This week I attended the second Science 2.0 conference held in Hamburg, Germany. (You can see my research notes here.) The conference dealt with issues around open access, open data, citizen science, and network enabled science. I was one of two Canadian digital humanists presenting. Matthew Hiebert from the University of Victoria talked about the social edition and work from the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab and Iter. It should be noted that in Europe the word “science” is more inclusive and can include the humanities. This conference wasn’t just about how open data and crowdsourcing could help the natural sciences – it was about how research across the disciplines could be supported with virtual labs and infrastructure.
I gave a paper on “New Publics for the Humanities” that started by noting that the humanities no longer engage the public. The social contract with the public that supports us has been neglected. I worry that if the university is disaggregated and the humanities unbundled from the other faculties (the way newspapers have been hit by the internet and the unbundling of services) then people will stop paying for the humanities and much of the research we do. We will end up with cheaper, research poor, colleges that provide lots of higher education without the research, or climbing walls. Only in the elite private universities will the humanities survive, and in those they will survive as a marker of their class status. You will be able to study ancient languages at elite schools because any degree is good from an elite school provides.
Of course, the humanities will survive outside the university, and may become healthier with the downsizing of the professional (or professorial) humanities, but we run the danger of unthinkingly losing a long tradition of thinking critically and ethically. An irony to be sure – losing thinking traditions through the lack of public reflection on the consequences of disruptive change.
Drawing on Greg Crane, I then argued that citizen research (forms of crowdsourcing) can re-engage the publics we need to support us and reflect with us. Citizen research can provide an alternative way of structuring research in anticipation of defunding of the humanities research function. I illustrated my point by showing a number of examples of humanities crowdsourcing projects from the OED (pre-computer volunteer research) to the Dictionary of Words in the Wild. If I can find the time I will write up the argument to see where it goes.
My talk was followed by thorough one on citizen science in environmental studies by Professor Aletta Bonn of the Citizens create knowledge project – a German platform for citizen science. We need to learn from people like Dr. Bonn who are studying and experimenting with the deployment of citizen research. One point she made was the importance of citizen co-design. Most projects enlist citizens in repetitive micro-tasks designed by researchers. What if the research project were designed from the beginning with citizens? What would that mean? How would that work?
On Monday I gave a talk at the German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF) on:
Building Research Capacity Across the Humanities and Social Sciences:Social Innovation, Community Engagement and Citizen Science
The talk began with the sorry state of public support for the humanities. We frequently read how students shouldn’t major in the humanities because there are no jobs and we worry about dropping enrolments. The social contract between our publics (whose taxes pay for public universities) and the humanities seems broken or forgotten. We need to imagine how to re-engage the local and international communities interested in what we do. To that end I proposed that we:
- We need to know ourselves better so we can better present our work to the community. It is difficult in a university like the University of Alberta to know what research and teaching is happening in the social sciences and humanities. We are spread out over 10 different faculties and don’t maintain any sort of shared research presence.
- We need to learn to listen to the research needs of the local community and to collaborate with the community researchers who are working on these problems. How many people in the university know what the mayor’s priorities are? Who bothers to connect the research needs of the local community to the incredible capacity of our university? How do we collaborate and support the applied researchers who typically do the work identified by major stakeholders like the city. Institutes like the Kule Institute can help document the research agenda of major community stakeholders and then connect university and community researchers to solve them.
- We need to learn to connect through the internet to communities of interest. Everything we study is of interest to amateurs if we bother to involve them. Crowdsourcing or “citizen science” techniques can bring amateurs into research in a way that engages them and enriches our projects.
In all three of these areas I described projects that are trying to better connect humanities research with our publics. In particular I showed various crowdsourcing projects in the humanities ending with the work we are now doing through the Text Mining the Novel project to imagine ways to crowdsource the tagging of social networks in literature.
One point that resonated with the audience at DIPF was around the types of relationships we need to develop with our publics. I argued that we have to learn to co-create research projects rather than “trickle down” results. We need to develop questions, methods and answers together with community researchers rather think that do the “real” research and then trickle results down to the community. This means learning new and humble ways of doing research.
The CRediT Project now has a Proposed Taxonomy for assigning credit. They have identified a short list of roles:
- Formal Analysis
- Data Curation
- Writing – Original Draft
- Writing – Review and Edit
- Project Administration
- Funding Acquisiton
They are looking for feedback.
Raw 1.0 – Basic Tutorial from DensityDesign on Vimeo.
Stan drew my attention to Raw an online visualization tool that is simply elegant. You paste in some data, choose the type of chart, drag and drop dimensions to be graphed and bingo. It reminds me of Many Eyes but simpler to use.
Today we are running the Around the World Conference from the University of Alberta. This year’s topic is privacy and surveillance in the digital age. The Kule Institute for Advanced Study is hosting this online conference. Here are some of my opening comments,
I would like to welcome you to our second Around the World Conference. This year’s conference is on Privacy and Surveillance in the Digital Age.
The ATW conference was the idea of the Founding Director of KIAS, Jerry Varsava. The idea is to support a truly international discussion around a topic that concerns us all around the world.
This year we have speakers from 11 countries including Nigeria, Netherlands, Japan, Australia, Italy, Israel, Ireland, Germany, Brazil, the US, and of course Canada.
