Author Archives: Mike Furlough

About Mike Furlough

Associate Dean for Research and Scholarly Communications, Penn State University Libraries

Publishing and Curation Services — Naming it and Making it Work

Below is a message I sent out to the entire University Libraries today.  Among the many things we hope to accomplish with these shifts is to clearly signify to our users who can help them achieve the goals they have for disseminating their research.   And, with ScholarSphere launching, it’s really important to signify who is running point for that activity.  We still have a lot to do to build more service capacity, but this is a start. 

ANNOUNCEMENT:  Publishing and Curation Services

Today the Libraries and ITS launch ScholarSphere, a new service that will help Penn State faculty and students share their scholarly work in a consistent and durable way. Please take a look at and help get the word out.

With the launch, I wanted to let you know about some changes we are making in how we provide and promote services to our users within the area of scholarly communications. Effective immediately, Linda Friend and Patricia Hswe collaboratively lead Publishing and Curation Services (PCS). This change rebrands for our users work that Linda and Patricia have been doing but which we have referred to separately as Scholarly Communications Services and Digital Curation.

I encourage you to get in touch with Linda and Patricia about potential digital scholarship projects or requests that you may have or that your users bring to you. Publishing and Curation Services, in consultation with Library faculty, will have responsibility for leading the services, policy, and content development for ScholarSphere. PCS will support digital scholarship by offering our users a primary point of access for a variety of scholarly communications services. The department will work closely with subject specialists, both to foster strong ties with faculty and students and to serve as a resource on issues related to scholarly publishing and digital scholarship. This will provide avenues for more experimentation to inform new programs of collaborative research services to meet faculty and student needs.

We have modified Linda’s and Patricia’s titles to more readily convey to our users the nature of work and services for which they are responsible.

Linda Friend will now have the title Head, Scholarly Publishing Services and take primary responsibility for those activities. She will continue her work with faculty, students, staff, and librarians to accommodate requests for services such as collecting student research work, starting new publications, or for guidance on issues such as open access. In the coming year Linda will investigate the viability of expanding support for original publications such as journals or conference proceedings.

Patricia Hswe will now have the title Digital Content Strategist and Head, ScholarSphere User Services. She will take primary responsibility for developing new user services in support of ScholarSphere. She will continue her work on data curation services to guide and assist researchers in the lifecycle management of their data sets, advising on best practices and standards, as well as provide curatorial oversight of the University Libraries’ digitized collections for enhanced access to online archival and special collections materials.

This is one step of many the Libraries are taking to expand our support for researchers who need assistance with the creation, delivery, and preservation of materials that do not fit into the traditional scholarly communication system. In the coming months you will see much more about Publishing and Curation Services and ScholarSphere. I’m grateful to Linda and Patricia for all the work they have done to date, and will continue to do, in planning and offering support to our University community.

 Mike Furlough 

The Humanities in a Digital Age at Penn State

Christopher Long recently posted on a new initiative of the Penn State College of Liberal Arts and the University Libraries called The Humanities in a Digital Age.  While that post remains the canonical announcement (to be included in the Norton Anthology of Education Administration Blog Posts), I also sent an announcement out to the Libraries today, which I include below.   We’ll have much to say about this in the coming few weeks, but for now, here’s the skeleton of the plan. 


A few months ago Susan Welch, Dean of Liberal Arts, asked me to attend a CIC meeting on the topic of digital humanities along with Christopher Long, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, and a small team of Liberal Arts faculty.  The goal of that meeting was spark collaboration across institutions, but in this case it also led to a discussion of opportunities for the Libraries and Liberal Arts to collaborate to promote and/or support digital humanities at Penn State.  Before ALA Dean Welch and Dean Dewey met with Chris Long and I to discuss some specific ways we could work together on this effort.   Chris and I then met just before the 4th to nail down a few more details.  Here they are.

