This Wednesday (5th March) will see the start of the ‘ART of the Digital Scholar’ lunchtime sessions. The first session in this short programme will look at Open Access, a hot topic in UK Higher Education right now.

With all seven of the main UK funding councils now requiring Open Access compliance in some way, it seems anyone engaged in research must also start to engage with the issues of sharing their work in this way.

We will start with an overview of the Open Access movement, and explain the options available for researchers. We will  be exploring some practical ways researchers can publish in an Open Access-compliant way. We will also be examining the implications of sharing outputs via Open Access, which aims to ‘remove both price barriers and permissions barriers’ (from Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview)

Speakers will include Stephanie Taylor from the Academic Research Technologies team at ULCC , Dr Jane Winters, Reader in Digital Humanities and Head of Publications & IHR Digital from the Institute of Historical Research and Adam Crymble, editor of the Programming Historian and the project manager of British History Online.

Come along to find out more and to join in the discussion.

Date – Wednesday 5th March 2014

Time – 1-2pm

Location – Room 246, Senate House


DigitalScholarUniverseImage from The British Library Flickr, used under CC license

Beginning on Wednesday 4th March, ART will be presenting a programme of lunchtime sessions to share knowledge about Digital Scholarship. The sessions will be an hour long, running 1pm-2pm. We will be covering some of the topics that we identified of interest to researchers and people working with researchers through our recent survey on Digital Scholarship skills. The programme is complimentary to the Social Scholar sessions, already being run by the School of Advanced Studies, and is also being run on a monthly basis.

The programme will cover -

Wednesday 5th March – Open Access

Wednesday 2nd April – Planning for Preservation

Wednesday 7th May – Blog Preservation

Wednesday 4th June – How to publish an Ebook

The sessions will begin with an overview of the topic for that day, putting it into context of current Digital Scholarship activity in the UK, Europe and beyond. We will also have a range of speakers, who will be providing a mix of practical advice and different perspectives on the topics. Speakers will be drawn from within the  School of Advanced Studies (SAS) and from other institutions and organisations who are involved in the areas under discussion.

The  first session will be on Open Access- what it is, how it started, and what its current role is in the academic research in the UK. We will then be looking at some of the specifics of how and why the School of Advanced Studies here at the University of London is engaging with Open Access, and what this means for SAS researchers. Finally, we will hear about Open Access from the procurement perspective, with a view of how Jisc Collections are working in this area. There will be time for questions to all speakers, and all the presentations will be available online after each session.

If you want to find out more about Open Access, have questions about how it relates to your own work or want to know more about rights management and open scholarship, please come along.

We will be publishing a more detailed breakdown of each session, including speakers and specific talks, here on the blog over the next few weeks, so please check back for updates.

All of the Digital Scholar sessions are free to attend and open to all researchers and those who work with and support researchers in SAS, the University of London and elsewhere.

For more information, please contact Stephanie Taylor –

Follow us on Twitter – @digischolar

Hashtag – #digitalscholar



Here at DPTP, we like to keep things focused on the practical. The idea behind all our modules, all the talks and exercises and discussions, is to give delegates the tools they need to tackle digital preservation (DP) back in the real world, outside the cosy DPTP classroom. So day three started off by looking at some very real challenges  - the costs of  DP and the risks of preserving (or indeed, not preserving) digital objects.

Money is a tricky business. Putting a value on DP is a very slippery task. The difficulties were brilliantly demonstrated by Sharon McMeekin of the  DPC, who used her mobile phone, the physical object, the data it contained and the technological tools it stores, to illustrate the huge impact, and associated costs, that can come from losing digital assets. Sharon tackled the thorny issue of business cases and building a strong case for DP within an organisation. Delegates were very keen to try out the ideas, applying them to their own organisation and preparing themselves to start up an informed conversation with senior management and other stakeholders back at base,

Sharon also covered the risks associated with DP, including the often overlooked risk of doing nothing. Delegates worked through a variety of scenarios, scoring risks, applying risk management strategies and then re-assessing the remaining risks after they had taken action. Bit rot seemed to feature as a high for two groups, who may have been as enamoured by the name as they were concerned about the risk. As with day one, delegates worked calmly through various ‘panic’ situations and learned how to handle them with confidence. Intervention saved the day, and DP stepped up to the challenge and saved, among others,  imaginary content on VHS tapes and the original copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (we obviously have a team of Douglas Adams fans among the delegates this time).

The final afternoon session was all about creative destruction. Here at DPTP, we firmly believe that you only truly understand something when you’ve broken it. With that in mind, delegates set about breaking the OAIS model we had all come to know and love since day one. Taking a real-life organisation and assessing OAIS against the current situation in that organisation with regard to digital preservation tested the model to the max. The aim was to break it. But to break it in such a way that it became a useful tool – one that could be adapted and changed. This broken, or, less dramatically, the evolved model would be much more useful in showing the highly individual situations that delegates would face when back at their desks, working in diverse organisations with very different needs and at very different stages of engaging with digital preservation.

