Digital Scholarship @ The Libraries

Inspiring innovative digital scholarship at the OSU Libraries and beyond

Author: Meris Mandernach

Hackathon in the Library 2014

With nearly double the students in attendance, this year’s hackathon was an overwhelming success.

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is “an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.” A hackathon lasts anywhere from 8 hours to a couple of days, typically fueled by caffeine and pizza. In 2013 the first Ohio State hackathon was held for 24 hours. The full report from that hackathon is available here:

Why a hackathon at Ohio State?

The goal of the event was to foster a tech culture amongst students at Ohio State and cultivate technical talent in Columbus and the Ohio region. “OHI/O” — Ohio State’s Annual 36-hour Hackathon and programming contest was held Friday October 3rd through Sunday October 5th. Over 200 undergraduate and graduate student programmers built working software and demonstrated them to a live audience of students, faculty, and representatives from tech companies. Students competed for over $5000 in prizes and were judged on categories including technical difficulty, creativity, usefulness, and presentation. Projects ranged from music apps, to a Google Glass project that put people in context, to an app to check in which had applications in doctor’s offices as well as class room attendance. One team used a Raspberry Pi and inkjet printer motors to rake a zen garden.

Why is the library involved?

The Ohio State University Libraries are co-conceivers of this event because it positions student learning in a fast-paced environment. The libraries have the infrastructure in building spaces that can hold the participants, there is enough bandwidth within the library to handle the amount of traffic that the students require for their hackathon projects, and the library is open 24 hours, so little extra staff is needed and separate procedures are not required. Additionally, students have commented that they enjoyed the library support of this event and that it encouraged them to “think of the library as supporting their entire academic career- both for classes as well as for fun.”

Suggestions from some of the hackers this year included projects that might be in the queue for next year: “It would be cool if you guys had an app that everyone downloads before that sends SMS alerts or in app notifications like “It’s time for dinner!” or other important messages so that people who aren’t right next to the headquarters knows what is going on.

Other comments included: “Enjoyed the opportunity to build an application from start to finish. I learned a lot and truly understood how to apply my classroom/personal learnings.”

“I felt like I got a lot done and really accomplished something cool. I enjoyed working with my team. We will continue working on our project, so it helped us get off the ground.”

One of the changes this year was that we focused on providing a healthier culture around the hackathon. Mentors were on call round the clock to provide guidance and support. The timeline was extended from 24 hours to 36 hours, to allow for time to take a break, get some rest (and maybe, shower). The variety of food provided included healthy snacks from nuts to veggies, and all meals had options for dietary restrictions. While there was ample coffee, there were also other choices of beverages including tea, hot chocolate, and water.

A video of the event festivities is available here:

New positions to support Digital Scholarship @ OSU Libraries

The Libraries at OSU are recruiting for a cohort of library faculty focused on digital scholarship as the Universities build on initiatives for interdisciplinary research. Among the cohort of six positions are the Digital Humanities Librarian, the Geospatial Information Library, and the Data Management Services Librarian. Each position carries unique responsibilities for addressing a particular facet of digital scholarship or data support in assisting scholars, but the collaborative possibilities among them and other experts in the Libraries focused on research services are rare opportunities to make a difference at a time of growing support for digital scholarship throughout the University.

The Digital Humanities Librarian will work with digital humanities scholars in a variety of disciplines to advance projects in the digital arts and humanities, through connecting scholars and encouraging interdisciplinary research, facilitating collaboration among subject librarians and special collections curators in the digital humanities, and enabling the effective use of digital methodologies and tools among faculty.

The Geospatial Information Librarian/Head of Geology Library is a forward-focused individual who will establish and grow the Libraries’ GIS services program. This is an area of expressed need across several disciplines to support research related to GIS and Geospatial Information. This position will interact with emerging areas on campus relating to visualization of data across disciplines and provide expertise with data visualization tools and techniques.

The Data Management Services Librarian will lead the Libraries in assisting researchers with managing the lifecycle of research data. The Libraries are exploring ways to support researchers in the management of and access to research data and providing guidance to emerging and evolving techniques related to data management services. Given recent granting mandates, data management services are of growing interest on many university campuses.

The excitement surrounding this cohort is that these individuals will be able to shape the programs related to emerging areas for research support. This group will also be providing services in a new space, a Research Commons, where the Libraries will partner with several key research support areas around campus including: the Office of Research, the Copyright Resources Center, the Undergraduate Research Office, the Digital Union- an arm of the Office of Distance Education and e-Learning, the Digital Humanities Working Group, and offices providing GIS support. This cohort will be building an evolving service model that will provide programming related to digital scholarship at Ohio State University.

Scholarly Communication and Alternative Metrics

Jason Priem spoke at The Ohio State University Libraries on March 5th, 2013. His talk focused around three areas. A link to the complete presentation is located at the end of the post.

Setting up the System

He gave a quick rundown of the history of publishing and noted that when scholars shared data/information it was done through the letter.  It made the best of available technology.  However, in 1665 there was a revolution with the scholarly journal and with this change new standards were created.  Articles developed structures.

With the web, it’s now time for a second revolution.  Publication is nearly free and we’re no longer using the web to its full potential. We are still using the best technology of 1665. His contention is that science of the future will be in the analysis NOT in the collection of data.  Open data allows researchers to replicate results exactly OR do a mashup of data and add your own analysis.

There are a couple of data repositories where data can be deposited for future analysis by any number of research groups. These include Dryad and FigShare.

Another interesting change in the realm of scholarly publishing relates to the conversation around research.  In building from the invisible college, researchers are able to share answers and, more importantly, share questions. Math Overflow is an example, similar to Stack Exchange, where tough questions can be examined, debated, and solved by experts or novices. These type of resources, like Wikipedia, allow for experts to emerge based on their area of expertise, not on their institutional affiliation.  The crowd will self-patrol and promote resources of high value.

Currently people are confusing form with purpose. Publishing used to mean “the act of making public.” Therefore a tweet, a blog post, a journal article, would all be forms of making information available publically. Information can be made public very quickly. Then it is imperative to set up good filtering systems.   Today academics spend about the same amount of time reading as they did in the 1970s; however, more is being read because more is being published.  Jason argues that if you do the same thing only faster and more of it that the system is broken. His solution? Set up your own personal journal.  If the article can be decoupled from the journal, you are able to filter to only get the information that is relevant to you and your research interests. One way is to set up a Tweetdeck. This will allow for great peer review of articles of interest. You’re also able to target your own research for feedback to an audience that is extremely interested in your output.

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Supporting Digital Scholarship through Library Services

Library Services are continually changing and evolving as the research needs at an institution also grow and require new or innovative support.  Research continues to morph into cross-disciplinary arenas as well as move more electronically.  As more and more data is available and can be processed in a shorter amount of time, new links can be discovered and mined at a deeper level than was possible in the past. The availability of quick access to information has shortened the peer review process and the move toward more open access and open data has also sped up the citation trail.  While some of these changes have allowed researchers to dive deeper into their own disciplines, it has also allowed them to blur the lines between areas and use information in new and exciting ways.  Libraries are excited and challenged to provide services for these ever evolving research projects both in terms of research support as well as preservation and access to this research in the future.

The libraries at OSU continue to grapple with how to best support digital scholarship programmatically through services offered by the library.  The Libraries are starting to discuss what steps would need to be in place to support a programmatic approach to supporting research services.  While this will not be a regular series of blog posts, there are certainly a number of areas that we will continue to explore. Some of these include: changes to citation models, changing methods of discovery impact the research cycle, alternate definitions of scholarship and how to measure scholarly output, and building a library program to support research when and where it occurs.