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Laying New Lines for Digital Humanities Scholars

Recommendations

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 1.    Discuss credit practices at the beginning of each project.
DH practitioners have recommended in the past that project expectations should be formalized at the beginning of a project, possibly in charters (see Ruecker, S., and Radzikowska, M.). Geoffrey Rockwell suggests that “Collaborators should discuss credit at the beginning of a project, not at the end when there are outcomes that have to be signed . . . collaborators should negotiate expectations when they have the choice to change their contribution rather than after the fact.” (see Rockwell).

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 2.    Create thorough “credits” pages for online projects
Leaders of many major projects in the digital humanities have made an effort to recognize their collaborators. As early as the Blake and Rossetti Archives, an extensive “credits” page was common in digital humanities web projects. Even in light of these early good models, we find that credits pages are sometimes difficult to locate from the main page of the project. In addition, Jim Brown and Shane Landrum have suggested that projects might consider writing a “Collaboration Description” page that outlines how the project roles were developed and helps to theorize the role that infrastructure plays in the final product (see Brown and Landrum)

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 3.    Include co-authors on conference papers and articles
Many projects clearly belong to the Primary Investigator (PI) who presents the work at conferences, writes about it in published journals, and who, despite a generous credits page, is still generally seen as the “auteur” of the entire project. At the same time, there are certainly improvements that might be made to current conventions. For instance, when a conference paper or journal article simply narrates the work of a project (rather than interprets it), it might be more equitable to follow the model of the hard sciences and list as co-authors all those who directly contributed to the work. Geoffrey Rockwell notes that “there are a number of ways to acknowledge contributions other than co-authorship. One can recognize the inspiration of others in footnotes; one can have a formal acknowledgements appendix; or one can have a corporate co-author that stands in for the others as INKE does” (Rockwell).

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 4.    Educate the community about the culture of contribution
In general, humanities scholars need to be better educated about the different parts of digital projects. In some cases, it might be useful to follow the example of the performing arts where the reward structure has evolved to include various roles within projects. For instance, the closest analog of a PI for a Tony Award-winning play is probably the producer(s). These are individuals who have the ultimate authority to hire and fire members of the team and who are ultimately responsible to the investors (analogous to the funders) for the success or failure of a project. In some cases these producers are very visible (e.g. David Merrick, Cameron Mackintosh, or Hal Prince), but often they remain more or less anonymous to the general public—visible to most only when they collect a Tony. On the other hand, because the playwright and the director are each publicly connected to their part of the work, their contributions could garner acclaim even when the play is a box-office failure. Building such a culture around digital projects in humanities scholarship would aid in teaching humanities scholars about these roles. In the performing arts, this has in part been accomplished by public awards shows; perhaps digital humanities organizations (such as centerNet or the ACH) could fund a series of small awards for different categories of DH work (best visual design, best new algorithm, best database, etc).

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 5.    Encourage self-promotion
Many PIs already attempt to share credit equitably, but it is also necessary for staff to promote their own work. Some staff may wish to promote their own work on a project at conferences or in journal articles, but at the very least staff should feel empowered to honestly and comprehensively describe their work on a project on their CVs or resumés. This may seem obvious, but several anecdotal examples were recounted in the meeting at MITH in which staff tended to minimize their important contributions to projects because they were not the PI of record or because their official title on a project did not adequately reflect the importance of their contribution. We recommend that project staff use their professional documents to articulate the full extent of their contribution with the understanding that these descriptions must be honest and compatible with the description their supervisor would provide if called for as a reference as part of a selection process for a job or award.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 6.    Support institutional policies that support non-tenure track staff
Perhaps the more pressing problem is the assumption at many universities that PIs on projects and grants are only tenure-track faculty. Such an assumption has led to ill-conceived regulations at some universities that prevent anyone but a tenure-track faculty member from being the PI of record on a grant. Many of the most innovative projects in the digital humanities have been conceived and realized by those off the tenure-track, although some have had to employ faculty members as nominal PIs to submit their application. Of course, it may make some sense to require that a PI have an established record of successful research before applying for a major grant, but it is not necessarily the case that everyone with such a record will be a faculty member. Alex Gill notes his experience as a graduate student:

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 I’m guessing institutions would back non-traditional PIs if the NEH or Mellon, wouldn’t think it’s bad joke for a graduate student to apply for a large grant. Take the NEH Startup Grant. For that grant, you can’t even apply as an individual, let alone a graduate student. Sometimes I feel that some of my DH ideas can have a large impact (I’m aware I may just be deluding myself), or at least fail with enough pedagogical detritus to justify them. Alas, in order to develop them, I have to put somebody in front of me.(Gill)

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 We strongly condemn, therefore, any institutional, departmental, or funding agency policy that does not permit scholarly staff to serve as PIs.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 7.    Encourage open and equitable intellectual property rights
Finally, whether a PI or not, most collaborators should also be allowed ownership over their work outside of the collaboration. Here again the performing arts provide a valuable model. Although some in the performing arts produce “work-for-hire” that belongs wholly to the employers, many artists retain a legal right to their own work. For instance, rights to costumes designs created for a Broadway play often belong to the designer who created them. In most universities, however, almost all work is considered “work-for-hire” with the notable exception of written work produced by a faculty member. While special permission is required even to place one’s software under an open source license, faculty are conventionally allowed to retain copyright on their scholarly monographs (work that is supported and even required by their employer). It is our belief that universities wishing to encourage innovation and creativity in the 21st century should apply intellectual property regulations equally over all employees and for all kinds of work. This is not say that faculty should be shifted to a “work for hire” model but that the intellectual property regulations covering non-faculty members of the institution should be reevaluated to include provisions similar to those that cover faculty.

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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/offthetracks/part-one-models-for-collaboration-career-paths-acquiring-institutional-support-and-transformation-in-the-field/a-collaboration/recommendations/