Digital Scholarship: What, Why and How?


Hi edigital_mediaveryone, it’s a great honor to contribute to this IFLA’s New Professionals Interest Group discussion.  Today, I would like to answer three questions about digital scholarship:

What is it?, Why is it important? and How can you/we help with it?

[Spanish version]

For the first question, it might be useful if we had a definition for digital scholarship, the problem is that coming up with a definition is a bit complicated; however, many have accepted a working definition by Abby Rumsey, who used to be the Director of the Scholarly Communications Institute at the University of Virginia, Rumsey said: “Digital scholarship is the use of digital evidence and method, digital authoring, digital publishing, digital curation and preservation, and digital use and reuse of scholarship.”  In other words, digital scholarship can extend traditional methods of research by applying new technologies to advance the teaching and learning processes.

Now, why is digital scholarship important for the library profession? as we continue to move into a world where a lot of resources are expected to be on the web, interactive, curated, and publicly available; then, libraries, especially university or academic libraries, will continue to be important players in the creation, preservation, and dissemination of information.  As indicated in a 2014 EDUCAUSE article The University Library as Incubator for Digital Scholarship[1] “Libraries have always been in the business of knowledge creation and transfer, and the digital scholarship incubator within the library can serve as a natural extension of this essential function.”  Such incubators can create innovative-virtual-shared spaces that can support learning and discovery at different scales.  At a high level, an incubator could assist a team of scholars working on big data or longitudinal studies, which might produce and publish digital reports or hybrid monographs about their findings.  At a mid to low level, the incubator could also assist junior scholars or high achieving students exploring or evaluating tools for data visualizations, simulations, mash-ups, or prototypes.

Finally, how can you/we help with digital scholarship initiatives? Well, this is probably one of my favorite questions, in part because there is a lot of possibilities and opportunities to learn, contribute and discover with digital scholarship projects.  For instance: coding from HTML/CSS to more high-level programming languages like Python will help you with web/digital publishing activities; developing an understanding for open data, APIs, and graphic design can also become extremely important for data visualization activities; familiarizing yourself with other digital/scholarly buzzwords like data management plan, scholarly communication, open educational resources, digital humanities, etc., will also help you in your next professional chapter/challenge.

Elías Tzoc
Digital Scholarship Librarian
Miami University Libraries

[1] http://er.educause.edu/articles/2014/6/the-university-library-as-incubator-for-digital-scholarship

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