British Library Historic Newspapers Archive

A recent article in the Guardian notes plans of the British Library, working with the commercial firm BrightSolid, to digitise around 40m pages from their 750m pages of their historic newspaper archive.

The article points out that these newspapers form something of a ‘national memory’ but also implies that this is the first time that the British Library has published its news archive online.

In fact this collection adds to the extensive work UK funding agency JISC and the British Library have been working on which includes over 3 million pages from newspaper collections from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. These were launched in 2009. These are already freely available to the higher and further education communities, which can be accessed via their institutional gateways.

Most of these pages are also available to the general public for a small access fee, and have been available via a platform created by Gale Cengage.

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Forthcoming Presentations from JISC Staff

JISC Programme Managers, Alastair Dunning and Paola Marchionni, will be giving presentations related to current and future JISC funding at various events in June.

If you are interested in discussing funding bids please come along – all the events below are open to any interested delegate.

2nd June – London Digital Humanities Group, Central London (Alastair Dunning)

6th June – 3D: digitise, deliver, discover, University of Manchester, (Paola Marchionni)

6th June – Digging into Image Data, University of Sheffield (Alastair Dunning), morning

23rd June – Presentation at Coventry University (Alastair Dunning), full details to be confirmed.

If you would like a JISC member to staff to come along and speak at your institution (esp Scotland, and Wales and South West), please get in touch

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Some quotes on digital resources

1. After using the British Library Archival Sound Recordings web site, an FE teacher commented: “The realism of it [interviews with photographers included on the site] inspired students and encouraged them to source other material beyond Google searches. It also placed the photographs in context, which you don’t get from Google.”

2. A teacher who incorporated digitised material from the First World War Poetry Digital Archive in the classroom found that: “Most students seem to find online material far more appealing than printed material, but the content of web sites is often less than academic. It’s very good to be able to refer to students to a web site of such quality from a sound academic source.”

3. A Lecturer in Historical Geography, who used the Histpop: Online Historical Population Reports web site in second and third year undergraduate courses, which led to several high quality Final Year dissertations, noted how: “Histpop made it possible to do a completely different project [at undergraduate level]… It allows them [the students] to start using primary sources and do some basic research, which otherwise they wouldn’t be able to do.”

4. More recently, the University of East London devised a new course, Performing the Archive, based on digitised collections on the Online Theatre History Archive web site, which they developed with a number of partners as part of the CEDAR project.

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Forthcoming Content Calls – Strand A Digitisation for Open Educational Resources (OER)

Two previous blog posts outlined issues relating to the next JISC Content call, Strand B Large-scale digitisation and Strand C Clustering digital content.

(Note all the JISC Content Call is still to be signed off by the relevant JISC sub-committee)

Here are some of the key issues relating to Strand A Digitisation for Open Educational Resources (OERs).

The aim of this strand is to create and embed OERs based on digitised primary sources (and to a lesser degree, secondary sources) as a way of enhancing the student experience and fostering innovative pedagogies.

As a consequence, projects will be expected to carry out the following three activities:
- digitising and releasing scholarly material, particularly material in special and archival collections that can be suitably licenced for use and re-use – “raw” digital objects;
- subsequent creation of learning resources based on the digitised collections and released as OERs – “cooked” learning resources;
- embedding the OERs into teaching practice

Key issues to consider:

Copyright and Licencing

Are universities able to licence the material they digitise and the OERs they cretate under a Creative Commons (CC) licence? Do they own the copyright on the material? Or are they able to clear it for the purpose of the cretaion and release of OERs?

Learning resources, “the raw and the cooked”

What kind of OERs will an institution create? How will the digitised primary source material – the “raw” material – be re-packaged into a range of more sophisticated learning resources – “cooked” resources”? How and in what context will these resources be used?

Alignement to teaching and learning priorities

What teaching and learning priorities will the selection of material to digitise and OER creation be aligned to? What particular students needs will the resources address?

Collaboration and partnership – internal and external

How will universities ensure that relevant departments and staff (eg Library and Archives Services, IT and Computing, academic departments and teaching / elearning support units) are working together? How might external partners help deliver the project and maximise use and re-use?

Usage, impact and emebdding

How will projects ensure that the digitised collections and OERs created respond to users’ needs? How will this be assesed and monitored? How will the OERs be embedded into teaching and learning?

Dissemination

How will institutions promote the OERs they’ve created? What dissemination channels will they adopt in order to increase awareness of their outputs within their institution and in the wider sector?

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Splashes and Ripples: Synthesizing the Evidence on the Impacts of Digital Resources

Last week, the Oxford Internet Institute held an event to mark the end of the JISC Impact and Embedding Programme

The programme allowed seven digital resources to judge their impact so far and then began to embed changes to allow their resources to be more responsive to users. Each of these resources now has a case study on the JISC website.

The programme also commissioned a synthesis study over these seven case studies, finding that the projects “are succeeding in big and small ways to influence research, teaching, learning and the wider public.” A range of empirical data is presented.

The synthesis study (entitled Splashes and Ripples: Synthesizing the Evidence on the Impacts of Digital Resources) also provided a series of recommendations for those creating digital resources such as ‘plan ahead to measure impact’, ‘create training materials from real research’ and ‘create quick wins

Written by Eric Meyer, the study also led to an updated version of the Toolkit for the Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources, which presents a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods for projects judging their own resources, and provided the methodology for the seven resources in this JISC programme.

List of Recommendations

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Forthcoming Content Calls – Strand C) Clustering Digital Content

(Note all the JISC Content Call is still to be signed off by the relevant JISC sub-committee)

Unlike strands A and B, Strand C will focus on existing digital content, and how it can be brought together. Specific JISC programmes have looked at this issue previously such as strand B of the JISC eContent programme for 2009-11

Projects may involve merging the metadata or technical infrastructure for related but isolated resources; developing cross-search functionality; exploiting Web2.0 methodologies such as data mash-ups to ‘cross-fertilise’ the content in existing resources.

