says, these zones must be “part of the formal academic structure and not isolated from the practitioners they are meant to serve.”
The recommendation for national centers is bold, reflecting the complexity and scale of the challenge of creating a system of research and development in service to scholars in the humanities and social sciences who are increasingly working in a digital environment. The Scholarly Communication Institute (SCI), supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and held annually at the University of Virginia, will devote its July 2008 meeting to the ACLS cybercommission report. The national centers will be a major topic of discussion at the meeting.
CLIR To Support Discussions on National Centers
CLIR has begun three activities that will help structure a national discussion on the proposed centers; these activities are intended to significantly contribute to and inform the SCI 2008 meeting. First, CLIR will contract for the conduct of an extended study of academic research centers in the United States. The study will explore dozens of centers in the humanities, including centers devoted to digital projects and more-traditional centers, as well as relevant centers in the sciences. The study will review the intellectual focus and goals of each center. It will also explore their organization, governance, sustainability, and collaborative institutional partners (physical and virtual). The final report will articulate the findings of the research and recommend the most promising models for the proposed national centers.
Second, CLIR will convene several meetings around the country at which scholars, librarians, information technology specialists, and others will explore the technical and methodological challenges that the proposed centers could most effectively address. Meeting participants will identify priorities, both current and long term, pertaining to establishing and maintaining a robust, extensible cyberinfrastructure. Proceedings of these meetings will be Web published, with means for additional comments and conversations.
Third, CLIR will co-host a series of symposia that will focus on fundamental questions such as the following: Within a given field of study, what research can a scholar conduct only by using the digital resources in question? What topics of inquiry depend on the digital environment for successful execution, and what instances of discovery and new knowledge can be attributed uniquely to research using the information contained in these digital resources? The series, which will be held at five universities across the country, will also explore how various academic fields have appropriated digital resources, in part to corroborate anecdotal evidence that suggests a slow adoption rate in many humanistic areas of study.
As a result of these three activities, by June 2008, a considerable body of knowledge should be available that will help CLIR and its constituencies better understand emerging scholarly methods, set priorities to facilitate experimentation and innovation, and identify successful organizational models that will aid in the conceptualization of the proposed national centers and inform the proposals that will guide their creation.
1 Marlo Welshons, ed. 2006. Our Cultural Commonwealth: The Report of the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences. New York: American Council of Learned Societies.
2 Additional examples of distributed-research communities are listed in Appendix E of Cyberinfrastructure Vision for 21st Century Discovery, issued by the National Science Foundation’s Cyberinfrastructure Council in March 2007.
Searching Isn’t Everything
by Barrie Howard
IMAGINE COMING ACROSS—in a single place—a rich trove of digital primary material from important collections at the Library of Congress and research libraries around the country. Imagine being able to capture references to these resources and make them available to your students or to keep the resources organized for future reference in your personal citation-management software.
Scholars have expressed a desire for capabilities such as these. They have asked for easier ways to find digital resources in many formats across multiple repositories. They have expressed the desire for a way to gather these resources along with information about them for manipulation and reuse. Now, in response to these long-felt needs, the Digital Library Federation (DLF), with financial support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is undertaking DLF Aquifer Development for Interoperability Across Scholarly Repositories: American Social History Online. The project aims to deliver library services to scholars where they work and to make it possible for digital library collections from different locations—created in heterogeneous formats and organized in different ways—to be used as a unified whole through locally supported tools. The two-year project kicked off in April 2007.
The Value of Federating Resources
The digital materials that humanists and social scientists need are often located in a variety of environments with a bewildering array of interfaces, access protocols, and usage requirements, making them difficult to find and to use. The American Social History Online project promises to deliver federated search, collection, and manipulation tools and services (e.g., annotation and citation management) to scholars where they work. The project will be of particular value to social and cultural historians, literary scholars, and scholars working in interdisciplinary fields using digital library collections. The materials to be made available through the project focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States social history.
