Showing the Arts and Humanities Matter

Greetings from Dublin airport. Its been a busy week – on Tuesday I hosted the first 4Humanities conference, at UCL, then jetted off to Galway, Ireland where on Thursday I keynoted at the Digital Arts and Humanities PhD Programme annual conference.

The conference at UCL, entitled Showing the Arts and Humanities Matter gathered together various initiatives who are actively promoting the arts and humanities, to allow discussion regarding what is the best way forward to ensure that the benefits and contribution that the Arts and Humanities make to society is recognised. It was a fantastic day, and I learnt a lot – I’m fairly new to this area. Ernesto Priego live blogged and tweeted the event, and there is a storify of the tweets for those who want to catch up on the discussion.

One thing we decided to do was have a practice based artist, Dr Lucy Lyons, as a conference artist in residence, sketching and note taking, using a different sort of technology (pen, pencil, paper) than the ones we usually use, in what she calls “a frenetic, haptic method of note taking and engaging with the speakers”. Lucy created a wonderful set of notes and drawings of the day that capture the flavour of the event.

It is interesting to reflect that our discussions seldom wandered into talking about the practice led arts – and the fact that the immediate reaction of many speakers who saw Lucy’s drawings was “great! a new avatar for me on twitter!” (how we are all addicted) rather than a discussion of what integrating this process into the conference setting would show or tell us. I’m still processing that, myself – but I loved having a conference artist in residence, and hope to feature this again at future events.

Time for me to check in, I’ll tell you about #dahphdie at another time!

Just in time for term starting… Bag Lady Central

For the past few months I’ve been obsessing about getting a new rucksack to carry my computer around. My dear, cheaply purchased a decade ago, rucksack is finally giving up the ghost (but to tell the truth it was the best rucksack I could find at the time on a very limited budget, and Husband winds me up that it looks like I’m always going camping when I go to work). I have to have a rucksack to watch out for weight distribution over my back, but also I feel more secure with a backpack on, walking through London. Time to hit the shops!

But man, are the laptop bags out there all fugly. Most things for sale make you look like you are about to do the 10 peaks challenge, rather than be sassy academic-about-town!!!! etc etc. 

There is a serious gap in the market for smart, professional looking backpacks. I’ve done a trawl of the internet, and for the past day or so been chatting to various people on the twitters who wanted to know what I dug up, so here, for your “back to school special” is a roundup of the best laptop bags I have found.

Ally Capellino does lovely canvas ones. (via @rachelcoldicutt)

Sandqvist also do ones in this retro/vintage canvas style (via the power of google), and Notemaker stock a whole range of nice ones, especially the Herschel bags (via @flexnib).

Other brands worth having a look at are Knomo (via and Koyono (via @_ndrew) and Samsonite (via ) and Booq. (via ) and Tumi (via ). On the affordable end of the nicely designed spectrum, Belkin (via ) and Crumpler (via ). On the outrageously expensive end of the nicely designed spectrum, Steven Harkin (via google). Others swear by Timbuktu () or Deuter (). And you can, of course, go into the wondeful world of Etsy to see if there is anything there that takes your fancy (via ). (Thanks to anyone I missed in my twitter feed, too! I tried to keep a track…)

So there you have it. You should find something you really, really like amongst all that, right?

I’ve ordered something – I just need a new bag – but I’m still searching for the perfect match…

Sneak Peek – Digital Humanities in Practice!


We’re in the very final stages of putting Digital Humanities in Practice to press – it should be going off to the printers on Friday, fingers crossed! The publishers (Facet) have just sent us the picture of our new cover, updated from a network diagram thingy. The new design reflects better on UCLDH’s digital identity, I think.

The book fairly rollicks along – it’s a whistlestop tour of the breadth and diversity of the kind of research that we and our colleagues in different institutions get up to. Instead of Digital Humanities as mere XML Factory we show the vibrancy and scope of a growing interest in how to apply digital technologies in the humanities and cultural and heritage sector. We went bottom up, rather than top down, showing what we are doing with DH, rather than trying to define it by what we are doing. Topics include DH centres, social media and crowd-sourcing, digitisation, image processing, 3D scanning, historical bibliography, Open Educational Resources, text processing… its not the same-old-same-old roundup of DH topics, instead showing the kind of things we do with ample applied case studies as well as introductions to each topic.

