databases and publications

Greville Corbett g.corbett at SURREY.AC.UK
Mon Apr 23 13:53:47 UTC 2007


First, many thanks to Martin Haspelmath for setting off this discussion. I'd
like to pick up  a handful of points.

1. " Similarly, I don't expect a typologist to make their databases
available on their homepage."
Here's one point where I disagree with Martin. I think you should expect it.
Typically a database has been constructed using public money, and so it
should be made freely available. If stacks of data are hidden on people¹s
shelves or hard disks, that hampers reproducibility, and the general advance
of the field. 

We¹ve made databases freely accessible over the web on the SMG site:
http://www.smg.surrey.ac.uk/ People have said they thought that was a risky
policy, and that linguists would rip off the data without acknowledgement.
That has happened, and of course it's disappointing. (It is even more
disappointing when one author uses our work and cites it in a vague way, and
the second uses the same material, and cites the person who got it from the
database.) But that's just a shame. It is more than outweighed by the
conscientious use of the databases, and by the fact they are available to
people in research environments where they would otherwise not have access
to the range of materials, conceptual and data, which the databases offer.

2. How to cite. Martin is right; it should be made clear how to cite a
database. Of course, deciding that can be hard: A and B had the idea and
raised the funds, and put in effort over the course of the project, C spent
three person-years doing the specific research and populating the database,
D spent a week on the project but brought 15 years previous fieldwork on a
key language, E answered a handful of taxing emails. Who are the authors?
Just C? A-E? One answer is that different sections of what is made available
have different authorship.

Those responsible for the database should as Martin suggests be clear about
authorship on the site; but even if they aren¹t clear about every page,
that¹s no excuse to those who use the work. In the 21st century, it doesn¹t
take a potential author many seconds to send an email to check that a
suggested way of citing is appropriate.

3. The nature of typological databases. Nigel Vincent  makes the good point
that they vary dramatically, as do articles and books. They can be routine
or innovative. For example, a recent addition, the Typological Database on
Deponency ( http://www.smg.surrey.ac.uk/deponency/), maps out the conceptual
space of deponency, and reveals how little of it is actually populated,
according to data currently available.

Grev

-- 
Greville G. Corbett

Surrey Morphology Group, University of Surrey
Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH
Great Britain      
http://www.surrey.ac.uk/LIS/SMG/



On 23/4/07 12:55, "Martin Haspelmath" <haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE> wrote:

> Thanks, Nigel, for this very instructive comment. The key sentence that
> probably nobody will take issue with is: "In preparing a good database,
> corpus, digitised archive or whatever those responsible make innumerable
> judgments based on their analytical skill, knowledge, and experience and
> I believe they deserve credit for that directly."
> 
> But to resolve the issue that Nigel identified in the NWO evaluation,
> couldn't we simply reconceptualize shared databases as "publications"?
> 
> When the NWO says that "all that counted for reputational and career
> advancement purposes was publications (whether in electronic or printed
> journals), not the electronic or other resources that underlie and give
> rise to them", one could achieve the desired result by declaring these
> other activities as "publications". At least if they fulfill the other
> criteria (permanent accessibility, peer review, citability,
> standardization), this should not be a problem -- so we can't blame the
> funding agencies, but only ourselves, if we fail to present our work in
> a way that is makes classifying it difficult.
> 
> Martin
> 
> 
> Nigel Vincent wrote:
>> I have been following the discussion about databases and publication with
>> interest, though as an outsider rather than as someone with direct experience
>> of building or maintaining any typological resource. Gideon Goldberg's
>> trenchant intervention however raises, in a sharply polarised way, the
>> question
>> of how scholarly credit and professional recognition is to be given, and
>> thereby interacts with a recent and perhaps relevant experience of my own.
>> The context is that in October last year I was on a panel that visited and
>> evaluated research in a broad range of arts and humanities disciplines,
>> including linguistics, in a number of universities in the Netherlands. In
>> preparation for our visit we were sent by each participating university
>> detailed accounts of current research activities including comprehensive
>> lists
>> of publications over the last six years. The research activities listed
>> included precisely the compilation of various kinds of databases, as well as
>> other electronic resources such as interactive websites, and digitization
>> projects for manuscripts and other cultural artefacts.
>> It transpired however that when it came to measuring the output of individual
>> researchers all that counted was publications (whether in electronic or
>> printed
>> journals). In other words, the policy operated in the Netherlands, and which
>> it
>> was explained to me derives in turn from the guidelines on research
>> evaluation
>> issued by the NWO, is more or less in line with Gideon's view: what counts
>> for
>> reputational and career advancement purposes are the articles and books, not
>> the electronic or other resources that underlie and give rise to them.
>> As people may know, we will in 2008 in the UK have a national research
>> evaluation of our own, and for this many disciplines have made a special
>> effort, in drawing up evaluation criteria, to allow electronic resources such
>> as databases and digitization projects to count in their own right and not
>> via
>> the publications they generate. In other words we have adopted a stance more
>> or
>> less the opposite of that advocated by Gideon and recommended by the NWO. My
>> own view is that the UK panels are right to take the stance they have done. I
>> say this not out of blind loyalty to the UK system but because I would not
>> accept that the distinction between materials and research is anything like
>> as
>> sharp as Gideon claims it to be. There is not for me a clearcut distinction
>> between the 'mere accumulation of data' (Gideon's words) and the use to which
>> data is put in analysis, argumentation and theory construction.
>> In preparing a good database, corpus, digitised archive or whatever those
>> responsible make innumerable judgments based on their analytical skill,
>> knowledge, and experience  and I believe they deserve credit for that
>> directly,
>> not via an additional layer of publication. By the same token national
>> funding
>> bodies should take such projects into account in determining funding
>> priorities. This does not mean there cannot be good, bad or indifferent
>> databases, etc just as there can be good, bad or indifferent books and
>> articles
>> and good, bad or indifferent critical editions or catalogues. And this is
>> what
>> research evaluation panels, for better or worse, seek to judge. And to do
>> this
>> they will need the kinds of information about how the databases are compiled
>> that have been discussed in the recent exchanges. It will also be valuable to
>> have reviews of databases just as of books, again as been proposed in the
>> recent discussion.
>> Nigel
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>   
> 