Project Builds on Previous Work
The rationale for the American Social History Online project—to build a distributed, open digital library—has been a primary goal of DLF since its founding 12 years ago. Recent activities have provided the building blocks for the project. From spring 2003 through early 2005, DLF mobilized the Aquifer initiative by hiring Katherine Kott to lead the program. DLF also established four collaborative teams—the collections, metadata, services, and technology working groups—staffed from across the initial 11-institution Aquifer partnership. Finally, DLF has leveraged lessons learned from other activities, including the DLF Scholars’ Panel, a grant project to prototype a next-generation search system for extending the utility of the Open Archive Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI), and a proof-of-concept experiment demonstrated by the DLF Aquifer Technology/Architecture Working Group. The Scholars’ Panel initiative convened a user group of humanities and social science practitioners who are pioneering digital scholarship methodologies to suggest how libraries could partner with scholars to better serve their needs. An Institute of Museum and Library Services–funded grant project developed and implemented technologies now ensconced in the overarching DLF Aquifer work, and the Aquifer technology group worked with colleagues from the Fedora digital repository developer community to experiment with a method that allows distributed repositories to appear as one and to operate with a collection tool that was demonstrated at the DLF Spring Forum 2006.
The new Mellon Foundation grant enables DLF Aquifer to add staff, thus expanding expertise and accelerating the “time to market” for the envisioned deliverables. Fifteen DLF Aquifer participant libraries provide support for the working groups, and a core team was recently formed to carry out the main grant work. Team members include a systems architect, a systems developer, a data analyst, a business analyst/assessment expert, and a project administrator. Ms. Kott continues to lead the DLF Aquifer program and serves as principal investigator on the grant.
Over the next two years, the project will be developed and implemented through a framework of data and systems structural models; system-to-system data-exchange protocols and standards; tools and services for searching, collecting, and manipulating digital objects from distributed digital collections; and user studies. This architecture will enable faculty, students, and librarians to use distributed collections as a unified whole in their local environments. Materials in the collections will include images, books, journal articles, maps, sheet music, videos, data sets, manuscripts, and mixed-format materials contributed by DLF member institutions and beyond.
As a slice of the emerging cyberinfrastructure for the humanities and social sciences, the American Social History Online project is a test bed for pooling online resources across institutional boundaries to enable research, teaching, and learning. This instance of the DLF Aquifer collaboratory holds great promise as an innovative model for federated library services that will foster and nurture new methods of scholarship by improving access, stimulating new research questions, supporting interdisciplinary study and cross-regional research, and providing incentives to increase digital content and collections.
CLIR Welcomes Director of Programs Amy Friedlander
CLIR WELCOMES AMY Friedlander as its new director of programs. Ms. Friedlander, who started April 30, will be responsible for a range of programs that underlie CLIR’s new agenda, especially in the areas of cyberinfrastructure, new models of knowledge organization, and emerging research methodologies.
Ms. Friedlander has done extensive work at the intersection of public policy, technology, education, and outreach. She is a former senior program manager at Shinkuro, Inc., a U.S.-based research and development company. Before that, she was special projects associate at CLIR, working with the Library of Congress to help organize its initiative in long-term preservation of digital content, the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.
Ms. Friedlander has also served as associate director for research at SAIC’s Center for Information and Strategy Policy, where she founded the online magazine, iMP: The Magazine on Information Impacts, which examines the issues that arise at the interface between information technology and public policy. She was the founding editor of D-Lib Magazine, and is the author or editor of numerous reports and articles on information technologies and their societal implications. Among these publications is a series on the history of large-scale, technology-intensive infrastructure in the United States, which was published by the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. Ms. Friedlander holds an A.B. degree from Vassar College, an M.S.L.S. from The Catholic University of America, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Emory University.
Humanists Receive Library Fellowships
FIVE INDIVIDUALS HAVE been awarded Postdoctoral Fellowships in Scholarly Information Resources for 2007-08. The fellows, each of whom recently received a Ph.D. degree in the humanities, will spend next year at an academic research library, where they will gain hands-on experience relating to the issues facing scholars at research libraries in a changing information landscape.
Six fellows from 2006-07 will continue in the program this year, bringing the total number of CLIR fellows to 11 for 2007-08.
The fellows will begin their year by attending a preparatory seminar at Bryn Mawr College July 22–August 2.
CLIR administers the program in collaboration with several U.S. colleges and universities as a means of recruiting talent into the library profession. Information on the fellowships is available at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/postdoc/postdoc.html.