I hear it will be out in mid September. Once we have the date fixed we’ll have a launch party. A Party! never such a party will there have been. We’ll see if we can open up the invites to all… you’ll be the first to know.

On not being Superwoman, or, this is how she does it

                                         The Boy, The Boys, and me.

It’s been almost a year now since I returned from maternity leave to my full time job as an academic at UCL. At the time, I had three children aged 3 and under (The Boy, and The Boys – fraternal twins). Not a week has gone by without someone commenting on the fact that I am Superwoman. So I thought I would explain how I balance having rather a large family of small people and academia: partly to show that it can be done, partly to show that I am not superwoman but incredibly lucky, and partly as a record for myself in the future when I think “how did I do that?”

I’m not superwoman… I have a supportive partner. Seriously, the most important piece of advice I can give to anyone contemplating having a career and a family is choose the right person to do it with. It takes two to tango, and the raising of a family should not just be the responsibility of the mother. Neither should looking after the household be. Feminism begins at home, folks: share chores and childcare equally. I never understood the statistics that show that women do much, much more than men – and working mothers even more – around the home. I just wouldn’t stand for that. My Husband and I are both hands on and support each other, as well as do our best for the bairns.

I’m not superwoman… I can afford childcare. This is not a glib statement. The cost of childcare in the UK is just horrific, especially near London. Given the fact that we had twins (surprise!) we are currently paying three lots of full time nursery fees, presenting us with a bill each month of just under £3000. By the time the boys all go to school, we’ll have paid around £100k in childcare costs. You need to be paid a certain level of salary and/or have a level of savings to be able to afford that, and I’m incredibly lucky that our household income is such (I’ve had two major promotions since becoming pregnant with The Boy) that we can afford for both of us to go to work. I refuse to countenance this in a “will my salary cover childcare?” way – why is it always the women’s salary that has to cover childcare? But the fact of the matter is that many people in our situation – three kids for the price of two – don’t have a choice and one of them has to give up work as the finances just dont add up. I’m incredibly lucky that we didn’t have to make that choice – lets face it, if you give up your academic job, the competition is such that you arent getting one back again – although it has meant sacrifices from us and we are financially hanging on by the skin of our teeth til The Boy starts school soon.

I’m not superwoman… I have flexible working hours. Long academic working hours are legendary. But so are their flexibility. In the first year I was back to work with The Boy, I looked after him at home one day during the working week, and no-one batted an eye-lid as I made up the hours in evenings. This year, in a twelve week period between April and June, I had six weeks off with all the boys as we were undertaking a huge build at home and it was best to get out of the way while the really messy stuff happened. I regularly work in the evenings so I can spend more time with the boys through the week (I usually see them for a couple of hours every morning and evening, although I think missing bedtime once a week or so to go to work events is acceptable). I never work weekends, though, unless I am at a conference. Weekends are family time.

I‘m not superwoman… I dont work in a lab based discpline. One or two days a week I work from home from my shed at the bottom of the garden (I’m here now! hello!) which means I keep on top of email and working documents, plus can power through the laundry backlog in lunch and coffee breaks. I would hate to be in a job that meant I had to be in London every working day though – and not sure how I would cope having to be in a lab from 9-5 every day (at least). I can imagine that would be exhausting, and you would certainly not see very much of your children if you had to commute. As it is,  on the days I am in town I make my first appointments of the day at 10am, and often leave UCL at 4.45 so I am home with the boys by 6pm. All academic jobs are not created equal, but the ones which are flexible… man, are they flexible.

I’m not superwoman… I can afford help around the home. Despite our best efforts (and lets face it, it was never my ambition to be a dream house wife) we have a cleaner come in for two hours a week to deep clean the bathrooms, scrub all the floors, and hoover throughout the house. Something I also dont understand: guilt about paying for extra help (as long as you pay decent rates, pay for holidays, and dont treat your cleaner like…. dirt). We go with a local agency, and they are fab. It takes the edge off the house, and I can ensure that the house is hygenic, especially during crazy periods in term time when finding those hours a week to scrub the floors would slay us.

