Number 64 • July/August 2008
ISSN 1944-7639 (online version)
A New and Necessary Coalition
by Chuck Henry
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of essays by Chuck Henry that will explore cyberinfrastructure development in the context of current methods of promotion and tenure, models of scholarly publishing, the organization of universities, and our ways of knowing. The first article, “As We May Rethink,” appeared in CLIR Issues 59.
MUCH HAS BEEN written about the enormous benefits that a robust cyberinfrastructure would bring to research and scholarship: it would support a multifaceted environment that integrates sophisticated tools, vast digital resources, human expertise, and transmission capabilities of unprecedented speed and capacity in the service of discovery. Cyberinfrastructure allows us to ask new questions and pursue new lines of inquiry; to develop new methodological approaches, often with interdisciplinary collaboration; and to use innovative intellectual strategies in our pursuit of knowledge. Even as we anticipate these benefits, we must also acknowledge that the costs of building the cyberinfrastructure will be significant. The case for such investment is, however, increasingly intuitive. Failure to invest will compromise the advancement of research, particularly as research across disciplines becomes intensively collaborative, and will undermine our global position as the leader in higher education.
Less frequently discussed than the promise and costs of cyberinfrastructure have been the opportunities for universities to provide the leadership, leverage, and cost-effective support that can sustain a new research environment. How can institutions of higher education exploit the emerging grid-based methodologies, networks, and expertise of their service providers to more effectively promote their core activity?
This question is receiving increasing attention from a number of leaders in higher education, including librarians, chief information officers, and academic officers. The discussions are taking place both formally and informally. At a recent Scholarly Communication Institute held at the University of Virginia, there was widespread informal discussion of new organizational models for higher education. Paul Courant of the University of Michigan and James Hilton of the University of Virginia led a discussion, that centered on how to transform higher education by creating new alliances among institutions that would federate a number of services and functions while maintaining or enhancing the strengths of the individual schools. The aim of such alliances would be to reduce costs and improve support of research. “Research” in this context refers to a spectrum of activity that encompasses the initial idea of a project or intellectual challenge, informal communication and data compilation, formal published products of research, and the preservation, access, and reuse of information accumulated during research, including the original data, notes, instructions, and descriptions of instrumentation or methodology.
Consolidating print collections is one way in which a service could be federated across institutions. The cost of maintaining an analog library is staggering, and in an era of large-scale digital book and journal projects, maintaining numerous print libraries with a high redundancy of titles is no longer tenable. Under a federated arrangement, university consortia would eliminate multiple paper copies, agreeing to store perhaps two copies as a collaborative reserve. Similarly, staff at the libraries could be organized to work at the collaborative level, eliminating duplicate positions and sharing their expertise online. Obviously, this would require coordination to ensure compatibility for all digital library projects undertaken within the consortium.
E-mail, as mundane as it is essential, is another service that is costly and redundant. While enterprise systems can vary considerably among institutions based on tradition and practice, e-mail is generic. A university consortium could reap considerable benefits from maintaining a single system. E-mail is fundamental to sharing ideas and is the medium of exchange for work in progress and collaborative contribution. By federating and refocusing libraries, and adopting a single, centrally managed e-mail system, a university consortium could begin to manage more effectively two fundamental components of the research process.
This approach could be expanded to ensure that all electronic journal articles are available online, and that the consortium is committed to keeping them persistent over time. Because the cost of journal subscriptions is often exorbitant, consortium members could work together to purchase journals as they become available for sale. A sufficiently large and well-endowed collaborative might even buy out some of the main academic publishing houses. This is another example of how universities could take more cost-effective control over the research they funded in the first place.
Redefining Relationship with Publishers
A strong and focused consortium or consortia could redefine the terms of debate with publishers. To argue about whether or not an institution or individual can copy an article or part of a book, read only an extract of a digital work, or access a digital work by the page or through incremental charges is to ground the discussion on concepts that are archaic and counterproductive. Researchers want to query large digital textual data sets to execute data mining, visualization of information, tabulation, pattern recognition, and semantic correspondence, to name some of the powerful applications that can transform our understanding of the human record. To remain mired in talks about staggered prohibitions concerning “reading” or “reproducing” is a disservice to progressive aspirations.
