Open Source Critical Editions Workshop

Gabriel Bodard and Juan Garces have reported on the aims, discussions and conclusions of the Open Source Critical Editions Workshop. This is published on the AHRC ICT Methods Network site:

The workshop addressed the technological, legal and administrative issues that digital critical editions present:

The Open Source Critical Editions Workshop was held on 22 September 2006 at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King’s College London under the auspices of the AHRC ICT Methods Network; the meeting was also supported in part by the Perseus Project and the Digital Classicist (1). This workshop was set up with the aim of exploring the possibilities, requirements for, and repercussions of a new generation of digital critical editions of Greek and Latin texts with underlying code made available under an open license such as Creative Commons or GPL (2). This topic broached many technological, legal, and administrative issues, and the participants were selected for their interest and/or expertise in these areas, and asked to consider how such editions advance classical philology as a whole, both in terms of the internal value to the subject itself, and in terms of outreach, interdisciplinarity, and the value of philology to the wider world outside the academy.

Technological questions discussed at this event included: the status of open critical editions within a repository or distributed collection of texts; the need for and requirements of a registry to bind together and provide referencing mechanisms for such texts (the Canonical Texts Services protocols being an obvious candidate for such a function (3) ); the authoritative status of this class of edition, whether edited by a single scholar or collaboratively; the role of e-Science and Grid applications in the creation and delivery of editions.

Legal issues largely revolved around the question of copyright and licensing: what status should the data behind digital critical editions have? It was an assumption of this group that source texts should be both Open Source and Public Domain, but the specifics remain to be discussed. Attribution of scholarship is clearly desirable, but the automatic granting of permission to modify and build upon scholarly work is also essential. There were also questions regarding the classical texts upon which such editions are based: what is the copyright status of a recently-published critical edition of a text or manuscript, that the editor of a new edition needs to incorporate?

Administrative questions posed by open critical editions included: issues of workflow and collaboration (in which Ross Scaife of the Stoa Consortium has considerable experience, for example through the Suda Online and other projects (4) ); protocols for publication and reuse of source data: a genealogy of reuse and citation could be generated using version control tools, or a system of passive link-back generating an automatic citation index through a web search engine. Issues of peer review and both pre- and post-publication validation of scholarship were also discussed.

Papers on critical editions, technologies and protocols were presented, and the dichotomies existing within digital publication of texts were explored. These included the scale of projects and the detail in which data should be presented; the types of edition that should be made available digitally; and to what extent classical scholars need to create their own tools rather than using those that are already used in, and funded by, other fields.

The authors conclude that

while the format of and contributions to the workshop were a success, there is still need to further develop and test some of the discussions initiated at the workshop, before undertaking a large, collaborative, and international project.

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