Reverse detail from Kakelbont MS 1, a fifteenth-century French Psalter. This image is in the public domain. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 12+13

Posted: Aug 23, 2016 10:08;
Last Modified: Aug 23, 2016 10:08


Hi all!

Summer is winding to a close, and our project continues to progress. The database is working, and is currently being made faster for even easier use. Books and articles are still being collected and scanned, and I am trying to split my time between scanning sources and collecting data.

At our last meeting Dan and I went over the exact specifications for the references I am collecting. Information is sorted into four types:

Text Quotes (TQ)

Text Mentions ™

Scholarly References (SR)

Other References (OR)

Text Quotes and Text Mentions come from editions, facsimiles, translations, and manuscripts, and only refer to Cædmon’s Hymn itself. Quotes are direct quotations from the poem, while mentions are references to other editions.

Scholarly References will consist of references made to anything other than Cædmon’s own words. This can include books and articles about the hymn or other topics, as well as supplementary text from the editions of the hymn.

Other References is simply a catch-all category for anything that does not fit into the previous three categories.

Unfortunately I have been having laptop issues and had to reinstall the operating system on my computer, losing some programs in the process. I am not sure if this will affect my GLOBUS endpoint, but I will try transferring some files later to determine if I need to figure all of that out again.

My goals for this week are to scan the ILL books that I currently have checked out, transfer all the files I have scanned to GLOBUS, and fine tune the way I collect my data from the books and articles. I have been finding that it is quicker to write down a large chunk of references on paper and then input the info to the database in one go. This may change as Garret makes the database quicker. The faster version of the database should be ready this week, but I do not currently have access to it so today will be a scanning day. I also plan to request another chunk of ILL books and articles from the library.

For next week’s blog I hope to write a sort of how-to guide on collecting information from the sources and inputting the info into the database. As the new semester starts in two weeks, I will have less time to spend on the project and I believe Dan plans on hiring more students to help the collection go faster. The how-to guide should ensure that we are all collecting data in the same way, and should ease any confusion that might cause errors. As the semester progresses I and whoever else might be working on the project can go through the data collection at a steady pace, and I can continue to collect and scan the sources needed to complete the bibliography.

Things seem to be on track, and hopefully the transition into the new semester will be smooth!

Until next week,



Cædmon Citation Network - Week 10

Posted: Jul 25, 2016 10:07;
Last Modified: Jul 25, 2016 10:07


Hi all,

It is week 10 already, and I feel like I am nowhere near where I thought I would be with regards to this project. While the list of the sources we need for our data collection on Zotero are as complete as we can know at present, not everything on the list has been collected yet. I was in high spirits at the beginning of last week thinking that the collection of sources was nearly complete, however I realised later on that I had missed a good chunk of the list. It turned out that I had some filters set that were omitting a portion of the 700-ish books and articles. To make a long story short, more collection is still needed!

This will mean more inter-library loan books will need to be ordered and scanned, and more articles will need to be transferred to the GLOBUS folder. Thankfully the book scanner is back up and running again! If it holds out it should make the process painless and a good deal quicker than scanning things on the photocopier.

My plan for this week is to:

- finish scanning the inter-library loan books I currently have checked out (there are about four left to scan)

- finish collecting EVERYTHING on the Zotero list, keeping track of how many inter-library loan books are due to come in so I can account for future scanning time.

- transfer all electronic copies of articles and books to the GLOBUS folder (the internet guy is FINALLY coming on Tuesday to hook up my apartment, so I can work on this every night starting tomorrow)

- And then, if by some miracle I finish everything before the end of the week, I will begin data collection.

To be quite honest, I have been very frustrated with myself and the fact that I have not begun the data collection sooner. I suppose that collecting and organising hundreds of articles just takes longer than I imagined. I really have been working at it steadily throughout the summer, trying to maintain a level of organisation that allows information on the project to transfer easily between myself, Dan, Garret, and anyone else that might happen to work on the project. Although scanning and photocopying seem like menial tasks, I think I need to remind myself that such tasks take time and are necessary to keep our project organised and moving forward.

