Digital Scholarship Lab seeks to bring new wave of innovation to Brock

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

The Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL), which will be located in the soon-to-be-completed Rankin Family Pavilion, seeks to push the Brock community to a higher level of innovation in research and technology. Its development is spearheaded by the Brock Library in collaboration with Brock’s Information Technology Services department, Compute Canada and SHARCNET.

Within the space, both students and staff can expect to have access to the latest technology to aid in their scholarly endeavours. The DSL is set to house a number of collaborative workspaces, professional software, high-powered gaming-quality computers and a comprehensive data visualization wall. It is the hope of the staff involved with the creation of the space that by bringing together expertise from across campus, the Lab can offer much more comprehensive support for digital scholarship.

Tim Ribaric has been working with Brock for over 10 years in Digital Scholarship and is currently the acting head of the DSL. He enjoys the progress that the department has made with content and programming without even having a physical space.

“It might not be common knowledge, but the DSL is actually a library initiative that aims to introduce new trends and technology into the teaching and research being done at Brock University,” said Ribaric. “Coincidentally the [acting head] position is also the head of the Map Data and GIS Library. So, I’m officially Acting Head, Map Data GIS Library / Digital Scholarship lab.”

According to Ribaric, the position is well-suited for him because of the opportunity it provides to meld technical expertise and teaching prowess.

“I really like technical work, but I really enjoy it more when you can take a technical solution and apply it to a new problem that no one has tried yet. The DSL is full of these types of challenges. I also like teaching about new tech and seeing the light bulb go on for people that come up with a new way to answer a question once they learn a new piece of tech,” said Ribaric.

The DSL currently has two other staff members and an intern who work to ensure that the lab gets a good start. According to Ribaric, they have been integral to the creation and introduction of this space.

“Daniel Brett is our tech support, and instructor and Alicia Floyd is the coordinator of the space and communications expert. Erin Daly is our co-op student who is currently enrolled in the Library Science program at Western University and will be with us developing content and running workshops up until end of April,” said Ribaric.

Though the lab will help its users in virtually all aspects of research with new technological advancements, it focuses on five main areas of specialization:

Data Management

The lab seeks to help individuals working on research projects to have a plan for where data goes, how it is put together, and where it can be organized for potential publishing.

Metadata Services

Students will be able to look to the lab to provide tools that enable them to harvest information from various sources to collect the data necessary to get their research started.

Data Visualization

Visualization of research and information can produce new and interesting insights that may not be immediately apparent when presented in traditional formats. The DSL seeks to teach visitors about the different platforms and strategies to do this so that they can push their research into a new dimension.

GIS and Mapping

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provide innovative ways to present information. If individuals’ research work has anything to do with locational data, the Lab will be there to help display and analyze it in interesting ways

High Performance Computing

Since the lab will feature a number of high-end computers capable of an amazing amount of processing, researchers will be able to quickly and efficiently breeze through time-consuming analysis and mathematical modelling/problem-solving.

Going forward, Ribaric wants to collaborate with other Brock students to advance the goals and vision of the lab.

“We intend to have student jobs in the space, that is for sure. They’ll help run events in the space as well as work on the projects that we’ll put together. So [in the future] we’ll be looking for students with experience doing Digital Humanities work, some light experience with programming languages and the ability to run workshops. Ideally,” said Ribaric, “we’d have candidates that are curious about these topics and want to perform research in interesting new ways.”

The DSL team aims to create a common environment for all members of the Brock community to engage in novel research.

“We’re hoping that that space will belong to everyone on campus. It is right at the front door of the school and there will be tons of people streaming by every day. When they do, we hope that they engage with us and know what we are all about,” said Ribaric.

The Digital Scholarship Lab offers a number of workshops that introduce individuals to new technologies and techniques.

All upcoming workshops out of the lab can be found on ExperienceBU. Interested students can also engage with the lab via their podcast on SoundCloud and on Twitter through the handle @brock_dsl.

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