Penn State awarded Mellon grant to study personal scholarly archiving

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant of $440,000 to Penn State. The two-year project in collaboration with George Mason University will build upon the 2012-13 research led by Ellysa Stern Cahoy, education librarian, studying how faculty managed and archived their scholarly information collections. Over the next two years, Stern Cahoy, in collaboration with Sean Takats, associate professor of history at George Mason University and director of research projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, will direct software development to enhance how faculty organize and archive information, including their own scholarly publications. 

The software development will center on Zotero, an open source citation manager overseen by Takats and commonly used for scholarly research management, storage and bibliographic citation generation. Stern Cahoy, Takats and developers at Penn State and George Mason will enhance Zotero’s archiving capabilities by linking to ScholarSphere, Penn State’s institutional repository service. This will allow Penn State faculty, students and staff to claim and deposit self-authored works securely in ScholarSphere via Zotero.

The software developed in this project will allow other colleges and universities with similar institutional repositories to implement a Zotero deposit connection. The development team also will develop enhancements that, through RSS feeds of scholarly journals, facilitate greater discovery of research articles within Zotero. In the third phase of the project, Stern Cahoy and the research team will repeat their phase-one research methodology to assess how the Zotero optimizations help users in the humanities further unify their research practices, particularly in the areas of personal archiving and information discovery.

“Research in the digital age opens new doors to scholarship, but the abundance of resources in all formats also presents the researcher with overwhelming storage and retrieval challenges. Projects like Stern Cahoy’s help librarians understand the issues and help find solutions,” noted Barbara I. Dewey, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Information at Penn State. 

In April, Stern Cahoy and research anthropologist Smiljana Antonijević published "Personal Library Curation:  An Ethnographic Study of Scholars' Information Practices," in "portal: Journal of Libraries and the Academy." The article reveals the first phase (2012–13) of the study and details the results of ethnographic interviews with Penn State faculty across the sciences, humanities and social sciences on their scholarly research practices. Faculty in the study most often faced difficulties when finding and accessing new information, and when organizing and archiving research articles and other significant data or artifacts. In July, Stern Cahoy and Antonijević will share their findings at the 2014 Digital Humanities Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. Said Stern Cahoy, “The goal of this project is to further unify the online research and self-archiving process for faculty. As librarians, our primary focus is moving from the physical library to the online environment, which mandates that we continually discover and explore new ways to help our faculty more easily connect with, utilize and organize the best and most relevant information sources.”

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Research led by Ellysa Stern Cahoy, education librarian. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated July 29, 2017