I do hope though that if Dan has any concerns with the pace of the project that he will let me know, as I do not want to drag things out way longer than he was expecting. The project IS moving forward, however slow it may have seemed the past couple of weeks. Although collecting and organising the sources is not the most exciting part of the job to write updates about, you all can be assured that it is almost complete and the data collection will begin very soon! I am very much looking forward to beginning this part of the project, seeing what we find, and facing the challenges that I am sure we will encounter.

Until later,



Cædmon Citation Network - Week 9

Posted: Jul 18, 2016 09:07;
Last Modified: Jul 18, 2016 09:07


Hi all!

I finally get to start reading this week!!! While I am still not 100% complete in my sourcing of all the books and articles, it is looking as though I will definitely be able to start reading by Wednesday if not earlier.

I also have a bunch of books from inter-library loans that I need to scan portions of. That will be part of my job today.

The database will be ready this week as well. Garret says that there will be a few improvements that he will want to make, but I will be able to start using it this week. All the information that I collect will still be available as the database is upgraded.

You may have noticed that I have switched to blogging at the beginning of the week as opposed to the end. I have found that at this point it is more beneficial to myself to post at the start of the week outlining some goals and then adding an update post sometime during the middle of the week. I am going to continue this model for the next while.

Until next time!



Cædmon Citation Network - Week 8

Posted: Jul 11, 2016 10:07;
Last Modified: Jul 11, 2016 10:07



Just a quick blog post this morning to give you an update of what’s to come this week:

I am continuing to gather all of the articles/books needed for the project, and hope to complete the search this week. There may be a few inter-library loans that we will be waiting on, but I would like everything else to be ready to go!

Not all the articles will be accessible on GLOBUS right away, as the transfers do not work on the university network and I am currently living without internet at my apartment (The horror! The horror!). I will be transferring them when I can, as free wi-fi will allow.

This means that reading and data collection can start next week! The database should be good to go by then as well. It is all coming together!

Until Friday,



Cædmon Citation Network - Week 7.5

Posted: Jul 07, 2016 13:07;
Last Modified: Jul 07, 2016 13:07


Hi all!
You might have noticed that I forgot to blog last week… This is true and totally my fault. I moved into a new apartment and in the process may have suffered a mild concussion. Oops! I have been keeping up with my work, however because I was working at random times of the day and night in chunks of a few hours each I definitely forgot to blog! So here is my update from the last two weeks:

Unfortunately I don’t have much news to report. I have been going through our Zotero bibliography and collecting missing articles through online databases and inter-library loans. It is going well, but it is taking a bit of time.
GLOBUS is now working for me thanks to Gurpreet’s help figuring out what was going on. It was mainly a permissions issue. I can now access our group research folder which is excellent.

The database is also on its way. I am expecting an update from Garret regarding that this weekend.

I will post another blog tomorrow to outline my goals for next week. In the meantime I will continue to pull articles to complete our pool of data.

Until tomorrow!


Cædmon Citation Network - Week 6

Posted: Jun 24, 2016 09:06;
Last Modified: Jun 24, 2016 09:06


Hi all!

This week I have been gathering sources for the pieces in our Cædmon bibliography. This is not a speedy task by any means! I admit that I have felt a bit impatient with myself and have been concerned that I should be at the point where I am gathering data by now, but I try to remind myself that it is important to make sure that we have a complete pool of sources from which to pull data, otherwise people could poke holes in our findings when we are all done. All of the proper experimental procedures that I learned way back in 7th grade science fair still apply here!

Dan gave me the key to the Digital Humanities lab on Monday, and I was able to go in and dig through Rachel’s drawer in the filing cabinet from last summer. I was excited to find that she had a ton of articles in there that simply need to be scanned. This will be time consuming, but worth it to have them all organized in the GLOBUS folder and accessible to everyone in our group. I am wondering if when I scan articles if there is a way for the pdf’s of the scans to be grouped together or if each individual page will have to be put in order on the computer… I will have to see!