In the coming year, we’ll launch an initiative known as “Humanities in the Digital Age,” which will promote digital scholarship in the humanities, with the emphasis on “scholarship.” Plans are, at this stage, fairly preliminary, but they include three key activities.   First, we will help to build the community of interested researchers across many disciplines and colleges, including the Libraries. This will include programming of various sorts, including workshops, a possible discussion series, and outside speakers.   Secondly, Liberal Arts will identify a few research projects already underway and provide additional seed support to help demonstrate the variety of forms digital scholarship can take.   Third, the Libraries and Liberal Arts will jointly fund a new position on a fixed-term basis.

This position for now has a working title of Digital Humanities Research Designer.  The purpose of this position is to work with researchers to help them define their aims and assist in identifying what tools or techniques could allow them to explore their research questions.  In some ways, this “research designer” role would be analogous to how an instructional designer might help an instructor develop courseware.  There are still a lot of details to work out (like a job description, duties, etc) which will require more input from some of you.

For Liberal Arts, this initiative will help them to support their own researchers and prepare their graduate students to become faculty themselves.  For the Libraries it will allow us to deepen already strong support for the humanities, and to expand our ability to provide digital curation services to that community.

One of the reasons this has been an easy discussion with Deans Dewey and Welch is that we had already begun to explore these collaborations in big and small ways.  Dawn Childress has been discussing the topic with Chris Long and members of his staff, and planning workshops at this year’s Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology Summit event on August 15 and 16.  Dan Mack had been developing digital humanities projects and ideas with colleagues in Classics.  Eric Novotny brought the historian Bill Blair to the Libraries to talk about digitization and, several years later, we have a full-fledged collaboration between the Libraries and the Richards Civil War Center known as The People’s Contest.  Dean Welch was already aware of some these activities. 

I welcome your thoughts and questions, and you will hear more about this as it develops.


