Who Owns This Stuff?

In a talk delivered at the NINES Summer Institute last year, Bethany Nowviskie asserts that, within a discipline where collaborative work is the norm, “healthier scholarship will result from generous and full acknowledgment of the contributions of collaborators.” Even more recently, in her response to Miriam Posner’s “Some Things to Think About Before You Exhort Everyone to Code,” Nowviskie makes a case for giving more attention to “the professional and intellectual development of the people already steeped in humanities computing technology and for whom this work is a primary focus and responsibility,” in order to facilitate “correlat[ion] of their local work with the bigger trends, technical and intellectual, in humanities scholarship.” Given that, as Nowviskie notes, “a gap exists, in critical vocabulary and in the norms of discourse between these groups (even including developers with deep backgrounds in humanistic research),” how do we ensure that all participants in a project enjoy an opportunity to derive professional benefits from the collaboration, including rights to access, publish about, and build upon the resulting code and artifacts? In this session, I propose we use the “Collaborators’ Bill of Rights” as a starting point for discussion. How might we instantiate these recommendations in our own projects? What other practices or policies might we add to the list? Given the ad hoc process through which digital humanities working groups and projects are sometimes formed, how do we integrate a conversation about giving credit where it is due and rights of ownership (including, but in no way limited to copyright) as an essential first stage? Can we begin drafting sensible, user-friendly model policy for which we can advocate within our disciplines and institutions to help ensure adequate recognition of collaborators’ rights?

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About Robin Wharton

This Fall, I began working as the Assistant Director of Writing and Communication at Georgia Tech. My research interests include critical legal studies, medieval and early modern law and literature, and of course, the digital humanities. I have a law degree and a PhD from the University of Georgia, and I'm looking forward to hacking (and, yes, yacking) with fellow campers!

3 Responses to Who Owns This Stuff?

  1. We have some documents we’ve developed at DiSC (including project charters, statements of work, etc.) I think it might be more difficult to have a single, universal collaborator statement, b/c collaboration is very different in different situations and projects. But, perhaps, constructing a white paper of recommendations for giving (for example) developers, librarians, and students credit for the work that they do in faculty collaborations would be a good deliverable from a session like this. Great idea!

  2. You might also like to know about the new FairCite initiative, which hopes to work on these issues and is now in an information-gathering phase. If all goes well — and if we can get enough community input! — we would like to explore the creation of a set of standards, models, or best practices that could be disseminated and promoted by the ADHO organizations.

    Adam Crymble, who is leading this phase of the work, has recently called for comments and suggestions on this DH Answers thread:
    FairCite: Who should we cite in collaborative DH Projects?

    It would be FANTASTIC if you could share whatever you come up with from THATCamp Southeast!

  3. All,
    As one of the conveners of the Off the Tracks Workshop where The Collaborators’ Bill of Rights was generated, I’d suggest you use the final version in your discussions. The final version has context around the “Rights” that is often left out of the conversation surrounding this document.

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