I was having trouble with GLOBUS yesterday, so I am meeting Gurpreet this afternoon to figure out what’s wrong. I updated to the new version of Windows a few days ago and it is causing my computer major hassles. I doubt that’s why I can’t get GLOBUS to work, but I would still like to blame Windows anyway.

My goals for next week are to have all of the articles from Rachel’s drawer scanned and transferred to GLOBUS and for everything that we don’t have from the Cædmon bibliography be requested or found on the internet. I will have to motor, but I think it is do-able. The database should be ready for me to start reading/counting the following Monday, and from that point on I can read, count, and determine whether or not we will need extra students hired to help get these 700 articles read!

Until next week!



Cædmon Citation Network - Week 5

Posted: Jun 17, 2016 10:06;
Last Modified: Jun 17, 2016 10:06


Hi all!

Painfully short blog entry this week, I’m afraid. A lot has been accomplished this week, but there is not a lot to report.

The bibliography has been completed, with the final count being approximately 700 pieces of Cædmon scholarship. This number may increase or decrease as I read through the actual works. Some may have nothing to do with Cædmon (I erred on the side of having to much rather than too little), and others may point me in the direction of something I might have missed.

I have also begun to search out access to the pieces that make up the bibliography. This week I have been finding most things on JSTOR, but I expect that I will be requesting a lot of inter-library loans next week! Once I have found all I can find online I can start reading while I wait for the inter-library loans to come in. As the loans come in I will be splitting my days between scanning the loans and reading. (Note to self: locate that book scanner Dan told you about.)

The database to record what I find while I read is in the works as well. I should have an update from Garret early next week, so I will have more info on that in next week’s blog!

Until then!



Cædmon Citation Network - The Return

Posted: May 19, 2016 10:05;
Last Modified: May 19, 2016 11:05


Hello, Readers of Dan’s Blog!

My name is Colleen Copland, and I am a student of Dan’s who will be working with him on the Cædmon Citation Network which he and Rachel Hanks began work on last summer. I will be blogging here weekly, and thought I’d use this first post to introduce myself and more-or-less explain the project as I understand it so far. I am still familiarizing myself with everything, so my descriptions may fall short of the actual scope of the project or they might be totally off-base altogether, but as I learn more I will let you know all the juicy details!

Little intro on myself: I am an undergraduate student at the University of Lethbridge, majoring in English and hoping to be accepted into the English/Language Arts Education program this fall (cross your fingers for me, internet!). I have taken three courses with Dan in the past two years, Medieval English, Intro to Old English, and Advanced Old English in which we spent an entire semester reading Beowulf. Suffice to say I think Dan is a pretty excellent prof and I am excited to work for him this summer so I can continue to learn from him!

The Cædmon Citation Network (also known as the Cædmon Bibliography Project and possibly a few other names – I will need to ask Dan if there is something he’d like me to call it officially) is a gathering of data on the citations of various editions of Cædmon’s Hymn. The project is interested in tracking how long it takes a new edition of a work to start being cited in studies of said work. Cædmon’s Hymn, since it is such a short piece, has been re-translated and re-published a great many times since 1644, which should allow us to notice some patterns in the way each new edition is cited.

The project is also interested in looking at the differences between the citing of digital editions of works as opposed to print editions. Many people assume that it takes longer for digital editions to begin being cited, but this project aims to suggest that they are actually cited more quickly. It will be interesting to see what the data shows us.

Where are we right now with regards to the project? Personally, I am becoming oriented with the project’s goals and working to gain access to all of the excellent data collected by Rachel Hanks who worked on the project last year – figuring out where everything was left off and where Dan would like it to go this summer.

