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About the Authors

Executive Summary

1.    The First Challenge and Its Respondents
1.1    One Culture
1.2    Background: “What Do You Do with a Million Books?”
1.3    The Context of this Study
1.4    The Eight Projects

2.    Characteristics of the Eight Projects

2.1    Structural Commonalities and Notable Differences
2.2     Interdisciplinarity
2.3     The Spectrum of Data and Its Consequences
2.4     Expertise
2.4.1    Domain Expertise
2.4.2    Data Expertise
2.4.3  Analytical Expertise
2.4.4  Project Management Expertise

3.    Reflecting and Looking Ahead

3.1     Why Computers? What Kinds of New Research?
3.2     Challenges and Concerns
3.3.    Other Challenges: The Academic Culture
3.4     Perspectives External to the Projects
3.5     Moving Forward

Afterword: A Charge to Stakeholders

Suggestions for Further Reading
Digging into Data Challenge Award Recipients, 2009: Project Participants

Tables and Figures
Table 1. Digging into Data Chronology
Table 2. Digging into Data Projects
Figure 1. Expertise represented among project partners
Figure 2. Scatter plot created in Mathematica showing distribution of Old Bailey trial lengths in the 1860s, by Tom Hitchcock and William Turkel
Figure 3. Integrated census and railroad company data reflect the true extent of railroad company employment in the United States in 1880

About the Authors

Christa Williford is a program officer at the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). She has co-coordinated the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant program since 2008, in addition to working on programs related to the future of research and the professions of scholarship. She held a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship in Academic Libraries from 2004 to 2006 at Bryn Mawr College and a fellowship in Theatre and I.T. Modelling at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2004. Williford holds an M.L.I.S. from the University of Washington Information School and a Ph.D. in Theatre History, Dramatic Literature, and Criticism from Indiana University.

Charles Henry is president of CLIR. Before coming to CLIR, he was provost and university librarian at Rice University, where he was responsible for library services and programs, including the Digital Library Initiative and the Digital Media Center. He served as publisher of Rice University Press, the nation’s first all-digital university press, and was a member of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Commission on Cyberinfrastructure in the Humanities and Social Sciences. He currently serves on the advisory board of Stanford University Libraries, and is also a board member of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) and of the Center for Research Libraries. He is a member of the Scientific Board of the Open Access Publishing in the European Network (OAPEN) project. In collaboration with NITLE, he is currently publisher of Anvil Academic Publishing, which focuses on new forms of scholarly research and expression.

Amy Friedlander is on a temporary federal appointment at the National Science Foundation (NSF) where she has worked with the assistant director who heads the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) to coordinate a strategic visioning exercise to articulate the driving questions in the SBE sciences for the year 2020 and beyond. This resulted in the report, Rebuilding the Mosaic: Fostering Research in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation in the Next Decade (2011). Ms. Friedlander is currently on a detail to the Education and Human Resources directorate at NSF, where she works on strategic communications. In May 2012, she stepped down as editor-in-chief of the ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage. Before joining NSF in June 2010, she was director of programs at CLIR where, among other projects, she participated in the two-year Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access and established the external evaluation of the National Endowment for the Humanities–led joint agency Digging into Data Program.


The Council on Library and Information Resources is grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for its sponsorship of the data collection, travel, and publication costs of this project through Cooperative Agreement HC-50007-10. Special thanks are due to Brett Bobley and Jennifer Serventi at the Office of Digital Humanities for their guidance and support throughout the research process, including reading multiple drafts of this document. Their clear visions for the Digging into Data Challenge program generally and for this assessment specifically were invaluable to shaping this report’s arguments. Their colleagues at the Joint Information Systems Committee in the United Kingdom, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council in Canada, and the National Science Foundation were equally encouraging and enthusiastic throughout; we are especially thankful for their help in understanding the complexity of the international landscape of e-research. Above all, the many researchers whose groundbreaking work this report describes gave generously of their time over a two-year period that included telephone interviews, site visits, and focus groups. These individuals are listed at the end of this report. Many of the most insightful and eloquent thoughts expressed here are theirs; any mistakes are the responsibility of the authors. Kathlin Smith and Brian Leney at CLIR edited and helped prepare both the abridged print and lengthier web version of this report.

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