Working in three teams, our participants took three real-life case studies and assessed them against the OAIS model. The feedback showed some very interesting outcomes, with delegates identifying gaps in the case studies where DP could be ‘broken’ – that is, where the DP cycle would not work smoothly, and were risks loomed large. These gaps were then bridged using the OAIS model as a starting point. Some gaps were created by internal processes and systems whereas others were more to do with planning that hadn’t included the entire DP scenario from start to finish. Although the teams couldn’t offer immediate fixes for everything, by identifying the problems and risk areas in each case study using everything they had learned over the past three days, they were able to suggest useful ways forward in each instance.

Participants had come to DPTP for many different reasons and were engaging with digital preservation at many different stages of development. This final exercise was a great showcase for the hard work they had all put into the work, and illustrated just how much they had learned about tools, techniques and strategies to take back to their own preservation projects.

The image above shows one of my favourite moments of the final exercise – the Queen Anne-style interpretation of the digital preservation three-legged stool!


We are very enthusiastic about our ongoing work on tranScriptorium and thought it was time to share this with you.

tranScriptorium is one of the Specific Targeted Research Projects (STReP) of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) created by the European Commission – Research and Innovation.

Digital libraries work and published huge amounts of handwritten historical documents. For typical handwritten text images of historical documents currently available text image recognition technologies are not efficient. Traditional Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is simply not usable since characters cannot be isolated automatically in these images. Therefore, holistic, segmentation-free Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) techniques are needed. Current HTR approaches still lack the required accuracy, mainly due to poor quality, degradations and writing style variability of historical document images.

tsimageblogpostHence tranScriptorium aims to develop innovative, efficient and cost-effective solutions for the indexing, search and full transcription of historical handwritten document images, using modern, holistic HTR technology.

The project will turn HTR into a mature technology by addressing the following objectives:

  1. Enhancing HTR technology for efficient transcription
  2. Bringing the HTR technology to users: individual researchers with experience in handwritten documents transcription and volunteers who collaborate in large transcription projects.
  3. Integrating the HTR results in public web portals: the outcomes of the tranScriptorium tools will be attached to the published handwritten document images.


ts2forblogpostThe project will have an important impact to transcribers for whom HTR technology is not well known, as well as to new non-specialist users accessing the possibility to transcribe complex historical documents. Projects like Transcribe Bentham can certainly make good use of this technology. Also great impact is expected for the content provision of cultural heritage digital collections. tranScriptorium might even help locate sunken ships once the information stored in the General Archive of the Indies were processed!

The tranScriptorium project runs from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2015.

Blog DPTP2

The second day of the Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP) was homework day. Delegates had prepared short presentations about a wide variety of digital preservation (DP) tools. With delegates being given a tool each on day one, we were able to cover 23 tools. Day two also saw us continuing to explore the OAIS model and also to look at rights management – the legal part of DP which often requires management of all kinds of rights in connection to the rights of both producers of content.

Fortunately, no dogs ate any homework, and we had a lively session learning about DP tools. Tools are not just technical systems or applications. At their most basic level, they are anything that help with the task of digital preservation, such as models like OAIS as well as more obvious applications that help with check sums and other DP tasks. There is even a board game, to help ease the pain of meticulous DP planning! The session started with ‘pin the tool on the OAIS model’, where delegates used post-it notes to show where exactly the tools they had researched would best fit in. It was great to hear the feedback from individual delegates who had assessed their tools in great detail. Some useful guidelines grew out of the session which could be applied to any DP tool you might consider using.

Our collective top five guiding questions were -

  • How much does the tool cost?
  • If there is a cost, is this a one-off payment or does it involve regular renewal payments?
  • Is the tool active and in use, with an active user community around it? (particularly important for free tools)
  • Would the tool save time and/or money?
  • Would this tool be compatible with existing systems being used?

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Doyglas AdamsAlthough I’ve been preparing for my first Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP) for quite a while, it’s only after taking part in the first full day that the depth and breadth of the material covered really hit me. As a new trainer on the course, I am teaching only two of the many modules. This time around, most of the work it being done by my colleagues Ed Pinsent of Academic & Research Technologies, ULCC, with help from Sharon McMeekin of the Digital Preservation Coalition on Day Three. The course covers pretty much everything that you need to know to start or develop Digital Preservation (DP), from tools to models by way of standards, file formats, metadata and much more. Check the course outline for details of individual modules we teach and get some idea of what is covered. The course is very rooted in the practical, with lots of hands-on exercises and, despite a packed schedule, lots of time factored in for questions and discussions.

The mix of people on the course is one of it’s  great strengths, with delegates being encouraged to share their own experiences and current projects with each other. For this course, we have a really interesting group made up of archivists from a traditional background who are moving into the digital area and people with a library and/or digital library background who are moving into digital preservation as part of their current role. The theme of expanding roles continued among the delegates, with this course having a number of records managers and also people working in research data management who are both now finding a need to include digital preservation for both digitised and born-digital content in their day-to-day work.

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