Digital Scholarship: Or How to Benefit from a Wicked Problem

Written by: Thomas Padilla

Primary Source: Digital Scholarship Collaborative Sandbox

‘Digital scholarship’ shares affinities with the type of wicked problem posed by C. West Churchman. Solutions are hard to come by and the problems contained therein are often interdependent (e.x. changing views on scholarly communication impact views on open access, research data, digital curation, and repositories). Yet, rather than be unsettled by the nature of the problems, we should see opportunity in the challenges they pose. Shifting scholarly terrain provides the ground for creative responses that are fruitfully predicated on interdisciplinary as well as interprofessional collaboration.

At the library, we aim, in part to meet these challenges through a group called the Digital Scholarship Collaborative (DSC). Composed of librarians from across the library and archivists in the University Archives, the DSC breaks digital scholarship down into 9 areas:

  1. Data Services
  2. Digital Humanities
  3. Digital Curation
  4. Open Access and Scholarly Communication
  5. Research Data
  6. Scholarly Repository
  7. Research Data Management Guidance
  8. Digital Text Services
  9. Digitized Collections

We get together monthly to discuss challenges, thoughts, frustrations, breakthroughs, setbacks, and progress. I like to believe that we learn as much from our failures as we do from our successes.

We aim to learn from each other as we seek solutions to challenges we face in each of the above areas. Sometimes, post meeting, we get together and solve them.

Aside from the DSC coordinators, the group has no fixed roster of attendees. The semi-formal nature of the group is a strength. Individuals with deep digital scholarship experience are as equally welcomed as those new to the issues. Given the wicked nature of digital scholarship, diversity of perspective and experience is required to become better at what we do.

This blog begins an effort to provide wider access to DSC discussions around digital scholarship. My hope is that our posts will spark some curiosity and maybe even create unforeseen connections. If any of what comes resonates I encourage you to reach out to the DSC via email list (meeting details forthcoming) –

Thomas Padilla

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Thomas Padilla
Thomas Padilla is Digital Humanities Librarian at Michigan State University Libraries. Prior to his move to Michigan he was at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign working at the Scholarly Commons and the Preservation Unit of the University Library. Prior to that he was at the Library of Congress doing digital preservation outreach and education. Thomas maintains diverse interests in digital humanities, digital preservation, data curation, archives, History, and interdisciplinarity. His work and projects often map to these areas of interest.