Jessica Trelogan was brought in last year to fill the new position of Data Management Coordinator in order to build, maintain and enhance the data services deployed by the Libraries.
This February will be the one-year mark for me here at UTL. I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown! Looking back, though, I can see why: our Research Data Services unit has been busy. We’ve accomplished a lot in a year, including a website overhaul, a GIS pilot, a move to a new department, and a bunch of workshops and consultations.
Perhaps most exciting of all is the launch of the Texas Data Repository (TDR), which we are shouting loudly about this month. This long-anticipated new service has been the result of a huge amount of effort by our friends at Texas Digital Libraries (TDL), who have been working toward it since Fall of 2013. After initially identifying a need for a repository service to handle small to medium-sized research data, they settled on the open-source Dataverse platform, developed and used by Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and they decided to roll it out as a consortial service for TDL members. The Dataverse Implementation Working Group (DIWG) were hard at it for over a year, piloting, testing, assessing, and, at last, launching the service this month.
I am especially excited to be managing our local instance of it here at the Libraries. Thanks to the highly flexible Dataverse platform, each local institution that takes advantage of the service gets to decide how much control to give users. We’ve decided to give our users full control, meaning anyone from the UT-Austin community can log in with an EID, deposit data, and decide how much, with whom, and when to share it. I have high hopes that this new service, which complements our publication repository, Texas ScholarWorks, will help our research community comply with funder mandates for data sharing and archiving, get credit by facilitating reliable data citation, and promote open and reproducible research.
I look forward to getting the word out this spring about the Texas Data Repository, along with all our other research data-related services. One way we plan to do so is through a workshop series we’re launching called Data and Donuts. You’ll find us talking about research data every Friday this semester at 3pm at the Libraries (mostly at PCL). Oh yeah, plus there will be donuts!
The Prague Spring Archive project — a collaboration between the University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES), and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library — has been made live at http://scalar.usc.edu/works/prague-spring-archive. The project aims to make important primary documents on the Prague Spring openly accessible to a wide and inclusive audience, connecting the University of Texas at Austin with an international community of scholars and researchers.
The project began in 2014, when CREEES Director and Slavic Department Chair Dr. Mary Neuburger met with Assistant Director of Research and South Asian Studies Liaison Librarian Mary Rader to discuss an effort to broaden opportunities to access historical primary resources located in the LBJ Presidential Library’s archives.
In 2015, with funding from a US Department of Education Title VI National Resource Centers grant and the Texas Chair in Czech Studies, digitization work on an initial selection of archival boxes was completed by undergraduate and graduate students from CREEES and the UT Libraries. Digitization work is ongoing, with new materials being photographed, processed, and added to Texas ScholarWorks by graduate student Nicole Marino and Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies and Digital Scholarship Librarian Ian Goodale.
The Prague Spring was one of the key events in both the Cold War and 20th Century Czech history. The LBJ’s collections chronicle the United States’ perspective of events leading up to, during, and following the USSR’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, including declassified cables, intelligence reports, letters, and memoranda exchanged by ambassadors, diplomats, intelligence officers, and politicians. Eight archival boxes are currently available digitally through Texas ScholarWorks, with more being worked on and prepared for addition to the repository. Many additional materials that have not yet been digitized are available to researchers in the reading room of the LBJ Presidential Library, as well.
The Prague Spring Archive portal has been designed to replicate the original archival structure of the physical materials in the LBJ Library within a digital framework, allowing the user to “read” and explore the archive on their computer. The portal was designed to appeal to both academic researchers and to patrons conducting personal or non-academic research, with additional features planned that will extend the breadth of the site’s audience. A primer on the Prague Spring in the form of an interactive timeline is one of the site’s features aimed at users not already thoroughly familiar with the events surrounding the incident. A module that will include materials aimed at high school teachers and students, including sample lesson plans and educational activities, will also be added in the future. For researchers who would like to explore what is available in the physical collections of the LBJ, the finding aid for the entire archival collection is also available on the site.
To help maintain the archival integrity of the materials in their digitized format, extensive metadata was created to accompany the materials within the Texas ScholarWorks repository. The metadata allows the materials to be easily searched by researchers working with the materials within ScholarWorks, and can be downloaded by anyone through the repository. Full-text of the documents will soon be added in XML format to accompany the archival PDFs, increasing searchability and providing an additional resource for working with the documents—making digital humanities practices such as text mining or sentiment analysis easier to accomplish, for example.
The Prague Spring site has been an important aspect of embedded librarianship at the UT Libraries. Ian Goodale worked with graduate students in Mary Neuburger’s graduate seminar, REE 301: Introduction to Russian and East European Civilizations, to have the students contribute text for incorporation into the online portal. The students also selected key documents from archival folders to be highlighted on the portal and provided input on the site’s design and features throughout its development. Professors Mary Neuburger and Vlad Beronja contributed their input on design and content, helping to write descriptions of archival materials and select key documents to profile. The finished portal was then presented to the class for additional feedback, and more of their content will be added shortly.