I am excited about gathering more information and will share it with you as I progress. It often seems that I gain a better understanding of a project when I explain what is happening to someone else, so I think this blog will be an excellent tool. It will also serve as a good record of what went on at different points during the project for Dan and I. Any questions you might have can be left in the comments section that I believe is located below this post…

Until next week,



Could we design comparative metrics that would favour the humanities?

Posted: Mar 29, 2015 13:03;
Last Modified: Mar 29, 2015 17:03


A quick, and still partially undigested, posting on metrics that might favour the humanities over the sciences in “open” competitions. I’m working this out in response to a discussion I had recently with a senior administrator who argued that the University’s tendency to channel resources disproportionately to the Natural Sciences was simply the result of their comparative excellence as measured in “open” competitions.


For a supposed “Liberal Arts” University, the University of Lethbridge is exceptionally bad at supporting the Humanities

As I’ve pointed out before, for a supposed Liberal Arts University, the University of Lethbridge is exceptionally poor in its support for the Humanities. While the Humanities suffer from a lack of resources and attention in comparison to the Social and especially Natural Sciences at all Universities, the University of Lethbridge is a national outlier in the way it has starved its researchers in this area over the last quarter century.

Thus, for example, while our HSS (Humanities and Social Sciences) researchers score at about the 50th percentile on a field normalised basis in terms of their research impact, we come in fourth-last in terms of our funding success compared to other Humanities and Social Science researchers at Canadian Universities (our natural scientists, in contrast, come in at the top of the bottom third in Canada in terms of both impact and funding success).

Poor performance can be attributed in part to administrative monocultures.

There are probably a number of reasons for this mismanagement. But one of them is almost certainly the fact that the University has for the same amount of time been managed almost entirely without participation from Humanists. In the last quarter-century, only two people with a background in the Humanities have been members of our senior administration—and one of these has been a Historian who has been managing our Faculty of Health Sciences. Two years ago, we appointed a classicist as Dean of Arts and Science. This is the first time in 25 years that a Humanist has been in a position to control a budget that actually affects Humanities research.

My argument has been that this lack of disciplinary breadth in our senior administration is largely responsible for our poor support for the Humanities (there have been more administrators from the Social Sciences and, not surprisingly, I would argue, they have tended to do better than the Humanities in terms of gaining resources). It is a natural impulse to find the things you understand more important than the things you do not and an equally natural impulse to unconsciously favour those who share your background and training. Just as our (almost exclusively) male senior administration has tended to find other men to be the most suitably people for vacancies as they have come up, so too an administration that consists (almost exclusively) of natural scientists has tended to think that those are the areas that could make the best use of resources like Canada Research Chairs and Board of Governor Research Chairs (until two years ago, the University of Lethbridge—almost uniquely in Canada—had never appointed a Canada Research Chair in the Humanities and only one in the Social Sciences; it has never appointed a Humanist to a Board of Governors Research Chair).

Or could it be that our Humanists are simply worse than our scientists?

Recently a member of the Senior Administration suggested to me that my analysis of the problem at the U of L was wrong because Research Chairs and similar resources are now being awarded competitively on the basis of open, University-wide, competitions (they used to be simply assigned by the Vice President Academic). If natural scientists are winning these resources, this persons argument went, then it was presumably because they were simply better.

Moreover, the committees that makes these awards are interdisciplinary. So it is no longer the case that these resources are being assigned solely by scientist-administrators who know nothing about the domain. While we may not have that many Humanists in our administration, the scientists we do have are being careful to overcome their bias by allowing the different disciplines to compete against each other.

There is no such thing as a truly “open” cross-disciplinary competition

But is there such a thing as a truly “open” competition across disciplines? The skills and activities that make you a good English professor, for example, may not be the same as those that make you a good Biologist. And within our different disciplines, we reward people for different kinds of activities (for an excellent discussion of this, see How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment by Michélle Lamont). Given this, it is an open question to what extent the outcome of these competitions is being shaped by the criteria that are being used to adjudicate them.

