Brown Library, Together with Emory University, Releases Report on Digital Scholarly Publishing 

Report presents key findings of a summit on digital monographs; calls for an increase in access, equity, and inclusion in the digital development and dissemination of humanities scholarship.

Baby baskets made by Molly Timothy (Granny Molly) in the early 1950s.
Source: Courtesy of Davis McKenzie Published by UBC Press in As I Remember It: ISBN 9780774861250 (HTML)

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] In spring 2021, Brown University Library and Emory University’s Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry co-hosted a summit on multimodal digital monographs – born-digital publications that offer unique capabilities beyond conventional formats, from multimedia enhancements and interactive navigation to community engagement and global reach. The objective was to survey faculty-led experimentation with new scholarly forms taking place across a number of libraries and humanities centers. Case studies of eight recently published or in-development works exemplified the spectrum and hybridity of innovation in this area and provided a lens through which to consider some of the most pressing questions around reimagined forms of humanities scholarship.  

The resulting report, Multimodal Digital Publications: Content, Collaboration, Community, presents the summit findings — on matters of cross-institutional collaboration, community engagement, professional development, open access, peer review, metadata and discoverability, preservation, sustainability, and diversity, equity, and inclusion — and points to promising ways forward as the process of establishing best practices for the development, validation, and dissemination of multimodal digital monographs continues to unfold.

Joseph Meisel, Joukowsky Family University Librarian at Brown University, lauded the summit as “an important landmark in scholarly communications, bringing into a common conversation several parallel initiatives that are advancing the possibilities for humanistic research through innovative practices and system-changing interventions, and producing outstanding work.” 

Although the summit, which included faculty authors, academic staff experts, and university press representatives, focused on a selection of projects supported by the Mellon Foundation’s Digital Monographs Initiative, the presentations and generative discussions that followed raised important concerns and opportunities that extend well beyond the initial aims of the featured projects. Of primary concern is promoting greater inclusion and equitable access of diverse voices as well as an expanded understanding of what constitutes authorship and readership of humanities scholarship in the 21st century. 

The in-depth, evidence-based report “serves as a starting point for next steps,” according to Allison Levy, Brown Library’s Digital Scholarship Editor and co-editor of the report with Senior Associate Director for Publishing at Emory Sarah McKee, “to acknowledge the work that is already under way, to learn what we can from it, and to seek viable, sustainable means of furthering our shared mission to increase the visibility and reach of humanities scholarship to audiences both within and beyond the academy.”

The report will be of interest to the scholarly publishing community, including library publishers and other scholarly communications professionals; designers and user experience specialists; technologists and software developers; digital archivists and preservation specialists; institutional administrators; and funding agencies and foundations. It will also be of interest to scholars wishing to explore innovative multimodal publication, particularly in collaboration with community partners.

Levy and McKee officially released Multimodal Digital Publications: Content, Collaboration, Community at the annual meeting of the Association of University Presses, on June 20, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

The Brown University Library is central to Brown’s academic mission to support teaching and learning at the highest level, and in a spirit of free and open inquiry. The Library is home to the Center for Digital Scholarship, a hub for the creation of new scholarly forms and other innovations in scholarly communication, including the Mellon- and NEH-supported Digital Publications Initiative, a collaboration with the Dean of the Faculty. An area of distinction for the Library and Brown, the Initiative activates and guides intellectual exploration and creativity with faculty and other partners across campus. It also collaborates with publishers to help shape new systems of evaluation, peer review, and scholarly validation for born-digital scholarship. 

The Digital Publishing in the Humanities initiative at Emory University, based at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry within the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, relies on robust collaborations with the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, Emory Libraries, and the Office of the Provost’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, as well as with academic presses. The program has two key objectives: to encourage conversations about open access and digital publication across Emory’s humanities community, and to support the development and publication of open access digital monographs with university presses.