Ph.D. English, Duke University
Host: Lehigh University
Ph.D. English Literature and Creative Writing, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City
Host: Pepperdine University
Ph.D. Near Eastern Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Ph.D. Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society, University of Minnesota
Host: University of Minnesota
Ph.D. Dance Studies, University of Surrey
Host: University of Virginia
Ph.D. Early Modern Italian History, University of Virginia
Host: Johns Hopkins University
Ph.D. Information Studies, UCLA
Ph.D. French North African Literature/Cultural Studies, University of Oxford
Ph.D. English Language and Literature, University of Virginia
Host: University of Nebraska
Ph.D. English Language and Literature, University of Virginia
Host: Johns Hopkins University
Ph.D. Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University, Bloomington
Host: Bryn Mawr College (transferred from UIUC)
CLIR Names 2007 Rovelstad Scholarship Recipient
LORRAINE ALISON DONG, a master’s degree candidate in the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, has been named the fifth recipient of the Rovelstad Scholarship in International Librarianship. She is focusing her studies on preservation administration while also working toward a graduate portfolio in nonprofit studies at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs’ RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. Dong has a M.Phil. degree in Renaissance literature from the University of Cambridge in England, and a B.A. in English literature with a minor in education from the University of California at Berkeley.
The scholarship provides travel funds for a student of library and information science to attend the annual meeting of the World Library and Information Congress. This year’s meeting will take place in Durban, South Africa, in August.
2007-2008 Mellon Dissertation Fellows Named
THIRTEEN GRADUATE STUDENTS have been selected to receive awards this year under the Mellon Fellowship Program for Dissertation Research in the Humanities in Original Sources, which CLIR administers.
The fellowships are intended to help graduate students in the humanities and related social science fields pursue research wherever relevant sources are available; gain skill and creativity in using primary source materials in libraries, archives, museums, and related repositories; and provide suggestions to CLIR about how such source materials can be made more accessible and useful.
The fellowships carry stipends of up to $20,000 each to support dissertation research for periods of up to 12 months.
Jeffrey Ahlman University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rebuilding the Pan-African Bridge: Kwame Nkrumah, the Algerian Revolution, and the Decolonization of Africa, 1954-66
University of Pennsylvania
The Roaring Metropolis: The 1920s and the Making of the American Public Sector
University of California, Los Angeles
Musical Depictions of Pirates and Bandits in British Culture, 1650-1900
Daniel Domingues de Silva
Crossroads—Slave Frontiers of Angola, c. 1780-1864
University of Maryland, College Park
Jim Crow Goes Abroad: Race and the American Nation during World War II
Oriental and Occidental Tales: A History of the Novel in Translation
University of Arizona
A World of Cures: Spanish and Indigenous Healing in the Atlantic World, 16th – 18th Centuries
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Art and Architecture
Eugenics in the Garden: Architecture, Medicine, and Landscape from France to Latin America in the Early Twentieth Century
University of Pennsylvania
The Cosmopolitan Republics: The Gulf of Mexico between 1783-1836
University of Pennsylvania
This Christian and Charitable Work: Barbary Pirates, Slave Redemption, and the Formation of British Atlantic Identities, 1600-1776
University of California, Berkeley
Contested Identities: Nationalism in the Republic of Vietnam, 1954-1975
University of California, Berkeley
Urga: Nomadic City of the Mongols
Locating the Laboratory: German Tropical Medicine and Sleeping Sickness Research in East Africa 1898-1914
Charles J. Henry Receives Fulbright Senior Specialist Award for China
CLIR PRESIDENT CHUCK Henry has received a Fulbright Senior Specialist Award to lecture and consult in China this fall.
Mr. Henry will work for several weeks with librarians, faculty, administrators, and IT specialists at Shantou University, located in the southern province of Guangdong. He will advise staff on their plans to construct a new library and on issues pertaining to new staff organization and deployment of IT on campus. He will also deliver lectures on current issues at the intersection of higher education and the evolving library.
Shantou University, which enrolled its first students in 1983, is a progressive school that recently reformed its curriculum to align its courses and degree programs with the new knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.
Mr. Henry is the recipient of two previous Fulbright awards. As a Fulbright Scholar in 1980-81, he conducted research and lectured in Vienna, Austria.
In 2003, he was selected as a Senior Scholar, hosted by the Humanities Society of New Zealand.
The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The Senior Specialists program complements the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program by providing short-term academic opportunities for U.S. faculty to support specific curricular and faculty development projects at universities around the world.