My colleague, Stephen Griffin, who is Visiting Professor and Mellon Cyberscholar at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Sciences, presented this talk as part of the Program on Information Science Brown Bag Series. Steve is an expert in Digital Libraries and has a broad perspective on the evolution of library and information science — having had a 32-year career at the National Science Foundation (NSF), as a Program Director in the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems. Steve lead the Interagency Digital Libraries Initiatives and International Digital Libraries Collaborative Research Programs, which supported many notable digital library projects (including my first large research project).
In his talk, below, Steve discusses how how research libraries can play a key and expanded role in enabling digital scholarship and creating the supporting activities that sustain it.
In his abstract, Steve describes his talk as follows:
Contemporary research and scholarship is increasingly characterized by the use of large-scale datasets and computationally intensive tasks. A broad range of scholarly activities is reliant upon many kinds of information objects, located in distant geographical locations expressed in different formats on a variety of mediums. These data can be dynamic in nature, constantly enriched by other users and automated processes.
Accompanying data-centered approaches to inquiry have been cultural shifts in the scholarly community that challenge long-standing assumptions that underpin the structure and mores of academic institutions, as well as to call into question the efficacy and fairness of traditional models of scholarly communication. Scholars are now demanding new models of scholarly communication that capture a comprehensive record of workflows and accommodate the complex and accretive nature of digital scholarship. Computation and data-intensive digital scholarship present special challenges in this regard, as reproducing the results may not be possible based solely on the descriptive information presented in traditional journal publications. Scholars are also calling for greater authority in the publication of their works and rights management.
Agreement is growing on how best to manage and share massive amounts of diverse and complex information objects. Open standards and technologies allow interoperability across institutional repositories. Content level interoperability based on semantic web and linked open data standards is becoming more common. Information research objects are increasingly thought of as social as well as data objects – promoting knowledge creation and sharing and possessing qualities that promote new forms of scholarly arrangements and collaboration. These developments are important to advance the conduct and communication of contemporary research. At the same time, the scope of problem domains can expand, disciplinary boundaries fade and interdisciplinary research can thrive.
This talk will present alternative paths for expanding the scope and reach of digital scholarship and robust models of scholarly communication necessary for full reporting. Academic research libraries will play a key and expanded role in enabling digital scholarship and creating the supporting activities that sustain it. The overall goals are to increase research productivity and impact, and to give scholars a new type of intellectual freedom of expression.
From my point of view, a number of themes ran through Steve’s presentation:
- Grand challenges in computing have shifted focus from computing capacity to managing and understanding information; … and repositories have shifted from simple discovery towards data integration.
- As more information has become available the space of problems we can examine expands from natural sciences to other scientific areas — especially to a large array of problems in social science and humanities; but
… research funding is shifting further away from social sciences and humanities.
- Reproducibiity has become a crisis in sciences; and
… reproducibility requires a comprehensive record of the research process and scholarly workflow
- Data sharing and support for replication still occurs primarily at the end of the scientific workflow
… accelerating the research cycle requires integrating sharing of data and analysis in much earlier stages of workflow, towards a continually open research process.
Steve’s talk includes a number of recommendations for libraries. First and foremost to my view is that libraries will need to act as partners with scientists in their research, in order to support open science, accelerated science, and the integration of information management and sharing workflows into earlier stages of the research process. I agree with this wholeheartedly and have made it a part of the mission of our Program.
The talk suggests a set of specific priorities for libraries. I don’t think one set of priorities will fit all set of research libraries — because pursuit of projects is necessarily, and appropriately opportunistic — and depends on the competitive advantage of the institutions involved and the needs of local stakeholders. However, I would recommend adding rapid fabrication, scholarly evaluation, crowdsourcing, library publishing, long-term access generally to the list of priorities in the talk.
Steve’s talk makes the point Libraries will need to act as partners with scientists in their research, in order to support accelerated science, that integration information management and reproducibility into earlier stages of the research process.