I’m not superwoman… I take as many shortcuts as possible. I havent ironed anything since 2003. And that was just my graduation shirt. I’m not spending hours of my time making things flat just so that they can get crumpled again when worn. No-one has noticed yet (have you? right? If so, you’re too polite to say, thanks). Make as many short cuts around housework and your home as you can. Think efficiency, rather than show-home. I’m never going to be one of those people that walks across a room to find a coaster in a drawer before they put their cup of tea down at the other side of the room. Seriously? My home – and office – are set up to be as efficient as possible, even if that can lead to weird juxtapositions of stuff in places.

I’m not superwoman… I use all the technology I can to make this easy. The postman hates us with all the parcels off eBay; we use lots of shared calendars online to plan everything and keep track of the movements and needs of two adults, three small people, and a cat; I tweet, shop, and email when I’m waiting on trains. When I’m away with work I speak to the boys on video chat as often as I can. Make technology your friend.

I’m not superwoman… My Husband works from home. This is probably the biggest thing that makes our life easier, and here it is tucked half way down, quietly taking the stress out of the nursery run. My Husband is not a house husband: he has a senior job with a Canadian software firm, runs his own successful business in his spare time, and even finds the time and energy to play in a well respected band. But working from home for the majority of his time does mean he is on hand to do nursery drop off and pick up. I do try to do as many of the nursery runs as I can with my schedule – but it means that on days when the trains are borked I’m not the person having a breakdown at Kings Cross station about the fact they cant get back to the nursery before it closes at 6pm, or when one of the boys is ill and needs picking up from nursery they can be brought home immediately. Removing that level of stress from our daily lives makes going an hour away from home much, much less stressful for me, and going away with work for a night or two doesnt take olympic levels of organisation. Did I mention that I have a supportive partner?

I’m not superwoman… I don’t have a dead commute. It takes just over an hour to get door to door from home to work. I walk for 15mins (and nursery is on the way between our house and the station for drop off and pick up: dont forget the importance of location!), travel by train for 35 minutes, and walk 15 mins at the other end. Time on the station platform is generally spent on twitter: the time spent on the train I get on with some work. I get a tonne of stuff done on the train (but its also the reason I hate documents that get sent to me in the cloud. Cloud doesnt work with train tunnels).

I’m not superwoman… I travel a lot with work. This may sound like an oxymoron, given I’ve done lots of work travel over the past year with at least one or two trips a month away. I try to go away for two nights maximum, and during that time, not only do I get a couple of good nights sleep (which is not always guaranteed at home: The Boys didnt sleep through once until they were 16 months old), but I tend to work like a daemon. Room service, and work til midnight. I get loads done in hotel rooms.

I’m not superwoman… I have supportive family and friends. My mother-in-law moved to be closer to us shortly after the twins arrived. This is wonderful for the boys – getting to see their grandmother often – but also extremely helpful when illness strikes. The Boys got chicken pox the week I was giving a plenary in Paris and another invited lecture at a conference in Munich. Mother-in-law stepped in to be the other pair of hands while I was away. It comes with some drawbacks – hey, I have my mother-in-law living round the corner! But on balance, having family nearby makes caring for children, and dealing with the chaos that that often brings, much much easier. My own parents live further away, but are already signed up to stay with us as we make the transition to dealing with childcare over school holidays, and have been known to jump on a plane or train at times of real emergency. We also have a close-knit band of chums who live locally who are very involved in the the boys’ lives. Who could ask for more?

I’m not superwoman… I just work incredibly hard. I do work long hours, but when I am working I am WORKING, and when I am with the boys I am with the boys. I’ve found that, if anything, motherhood has made me much more focused, and I take my career much more seriously: if I’m going away from the family then every minute is generally filled up with tasks. No I’m not going to meet you for a coffee during the working day to talk about shoes. I have things to be done, in the shortened hours I have available in the working week since I had the boys.

