Shared research resources

Over the last month I’ve stepped up my attempts to stop hoarding the data I collect and generate and just get it out there, warts and all. As a consequence I’ve made two major changes to my workflow.

The first is to stop typing up my notes at public talks in Google Drive and switch to GitHub Gist. This change moves my notes from being closed by default to open by default, though I’ll also admit that a nagging concern over becoming reliant on Google products also influenced my decision (Tony Hirst has written with great clarity on the dangers of lock-in with Google products). I was introduced to Github Gist at the recent Oxford Digital Humanities Summer School when our first practical session degenerated into a slightly rebellious attendee led unconference (note: I’m warming to unconferences – a recent unconference on Digital Pedagogies hosted by UCL DH and the HEA was excellent – but in this instance it was very much unplanned). Admittedly Gist does have its faults compared to Drive/Docs: it has no auto-save, no formatting/styling option and no way to embed links/content. But it was never intended to be these things. As a pastebin Gist is agnostic to the type of content you throw at it, and as such its simplicity is its greatest strength. An archive of my Gists (thus far from the Oxford Summer School) can be found here and as more are added they will pop up in an RSS feed embedded in the right-hand sidebar of this page.

The second major change I’ve made is to share (where possible) my research data. At present this constitutes only two collections: one on the places depicted in satirical design created or engraved by Isaac Cruikshank and broken down by publisher (for how I’ve used this see ‘Networking locations depicted in Cruikshank satires‘; another constituting georeferenced data for businesses related to Georgian satirical prints from two contemporary business directories (for an example of this in use see ‘Heatmaps‘). For now I’ve hosted these on Dropbox (see the explanatory readme files for more details on what exactly is in these collections), though when the Humanities gets its act in order I’d like to migrate these collections to a Figshare-esque data repository. It is worth adding that these data were collected as part of research conducted during my postdoctoral fellowship with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and I make no claim that either of these collections are complete, comprehensive or complete. Indeed – if I’m honest – I know they are not, and share them in the hope that someone with a desire to develop the data further takes up the baton where I’ve left off (this is not to say I don’t want to put more work in, rather that they’ve served my purpose for now and I’ve moved on to other things). In order for this to happen, these resources are shared under a permissive open license (CC-BY) so it is clear how how they can be used and reused by other scholars (in short, do as you please so long as you attribute me).

It is by building on the work of others that scholarship moves forward. Exploiting the full potential of the technologies at our disposal in order to make our research data open to others is an essential part of making this happen.


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