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Digital Scholarship

Project website/blog

This project did not have a website, however Martin Weller's blog covered a lot of what was discussed - see

What research questions the project addresses, aims & themes

The project aimed to explore the practices in digital scholarship of current academic researchers. The research questions were:

  1. In what kinds of digital scholarship are researchers engaging?
  2. How do academic researchers use new technologies available to them?
  3. How is new technology constructing the landscape influencing scholarly practices?
  4. What roles do interactions with others facilitated by social networking play in this?
  5. What consequences do these changes have for professional practices of educators particularly in the Open University?

How the research questions are addressed by the project (methodology and activity/environment)

A literature review was undertaken to establish how digital scholarship is discussed. Boyer's report on scholarship (Boyer, 1990) was the starting point for the research and prompted an analysis of how new technologies might change the nature of scholarship within Boyer's suggested framework of discovery, integration, application, and teaching.

An audit was additionally undertaken to interview a range of academic staff at the Open University. Sixteen interviews were carried out.

Findings and outputs

The review found that research datasets are becoming more openly available leading to the re-use of data. New technologies such as Twitter and YouTube allow a direct form of communication between academics and the public. New technologies facilitate more open forms of teaching with shareable and reproducible content.

The interviews found that scholarly publishing was significant to respondents and the relationship between paper-based and online journals was complex in terms of how the content was read, and the perceived value of online material. There were several examples of the use of new technologies such as blogs and wikis for reaching a wider audience. A wide range of digital tools were used by the participants, although the extent to which these tools were used varied.

The project found the Boyer framework does not necessarily reflect the practices of the OU scholars spoken to because the boundaries between research, teaching and public engagement are blurring.

There is evidence of an asymmetrical relationship with the new possibilities brought about through these tools. With datasets there was a willingness to use publicly available datasets, but less willingness to contribute, and with wikis there was initial enthusiasm but less willingness to create the initial content.

The use of digital scholarly practices is varied even within a small sample and the variety is likely to increase. The following recommendations were made:

  • There is a need to support and allow for heterogeneity, across research, teaching and public engagement. Support should be provided for scholars using the tools they elect to use, in the ways they choose to apply them. There should be provision of support to facilitate the discovery of new tools, and the associated integration of these new technologies into their current practice. Support for scholars should include provision for established and importantly still useful technologies in recognition of the emotional attachment placed on older tools.
  • Whilst there is a growing move to recognise digital scholarship outputs, recognition should also be given to the interplay between digital and traditional scholarly outputs (invitations to keynote etc.). There could be more flexibility in establishing somebody's impact on and participation within a particular community.
  • More research is needed into digital scholarship practices across the OU. This could be through targeted action research type projects (perhaps similar to Podstars) or through large scale longitudinal surveys which could track the emergence and uptake of new tools and the support and training requirements of these users and observation of new members of staff joining the scholarly community and the influence they have on the communities use of technology to support practice.

Project impact

The project led to a second round of funding for further investigation.

It has informed the OU's practice on recognising other forms of scholarship beyond the traditional scholarly article.


Pearce, Nick (2010). Digital Scholarship Audit Report. The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

Pearce, Nick; Weller, Martin; Scanlon, Eileen and Kinsley, Samuel (2010). Digital scholarship considered: how new technologies could transform academic work. In Education, 16(1)


Digital scholarship

People involved

Martin Weller

Jude Fransman

Nick Pearce

Tim Coughlan


The Open University

Start Date and duration


Research & Innovation