A collaboration of institutions could provide support and leadership regarding the future of university presses. In the past decade, the number of titles published annually, especially in the humanities, has diminished. In some fields, young scholars are less likely to be published than they once were, as presses, hoping for better sales, favor established names. Subventions for publishing monographs, especially those in which images are central to the scholarly argument, are on the rise. The costs (and losses) of university press publications have increased. It is unlikely that any university press will be able resolve this economic challenge on its own.
Rather than investing further in the business models of printed publications, a university collaborative could declare that the digital object is the authoritative representation of scholarship. At the same time, the collaborative could help adopt a common digital publication platform by the representative presses—powerful, open-source examples are available today—with the ability to print on demand any of the peer-reviewed and properly edited titles. So doing would eventually eliminate warehouses, backlogs, storage of out-of-print books, paper, and the attendant costs. Terms such as in print, out of print, and press have no meaning in the digital model.
Creating a New Research Environment
A final facet of academic information can be included in this encompassing intervention. The amalgam of current pockets of digital layering that include institutional repositories, preprint archives, course notes, open courseware, data generated by research notes, and other information generated by research would more wisely be federated across institutions. It should be structured and managed as an interoperable resource that clarifies the conduct of research, allows for more rigorous assessment of theses and conclusions, and facilitates reuse of data.
Taken together, the actions just described would create a new research environment designed to foster discovery using information, tools, and applications that are only marginally effective when used within silos. A consortium might also create an auditing authority to ensure the long-term persistence and interoperability of data, including journal articles, published digital objects, archives, background data, course materials, and correspondence. Research and intellectual productivity, the core of a university or college, would be managed and supported in a more systematic and cost-effective way. Institutions and libraries would retain their identity; there would be no compromising areas of excellence and proven achievement. The universities, by means of a new and compelling collaboration that would reconceptualize aspects of higher education, would assume greater responsibility for the infrastructure essential to research, ensuring a more stable context and continuity for advancing the life of the mind.
CLIR’s Leadership Programs: A New Direction
by Chuck Henry and Elliott Shore
OVER THE PAST several years, CLIR has established a number of programs that, while seemingly diverse and independently focused, contribute to developing leaders in a variety of professional roles. The programs include the CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowships in Scholarly Information Resources, the CLIR/Mellon Fellowships for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, the Chief Information Officers’ Forum, the Frye Leadership Institute, and the new grant program on Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives.
A unifying goal of these programs is to enable and help structure the myriad changes in librarianship by providing participants opportunities to participate in research, seminars, and online discussions, and by enriching and extending communities of practice. The programs have brought together senior administrators, including library directors and provosts; midlevel leaders, who often possess both library and computing skills; forward-looking information technology (IT) leaders; young scholars working on innovative dissertation topics; “hybrid” scholar/librarians who are increasingly taking faculty jobs as well as library and IT positions; the legion of graduate students who will work on revealing hidden collections of scholarly import; and graduate students who have recently conducted original research.
To date, more than 400 individuals have taken part in one or more of these programs. Their interaction and integration with higher education is creating a core cohort that is able to collectively identify most of the transformational aspects of the 21st-century library and to contribute to its successful evolution.
CLIR has now begun to consider sponsoring a new program of professional development that would enrich and complement its ongoing programs. More specifically, CLIR is interested in establishing fellowships that would enable librarians to work for a year in an academic department or to participate integrally in a research program in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. The goal of the program would be to give innovative, forward-looking librarians an opportunity to acquire research skills and methodological expertise that would strengthen their ability to work collaboratively with faculty. The disciplines are transforming, largely in response to technological developments and a greater dependency on digital tools and resources. Librarians who understand the implications of these transformations and who possess a deep knowledge of the conduct of research as well as subject expertise can be true partners in the advancement of scholarship. They would bring both disciplinary expertise and the skills of sophisticated librarianship to various aspects of intellectual productivity. Such a program would complement the CLIR postdoc program and would provide a unique lens for an analysis of the intersection of contemporary humanities and library practice.
