New platforms and discovery tools: Toward 21st Century University Presses and Libraries

by | Nov 11, 2015 | 0 comments


Angela Carreno, Helen Cullyer, Tyler Walters, Ellen Ferren, Susan Doerr

(L-R) Angela Carreno, Helen Cullyer, Tyler Walters, Ellen Ferren, Susan Doerr

This session introduced 2 projects funded by the Mellon Foundation that deal with discovery and linking of humanities texts to create iterative editions of scholarly works.  Susan Doerr, Business Development and Operations Manager, University of Minnesota Press, began with a description of Manifold Scholarship, a new type of program that provides an intuitive experience on all types of devices. It grew out of an experiment, Forerunners: Ideas First, that was envisioned to provide short peer reviewed e-texts with print also available and was designed for works in progress. The texts were published on a 12-week schedule using agile publishing technologies and were made available using Creative Commons licenses. The prototype, Debates in the Digital Humanities, had simultaneous print, e-book, and open access editions.

Manifold was designed by academic publishers to integrate with their existing publishing production workflows and to provide a responsive, fluid, and beautiful reading experience. The platform was built for authors and publishers (in this case, university press staff); it is a creation tool, not a production tool, so copy editing must still be done. The Manifold Library is just getting started; the aim is to enable interactivity in reading.

Ellen Ferren, Director Emerita, MIT Press, described UPScope, a discovery engine funded by the Mellon Foundation for the Association of American University Presses (AAUP).  It is based on natural language searching and is a platform, database, shopping cart, catalog, and sampler for scholars, librarians, researchers, students, and general readers. It enables searching, sharing, reading, browsing, recommending, and purchasing of scholarly works from university presses. The main concept of UPScope is to gather university press content in a single place and produce an all-uniersity press catalog. The prototype is Academy Scope from National Academies Press.  It goes deeper than metadata to find connections between titles using an inference engine. One can select a topic and see a very fascinating  interactive visualization of a network of books. For example, here is a network of books on chemistry (warning: if you experiment with this, it could get addictive!):

Network of chemistry books

Helen Cullyer, Program Officer in Scholarly Communications at the Mellon Foundation, described the Foundation’s role in these projects. AW Mellon has been involved with financial models of publishing, studying the real costs, both direct and indirect, as well as working with institutions to determine their willingness to pay fees for faculty to publish open access (OA) monographs. Issues in this area include equity, non-tenure track faculty, and how institutions will fund work in the humanities and social sciences. It will be necessary to develop an infrastructure for peer review editorial, etc.  Some products of digital scholarship cannot be printed and can only be published on the web.

Mellon has worked with the Open Library of the Humanities, Ubiquity Press, and with organizations in the evolving e-book space such as MUSE Open, a project to host OA e-books on the Project MUSE platform, and with Stanford University Press to publish “interactive scholarly works” that contain multimedia and  interactive text, and so cannot be thought of like a book. How do you peer review these?  There must be both technical peer review as well as peer review of the content; best practices are being developed. Some grants involve libraries and publishers working together.  Libraries are becoming integrated with University Presses.

Angela Carreno, Head of Collection Development at New York University Libraries, said that there is a need for outlets for linear static texts allowing for what scholars are working on, but there is no easy way to think of this.  A project at the University of Utah in collaboration with Oxford University Press to add primary source material to print editions of books, along with scholarly commentary, crowdsourcing options, etc. is working on this issue.  Metadata and natural language need to be shared to the advantage of both scholars and publishers.

Tyler Walters, Dean of University Libraries and Professor at Virginia Tech, responded to the presentations on Manifold and UPScope and raised some interesting questions for consideration.  He said that UPScope has the potential to be a great source for libraries, what about students? The nature of academic publishing is highly interdisciplinary, and students are looking for resources they would not have thought of on their own. We need a robust search tool, and libraries would like to understand user behavior. He wondered if there is a potential for collaboration with Hathi Trust as AAUP and the presses continue their activities.

We need this resources such as Manifold that are based on monograph literature that is hyperlinked: an open source platform easy for presses, content builders, and people to use. How do we easily build such resources?  And once such things are built, how do we preserve them? They become a value-added scholarly resource on their own, and then we can use the dynamic web in the way it was intended. Will others contribute to sustaining Manifold? Those that survive will be those that have many stakeholders. How do we come up with sustainability for items that have low use?


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