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The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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2 What is digital scholarship?

In the book The Digital Scholar, Martin Weller suggests that ‘digital scholarship’ is really shorthand for the intersection of three technology related developments, namely:

  • digital content
  • networked distribution
  • open practices.
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Figure 2  What is ‘digital scholarship’?

It is when digital, networked and open intersect that transformational practice occurs.

The Wikipedia definition of digital scholarship is ‘the use of digital evidence, methods of inquiry, research, publication and preservation to achieve scholarly and research goals’ (Wikipedia, 2016).

Other authors list the types of behaviours that represent digital scholarship; Pearce et al (2010), for example, state that digital scholarship is ‘more than just using information and communication technologies to research, teach and collaborate, but it is embracing the open values, ideology and potential of technologies born of peer-to-peer networking and wiki ways of working in order to benefit both the academy and society’.

This indicates that digital scholarship is not easily defined. As with the term elearning, there is a temptation to consider that this is just a slight addition to normal practice. Weller would, however, argue that to dismiss digital scholarship as a ‘slight addition’ is to miss some of the significant changes that are currently underway, and also the possibilities the application of digital technology affords scholarly practice. You will consider these in subsequent weeks of the course.

The concerns of digital scholarship also vary according to disciplines and a person’s role within them. For example, a related term is that of ‘digital humanities’. This might be focused in large scale digitisation projects such as the Old Bailey Online archive [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , or use of geographical data, for example Pelagios.

Another related term is ‘open science’, which is concerned with both the communication of science in an open manner, and the opening up of large data sets for others to use, for example, the Climate Change Knowledge Portal .