In the coming year, CLIR will explore means by which to bring together and focus participants from its various leadership programs in ways that apply their collective experience and knowledge to real-world challenges and opportunities and to generate new research that will help institutions of higher education address some of the most daunting transformational challenges of the past 150 years. New library functions, core services, future staffing expertise, physical plant design, the digital research environment and its architecture, and, more broadly, emerging challenges to the traditional organization models of colleges and universities are among the issue that would benefit from the scrutiny of multiple disciplines and professions. By engaging representatives of these initiatives as well as our sponsors, CLIR hopes to better understand the feasibility, possible structure, and constituent benefits of such a leadership collegium.
Stephen Nichols, chair of German and Romance Languages and Literatures at The Johns Hopkins University and a CLIR Board member, has been elected the recipient of a Humboldt Research Award. The award is conferred by Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in recognition of lifetime achievement. Awardees carry out research projects of their choice in cooperation with specialist colleagues in Germany. Nichols will be hosted by the Free University in Berlin and by the University of Cologne. He will be based at the new Dahlem Humanities Center in Berlin.
CLIR President Charles Henry has been named a member of the scientific board of Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN), a project that is cofunded by the European Union. Seven European university presses initiated the project, which will be coordinated by Amsterdam University Press. Göttingen University will be responsible for the scientific management. In September 2008, OAPEN will begin to develop and implement an open access publication model for peer-reviewed academic books in the humanities and social sciences. More information is available at http://www.oapen.com/.
Study to Examine Costs of Print Storage
CLIR has awarded funding to Paul Courant, university librarian and dean of libraries at the University of Michigan, to oversee a study of the costs of accessing and storing print volumes in academic libraries. The study will include an extensive literature review focusing on the differential costs of alternative storage facilities, the categories of cost that need to be considered, and the relationship of access and modes of access to overall costs. To supplement the literature review, Courant and Research Assistant Matthew Nielsen will calculate the print preservation and circulation costs at the University of Michigan’s Buhr Shelving Facility, an off-site shelving repository. The study is scheduled for completion in fall 2008.
Mellon Awards CLIR $1.37 Million to Continue Dissertation Fellowships
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded CLIR $1,378,000 in support of the Mellon Fellowship Program for Dissertation Research in Original Sources in the Humanities. The grant will allow CLIR to continue administering the fellowship program through 2012. New funds will also allow CLIR to increase the number of awards given each year from 10 to 12, and to increase the stipend from $20,000 to $25,000 to support dissertation research for periods of up to 12 months.
The program, created in 2001, has supported 72 fellows over the past six years. Nine additional fellows have begun their research this summer.
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.
SCI 6 Focuses on Models for Humanities Research Centers
IN MID-JULY, the University of Virginia hosted the sixth annual Scholarly Communication Institute (SCI 6). This year’s institute focused on humanities research centers—specifically, the models that are best able to support and advance technology-enabled humanities scholarship. Some 30 representatives from higher education, funding agencies, and scholarly societies attended.
During the two-day meeting, participants identified major trends in humanities research. These trends include an increase in collaborative research, the challenges posed by the burgeoning scale of the digital corpora and the potential of quantitative data and analysis, and increasingly informal modes of communication and publishing. Use of visual technologies, locational technologies, three-dimensional and immersive environments, and temporal and geospatial technologies were also discussed.
Humanities research centers are trusted sites of collaboration where faculty, students, and visiting scholars can develop innovative research agendas, investigate transdisciplinary topics, interact with the public, and host programs and seminars. Some centers emphasize digital scholarship, while others represent a mix of digital and more traditional approaches.
Representatives from the centers acknowledged that the increased use of digital tools and resources in scholarship and teaching has led to greater awareness of emerging opportunities for humanities research centers. Participants discussed how digital scholarship can be properly assessed and credentialed. They also explored the forms that new scholarship might take, especially when research is undertaken with multiple kinds of media resources. Some expressed interest in identifying how today’s new methodological approaches could be better taught and more broadly adopted.
