Category Archives: General Information

Engaging with Data

A key element of Digital Scholarship is engaging with data. As our team’s data services specialist, I want to move away from data being viewed as enigmas that we have to wrangle with and understand in isolation. Rather, they should work in tandem with theory and context in a learning environment. In a recent collaboration between Professor Mary Ellen Carter, BC Professor of Accounting, and Doug Olsen, Business and Finance Librarian, I created a learning module on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) data to try to achieve such an integration. 

The module is designed to demystify ESG data by demonstrating how students can access and work with them from three major sources: LSEG (formerly Refinitiv) Workspace, S&P Global through WRDS (Wharton Research Data Services), and MSCI ESG Direct. The module uses these data to demonstrate key concepts about ESG – how ESG scores are calculated, what metrics companies measure that go into their scores, and how companies can be compared. In addition to being a primer on ESG data, the module also covers fundamental data manipulation skills, including data querying, cleaning, and visualizations. The aim is to make data an approachable companion to course content that focuses more on the discussions and debates about ESG in the business world.

Ultimately, I aim to help students feel at ease when using data in their learning and future careers. The Working with ESG Data module is just one example of how I seek to do that, and the model of incorporating aspects of data and data skills into courses is one I hope to continue to replicate. If you are interested in bringing data skills into your classroom, you can reach out to the Digital Scholarship Group at We look forward to working with you! 

In Digital Scholarship, Collaboration is Key

The Digital Scholarship Group encourages members of the BC community to consider incorporating Digital Scholarship (DS) methods into their research. Whether you know it or not, you engage in digital scholarship when you integrate new, digital sources of data into your research, use computing tools to process that data, or leverage digital platforms to present your findings dynamically online. 

What is DS?

The phrase “Digital Scholarship” (DS) has a reputation for sounding snazzy and being hard to define. In short, it means asking and answering new research questions using digital tools and methods. With the help of technological advancements–including software, programming languages, computing power, and troves of data–we can undertake research that was not possible before, not only in the sciences but also in the humanities and social sciences. These research projects can involve digital sources like census data, digitized text, or videos; digital processing of those materials; and/or digital presentation of the results. (See “What are Digital Scholarship and Digital Humanities?” for more information.)

Why DS is Collaborative

The big slate of technological potentials (e.g., data visualization, programming, and 3D modeling) requires too many for one scholar to master. Therefore, DS is at its best when it’s collaborative and interdisciplinary. Almost no single DS practitioner can build a substantial project from start to finish; rather, the best DS experts assemble teams with different technical skills and varied disciplinary perspectives. The lore of the lonely academic writing and researching in her office day after day doesn’t hold up in digital scholarship. Instead, we work together–side by side or spread across the world–to bring together sources and lenses that cannot be combined in traditional academic publishing.

Using collaborations with my DS colleagues as an example, Antonio LoPiono and I have been part of a team working to excavate Anne Bradstreet’s house (See “Seeking Bradstreet”); he can make 3D models of the artifacts, and I can digitally encode the accompanying records from the local archives. Once all our data are ready, Dave Thomas can develop a web app to make our models and documents visible and shareable online. Our complementary skill sets create projects that each of us never could on our own! 

Collaborative Projects

Resulting team-driven digital scholarship projects are as varied as the groups that create them. Some of the longest-standing digital scholarship projects are digital archives and editions that have made more text freely available online than ever before. The Whitman Archive, for example, has worked for 25+ years to share the thousands of manuscripts, publications, letters, etc., that the American poet Walt Whitman created in his lifetime. Other archives allow users not only to read and download carefully edited texts but also to visualize data points. For example, DraCor collects thousands of plays in multiple languages and allows users to see each text in new ways using tools like network analysis. Finally, some DS projects use text to create geospatial visualizations; Mapping Ancient Athens collates records of a century of archeological digs and displays them as an interactive map to allow users to see what has been excavated across the city. These are only a few of the many projects DS teams can create when they harness both technology and subject area expertise.

How We Can Help You?If you’re interested in learning more about the projects our Digital Scholarship Group can help you create–or the instruction we can offer in DS skills–we would love to hear from you! We are happy to help you brainstorm, develop a project plan, or guide you through the DS project creation process. You can reach us at

What are Digital Scholarship and Digital Humanities?

To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.

Leonardo da Vinci

There shall be love between the poet and the man of demonstrable science. In the beauty of poems are henceforth the tuft and final applause of science.

Walt Whitman

Digital Scholarship (DS) and Digital Humanities (DH) create opportunities to blur the lines and make connections between the sciences, arts, and humanities through the use of digital methods, concepts, and tools. They are a way faculty, librarians, and students can engage with new areas of scholarship and engage with traditional scholarship in innovative ways.

DS and DH Defined

DS is the deeply considered and critical use of digital methods and tools to conduct and present research. DH falls under the umbrella of DS and incorporates humanities-specific practices and methodologies. DS and DH methods include data visualization, GIS mapping, and text analysis, among others, and projects widely range in complexity from simple digital timelines to large-scale databases. For DS and DH examples, check out these award-winning projects Freedom’s Ring, Poppy Field, Prison Pandemic, and Atlante Clavino, and view some of the work that has been done at BC.

DH has Jesuit Roots

Roberto Busa, S.J. at Yale University, 1956

Father Roberto Busa, S.J. (1913-2011) was one of the earliest digital humanities pioneers. In his 1946 doctoral dissertation, Busa announced the need for a machine-generated Thomas Aquinas concordance. Why machine-generated? Because Aquinas’ works contain over 9 million words. Cross-referencing those works, not to mention connecting them with the many texts Aquinas references, would take many lifetimes. In 1949, Busa began working on the concordance, known as the Index Thomisticus, and by 1951, he had a proof of concept machine that used punchcards, though the project took thirty years to complete. Today, it exists online. The Index Thomisticus was a monumental undertaking not just because of what it took to create it but also because of what inspired it. Father Busa noticed Aquinas’ unique use of a particular word that he wanted to explore. The word was “in.”

Busa demonstrated that computing power could help us understand text in new and powerful ways. As personal computers became more common in the 1980s and 1990s, more scholars used the tool to produce digital edited editions of text. As more of those digital archives and editions came online, scholars could use the digital text to conduct new forms of analysis. On the macro-scale, scholars could identify trends across larger bodies of text than ever before. On the micro-scale, they could trace the smallest details across multiple sources with a finer-toothed comb than they had ever imagined. Sharing these results required more than traditional journal articles: visualizations of data output and interactive dashboards online helped convey new findings. From this point, scholars began working with other sources of information beyond text, including images, video, audio, and geospatial data, which is where we find ourselves today. With the advent of AI and other emerging technologies, the question is, where will we find ourselves tomorrow?

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about DS and DH, visit our Digital Scholarship Handbook. (The DS Methods Overview section might be especially helpful.) To begin learning digital skills, check out DS Learn, which has several tutorials on topics ranging from 3D modeling to data visualization to digital exhibit creation. And, as always, contact us, the Digital Scholarship Group, with questions or to discuss project ideas.