I’m not superwoman… I just dont suffer from motherhood guilt. I am not one of those people who bursts into tears as they leave their children at nursery. If you feel like that, go back to them, be with them, if you have the choice to. I have faith in the care my boys get when we are not with them, and I feel I see the boys a lot for someone who both works full time in a competitive environment and commutes. Did I mention flexible working hours?

I’m not superwoman… I just have a very supportive employer.  UCL is incredibly supportive of working mothers, and were very supportive of my situation when I developed a pregnancy related disability. There are family-friendly working hours for meetings (to stop official meetings happening over breakfasts and evenings) and, in general, management are open to suggestions about how to improve support. Again, I’m incredibly lucky to have an employer who both values my contribution and supports the fact that humans might actually breed and want to continue working.

So there you have it. A confluence of luck, good choices, hard work, and support have meant that – whisper it – its not terribly stressful to be an academic working mother, for me. It would be much, much harder work to stay at home looking after 3 small boys day in, day out. I’ve done it. Believe me.

I dont like being called superwoman. It suggests I’m heading for a fall, in lots of ways. So how about this, I’ll let you call me superwoman if I maintain my academic trajectory and my boys all make it to a happy, healthy adulthood, and are fulfilled and settled in their own ways (whatever that may turn out to be). Then you can call me superwoman. But for now, I’m just a woman who happens to have a larger-than-usual young family and a job that I really enjoy (and how lucky am I, in both counts?). There are lots of us around, all doing our best: it can be done without fanfare.

You’ll also spot that I havent mentioned “work-life balance”.  I dont believe in it. There are only 24 hours in a day, and its all my life. My work is my life and my home is my life and my family is my life and my addiction to mid-century Belgian ceramics on eBay is my life. Going to the British Museum for a work meeting is as much my life as scraping squashed peas off the floor from under the dining room table, or cranking out a book chapter, or leading a sing-song of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, or looking at the UX of an iPhone App, is. Life is full, round, packed, joyous, tiring, exhilarating, exhausting, fast, fun, and being lived. I love my family. I love my job. And this is how I do it.

Academicking

Has it really been two months since I posted here? Evidently it has. I go through phases with the blogging thing – I like that it stands here as an avenue to post longer pieces than the things I say on twitter, and I feel less and less guilty in the phases where I don’t have something to say, as I’m quite frankly focusing my energies elsewhere. I have a couple of things brewing that I want to tell you about, but for now, suffice to say I’ve been busy.

A brief look at my diary over the last couple of months says what I have been up to: meetings with MA students, meetings with PhD students, meetings with partner institutions (both on and off site), meetings with potential students and research partners. Email. Admin. Project management. UCLDH nights out, UCLDH management. Funding bids. Three day training course. Book proofs. Email. One day conferences, two day conferences, and a week look stint in Hamburg for DH2012. Email. Project management. Admin. Three day training course. Book proofs. Email. Meetings with collaborators within UCL. Overseeing a building project at UCL. Email. Book proofs. Meetings, meetings, meetings. Hosting departmental events. Email. A holiday in Sussex for a week in May. A holiday at the Norfolk Coast for a week in June. Email. And, at home, managing the end of a 7 month build as we redesign our house to accommodate everyone. Book proofs. Email.

I’m now working from home over the Olympics (I’m not going anywhere near that there London) and hope to catch up with the overflow of email that has accrued when I have been away from my machine. And once that has happened, I may turn my face towards the blog, again. A lot going on…

Into the Academic Dragon’s Den

Image borrowed from http://www.london-student.net/community/academia/peer-review-in-academia/, although it appears online elsewhere so I have no idea who owns the copyright, sorry.
Image borrowed from http://www.london-student.net/community/academia/peer-review-in-academia/, although it appears online elsewhere so I have no idea who owns the copyright, sorry.

Today I did a Big Thing, for me. I pressed a Submit button on a funding bid, which has now gone into council to be peer reviewed. It’s part of my job to pursue funding, and I’ve been involved with a variety of research projects that have received funding from a variety of places – but this is the first time I have written a whole bid myself, from start to finish, on an open call – rather than responding to a specific research call or question. This is probably academic jargon, so let me rephrase: for the past 9 months I have been crafting a proposal which says “give me lots of money to employ some people, to do some interesting work over a few years. Please. It’s really interesting and I’m the best person to do it. And here’s why”.