Participants agreed on the need for more investment in open access collections, tools, and services. Better cross-campus collaboration is needed among scholars and libraries, media learning centers, information technology (IT) centers, and centers for the arts, humanities, or technology. Improved information sharing among centers is also desirable. Participants discussed the possibilities of new organizational models that would encourage integration of theory and practice, multiple disciplines, and different media and formats. They also discussed the need for an array of institutional support services and expertise.
The SCI will post a full report of SCI 6 later this summer at www.uvasci.org. A link to the report will also be available on the CLIR Web site. Additional meetings will be held to advance the ideas articulated at SCI 6 and to develop grant proposals that build on participants’ recommendations.
The annual SCI provides opportunities for leaders in scholarly disciplines, academic libraries, advanced technologies, and higher education administration to study, develop, and implement creative and innovative strategies to advance scholarly communication in the context of the digital revolution. The SCI’s goal is to foster scholarship-driven collaborative actions among scholars, librarians, publishers, and IT staff.
ASIS&T Issues Study on Graduate Information Programs and Accreditation
IN JUNE, THE Information Professionals Task Force of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) issued a report reviewing the status of information professional programs and related accreditation activities. The report, Graduate Information Programs and Accreditation: Landscape Analysis and Survey, is available at http://www.asis.org/news.html.
As stated in the report, “There is a concern that the proliferation of information programs poses a problem of legitimacy, accountability, consistency, and quality assurance within the information field.” This situation led task force chair and ASIS&T President Nancy Roderer to commission Samantha Becker and Bo Kinney, graduate students at the University of Washington’s Information School, to conduct the study with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).
The report includes the following key findings:
- About 900 distinct information-related master’s programs exist across 468 institutions. Some of the programs are designated as majors and others as concentrations in a major. A total of 220 majors or concentration areas were found in 500 academic units.
- Slightly more than one-third of the programs are located in four core disciplinary domains: engineering, computer science, information science, and applied information science/informatics.
- Of the remaining programs, half are found within the business domain. Most of the remaining programs are distributed among biological and health sciences, library science, public administration, communications, and education.
- Sixty percent of the programs have majors or concentrations in at least one of the following categories: information systems, informatics, information technology, and information science.
The appendixes of the study provide a directory of master’s information programs and profiles of 19 information school programs, including how each is accredited.
In September, ASIS&T and CLIR will cosponsor an invitational meeting at which representatives of information organizations will discuss the establishment of a new accreditation process for the range of master’s degree programs that educate information professionals. For more on the goals and activities of the Information Professionals Task Force, see the ASIS&T Presidential White Paper at http://www.asis.org/news.html.
Humanists Receive Postdoc Library Fellowships
FIVE INDIVIDUALS HAVE been awarded Postdoctoral Fellowships in Scholarly Information Resources for 2008–09. The fellows, each of whom recently received a Ph.D. degree in the humanities, will spend next year at a host academic research library, where they will develop linkages between disciplinary scholarship, libraries, archives, and evolving digital tools. In addition to the new fellows, two fellows from 2007–08 will continue in the program during the upcoming academic year.
The new humanists began their fellowships in July with a two-week seminar at Bryn Mawr College, where they learned about the profession of academic librarianship, including its history, role in higher education, pressing concerns, successes, and areas for improvement.
The five newly named fellows, their fields of study, and their host institutions are as follows:
Gloria E. Chacon
Ph.D. Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz
Host: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Gabrielle N. O. Dean
Ph.D. English and Textual Studies, University of Washington
Host: The Johns Hopkins University
Ph.D. History and Theory of Architecture, Princeton University
Ph.D. History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz
Host: Claremont University Consortium
Ph.D. Dance Studies, University of Surrey
Host: University of North Carolina, Greensboro
The following fellows will continue their postdoctoral research during the coming year:
Ph.D. History, Indiana University
Host: Appalachian College Association
Ph.D. Near Eastern Studies, The Johns Hopkins University
CLIR administers the program in collaboration with several U.S. colleges and universities as a means of recruiting talent into the library profession. Fellowship information is available at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/postdoc/postdoc.html.