An Ongoing Experiment: Public Scholarly Annotation

By Bodong Chen

July 18, 2018

Background stories

I value Open Scholarship and have been practicing it for years – both in terms of doing it and learning to do it. Stian Haklev, an OER and Open Access champion, introduced me to this idea. He built a wiki-based workflow system, named researchr, and convinced a few OISE friends, including Cresencia Fong and Alisa Acosta, to share our annotations publicly, in a well-organized manner. For us, the benefits of using researchr are obvious: the system scaffolds the scholarly process of reading and annotating articles, as well as summarizing and organizing our notes. Its openness adds another important piece that’s a bit murkier. What does it mean to share out annotations publicly – to academics who annotate, to authors of an annotated article, and to academia?

Meeting with Pratim Sengupta, whose work was annotated by myself when running a journal club with a dozen grad students, just gave me a chance to really ponder on these questions. He and his team’s work on public computing inspires my evolving thinking on the value of openness.

My thinking is also contextualized in my recent attendance to the I Annotate conference and the idea of creating ‘A Coalition for Scholarly Annotation’ shared by Jon Udell. My key takeaway from the conference was that the web annotation community has been thinking deeply about web information, knowledge and workflows. Their work has generated nascent web standards, tools and practices that are making an impact on publishing, information ‘consumption’, and human collaboration on the web.

Now enters this blog post

This post will be an evolving document reflecting my ongoing thinking on open scholarly annotation. Writing this blog post is a new experiment. I admit my bias upfront. That is, I strongly believe scholarly annotations generated at various stages of the scholarly process are of great value. However, these annotations have become part of the ‘dark data’ generated by scholars and are rarely talked about. While research reproducibility has been embraced by many disciplines and scholarly communities, how we actually ‘annotate’ each other’s ideas into new ones remains opaque. Remaining in the dark is not doing justice to hidden value we produce as scholars and is not helping with the training of emerging scholars. Further enriching openness in scholarly practices – even beyond open data and analysis reproducibility – would be a meaningful next step.

Phase 1 of writing this post

In Phase 1, I will publicly annotate web documents about open scholarly annotation, using and a tag ValueAnnotation. Below is an evolving collection of my annotations, and I invite you to annotate with me using the same tag.

Here is an example of a Hypothesis annotation I created.

Phase 2

This is an emerging process. The next step, as I see now, is to make sense of generated annotations and update this post with summaries and new ideas that ‘rise above’ existing ones.

Update (2018-7-20): In preparation for an AERA 2019 submission, I wrote a research summary describing what I hope to do next. The summary – embedded below – is informed by Hypothesis annotations above. However, I found it difficult to demonstrate the ‘moves’ from annotations to writing.

To be continued…

Posted on:
July 18, 2018
3 minute read, 531 words
open scholarship openness academia
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