This ATW conference is an experiment. It is an experiment because it is difficult to coordinate the technology across so many countries and institutions. It is an experiment in finding ways to move ideas without moving bodies. It is an experiment in global discussion.
This week the University of Alberta is running a Research Data Management Week. They have sessions throughout the week. I will be presenting on “Weaving Data Management into Your Research.” The need for discussions around research data management is described on the web page:
New norms and practices are developing around the management of research data. Canada’s research councils are discussing the introduction of data management plans within their application processes. The University of Alberta’s Research Policy now addresses the stewardship of research records, with an emphasis on the long-term preservation of data. An increasing number of scholarly journals are requiring authors to provide access to the data behind their submissions for publication. Data repositories are being established in domains and institutions to support the sharing and preservation of data. The series of talks and workshops that have been organized will help you better prepare for this emerging global research data ecosystem.
The University now has language in the Research Policy that the University will:
Ensure that principles of stewardship are applied to research records, protecting the integrity of the assets.
The Research Records Stewardship Guidance Procedure then identifies concrete responsibilities of researchers.
These policies and the larger issue of information stewardship have become important to infrastructure. See my blog entry about the TC3+ document on Capitalizing on Big Data.
The Game of Writing (Gwrit) project that I am part of just got support through a University of Alberta Blended Learning Award. See the 2014 Selected Courses. This award is going towards creating a flipped version of Writing 101, a service course that is being scaled up to support large sections by Roger Graves and Heather Graves. With the Blended Learning Award support from the Centre for Teaching and Learning and with Faculty of Arts funding we are redeveloping GWrit to be used in large sections of Writing 101. Here is part of the abstract of the proposal,
Research suggests that by creating a rich online environment for students to connect and interact with instructors and peers they can improve as writers. We are currently building a gamified online writing environment, The Game of Writing (GWrit), for Writing Studies 101 (WRS 101) that can support student writers and alumni. WRS 101 is a high demand service course required for many degree programs across the University. We are creating a large class version that blends face-to-face with gamification strategies. In GWrit students will choose and work on assignments or quests that are part of the course. Their progress on these assignments or quests will be shared with peers and instructional staff; in this way all students can see who is working on the same quests, and they can ask for help or advice from them. Informal assessment will be available online from peers in the class; from paid peer tutors; from GTAs; and from alumni. This represents a significant expansion of the informal assessment available in traditional face-to-face courses, where peers and sometimes the instructor give informal feedback. We also intend to invite alumni to post assignments/quests that come from a workplace writing context. Students who complete WRS 101 will continue to have access to GWrit throughout their undergraduate careers and as alumni.
GWrit started as a prototype developed with support from GRAND. The original idea was an open writing environment where folks could challenge each other to compete at writing and where you could get analytics on your writing (number of words written, tasks completed, and visualizations like word clouds.) This research prototype is now being completely redeveloped by the Arts Resource Centre as a learning tool that can be used by students of our courses. We are adding commenting features so that students (and later alumni) can provide writing guidance in a structured fashion.
Today, I have to say a few words about collaboration at a lunch-time Arts Research Group gathering. I thought I would gather them here:
- First, collaboration needs to be explicitly discussed to go well. Don’t assume that everyone knows who is doing what or that they share your sense of the goals. Err on the side of saying too much too often.
- In some cases a formal charter is a good idea. The iterative design of a project charter for interdisciplinary research.
- One thing you need to work out explicitly is how credit will be apportioned. Discuss it and then follow what you agree to. Always be generous with those with less power than you in the collaboration.
- Collaborations are not necessarily friendships between like-minded folk. Collaborations often cross disciplines and research practices. Collaborations are often between people with different levels of support, power, and engagement. Try to share support with collaborators (if, for example, you get a grant.) Be ethical in your collaborations with those with less power. Be careful not to ask too much of those not engaged in the whole project.
- If you want to collaborate with someone ask them. Invite them out for a coffee and explain what you want to do. Try to figure out how this would be useful for them and build that into the collaboration.
- There are lots of tools you can use for managing communication and collaboration, but none of them are a substitute for regular attention. I frankly find a weekly meeting is the best way to keep things on track.
- There is lots of advice our there on collaboration and even grants to facilitate developing collaboration. Developing a collaboration takes time, so avail yourself of support to do it.
From Eleni, a short article on coming issues around copyright at MOOCs, The Coming MOOC Copyright Problem And Its Impact on Students and Universities. These issues are not really new. Anyone working on distance education in the 80s and 90s had to face these issues, especially if you were a faculty member creating content. Our University IP approach to copyright has languished as it is not considered as important as patentable IP. University IP boards tend to deal with the types of IP that make money for the university and not those that are usually assigned to faculty. The problem comes when a university invests significant funds in developing a MOOC or Blended Learning course. A university wants to be sure the copyright issues are solved before investment. A university wants some clarity as to who, of a large team of faculty, graduate students, videographers, graphic designers and programmers, really owns anything. A University want to be able to offer the course even if members of the team move on (which faculty do a lot.) The approach I am pushing at U of Alberta is non-exclusive rights so that anyone in the team (including the University) can do what they want with the materials. A prof can take the materials to another university if they leave and rebuild a similar course. All that is expected is that people and institutions are given credit.