Best Practices in Digital Scholarship at ASOR 2019

I’m sitting in the Best Practices of Digital Scholarship panel at ASOR 2019.

Chuck Jones leads things off with a librarian’s perspective on the need for open access for a thriving academic ecosystem with particular attention to the role of libraries. He’s stressing the need to read author contracts carefully and to make sure that it provides for open access. He has pointed out the resources available via the Open Access Directory and Peter Suber’s various open access author addenda.

He’s also talking about the role that institutional repositories play, but also their limitations for scholars who are increasingly mobile and contingent. Disciplinary repositories then play a role in this system (e.g. Propyleaum DOK for largely German Egyptology scholarship). Now he’s offering a clear critique of and emphasizing that it’s not an open access repository and it’s making commercial use of content and serving as a node in the surveillance economy. Instead, we should consider Zenodo which does not have wide use among scholars of the humanities (but it welcomes the humanities). He also gives a shout out to the MLA’s Humanities Commons, which I personally use. We need to actively manage our identity (get an ORCID ID and use VIAF!). Also, check out this list of active open access journals

ASOR needs to take a stand on open access and, perhaps, have an open access statement!! Let’s do this. Plus some shout outs to Peter Suber’s work (which is available for free)

And CITE open access!

Now Kevin McGeough is speaking as chair of the publications committee and introducing the draft digital publication policy for ASOR. We’re collecting comments on this document right now. McGeough is demonstrating how the network of interoperable services provide a network in which digital (and analogue) scholarship can exist. 

Advertisement for myself: we started working along these lines with our linked volume of Pyla-Koutsopetria. You can download it here. This book does not necessarily adopt best practices and it has limitations, but it was a start in order to demonstrate what is possible with digital and analogue data.

McGeough is outlining some of the real limitations that ASOR needs to address moving forward with a system of digital and analogue publishing. Costs, technological issues, institutional frictions and other challenges remain real barriers to digital publishing of archaeological data. Financial barriers are, in particular, significant, but the benefits are as well.

Next steps, include making the content of this policy statement known, integrated with ASOR-CAP, critically engaging with our existing publication workflow, and, of course, money… It may be that ASOR is a bit on the “cutting edge” here, although the AIA statement on the role of digital publications (especially of data) in their tenure and promotion guidelines. There is a way to show that producing digitally rich archaeological publications needs to be aware both of best practice and working practices.

We need to remember that archaeologists have never found a wheel that we can’t reinvent.

Now Eric Kansa is talking about the exciting new world of surveillance capitalism! Highlighting the case of Cambridge Analytica and Russian advertising buys using analytic data from archaeological posts, particularly those in contested places, on Facebook. Open Context does not sell data. It also exists in a multinational ecosystem that provides both digital framework and a professional and disciplinary framework for disseminating archaeological data.

Excavations are not data mines!!! Instead, Kansa stresses that data is constructed. Now he’s showing a entity relation diagram to demonstrate the complexity of archaeological knowledge, data, and the knowledge making project. Open Context attempts to manage complexity using a series of common schemas, which still maintaining flexibility.   

Kansa is going to stress reproducibility and integration with publications. He shows an example of Early Bronze Age NumayraTel Dor, and PKAP. He’s also demonstrating how we can integrate data across platforms and projects to produce more dynamic, robust, and consistent datasets for analysis.

Now he’s bringing in the intellectual property context published data and FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reuseable supported by Creative Common licenses.

Kansa is showing how data from Open Context is being re-used in a wide range of contexts from archaeological publications to computer programs, teaching (c.f. in particular Shawn Graham’s ODATE textbook project), government reports, augmented and virtual reality. 

Kansa is calling on us to increase our bootstrapping capacity through data literacy, increasing the quantity and quality of archaeological data, and normalize the publication of data. Also how do we ensure sustainability of our data (and their attendant institutions)? And how do we make sure our practices around data reflect our shared values.

Finally, Suzanne Pilaar Birch who is serving as a discussant with particular attention to open access publishing and publishing data on the tenure track. She noted that ASOR is in the forefront of digital publishing conversations and how important that the support from groups like ASOR is for moving forward. 

She points out that for-profit publishers are double profiting on open access articles when they charge a fee to publish a open access article in a non-open access journal. It’s not just that we publish open access is how and where we publish open access. While it’s easy enough to encourage scholars to publish in open access (just do it!), we must also recognize that at present, there’s a risk. Once again, institutions like ASOR needs to push to mitigate this kind of risk. There are real benefits to a willingness to take a risk, that includes visibility and being on the cutting edge.

There are also real ethical issues. Journals that are not open access often make it harder for research to get to scholars, activists, and communities where archaeologists work (particularly in the “global south” (my term, not hers).

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