Digital scholars defend IT record

January 31, 1997

THES reporters examine the fall-out from the research assessment exercise now that funding weightings are known

ACADEMICS engaged in digital scholarship have called for greater recognition of their work. They complain that scholars had to publish work in print to score well in the research assessment.

At the launch of an arts and humanities data service last week, its director Daniel Greenstein of Kings College London said: "Creating digital resources is a scholarly act comparable to publication. It is a pity that you have scholars who will not get credit for creating these resources until they publish something about it."

A digital record can be a primary source, as when an archaeological dig is recorded electronically while the site is destroyed. Historians have created databases of kinship and social structure and linguists have assembled vast collections of examples of the way language is used. Other scholars have created valuable reference tools such as editions of Chaucer in electronic form, he said.

But work in electronic media is not enough to guarantee a high research rating. "The RAE is looking for published works," he said.

Marilyn Deegan, De Montfort University's professor of electronic libraries research in the humanities, said: "They are still not giving the same kind of credit for these sorts of things as they do for a scholarly monograph published by the Oxford University Press."

But Bahram Bekhradnia, head of policy at the Higher Education Funding Council for England, denied that RAE rules favour print: "We did say somewhere in the guidance that electronic publications must be given the same weight as publications in paper form. Panels may consider one publication has more prestige than another, because of its peer review, whatever the medium."

The new data service includes archaeology, history, performing arts and visual arts, sited at a number of United Kingdom universities. The service also gives access to the Oxford Text Archive.

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