November 05, 2015, BY Matt Hughes

More than 160 scholars from 56 institutions will travel to Bucknell University this weekend, Nov. 6-8, to take part the second annual Digital Scholarship Conference.

Hosted by Bucknell with support from a $700,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to enhance digital initiatives, the conference brings together a broad community of practitioners engaged in digital scholarship, which Bucknell defines as any scholarly activity making extensive use of the new possibilities for teaching, learning and research opened up by digital media.

"The conference will highlight collaborations between institutions of higher education — across disciplines — between faculty, librarians, technologists and students," said Carrie Johnston, a postdoctoral fellow in digital scholarship within the division of Library & Information Technology who helped organize the conference.

Unique to Bucknell's approach to digital scholarship in the humanities and social sciences is its focus on involving undergraduate students throughout the research process, said Param Bedi, vice president for Library & Information Technology.

"We're bringing the faculty and students together in the humanities in ways that are generally not happening in other places," Bedi said. "It is incredible that a school of our size is doing what we're doing."

The conference's theme, Collaborating Digitally: Engaging Students in Public Scholarship, puts student involvement at the fore. Its centerpiece, Saturday's "NextGen" plenary session, will feature five presentations by student researchers, including Bucknell junior Laura Lujan '17. Lujan will speak about her work on the Stories of the Susquehanna documentary film series, an interdisciplinary public history project focusing on local communities in the Susquehanna River Valley. (The first documentary in the series, which Lujan and other Bucknell students helped to plan, research and edit, will be broadcast on public television.)

"The coolest thing about working for the Stories of the Susquehanna documentary project is that I have had to rethink the possibilities for presenting research topics, not being constrained by papers and posters," said Lujan, an English major concentrating in literary studies. "Who knows if I would have ever gotten my nose out of the book if it wasn't for this project."

Students from Bucknell and other universities around the country will also present their research in panels and at a poster session.

"Based on the response we had to student collaborators last year, we decided to actively encourage student participation this year," said Emily Sherwood, assistant director for instructional technology. "We added a NextGen Plenary session to highlight student scholarship and instituted a student bursary program to help fund students' participation in the conference."

"We're putting the focus on students in ways we're really proud of," added Bedi.

In addition to Sherwood and Johnston, Brianna Derr and Tracy Hower of Bucknell Library & Information Technology helped organize the conference.

The conference is the latest example of how Bucknell and the division of Library & Information Technology have embraced digital scholarship and sought to involve students in that work. Others include the establishment of a Digital Scholarship Center, staffed by researchers who partner with faculty and students to find the best tools to answer research questions, and the annual distribution of course development grants in the humanities and social sciences, also supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

"Faculty are asking research questions which would not be possible without these tools," Bedi said. "We've hired great staff who really understand digital scholarship in the humanities and social sciences to help understand those questions, apply the right tools and engage the students as part of the process."