I’m currently trying to write an article outlining some ideas around what digital scholarship might mean. I’m basing my ideas of ‘scholarship’ around Ernest Boyer’s influential report from 1990, Scholarship Reconsidered and subsequent literature. In particular I’m trying to think through how his conception of scholarship, might be useful in understanding how new technologies might affect how scholars work.
In the first case scholarship is about discovery, that is the creation of new knowledge in a specific area or discipline. Secondly scholarship includes integration, which is still about creating knowledge, but this time across disciplines. Thirdly scholarship is about application, that is an engagement with the wider world outside academia, but still based on the scholar’s disciplinary knowledge and background. This might include public engagement activities as well as input into policy and general media discussions. Finally scholarship is about teaching.
Now without wanting to suggest that new technologies will inevitably lead to new ways of working it certainly seems likely that new technologies allow for new ways of working, and in particular in each of the kinds of scholarship above it seems that new technologies allow for more open ways of working, and that this might be a useful way of integrating a number of disparate (but well noted) themes within HE. In each case I’m trying to summarise vast areas into a paragraph, so forgive me for being overly simplistic!
In discovery we can see that digital technology makes it potentially easier to share data (if we can resolve ownership/attribution and metadata/documentation issues). Funding bodies in the UK at least are starting to request publication of datasets, and in some cases more publications are linking to the original datasets to allow for re-analysis. I think that some subjects are more emenable to this kind of data recycling and reuse, indeed in some areas the ‘data deluge’ means that data needs to be shared (most obvious and well cited example being the Large Hadron Collider, but also Astronomy and others).
For integration we can think of how new technologies are challenging the traditional models for academic publishing, and how in some subjects open publishing is already a reality (e.g. arXiv). How traditional publishers respond to the threats/challenges of new technologies is still very much an open question.
For application we can think how new technologies allow for an opening up of the boundaries between academia and the rest of society, through blogs, youtube and citizen science (such as Galaxy Zoo or the OU’s very own iSpot). New technologies allow for direct unmediated communication between scientists and the general public, but this is not without its problems.
For teaching there is increased possibilities for open education afforded by new technologies (something the OU is particularly keen on naturally!), which again covers things like using YouTube, iTunes or MITs OpenCourseWare. Similiar to what is happening with data in discovery, the digital artefacts can be taken out of their specific context and freely shared. This development has potentially great benefits, but also challenges the traditional model of univerisities (what are students paying for now?).
There is a fuller draft which I’m happy to circulate (just ask!) but I’d really welcome comments at this stage on these early ideas. Have I been a bit cavalier in bringing 4 disparate themes together, have I been overly simplistic? Is there anything important I’ve missed?
Finally I’m coming to the conclusion that new technologies in each area of scholarship are providing opportunities for an open scholarship, and an open university, but working at the Open University I think I’m going to need a different name for a university characterised by openness in each stream, any suggestions?