Don't Panic! A research system for network-based digital history of science
Peirson, B. R. Erick
Laubichler, Manfred L.
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In this presentation we describe a new suite of tools under development at ASU for building historical networks collaboratively using digitized texts, and an example of how we are putting those tools to work in a student-run historical research project. We have begun to reconstruct networks of scientific exchange among British plant scientists working in the field of "genecology" (or "experimental taxonomy"), as part of a larger investigation concerning the history of post-WW2 ecology and evolutionary theory. These networks are valuable for addressing questions about research traditions that contributed to conceptual and methodological shifts in evolutionary and ecological research, in the context of various institutional arrangements. We use a text-annotation tool called Vogon in conjunction with a constellation of web services -- developed by a team of computer science students at ASU -- to encode relationships among scientists, institutions, and organisms in the form of nested contextualized triples, or "quadruples," using digitized texts stored in a community repository. This system provides simple methods for capturing temporal information, relies on an authority file service, and links individual network components to specific evidence in digitized texts. We think that this approach opens up exciting new directions for network-oriented digital historical research that is collaborative and scalable, and suggests new ways for historians and their audiences to interact with digital materials and data. We are eager to solicit feedback about these methods and their applications.