Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Scholarship in the Digital Age

Today’s Inside Higher Education features an interview with Christine L. Brogman about her new book, Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet, published by the MIT Press.

Here is an excerpt of the interview. . . .

Q: What do you see as the key unexplored policy issues raised by digital scholarship?

A: The overarching policy issue is what the new scholarly information infrastructure should be. Cyberinfrastructure is the policy answer of the moment. My concern is whether this is a solution in search of a problem that we don’t yet fully understand. Building something is much easier than is determining what to build – the risk today is that we construct a new infrastructure that locks in a number of questionable assumptions about what scholarship is and what it could be in the future.

Some aspects of a successful new scholarly infrastructure are these:

* It would support both collaborative and independent research and learning.
* It would provide relatively easy and equitable access to information resources and to the tools to use them.
* It would provide scholars in all fields with the ability to use their own research data and that of others to ask new questions and to visualize and model their data in new ways. For example:

o Scientists – better models of the environment.
o Social scientists – better ways to analyze social trends.
o Humanists – new ways to explore and explain culture – and to mine all those books being digitized by Google, Open Content Alliance, and other international projects

* Open access would prevail, and access to digital content would be permanent.
* Institutional responsibility for obtaining and maintaining digital content would be clear and would be sustainable.

We haven’t achieved any of these goals yet. Each of the many stakeholders – scholars, students, universities, publishers, librarians, archivists, funding agencies, and the taxpaying public – has different concerns for how these functions should be addressed. What we need is a broader conversation that includes these many interested parties.

The full interview can be found at

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