On 23/4/07 12:55, "Martin Haspelmath" <haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE> wrote:

> Thanks, Nigel, for this very instructive comment. The key sentence that
> probably nobody will take issue with is: "In preparing a good database,
> corpus, digitised archive or whatever those responsible make innumerable
> judgments based on their analytical skill, knowledge, and experience and
> I believe they deserve credit for that directly."
> 
> But to resolve the issue that Nigel identified in the NWO evaluation,
> couldn't we simply reconceptualize shared databases as "publications"?
> 
> When the NWO says that "all that counted for reputational and career
> advancement purposes was publications (whether in electronic or printed
> journals), not the electronic or other resources that underlie and give
> rise to them", one could achieve the desired result by declaring these
> other activities as "publications". At least if they fulfill the other
> criteria (permanent accessibility, peer review, citability,
> standardization), this should not be a problem -- so we can't blame the
> funding agencies, but only ourselves, if we fail to present our work in
> a way that is makes classifying it difficult.
> 
> Martin
> 
> 
> Nigel Vincent wrote:
>> I have been following the discussion about databases and publication with
>> interest, though as an outsider rather than as someone with direct experience
>> of building or maintaining any typological resource. Gideon Goldberg's
>> trenchant intervention however raises, in a sharply polarised way, the
>> question
>> of how scholarly credit and professional recognition is to be given, and
>> thereby interacts with a recent and perhaps relevant experience of my own.
>> The context is that in October last year I was on a panel that visited and
>> evaluated research in a broad range of arts and humanities disciplines,
>> including linguistics, in a number of universities in the Netherlands. In
>> preparation for our visit we were sent by each participating university
>> detailed accounts of current research activities including comprehensive
>> lists
>> of publications over the last six years. The research activities listed
>> included precisely the compilation of various kinds of databases, as well as
>> other electronic resources such as interactive websites, and digitization
>> projects for manuscripts and other cultural artefacts.
>> It transpired however that when it came to measuring the output of individual
>> researchers all that counted was publications (whether in electronic or
>> printed
>> journals). In other words, the policy operated in the Netherlands, and which
>> it
>> was explained to me derives in turn from the guidelines on research
>> evaluation
>> issued by the NWO, is more or less in line with Gideon's view: what counts
>> for
>> reputational and career advancement purposes are the articles and books, not
>> the electronic or other resources that underlie and give rise to them.
>> As people may know, we will in 2008 in the UK have a national research
>> evaluation of our own, and for this many disciplines have made a special
>> effort, in drawing up evaluation criteria, to allow electronic resources such
>> as databases and digitization projects to count in their own right and not
>> via
>> the publications they generate. In other words we have adopted a stance more
>> or
>> less the opposite of that advocated by Gideon and recommended by the NWO. My
>> own view is that the UK panels are right to take the stance they have done. I
>> say this not out of blind loyalty to the UK system but because I would not
>> accept that the distinction between materials and research is anything like
>> as
>> sharp as Gideon claims it to be. There is not for me a clearcut distinction
>> between the 'mere accumulation of data' (Gideon's words) and the use to which
>> data is put in analysis, argumentation and theory construction.
>> In preparing a good database, corpus, digitised archive or whatever those
>> responsible make innumerable judgments based on their analytical skill,
>> knowledge, and experience  and I believe they deserve credit for that
>> directly,
>> not via an additional layer of publication. By the same token national
>> funding
>> bodies should take such projects into account in determining funding
>> priorities. This does not mean there cannot be good, bad or indifferent
>> databases, etc just as there can be good, bad or indifferent books and
>> articles
>> and good, bad or indifferent critical editions or catalogues. And this is
>> what
>> research evaluation panels, for better or worse, seek to judge. And to do
>> this
>> they will need the kinds of information about how the databases are compiled
>> that have been discussed in the recent exchanges. It will also be valuable to
>> have reviews of databases just as of books, again as been proposed in the
>> recent discussion.
>> Nigel
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>   
> 

-- 
Greville G. Corbett

Surrey Morphology Group
CMC 
School of Arts, Communication and Humanities
University of Surrey
Guildford                                   email: g.corbett at surrey.ac.uk
Surrey, GU2 7XH                             FAX:   +44 1483 686201
Great Britain                               phone:  +44 1483 682849
http://www.surrey.ac.uk/LIS/SMG/


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