The Prague Spring Archive portal is an attractive, easy to navigate resource that will continue to grow over time. New content and features, in development, will expand its scope and elevate its impact. Utilizing digital humanities tools and collaborative approaches to leveraging local expertise, the project creates context for important, unique primary source materials and shares them in an open access environment for use by local, national and international scholarly communities.
Due to the Geology program’s size, prominence, and traditional emphasis on field science, The Walter Geology Library’s thesis and dissertation collection has always been a central factor in providing research assistance. Prior to the 1980’s, many of these works remained essentially unpublished, and even those that were eventually published were highly condensed, leading researchers back to the original for full access to the complete data set.
When the Texas ScholarWorks digital repository was unveiled in 2008 as the new home for graduate research, we felt it would be advantageous to move as many legacy theses as possible into this new, open, and fully accessible format. A secondary consideration was preservation, for these works are in editions that rarely exceed ten copies, and many have loose plates, glued in photographs, and sometimes low quality paper and binding.
Our strategy was to begin in 1897 scanning the theses of deceased graduates, and to use our extensive alumni network to track down living authors and get their permission to share their work. To date we have been able to produce hundreds of scans of works from the pre-digital era. Is this effective? One recent story serves to illustrate the potential.
Abdullah Homoud Tariki, born in 1919 in Zelfi, Saudi Arabia, got a bachelor’s in geology from Fouad University in Cairo, and in November 1945, just two months after the end of WII in the Pacific, found himself in Austin Texas, entering graduate school in the Department of Geology. Apparently he was the first Saudi Arabian to study geology in the US, and, as best we can determine, the first Saudi Arabian to write an academic thesis on Saudi Arabia. He received his MA in August 1947, and, after a short stint in Houston, returned to Saudi Arabia. In a career filled with firsts, he later became the first Saudi Oil Minister, and, (reportedly based on his understanding of the Texas Railroad Commission’s structure and purpose), one of the original founders of OPEC. He was outspoken, and later involved in a number of disputes with Prince (later King) Faisal, which got him sacked, and earned him the title “The Red Sheikh”, according to some middle east sources. He died in Cairo in 1997.
Meanwhile, Mr. Tariki’s poor thesis sat mostly undisturbed on the shelves, having been checked out only a few times over the decades. Recently, a Saudi Arabian graduate student asked to see the thesis. He was born in the same village as Tariki, and claimed him as the founder of the Saudi geosciences technical infrastructure. As far as he knew, no one in Saudi Arabia had ever seen Tariki’s thesis. We decided to add it to our scanning project, and it was posted in late October of 2016. The Geology of Saudi Arabia, now almost 70 years out of date, has demonstrated that with easier access and a wider audience, digitizing such older scholarship brings new life to old texts. In the two months since its release, Mr. Tariki’s neglected thesis has been downloaded more than 50 times around the world. We are thrilled to be able to extend the reach and impact of our student’s work in this way.
But the basis for these discoveries doesn’t just disappear into some massive warehouse never to be seen again. Especially in the age of digital preservation, even those materials that could easily have fallen victim to the ravages of time can now be reasonably saved for contemplation or further consideration at some point in the future.
Such is the case with a trove of audio recordings compiled by Communications professor Robert Hopper (1945-1998) documenting the most seemingly commonplace of activities — human conversation.
Hopper’s research resulted in nine books, over sixty essays and numerous papers on the subject, but just as importantly, he left us with a sizable snapshot of how people shared space with each other during a particular era in which the telephone was a significant tool for conversation.
From voice to magnetic tape and now to a collection of ones and zeroes spread across time and distance, this information has been carefully preserved from its origination in the 20th century to today, and is available through the Libraries digital repository, Texas ScholarWorks, for anyone to access.
Established in 2008 as the University of Texas Digital Repository, Texas ScholarWorks was created to provide open, online access to the products of the University’s research and scholarship, preserve these works for future generations, promote new models of scholarly communication and deepen community understanding of the value of higher education.
Along with its recent renaming, the repository received a significant upgrade making it easier than ever to access, utilize and synthesize data and knowledge generated at UT for broadening our understanding of the world and of ourselves.
In such a way as to warrant a reconsideration of his work — made possible through endeavors like Texas ScholarWorks — Hopper presaged the increasing centrality of technology to the human experience in his 1992 book, Telephone Conversation:
“As citizens in the telephone age become increasingly summons-vulnerable, technical innovation transforms and constrains possibilities for speaking. In constructing summons and in answering them, we use resources already available in the speech community. But adaptation to this new medium alters communications patterns that are among our most priceless community resources. Ecological pollution may strike semiotic systems as well as air and water. We experiment on ourselves by using the telephone which may be the electronic medium that transforms its users the most thoroughly.”