Thursday, August 28, 2014

What is Digital Scholarship

Today I have the pleasure of inviting Stephanie Echeveste to share her views on digital scholarship. Stephanie is the community manager for USC Rossier Online, which offers a Doctor of Education (EdD) in Change and Leadership program delivered online at the USC Rossier School of Education. Stephanie has taught English abroad, dance in South Central Los Angeles and art in the mission district of San Francisco. She is passionate about providing quality education for all and is a lifelong learner herself.


What is Digital Scholarship?

In the not-so-distant past, graduate and doctoral students spent countless hours in university libraries digging for information for their dissertations. Now, digital scholarship is changing just how and where we conduct research. So, what exactly is digital scholarship?

Digital Scholarship Defined

According to The University of Washington,
“Digital scholarship is often composed of works that are born digital, multimedia, database technology-based, analysis of other born digital material, digital text and images, digital music or art, and data sets. Much of this scholarship is never intended to be formally published. This form of scholarly data, presentations and dissemination represents a shift away from publishing and the kind of scholarship that we have traditionally collected and preserved in libraries, and is a natural evolution and adaptation of digital technology to scholarship[KF1] .”
With digital scholarship, many of the research tools are open-access, so their uses are unlimited. Digital scholarship enables researchers to share their findings instantaneously with the world and also enables collaborations among technology experts, scholars and anyone else involved in research. We are moving away from the days when university faculty and students pursuing their Doctor of Education degree need to conduct all of their research in university libraries, leafing through academic journals.

Advantages and Implications for faculty members and PhD students

Since many universities have or are establishing digital scholarship centers, the process of data mining is becoming far easier and less time consuming for faculty and graduate students. Educause took a close look at what a typical digital scholarship center infrastructure looks like and how universities are capitalizing on digital scholarship.
Digital scholarship centers are separate from their traditional research counterparts in that they employ experts in digital learning. They may offer tutorials, consulting services and curate specific types of materials.

One example of a digital scholarship center is the Center for Digital Scholarship at Brown University. Brown University is a pioneer in digital scholarship since the 1960s. Today, the center employs “two digital humanities librarians, a social science data librarian, a scientific data management consultant, a data visualization specialist, an imaging and metadata manager, and a digital repository manager.” Besides offering significant libraries of multidisciplinary information, they are hosting a number of collaborative research projects that include a “Catalon Literature Bibliography” and “Open eBook Validator.”

Utilizing Digital Scholarship

What does all of this mean for faculty and doctoral students? With digital scholarship centers, valuable research information is available via a simple search on a computer and viewable anytime from any location. Digital scholarship centers support the use of digital scholarship by providing a collaborative space and access to resources that are necessary to enhance projects, papers, and more.

Digital scholarship is often collaborative, which enables PhD students to work with experts and other students around the world, and exposes students to different perspectives. Digital scholarship makes it easier for researchers to strengthen their work with digital resources such as Academia.edu, where many researchers are sharing their findings.

But with all digital information, resources must be scrutinized for authenticity and objectivity.
Since digital scholarship use is so common, universities are clarifying exactly how they evaluate digital scholarship to help others understand what is expected of them. For PhD students and faculty with leadership aspirations, the University of Southern California has documented its expectations when it comes to the use of digital scholarship. For example,
  • Project expectations must be crystal clear. Project objectives, tasks, and the timeline must be outlined before students or faculty conduct any research alone or in collaboration with others.
  • Digital work should be edited and reviewed digitally by experts in the field.
  • Peer review standards are created with digital publishing in mind. This means that factors like aesthetics and formatting are important.  
  • Researchers must clarify the importance of their work, how it was or will be reviewed and what the future implications of their research is, which makes it clear for any readers outside the field of research.
With expectations clearly explained, issues like plagiarism can be avoided, making digital scholarship a useful, convenient and valuable tool in education.

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