Publishing and Curation Services Vision and Policy, Part 2

In my last post a couple of weeks back, I outlined a vision for Penn State publishing and curation services (PCS) in order to frame further discussions about the policies that will guide those services.   Now I’d like to discuss several policies that are implicit in that vision, as well as their implications for how we will offer these services.
1) Everything we do must help researchers and students achieve their scholarly aims. 
Every decision we make needs to be tested against this one. Anyone care to argue with that?  Moving right along, then…
2) Penn State users are the primary contributors of content we publish and curate. 
There will be some exceptions: co-authors or collaborators may be faculty from other universities; a journal will include articles from authors from various schools.  But because we receive our primary funding from Penn State, we will need a contributor or a sponsor of some sort to be directly affiliated with the University.  
3) Non-Penn State consumers of the content are as important as Penn State users. 
This is really important, and, because it’s also somewhat contrary to the primary model of service for an academic library, we are apt to forget it.  Consumers and contributors will interact with content differently and have different needs.  Our researchers’ primary audience for their work may not  be their colleagues at Penn State, it is probably their colleagues around the world.  There are implications here for how we direct our efforts to enhance discovery.  Most people will not come to the Penn State Libraries website, or the Cat, or LionSearch, to find the material Penn State researchers trust us with.   
The repository is not a box in which we punch some holes for people to reach into. We have to leave to the box open, and even strew its contents across the web for others to find.    This means most of our material is available open access.  However, the requirements of the contributor may well trump those of our external researchers, such as when there are embargo requirements on a dataset or a publication. 
4) The services we provide will be for stuff that is primarily scholarly. 
What does this exclude?  Hardly anything.  
If the researcher/contributor can articulate a reason that the material is of some scholarly import, why would we not agree to make it accessible?  Again, this is very different from how libraries have traditionally made decisions about what stuff we care for, e.g. what we collect.  But we have done that in the context of other institutions, such as publishers, making decisions for us by choosing what to publish.  Rarely have we had to evalute the work of our faculty face-to-face.  Our collection development policies broadly support the curricular and research needs of the University.  If material is produced through the Penn State curriculum or research activities, would it not fit? (By the way, I have heretical ideas that talk of “building a collection” may not make sense in the context of publishing services.)
There are some materials that will be better served by developing additional services.  For example, electronic records management will use of much of the same infrastructure as publishing and curation services, but the mission is not the same.  Having already had pretty extensive discussions about what those services will look like, we know they are very different from what we are proposing now.  
There will be some matters, such as resource limits, as well as legal or policy restrictions may limit what we can handle or how we do so.  But the presumption is in favor of the researcher who wants or needs help in sharing and managing their stuff.
5) Most of the stuff we handle will be inactive, if not at a stage of completion. 
We’ve had some internal discussion among the stakeholders about research needs for collaborative workspaces that will allow for teams to more easily share data and tools.  Something like a combination of wikis, GoogleDocs, and DropBox, but with a lot more storage, the ability to execute code, much better object management, and much more security.  There are platforms that can help some communities, and some of our colleagues are piloting similar services through their own publishing services in conjunction with others.     
We need those services, but that’s not what we are developing now. Within the Research Life Cycle, we’re now primarily aiming at the dissemenation and discovery stages.  I think that the vision statement in my last post is big enough to accommodate more support during the active phases of research.  But first let’s get some basics in place first. 
6) The scholarly stuff we handle will persist.
That is my digital preservation policy.  We are a library, and people expect us to keep stuff.  And if the material is to have any value to researchers, it needs to be citeable and continually accessible.  Above all else, researchers value libraries because of our reputation for preservation and stewardship. We should do nothing to call it into question. (How often do libraries promote their weeding projects?) 
So what exactly must persist?  Only the bits? A file or group of files?  The relationships between those files?  The code that prepared derivative data from raw data?  The whole thing, exactly as it is and was?  We worry a lot over format obsolescence, but answering those questions may depend more upon what the content represents, the expectations of the contributor as well as the user community, the value of the content for others, and several other less technological factors. Tim Pyatt pointed out in one recent conversation that depending upon the nature of the material, we may define different tiers of curatorial attention.  Official university scholarship, such as ETDs that are required for the credential, probably get the highest attention, while less valuable (or perhaps poorly documented) materials would be more lightly touched over time.
We definitely have to educate our clients.   I am not saying that we shouldn’t develop guidance for researchers on best practices to make content durable, or that we wouldn’t develop tools to help them prepare materials for our care. Certainly it would be irresponsible for us to claim materials that we can’t adequately care for.  However, while we may not be able to guarantee the readability of a particularly idiosyncratic pile of data, that in and of itself shouldn’t be a reason to reject it.  The museums of the world still hold thousands cuneiform tablets for which no Rosetta Stone has been found.  
7) We must respect and work within a framework of other policies and laws. 
These include copyright law, conditions imposed by funders, or university policies on intellectual property.  Our services will help researchers navigate those policies and laws to achieve their scholarly aims.  This means that we will at times have to interpret contracts (Does the publisher allow pre-prints to be shared?), law (Is that within the bounds of fair use?), and policy (Does NSF require this stuff be open access, or just require that it not be destroyed?).   So yes, we’ll develop our own policies and we will frequently consult other experts.  All librarians need to develop better understandings of the legal and policy regimes we live in. 
Some of the above may seem obvious, but they deserve to be called out because they need to direct our focus for the next year and more.  Penn State is late to develop coherent services around a commonly defined infrastructure (in other words, we ain’t got no IR, y’all). But that means we can learn (borrow, steal) from colleagues at other institutions to help us answer the next round of questions about guidelines, policies, or practices that will help our researchers to achieve their scholarly aims
I’ve only tried to provide a framework for future discussions among our developers, our scholarly communications staff, and our public services stakeholders.  It might be interesting to expand on anyone or all of the above six items in full blog posts.  I invite my colleagues to do so, and I invite any reader to chime in with other implicit policies that derive from the original vision.