A Single Sky

By Charles Henry posted

January, appropriately named after the Roman god Janus: Janus was the chief god of beginnings and transitions, a deity with considerable influence over time—the continuity of the past to the future, the inauguration of new projects, new eras, and new years—and space, as the god of doors, bridges, and gateways. Usually depicted as a two-headed god that looks both backward and forward, embodying the correlation of what has been to what will come, Janus presides over this blog, as we look briefly at the year past and ahead to exciting opportunities in the next.

Informed by the vision and mission of CLIR and DLF to forge strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning, 2012 was remarkably productive. Our new venture in service to emerging forms of scholarly communication in the humanities, Anvil Academic, was developed in collaboration with several universities and liberal arts colleges. Anvil is a direct response to the dearth of publishing venues that can adequately capture the multimedia, multilayered scholarly products that ensue from very large-scale, data-dependent research that cannot be reduced to a printed page. Also formed in 2012 was the Committee on Coherence at Scale, which will examine emerging national-scale digital projects and their potential to help transform higher education in terms of scholarly productivity, teaching, cost-efficiency, and sustainability. The committee comprises college and university presidents and provosts, deans, university librarians, and association heads. 

As the Committee on Coherence at Scale aims to coordinate efforts on the leadership level, the DLF program continues to provide grassroots support for those who build, maintain, and use digital libraries. The DLF is a diverse community of practitioners who advance research, teaching, and learning through the application of digital library research, technology, and services. Some of the DLF activities planned for this year include supporting and contributing to the LODLAM challenge and the LODLAM Summit to be held in Montreal, June 19-20; providing logistics support for the annual Code4Lib conference taking place on February 11-14  in Chicago; in partnership with ER&L supporting community outreach and communication for SXSWi library community participants with #IdeaDrop; and organizing the annual Forum, to be held November 4-6 in Austin, Texas.  The goal of these efforts is to bridge community boundaries: to create a shared understanding of the challenges and large-scale projects, and how we as community members can best contribute.

Our postdoctoral fellowship program continues to grow and change as a result of the grand challenges posed by research data and its impact on research, scholarly communication, and library practice. Last year, through generous funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we expanded the program to support science and social science data curation fellows and medieval studies data curation fellows, respectively. We expect that these programs will not only help build professional capacity for data curation on our campuses, but also, through the work of the fellows themselves, will help us better understand the impact that research data will have on library organizations and the services they provide.

In the year ahead, CLIR ‘s activities and programs will focus on the efforts that were initiated last year and will build upon them. Research on large-scale technology architecture and templates for interoperable datasets will be conducted on behalf of the Committee on Coherence. In addition, studies on the economic efficiencies of broad-based collaboration will be undertaken, and we will start a new publication series that will help our community disambiguate and understand large-scale projects taking shape. New forms of scholarly expression are expected to come out of Anvil, with new models for capturing the research environment in which the scholarship was executed. The various communities being constructed for data curation—sciences, social sciences, and the humanities—will be correlated with our traditional postdoc fellows program and intensively studied.

With this focus of activity, we aim to help build a new digital environment for teaching and research; to develop a new paradigm for publishing and preserving digital humanities; and to train a new profession that will curate, with consistent standards and protocols, academic data.

A recent book comes to mind while writing this blog, A Single Sky: How an International Community Forged the Science of Radio Astronomy. The author, David Munns, describes the efforts across the globe, by scientists in many countries, that eventually created a new scientific discipline, with new instruments, a young cadre of students, and peer recognition of the importance of their work. Using the tools and methods of this freshly minted field of study, incredible discoveries were made, including the nature of the origin of the universe and its present configuration. Scientists were able to define and instantiate radio astronomy through collaboration and cooperation that transcended background, language, political borders, and an entrenched culture of science in which competition was ubiquitous. While more modest in scope, CLIR and DLF similarly hope to bring order, efficiency, and accessibility to the 21st century cycle of knowledge.

DLF Program Director Rachel Frick contributed to this blog.