CNI will host an initiative in 2023 that examines the evolution, current state, and future of digital scholarship (DS) programs in libraries of CNI member institutions. DS programs encompass a broad range of initiatives, including support for research services that are data-intensive and computational in methodology. While some programs may focus on digital humanities (DH), others may work with data-driven social sciences and sciences and with professional fields such as health sciences and business. Some programs may emphasize activities geared towards educating and consulting with graduate students and undergraduates, including partnering with faculty to develop new types of assignments where students create digital projects. They may also offer workshops and certificate programs and consult with students working on theses, dissertations, and masters or undergraduate research projects that employ digital tools and create various forms of digital content.
The current initiative proposes to look at the evolution of DS programs and provide a snapshot of the current state of play among selected CNI member institutions and importantly get a sense of where those involved in these initiatives envision them heading in the next 3-5 years.
We are intentionally describing this initiative with the term “digital scholarship programs” rather than “digital scholarship centers” because we’d like to look at the scope of activities related to research and scholarship that is data intensive, uses a variety of tools, and has significant elements of digital representation in their outputs rather than a straight text article or book. These programs may or may not be organized as a “center.” In sum, these programs help researchers navigate the challenges of changing methods and modes as they create, analyze, and publish new forms of content.
CNI has had an interest in digital scholarship from at least 2011 and much earlier, if one includes CNI’s interest in the digital humanities. In 2014, CNI held its first workshop on DS centers, focusing on libraries or other units offering specialized tools, physical facilities, consultations, research partnerships, workshops, and other activities related to the use of high end technologies to enable scholars to ask new types of questions in their research and to assist them in representing the outputs of their scholarship in new modes.
At the institutional level, DS programs often developed serendipitously; this initiative will explore whether some were developed or adapted in the context of institutional priorities and to what degree any of the programs represented currently intentionally align with institutional priorities. Are DS programs viewed as institutional assets and supported as such? Are these programs sustainable, and what factors impact that? In addition, the initiative will attempt to understand trends in the nature of DS programs including attention to the impact of the pandemic, especially with reference to the importance of physical spaces and in-person programming.
Some particular areas of programmatic interest that will be examined include how these programs relate to other technology-intensive or digitally focused initiatives within the library, e.g. a digital publishing program or a virtual reality program and how DS programs incorporate or connect to research support and computational services, both within the library and from other campus units such as central IT. We will examine which disciplines DS programs currently support and how that has changed over the course of their existence. For those DS programs supporting the sciences, who are their clientele and what are the specific kinds of projects they support? Are these configurations or relationships developed due to systematic planning or are they the result of how technology initiatives developed historically on a campus, or the result of other factors? We will try to understand better how institutions locally define what falls under the umbrella of DS services and where those services are offered (within the library and the institution).
Components of the program
- Two invitational online forums on March 9 and March 20, 2023, from 1:00-3:30 PM, with different institutions participating in each
- Profiles of the DS programs of institutions participating in the forums
- A report documenting the findings of the forums
- A project briefing at the CNI Spring 2023 Membership Meeting disseminating the forums’ findings
- Two webinars in spring 2023 highlighting some of the institutions and trends identified in the forums
Sample discussion questions for the forums
- Has what is included in your DS program been shaped by campus culture, historical circumstances, funding, or has what is included been developed systematically from needs assessments or other planning mechanisms?
- Does your program align intentionally with your institutional mission/priorities and has that become more or less significant over the years?
- Has the constituency that you serve changed in the time that your program has been in existence? If so, in what ways – for example, more graduate students, fewer faculty, changes in disciplinary focus?
- Has the balance of your work with research-oriented projects vs. education-oriented activities shifted over time? In what ways?
- Is your program currently receiving grant funds from a research project headed by a departmental faculty member? How about from research projects where someone in the library is the PI? Has grant funding as a revenue source changed over the life of your program?
- Has an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) had an impact on your program? In what ways?
- What factors do you believe are positively or negatively affecting the sustainability of your program?
- Are some of the services offered by your program currently considered core services of the library? Has that changed over the years?
- What are the connections or disconnects between the library’s digital scholarship program and other campus research support services, such as those provided by campus IT?
- Who are your campus partners?
- Do you think there are changes in the importance of physical facilities dedicated to digital scholarship pre and post-pandemic? Do you offer more online training and more cloud services post-pandemic?
- Do you think overall faculty/graduate students are more aware of what your program offers than they were 3 years ago?
- Do you have guidelines on how much support you will provide for various types of requests or a tiered service model? If not, do you think they are needed?
- What do you perceive as key obstacles to the success of your program?
- What have been key enablers of success for your program?
- What would be one or two developments you would like to see for your program in the next 3-5 years?
For more information
For questions, please contact Joan Lippincott, CNI Associate Executive Director Emerita, at email@example.com