Have you ever wondered if the text you need might be online but you just can’t seem to find it?
One tip is to click the “Digital Projects” tab in the right margin of this blog to see descriptions of various online projects that might be helpful to you in your research. We’ll continue to add many more projects to this category in the coming weeks; send us your recommendations for online projects that you have found helpful.
But wouldn’t it be much more convenient if there were one website that could provide a federated search of all of these distributed projects, so that you could search once and find results all over the web? The good news is that just such a web portal is coming soon with help from the National Science Foundation.
Since 2008, a digital consortium in the history and philosophy of science (HPS) has been meeting regularly to lay the groundwork for a unified web portal (cf. the OU page on the Digital HPS website). One year ago, for example, a Digital HPS Initiative Summit was held at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, February 25-28, 2010, to map out a detailed plan for a distributed digital infrastructure and to produce a grant proposal to prepare a new HPS website at MBL to host the portal.
The first step in creating the portal is an Informatics HPS Boot Camp for digital projects in the history of science, modeled on the bioinformatics week-long bootcamps for biologists held every summer at MBL. The HPS Boot camp will be held at the MBL from May 23-26, 2011, led by library scientists and informaticians. The stated agenda is to solve the following problem:
“We each have diverse experiences in using multiple databases that are set up in different ways and the lack of infrastructural support for making these projects accessible and inter-operable presents a stumbling block to advancing both our projects and the field as a whole. As we seek to set up our own databases to achieve true “broader impacts” and to take our work to the larger publics, we have each encountered the challenges of doing it alone. In fact, many projects often work in isolation, and this means that there are many small historical projects inhabiting dark unexplored corners of the internet that are effectively lost to scholars. Or, they are found, but since they utilize proprietary data formats, do not have metadata, or run on outdated systems, they are not easily utilized by others.”
The Digital HPS consortium is working on other projects as well. For example, a Digital Editing Workshop will be held at the Einstein Papers Project, California Institute of Technology, April 14-17, 2011.
Just as biologists have embraced new methods of research with the rise of bioinformatics, so historians of science are witnessing transformative changes in research methods. The next decade will be an exciting time for online research in the history of science!