Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Awards Grant to Develop the Isis Bibliography

Last month, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced their support to fund the project that I’ve been discussing in this blog and elsewhere over the past year. The idea is to reconceptualize the Isis Bibliography for scholars in the twenty-first century. The Isis Research Platform will create a new type of access to history of science scholarship and to the scholars who produce it.

The key elements of the Isis Platform will be:

• An entirely open access framework
• Expansion of the digital dataset back to 1913, adding sixty years to the current dataset
• Basic functionality expected of all twenty-first century research tools, including user accounts, social tagging, and linked data
• Complex data analytics
• Full-text access where possible and feasible
• Access to the raw dataset via APIs (programming interfaces) so that anyone with coding expertise can develop tools and research for new purposes
• Integration with other research tools such as PhilPapers, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Zotero, Wikipedia, etc.

From the user’s point of view, the tool will seem like a natural outgrowth of account-based services like, where a person will create an account that they can fashion in certain ways by adding material of their own, or linking to other services. It will be a social bibliography insofar as people will be able to tag and share bibliographic resources with others. This also means that scholarly comments can be added to entries. Finally, the Platform will give users the ability to add their own entries that can be discovered by others and upload or link to full-text where legally possible.

The social component of the tool will change the way that one thinks of the Bibliography. Because the Isis Platform will be designed to allow collaborative work, it will be possible for me to work more easily with other scholars to develop a richer resource. I am planning to invite a team of editors to help curate and enrich subsets of the bibliography where they have expertise. As more and more specialists and working groups begin to curate the dataset, the tool will increase in value.

Finally, I will release the bibliography as “open linked data,” which means that it will be useable by scholars for projects of their own. We expect that the open linked data aspect of the platform will promote new kinds creative research.

The $350,000 grant from Sloan will support the first two years of development of this project. The principal investigators on the grant are me; Gavan McCarthy, the director of the eScholarship Research Centre (eSRC) at the University of Melbourne; and Kerry Magruder, the curator of the History of Science Collections at the University of Oklahoma Libraries. Longtime colleague Sylwester Ratowt, affiliate researcher at the University of Oklahoma, will be the project manager. In addition, I will be joined by two other scholars on the project’s governing board: Margaret Gaida, graduate student in History of Science at the University of Oklahoma; and Colin Allen, director of the InPhO project at Indiana University.

Those interested in following the developments and providing input along the way should visit the Isis CB website, and check out the blog. In that forum, my staff and I, along with occasional guest writers, will be providing news and commentary about the Isis Bibliography, the Isis Research Platform, and digital scholarship in general. Please join us.

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