It has been a lot of work, as it not only involves me, but four major institutional partners, so I had to approach and engage them in the process, getting permission through their internal structures to carry out some research which involves them. In addition to that, I had help from our Departmental Administrator and our Research Manager, our Head of Department, our Vice Dean of Research, our Faculty Research Officers (two of), and Research Managers in Finance. On top of that, I asked for – and received – fantastic feedback and proof-reading from 5 academic colleagues. This bid is now as good as its going to get, and I thank everyone wholeheartedly for their input.

So, 9 months from idea, to “let’s write that up”, to submission (bear in mind I have to do this on top of my other teaching, administration, and research duties). The whole thing comes in at 10,000 words or so, proof-read and double-checked and triple-checked. I would say that it has taken about the same amount of work it would take to submit a 10,000 word paper to a top research journal – if not more so – with certainly more input from colleagues. The difference is, of course, if a paper was rejected for publication I could recycle it and get it published elsewhere, or put it up as pre-print myself. If this funding bid crashes and burns, then there will be no mention of the investment of effort from me – or others – anywhere.

What happens now? It goes to council where a group of peer reviewers will decide whether or not it is worthy of funding. I may get a right to reply to some of the queries raised. There is around a 20% chance of being successful, or so I hear. I should know around Xmas whether or not the project will go ahead.

In academia, it’s good to set the goalposts for your own successes. Whatever happens to this one, I will hold on to the fact that I set myself a goal to co-ordinate a large funding bid myself, and see it through to submission. Of course, I have my fingers crossed for this one (I wouldn’t have pursued it if I didn’t believe in the idea). But at the end of the day, the goal was to enter the academic dragon’s den, and pitch an idea, to the best of my ability. And I did: I pressed submit. Phew.

And now? Give me a few days, then I have to dig out the funding council documentation for the next one…

Update: The bid was rejected by the peer review panel. I go and lick my wounds, and regroup, to try again. There will be no mention of this investment in time and effort in anyone’s records, except for this post here. You win some, you lose some…

Qrator at the Museums and Heritage Awards

QRator tattoos
Nothing quite complements a black tie outfit like a tattoo that, when scanned, leads to your (award winning) project website. You saw it here first!

It was a big night for UCL last night, with folks from UCLDH, CASA and Museums and Public Engagement, heading down to the 10th annual Museums and Heritage Awards where we were nominated in three different categories, and I’m pleased to say that the QRator project won the Innovation category!

If you haven’t heard of Qrator, who better to quote than Claire Ross, whose idea it all was, from her blog:

QRator is a collaboration between the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities (UCLDH), UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), and UCL Museums, to develop new kinds of content, co-curated by the public, and museum staff, to enhance museum interpretation, public engagement and meaning making by establishing new connections to museum exhibit content.

Its a truly interdisciplinary team, including Mark Carnall and Jack Ashby from the Grant Museum, Steve Gray and Andy Hudson Smith from CASA, Susannah Chan and Sally MacDonald from UCL Museums and Public Engagement, and Claire Warwick and I from UCLDH.  Well done team – and thank you all for your hard work, and for letting me join in the fun!

As well as the blog posts from the Grant Museum and Claire Ross, Andy Hudson-Smith has a good write up on his blog about the QRator team and the award – I dont think I can add much more than these three posts cover, except that I’m delighted!

Me, I got the temporary tattoos made up which we had fun baffling other attendees with. And drank some wine. And grinned into the wee small hours!

When was the last time you asked how your published research was doing?

A month or so ago, I posted about whether blogging and tweeting about academic research papers was “worth it”. Whilst writing up my thoughts, the one thing that I found really problematic was the following:

I also know nothing about how many times my other papers are downloaded from the websites of published journals, or consulted in print in the Library. The latter, no-one can really say about – but the former? It seems strange to me that we write articles (without being paid) and we get them published by people who make a profit on them, then we don’t even know – usually – how many downloads they are getting from the journals themselves.

