E-Science & Digital Humanities

The new FSU E-Science librarian visited UF recently. I mentioned this in conversation to a friend who hadn’t heard of E-Science. I explained it simply as the Science parallel to the Digital Humanities. In thinking this over later, it’s a very easy explanation for the Digital Humanities and is explained in various publications and presentations. However, I haven’t yet seen this explanation from a scientific venue. I’ll be discussing this with colleagues soon and these are my notes in thinking about the discussion.
As ARL’s “E-Science and Data Support Services: A Study of ARL Member Institutions” defines E-Science as:

those new methods that are large-scale, data-driven, computationally intense, and often engaging research teams across institutional boundaries.

The NEH Office of the Digital Humanities defines the digital humanities:

As in the sciences, digital technology has changed the way scholars perform their work. It allows new questions to be raised and has radically changed the ways in which materials can be searched, mined, displayed, taught, and analyzed.

E-Science is clearly a parallel to the Digital Humanities. The added prefixes “e-” and “digital” are there to explain that the fields have changed because information abundance and digital tools have changed the way research works.
E-Science and Digital Humanities research both require:

  • More source data (the type of data can be collected research data, collected digital versions of literary works, etc)
  • New tools
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration – often across institutions and internationally
  • New approaches
  • New research questions
  • Data curation for the digital scholarship it produces
  • Data curation for its source materials
  • Support for addressing rights issues for source materials – copyright, privacy rights, etc

E-Science’s emphasis on data curation and need for access to more materials is clear from the ARL report (emphasis below is mine):

Variously described as e-science, cyberscience, or the “fourth paradigm,” the emergent era of scientific discovery distinctively exploits technologies for computation, data curation, analysis and visualization, and collaboration. […] The Task Force’s first report outlined the challenge: e-science fundamentally alters the ways in which scientists carry out their work, the tools they use, the types of problems they address, and the nature of the documentation and publication that results from their research.

NEH’s Office of the Digital Humanities defines it’s primary mission as coordinating NEH support for digital scholarship. The Office of the Digital Humanities defines the Digital Humanities as including supporting preservation and access to that scholarship:

Technology has also had an enormous impact on how scholarly materials are preserved and accessed, which brings with it many challenging issues related to sustainability, copyright, and authenticity. The ODH works not only with NEH staff and members of the scholarly community, but also facilitates conversations with other funding bodies both in the United States and abroad so that we can work towards meeting these challenges.

I was already hoping that Gainesville could host a THATcamp sometime soon, and I’m hoping that the science librarians might also be interested in it and in expanding it to add a specific e-science component.