And, in fact, the criteria we usually use in these cases tend to favour the sciences: publication and citation counts, impact factors and h-indices are all measurements that are better suited to measuring activity in a field that moves quickly and deals in largely incremental and linear development. While there are problems with the use of such metrics even within the Sciences, there is no indication that they represent an adequate method for identifying excellence in other domains.

Using the wrong criteria can reward sub-optimal behaviour and hide excellence

Indeed, it is even possible that they might hide excellence or reward sub-optimal behaviour in some domains, even as they recognise and reward excellence in others. Many Humanities disciplines, for example, treat “the book” and/or lengthy articles as a measure of scholarly maturity. Publication counts—which reward scholars for avoiding synthesis by dividing work into minimum publishable units—are going to be a very poor measure of success in such fields. In English, for example, we tend to see books as being evidence of excellence; somebody who wants to beat a scientist in an open competition in terms of publication counts, however, would almost certainly be better concentrating on Notes, one of our more minor forms of publication.

Could we reverse the tables and create a structural bias in favour of things that make Humanities research excellent?

All this got me thinking, what would it take to reverse the tables on these “open” competitions? I.e. what metrics could I come up with that, while seeming neutral, might actually provide a structural advantage to Humanists over Natural Scientists in head-to-head competitions. In the spirit of “notes for further research,” here are a couple of guesses:

  1. Average length of contribution (the L-index). Anybody who has ever sat on cross-disciplinary promotion committees knows that page count means different things in different disciplines. In many Humanities disciplines, the best work tends to be synthetic: i.e. things that gather together various views and opinions and construct a larger synthesis. This is opposed to many sciences, where short, actual results are privileged. Our current use of publication counts privileges fields in which it is possible to think in terms of “minimal publishable units.” But what if we came up with a measure that privileged synthesis? A person who has published a few long works (i.e. has a high average length per publication) is probably a poor scientist; but they are also probably a stronger humanist. I’d be interested to see how we’d do if we starting counting length of publication along side their number.
  2. Length of Citation Record. I published my edition of Caedmon’s Hymn 10 years ago. The edition it replaced was published 70 years before that. Both works are still being cited and indeed my edition has recently been the subject of a major review article. This is not the result of any special excellence on my part or the part of the predecessor edition: it is in fact not uncommon in the Humanities to see references to a “recent” study that is ten to fifteen years old. What this suggests, then, is that length of citation record is probably an important measure of Humanities research success. Once again, it is probably a poor measure of scientific research success—except perhaps in the case of a few ground breaking examples—where the research development is more incremental and linear. But this is also why the h-index (which in practice is a measure of speed of citation rather than longevity of citableness) favours scientists over Humanities.
  3. Diachronic citation trend. My edition of Caedmon’s Hymn is also getting cited more now than it was when it was first published. In fact, in work I am planning to present this summer, I will show that it takes about 15-20 years for an edition to become “standard” (i.e. cited by everybody). This is also probably true of our greatest and most important works of literary theory, history, and philosophy: it takes a while for syntheses to catch on and influence thinking. Once again, this is opposed to much of the sciences. While some work, again largely field-changing, fundamental work, probably does have a long and upwardly rising citation trend, I suspect most science publications (including much of the very best work) have a citation half-life—that is to say that their citations fall off with time as the field moves on. In the Humanities, while this is probably common too, it is not a good sign: the best Humanities work gets cited with increasing frequency through time.

Maybe the solution is to compare apples to apples

This is all a thought experiment and is for the most part guesswork rather than research-based. But it is fun to wonder what would happen if the U of L redid some of its recent “open” competitions using criteria like the above as the discriminators. Since, I suspect, these criteria are as unfair to scientists as the ones we currently use are to Humanists, I guess the results would be very different.

Of course the better approach is to avoid “open” competitions at all and instead proceed on a discipline-normalised basis.


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