That’s true enough, I thought. But whose fault is it that I don’t know about access statistics for journals I have published in? Heck, have I ever askedfor the access statistics for how many times my papers have been downloaded from the journals they are published in? Has anyone?

So, Reader, I asked for some facts and figures, regarding the circulation of journals, and the download statistics of my papers.

I have to say that the journals were really very helpful, and forthcoming, if surprised:
“I imagine the publishers would be happy to tell an author the cumulative downloads for their papers… So far as I know, you are the first author ever to ask… certainly the first to ask me.” said David Bawden, Editor of the Journal of Documentation.  Jonas Söderholm, Editor of HumanIT, highlighted some of the issues journals will face if people start asking this kind of question, saying

“A reasonable request and we would gladly assist you. Unfortunately we do not have direct access to server logs as our web site is hosted as part of the larger University of Borås web. We will take your request as a good excuse to check into the matter though, and also review our general policy on log data.”

Most journals got back to me by return of email, telling me immediately what they knew (and being very aware of the limitations of their reporting mechanisms, for example whether or not the figures excluded robot activity, the fact that how long the user stays on the website is not known so accidental click-throughs are undetermined, etc. Such caveats were explained in detail).  Emerald, the publishers of JDoc and Aslib Proceedings, were not comfortable in giving me access to wider statistics about their general readership numbers, given this could be commercially sensitive information, which is understandable: they were very happy to give me the statistics relating to my own papers, though.

The only journal not to get back to me was LLC , published by Oxford University Press (The editor replied to say he was not sure he had access to these statistics, but would ask). This is ironic, given I’m on the editorial board. I’ll press further, and take it to our summer steering-group meeting.

I suspect that the actual statistics involved are only really very interesting to myself. I had originally planned to make comparisons with the amount of downloads from UCL Discovery (Open Access (OA) is better, folks! etc) , but I think the picture is foggier than that. What this exercise does do is highlight the type of information that, as authors, we dont normally hear about, which can be actually quite interesting for us, as well as stressing the complex relationship between OA and paywalled publications. Here are some details:

  • One of my papers published in JDoc (Ross, C and Terras, M and Warwick, C and Welsh, A (2011) Enabled backchannel: conference Twitter use by digital humanists. J DOC, 67 (2) 214 – 237) was downloaded 804 times from the JDOC website during 2011, and was number 16 in the download popularity list that year. The total number of paper downloads from JDoc as a whole during that year was 123,228. Isn’t that interesting to know? I have a top 20 paper in a really good journal in my discipline! Who knew? It has now been downloaded 1114 times from their website. In comparison, there have been 531 total downloads of that paper from UCL Discovery in the past 6 months. But the time frame for comparison of downloads with the OA copy from Discovery isn’t the same, so comparing is problematic – and there are more downloads from the subscription journal than from our OA repository. Still, it shows a healthy amount of downloads, so I’m happy with that.
  • The Art Libraries Journal – only available in print, not online, were quick to tell me that the journal is distributed to 550 members: 200 going abroad to Libraries/Institutions, 150 sent to UK Personal members, and 200 going to UK Libraries/Institutions. My paper published there (Terras, M (2010) Should we just send a copy? Digitisation, Use and Usefulness. Art Libraries Journal, 35 (1)) has had 205 downloads in the last six months from UCL Discovery, so I perceive that as a really good additional advert for OA: the print circulation is fairly limited, but the OA copy is available to all who want it.
  • My paper in the International Journal of Digital Curation – itself an OA journal – (Gooding, P and Terras, M (2008) Grand Theft Archive: a quantitative analysis of the current state of computer game preservation. The International Journal of Digital Curation, 3 (2)) was downloaded 903 times in 2009 out of the 53,261 times the full text of a paper was accessed. (The average was 476, with standard deviation 307). In 2010 the paper accounted for 919 out of the 120,126 times the full text of a paper was accessed. (The average was 938, with standard deviation 1045.) That compares to only 85 downloads from the UCL repository, but hey, its freely available online anyway, without having to revert to an OA copy in an institutional repository. It might be worth drawing from this that copies of papers in institutional archives are only really used when the paper isnt available anywhere else, but you would hope that would be obvious, no?
  • InternetArchaeology journal has an online page with their download statistics readily available (how I wish all journals would do this). The journal gets around 6200 page requests per day. But since article size varies widely, with some split into 100s of separate HTML pages, it is difficult to know how meaningful this is.  I was sent a spreadsheet of the stats from my paper published there (Terras, M (1999) A Virtual Tomb for Kelvingrove: Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Education. Internet Archaeology (7)) which suggests that there have been 2083 downloads of the PDF version of the paper from behind the paywall since 2001 (but some may be missing due to the way the reporting mechanism is set up) with none in the past year (compared to 276 downloads of this from UCL Discovery in the past six months, so many more from our institutional repository comparing like on like periods). The HTML version of the table of contents has been consulted 16, 282 times since 2001 (this is freely available to all comers) but there have been  67, 525 views of all files in the directory since then – but since the paper is comprised of hundreds of individual files, its difficult to ascertain readership. Judith Winters, the Editor of Internet Archaeology, notes “It is curious that when the journal went Open Access for about 2 weeks towards the end of last year, the counts did increase but not dramatically so” – so when a non-OA journal throws open its doors for a limited time (IA did this to mark open access week last year) its not like access figures go wild. That’s really interesting, in itself. 

