Neil Coffee on Digital Classics and Peer Review

Neil Coffee of the University at Buffalo sends along these comments on a recent post where I suggested that the APA might take the lead in organizing peer review of digital projects in classical studies. Neil is the director of the superb Tesserae Project, a freely available tool for detecting allusions in Greek and Latin literature, and one of the organizers of the Digital Classics Association conference that happened this past April.

Thanks to Chris for raising these issues, and Sam’s efforts as information architect are to be commended. There’s a lot to be said here, but I’ll limit myself to some remarks on peer review and mention of some further venues for dialogue.head shot of Neil Coffee in a jacket and tie

Digital_Humanities, a recent survey available free online, is helpful in providing the most specific standards for digital peer review I’ve seen. The section “How to Evaluate Digital Scholarship” (pages 128-129), includes the following:

Digital projects should be peer-reviewed by scholars in fields who are able to assess the project’s contribution to knowledge and situate it within the relevant intellectual landscape. Peer review can happen formally through letters of solicitation but can also be assessed through online forums, citations, and discussions in scholarly venues, by grants received from foundations and other sources of funding, and through public presentations of the project at conferences and symposia. (129)

The first Digital Classics Association conference in April 2013 did discuss peer review in a concluding session. One proposal was to explore whether the editors of BMCR would be interested in reviving a standalone Bryn Mawr Electronic Resources Review, or, if not, whether something similar could be established under other auspices. As it turns out, the editors of BMCR and the late Ross Scaife reflected in 2005 on the difficulty of finding qualified and interested reviewers. I don’t know how much the circumstances have changed, but it might be worth giving the idea fresh consideration.

Starting in January 2014, DCA will host a series of sessions at the APA / AIA that will report on ongoing research, but are also aimed at building a broader understanding of digital classics and associated issues. Proposed topics for future sessions are “Making Meaning from Data,” “Digital Resources for Teaching and Outreach,” and “Digital Classics and the Changing Profession.” The 2014 session, “Getting Started with Digital Classics,” is designed to introduce members to the current state of digital scholarship in classics. We are also planning a reception at the 2014 meetings to give a space for informal discussions. I invite readers of Chris’s blog to come to one or both of these events in Chicago and make their voices heard.

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