With funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Scholarly Communication Institute (SCI) began in 2003 with the goal of providing an opportunity for scholars and leaders in scholarly disciplines and societies, academic libraries, information technology, and higher education administration to design, test, and implement strategies that advance the humanities through the use of innovative technologies. Each Institute explored scholarly communication through a focus on one or more of four core topics:
- scholarly practices—the research, analysis, presentation, vetting, publication, and teaching by which scholars advance knowledge and inquiry;
- organizational models—the departments, disciplines, learned societies, and humanities research centers that act as sites of scholarly practices;
- infrastructure—the human and technical capacities that support scholarship locally and among institutions; and
- modes of working—the methods of inquiry that emerge from use of new technologies, such as collaborative investigation, virtual modeling, and Web-based informal discourse; and, recursively, how these new modes affect scholarly behaviors, organizational models, and infrastructure.
From its inception, SCI focused on cultivating leadership and encouraging and enabling the integration of new technologies into scholarship. SCI 1 assembled a group of pioneers in digital scholarly communication to review progress over the previous two decades and lessons learned, and to identify strategies for continuing progress in the arts and humanities. The reflections of early participants set the stage for eight subsequent institutes. These Institutes focused on several scholarly disciplines, the nature and potential of collaborative working structures, critical questions surrounding the use of new media technologies to advance scholarship in unique and innovative ways, and the institutional infrastructure essential to enable digital scholarly communication.
SCI’s leadership assisted participants develop real and reasonable goals that can be accomplished. Theoretical and practical discussions are designed to lead to an action agenda. To this end, SCI worked closely with scholars and their partners from previous Institutes including practical ethicists, architectural historians, visual studies scholars, and leading humanities research centers.
SCI’s programs in 2012 and 2013 focused on scholarly production, graduate education, and support for the humanities. Our goals for this period included fostering further development of new-model scholarly authoring and production processes; rethinking and redesigning the methodological training of humanities scholars and scholarly communication professionals for the digital age; and building support for the humanities by articulating their value in and for the digital age.
These program areas evolved from conversation at recent SCI institutes. Participants’ attention reflected a growing sense of urgency felt by scholars and their scholarly societies, by presses and academic publishers, and by research libraries. The urgency was not only to understand the rapidly evolving landscape of scholarly communication, but to shape it by enacting a clear vision for scholarly communication in and for the digital age, a vision that carries forward centuries-long traditions of humanities scholarship.
Developing a shared vision is difficult given the scale of uncertainty about even near-term conditions—economic, political, technical, and social. But SCI participants and leaders have long agreed that the way to shape the future is to participate actively in building it. That was the goal of SCI’s final phase of activities.