If you are still reading, then thanks. This stuff gets pretty turgid. But its been fascinating, for me, to see the (mostly positive) reactions publishers have to being approached about this – and surprising that not more people have actually asked publishers about these statistics. We are giving away our scholarship to publishers, in most cases: shouldn’t we get to know how it fares in the wide, wide world? As citation counts, and h-indexes, and “impact” become increasingly important to external funding councils and internal promotion procedures within universities, why would journal publishers not make this information available to authors? But why don’t they do it more routinely?

Will you need this type of information for the next grant proposal, or internal promotion, you chase? Why would you not be interested in how your research flies?  But journal publishers will only start providing authors with this kind of information routinely if enough scholars start to ask about it, and it becomes part of the mechanics of publishing research – particularly when publishing research online.

So if you have published in a print journal which has an online presence, or in an online journal, drop them an email to ask politely how your downloads are going*. Do it. Do it now. Ask them. Ask them!

*Perhaps someone online can provide some input as to whether such a request comes under the rights of individuals in the Data Protection Act in the UK.   If you are a named author on a journal article, does access statistics about that journal paper count as personal information? just a thought…

Announcing the Slade Archive History Project

Treasures in the Slade School of Fine Art Archive
Treasures in the Slade School of Fine Art Archive, waiting to be looked at…

A few months ago I was invited to the Slade School of Fine Art at UCL, by the Head of Department, Professor Susan Collins, to have a poke about in their archive and a chat about what to do with it.  Since 1871 the Slade School of Fine Art has educated and trained generations of world-renowned artists, from Gwen and Augustus John, Stanley Spencer and Ben Nicholson around the turn of the 20th century and early 1900’s, to Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi in the 1940’s, through to Derek Jarman, Paula Rego, Euan Uglow and Craigie Aitchison in the 50’s and 60’s. More recent Turner Prize winning alumni include Martin Creed, Rachel Whiteread, Antony Gormley and Douglas Gordon. The Slade has an extensive archive on site which includes objects, papers, photographs, class lists, student records and artefacts dating throughout its history at UCL, which contains rich evidence of the time artists spent at the Slade. However, this archive is difficult to access, and no attempt has been made to present this rich information to a wider audience.

Until now. I’m really pleased to announce that UCLDH have received a UCL Small Research Grant to work with the Slade to undertake a pilot project with the Slade Archive – to see what is there, and how it can be exploited and used. One of the things we are going to do is dig up old class photographs, and try to identify people in them. We’re also going to be rummaging… and digitising… and plotting… and scheming… and posting things online… and…

The project starts in October, for only a few months, but I’m really looking forward to being involved. Dave Beavan, the UCLDH Research Manager, will also be on the case. You’ll hear more about this in the autumn!