Archive for November, 2011

UCLA Library Partners to Launch Data Management Tool

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Important questions are challenging researchers today: Where should their research data reside? How can they make the data discoverable by other investigators and repurposed in new ways? Would allowing others to access the data help advance their fields or their careers?

The University of California and several other major research institutions have partnered to develop the DMPTool, a flexible online application to help researchers generate data management plans — simple but effective documents for ensuring good data stewardship. These plans increasingly are being required by funders such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF). The DMPTool supports data management plans and funder requirements across the disciplines, including the humanities and physical, medical and social sciences.

When researchers openly and collaboratively share their data, advances in fields can occur much more quickly and effectively, as reported in the New York Times for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease research. The DMPTool will help in this effort.

“Many funding agencies require a data sharing plan be included in their applications. How to accomplish this is a challenge for our principal investigators, given that retention of research data is now much more than retaining all original notebooks, but includes storing of massive amounts of electronic data…The availability of the new Data Management Planning Tool will prove invaluable in assisting them in the management of their data and complying with these agency requirements,” states Charles Louis, vice chancellor for research, UC Riverside.

The DMPTool is open source, freely available and easily configurable to reflect an institution’s local policies and information. Users of the DMPTool can view sample plans, preview funder requirements and view the latest changes to their plans. It permits the user to create an editable document for submission to a funding agency and can accommodate different versions as funding requirements change. Not only can researchers use the tool to generate plans compliant to funder requirements, but institutions also can use the tool to present information and policies relevant to data management and to foster collaboration among faculty, the institutional libraries, contracts and grants offices, and academic computing.

William (Bill) Michener, professor and director of e-science initiatives for the University Libraries, University of New Mexico, and DataOne principal investigator, states, “The requirements from NSF and other funding agencies for data management and sharing will lead to new and better science by promoting data stewardship and encouraging data sharing. The DMPTool is an important resource for researchers as they develop funding proposals, and gives them a full picture of all aspects of sound data management practice.”

Project partners include the University of California Curation Center (UC3) at the California Digital Library, the UCLA Library, the UC San Diego Libraries, the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Virginia Library, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, DataONE, and the United Kingdom’s Digital Curation Centre. Working collaboratively, these institutions have consolidated their expertise and reduced their costs.

Dr. Livingstone’s lost 1871 ‘massacre’ diary recovered; discovery rewrites history

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

In Africa 140 years ago, David Livingstone, the Victorian explorer, met Henry M. Stanley of the New York Herald and gave him a harrowing account of a massacre he witnessed, in which slave traders slaughtered 400 innocent people. Stanley’s press reports prompted the British government to close the East African slave trade, secured Livingstone’s place in history and launched Stanley’s own career as an imperialist in Africa. 

 Today, an international team of scholars and scientists led by Dr. Adrian Wisnicki of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, publishes the results of an 18-month project to recover Livingstone’s original account of the massacre. The story, found in a diary that was illegible until it was restored with advanced digital imaging, offers a unique insight into Livingstone’s mind during the greatest crisis of his last expedition, on which he would die in 1873. 

 Livingstone’s 1871 Field Diary is a free online public resource published by the UCLA Digital Library Program in Los Angeles (http://livingstone.library.ucla.edu/1871diary/). The project was made possible by the generous funding and support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (http://www.neh.gov/), an independent grant-making agency of the U.S. government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation and public programs. The British Academy has also helped fund the endeavour. With these grants, the research and all the data is made available to advance humanities and technology studies across the United States and globally. 

 The story the diary tells is electrifying. Livingstone had once been a national hero, but when he wrote this diary, he had been forgotten by the public and was stranded without supplies in Central Africa. A dedicated writer, he made ink from berry seeds and wrote over the pages of a single copy of the London Standard — the precursor to today’s Evening Standard. Exposed to the African environment, the manuscript deteriorated rapidly and today is virtually invisible to the naked eye.

 The diary depicts, in Livingstone’s words, “the unspeakable horror” of the slave trade in what is now the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It provides an eye-witness account of the shocking massacre, perpetrated by armed slave traders in Nyangwe, a Congolese village. The event forced Livingstone to change his travel plans and led to his famous meeting with Stanley. Had Stanley not found Livingstone and greeted him with the words “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”, the world might never have heard of Livingstone again. 

The massacre is one of the most important events in “The Last Journals of David Livingstone” (1874), edited after Livingstone’s death in 1873 by his friend Horace Waller. Until now, this book was the main source for historians and biographers. However, critical and forensic analysis of the original 1871 text reveals a very different story from Waller’s heavily edited version. In particular, it sheds light on a heart-stopping moment when Livingstone gazes with “wonder” as three Arab slavers with guns enter the market in Nyangwe, where 1,500 people are gathered, most of them women: 

 “50 yards off two guns were fired and a general flight took place — shot after shot followed on the terrified fugitives — great numbers died — It is awful — terrible, a dreadful world this,” writes Livingstone in despair as he witnesses the massacre. “As I write, shot after shot falls on the fugitives on the other side [of the river] who are wailing loudly over those they know are already slain — Oh let thy kingdom come.” 

 Wisnicki, an assistant professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, says, “Evidence in the diary suggests that members of Livingstone’s party might have been involved in the massacre. Livingstone seems to have considered this possibility and this, together with his failure to intervene, appears to have left him with a profound sense of remorse. In copying over the 1871 diary into his journal, Livingstone decided to rewrite or remove a series of problematic passages. His revised journal account, on which the 1874 book is based, did not reflect his original record. It’s taken 140 years to discover Livingstone’s original words and reveal the many secrets of the original diary.”  

 The original account of the massacre is just one of many passages in the diary that are significantly different from the 1874 book. 

 “Livingstone would never have published this private diary in his own lifetime,” says Wisnicki. “In particular, his attitude to the liberated slaves in his entourage is one of disgust — an attitude greatly at odds with his public persona as a dedicated abolitionist.” 

 Wisnicki anticipates that the publication of the 1871 diary will change the way history interprets Livingstone’s legacy. 

“Instead of the saintly hero of Victorian mythology, the man who speaks directly to us from the pages of his private diary is passionate, vulnerable and deeply conflicted about the violent events he witnesses, his culpability and the best way to intervene — if at all,” he says.

 Spectral imaging, the process used to recover Livingstone’s original text, involves illuminating the manuscript with successive wavelengths of light — starting with ultraviolet, working through the visible spectrum and ending with infrared. Processed digital images enhanced the selected text. 

 The scientific and technical team, led by Mike Toth of R.B. Toth Associates, an expert in technical studies of cultural objects for museums and libraries, includes Keith Knox of Eureka Imaging (Kihei, Hawaii), Roger L. Easton Jr. of the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, N.Y.), Bill Christens-Barry of Equipoise Imaging LLC (Ellicott City, Md.), Ken Boydston of MegaVision Inc. (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Doug Emery of EmeryIT (Baltimore, Md.). The Library of Congress provided invaluable support in system development and technical advice. Together, the scholars and scientists involved in this interdisciplinary project help usher in a new era of academic endeavour in which advanced imaging technology is applied to the study of 19th-century manuscripts. 

 Toth says, “The results of this diary project, which enhanced Livingstone’s faded handwriting and suppressed the underlying printed text, demonstrate the significance of the spectral imaging process for the digital recovery of damaged and old manuscripts. By making the results available online, the project helps preserve the original diary, which is too fragile to be made available to the public.” 

 Analysis and images for download are available at

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/news/dr.-livingstones-lost-1871-massacre-diary-recovered.