Alternatively, proposals may concentrate on creating thematic clusters of digital resources and promoting their use (e.g. around broad themes such as history of graphic design or climate change) to relevant teaching and research communities. However, applicants should note that this is more than simply creating directories of resources; a significant amount of innovation is required.

It is expected that the resources drawn together will include different types of data (e.g. digitised resource, data sets, grey literature) and come from a variety of sources.

Many of the issues raised relating to Strand B on large-scale digitisation will also be relevant to Strand C, e.g. Usage and Institutional Support, Metadata, Impact and Evaluation.

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Forthcoming Content Calls – Issues on the JISC radar

As noted in a previous blog post, JISC is currently writing the request for proposals for applications related to the next round of content funding. Subject to approval by the relevant JISC subcommittee, there will be three strands.

Over the next few days, we’ll jot down some of the issues related to each of the three strands that will go to making up the overall call.

First off, Strand B) Large-Scale Digitisation

Issues that applicants will need to address will include the following:

Aggregation and Partnership

How are applicants working with others to help create an aggregated mass of content? How are other partners helping reach audiences or deliver online experiences that univerisites working by themselves could not achieve

Usage and Institutional Support

How will the resource being created develop a user base that will help impact on research and teaching at a national level? Will the institution leading the project show support for the resource in the long term, embedding it in teaching and research practice.

Access, IPR and Business Models

What is the business model that will support the resource in the long term? Are there complex IPR issues that must be addressed early on?

Metadata

Will the metadata from the project be made openly available? Will metadata be easily harvestable, findable and re-usable by other sources? Will innovative methodologies like geo-tagging, natural language processing and APIs be used? Or other forms of innovative metadata creation?

Impact and Evaluation

Will the project have means of evaluating usage and impact embedded from the start of the project? Will they be able to react and respond to the results of such analysis once the initial project has ended?

Note: Strand B is likely to be open to any UK cultural or educational organisation who has content of note to higher and further education

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Update on JISC funding for digital content

We’re still not in a position to give precise details on the forthcoming call for JISC digital content (and the hoped for early publication of details last month proved a little optimistic). However, we’ve been given permission to publicise the following.

Subject to confirmation from the appropriate JISC subcommittee, there will be three strands within the JISC Digital Content call.

A) Digitising for Open Educational Resources – digitising primary and other scholarly material for embedding in open access Open Educational Resources. Note there will also be a separate JISC OER Phase 3 programme.

B) Large-Scale Digitisation – Creating or extending high-impact, sustainable digital resources for research and teaching, according to a variety of business models.

C) Clustering Digital Content – Bringing together existing digital content from a variety of sources to create or extend high-impact resources for research and teaching.

Strand B is likely to be open to any UK cultural or educational organisation who has content of note to higher and further education

We are currently writing the Requests for Proposals.

The call is likely to be issued in early June. It may well be joined up with calls from other areas JISC covers. Closing date is likely to be early August.

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On the Need for Digital Entrepreneurs

The history of digitisation is littered with tales of woe in terms of sustainability. Tales of servers being switched just as the user base was established.

But winning projects bring with them their own problems too. Project directors see the possibilities for more content, better tools, enhanced functionality – and as the website grows there is requirement for a mature supporting infrastructure in things like authentication, improved licensing, continual marketing and communication. And perhaps most importantly of all, developing income to help pay for this.

UK universities are filled with successful digital projects that have ambitious plans to expand: WikiVet (open resources for Vets), Galaxy Zoo (crowdsourcing in astronomy), the E-Enlightenment (presenting the Enlightenment as a social network), Vision of Britain (information on Britain’s town and geographies).

Behind each of these projects, there is a passionate team, many of whom have a research role within their university. But here’s the rub. When the website starts to expand, the researchers behind the project have to get involved in the issues involved above – the copyright wars, the battles with authentication. And this means they have less time to actually do the research work that they are appointed to the university for in the first place.

This causes problems both for the individual and for the institution. Something successful is happening, but it’s not necessarily progressing the individual’s career in the way she expected nor responding to the apparent strategic needs of the university. And yet because of the success of the website, new research is happening and the institution is gaining kudos.

To get round this, we need to start defining new roles within universities – digital entrepreneurs. People who are tasked with taking forward all the new challenges; people that cannot really be tied down to specific research nor teaching roles and yet maintain an close connection to them.

These positions don’t have to be full time – they could be combined with more traditional roles – but it is essential for universities and projects to acknowledge and nurture such roles if we are wanting the digital presence of education to flourish.

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Digital Impacts – last few places left

There are still a few places left for the event Digital Impacts: How to Measure and Understand the Usage and Impact of Digital Content, 20 May, Oxford

Digital Impacts will discuss methodologies for measuring the impact of digitised resources and embedding them in teaching and research; it will present projects from the JISC-funded Impact and embedding programme, which provide cases studies on the impact of resources as wide ranging as institutional podcasts, multimedia dance resources, historical sources and learning resources repositories and will lanuch the newly updated Toolkit for the Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources.

Speakers include Brian Kelly, UKOLN, Prof David Robey, Oxford eResearch Centre (OeRC), Melissa Heighton, Oxford University Computing Services, Dr Jane Winters, Head of Publications, Institute of Historical Research, representatives from the projects, and the workshop convenors, Dr Kathryn Eccles and Dr Eric T Meyer, both from the Oxford Internet Institute.

More information about the event, a draft programme and registration form are available on the Digital Impacts web site.

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