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Wed, 18 Apr 2012 01:10:47 +0000 Ryan Cordell 1607@ <p><em>Replying to @<a href=''>hopegreenberg</a>'s <a href="">post</a>:</em></p> <p>That's an excellent idea, Hope. We will also work to build partnerships with the library. It's not yet clear where our center will be located in the library; if so, we'll be close to the EdTech Center (<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>. </p> hopegreenberg on "Founding staff for a new DH Center?" Tue, 17 Apr 2012 20:56:17 +0000 hopegreenberg 1606@ <p>Here's another angle: Northeastern has, I believe, an Academic Technologies group and a Center for Teaching and Learning. There might be some opportunities there for collaboration on aspects of integrating digital humanities projects into the classroom and curriculum. </p> Ryan Cordell on "Founding staff for a new DH Center?" Tue, 17 Apr 2012 20:38:42 +0000 Ryan Cordell 1605@ <p>Thank you for these detailed suggestions, Brian and Hugh. Your very practical suggestions will help us craft a clear plan next year--and I hope I can continue to bend your ears though the year. </p> <p>One question: do either of you have CS faculty working with your centers? There will be several CS faculty (including one new hire specifically hired for the center) actively involved in ours, and I wonder if that shifts priorities at all--or simply complicates them!</p> <p>--Ryan </p> Hugh Cayless on "Founding staff for a new DH Center?" Tue, 17 Apr 2012 14:13:49 +0000 Hugh Cayless 1604@ <p>Just a couple more thoughts to follow up to Brian's good observations:</p> <p>Ultimately, you'll have to do what you can with the resources you have available, so don't be paralyzed if you don't start out with enough funding to hire a good core staff, but do realize that a steady buildup is better than cycles of boom and bust.</p> <p>It is *really* hard to hire good developers, so realize that a search might take you months. This can seriously affect progress on grant-funded projects, incidentally. On the one I'm currently working on, it took us 6 months to hire a second developer, meaning we had to get an extension and parts of the project had to happen out of sync.</p> <p>I realize I left out another function: software architect. Ideally, before your codebase gets too big, you'll have someone who knows how all the diverse pieces of your codebase go together and can make plans for it at a higher level. This person can (and probably should) be a programmer, but it is a distinct function.</p> <p>And finally, I'd say that you'll reap long term benefits if you can give your technical staff their own research time. Again, administrators may have a hard time getting this, but a) more talented people will want to work with you if you give them some scope to do their own thing, and b) they will make cool things for you. </p> briancroxall on "Founding staff for a new DH Center?" Tue, 17 Apr 2012 13:40:10 +0000 briancroxall 1603@ <p>I'm not sure that I can add much to the really useful advice Hugh has already given. But I'll give some different +1s to what he's said.</p> <p>First, you do yourself a great disservice if you plan to rely on temporary labor. Undergraduates, graduate students, and post-docs can bring energy and new ideas to a space, but the loss of them after a year or two means you'll constantly be rebuilding. As much as possible, you want to make an argument that you need a few permanent people to help build momentum. I'd rather have one permanent position than four full-time post-docs. What "permanent" means will of course vary by your institution, but if you want to build something you need to be sure that you will have someone there to run it in a few years. </p> <p>I'll also agree that a developer is a great place to start. Project managers are useful, but most academics already have experience managing projects. You can get by without someone dedicated to this work in the beginning. On the other hand, if you don't have someone who can help realize the vision of the projects you're working on, you'll be stuck trying to borrow expertise from other sectors of the organization. </p> <p>Also, don't assume that a programmer is the same thing as a server administrator. You will need someplace to develop / stage / host eventual projects, and it's nowhere near as easy as running your own WordPress site. Getting someone--or part of someone's time--who can help you manage this infrastructure will serve to grease the wheels on all the different work you end up doing.</p> <p>Remember that being able to continue making the case to administrators and departments that your center should exist and be funded will for the most part depend on your being able to get work out the door. With that as the imperative, make sure you hire the people that will actually help you get something done. It need not be the biggest, best, or flashiest thing the world has ever seen, but at the end of the day, it needs to work, be stable, and be interesting.</p> <p>Is there room in the plan for some of the affiliated faculty to be given course releases for the work that they will do? That will help create some solid continuity in the center. </p> Hugh Cayless on "Founding staff for a new DH Center?" Tue, 17 Apr 2012 00:13:57 +0000 Hugh Cayless 1602@ <p><em>Replying to @<a href=''>Ryan</a> Cordell's <a href="">post</a>:</em></p> <p>Well, really, you need staff who can fill all of those roles. You will get some coverage from students and (probably) from grant-funded projects, but you should plan for, and try hard to get, a core staff who can handle programming, project management, design, consulting, and grant writing. At this early stage, you should probably aim for people who can wear more than one of these hats. Specialization can come later when you've grown. Who you start with should probably depend on the mix of projects and skills you'll have on board at the start, but a programmer with some design chops (or vice versa) is probably a higher priority than a project manager at the outset. What system resources you'll have available is another important question, and may dictate what you're able to do. You may need a sysadmin too.</p> <p>This is all really an exercise in risk management. If you don't have a solid core of people, on hard money, then you will always be one proposal rejection away from losing big chunks of your brain trust. Likewise, if you rely on students/postdocs, you will shed knowledge when they leave. </p> <p>You can, on the other hand, grow much faster and get more done faster by relying on students, postdocs, and grant money, but if you're relying on these to service core functions, then you're committing to spending a lot of your time on the treadmill (running fast, but not making forward progress). You may spend years where you don't get much done at all, and ultimately this risk makes your unit more vulnerable to being taken over or shut down.</p> <p>More food for thought: Good programmers are expensive—as expensive or more expensive than Humanities faculty in fact. People (like myself :-) are generally willing to take a pay cut in exchange for the often superior working conditions offered by academia, but you won't be doing yourself any favors by under-budgeting positions. You can save money by assigning the programming function to students, postdocs, or people on soft money, but you will be taking on the risk of accumulating too much technical debt by not having a long-term vision for and management of your codebase. You might end up with a pile of un-maintainable code, stuff that breaks when you upgrade components, etc. One thing to consider when recruiting technical staff is whether you'll allow them to work remotely. You do lose having daily face-to-face interactions, but you gain access to a much larger talent pool for less money. And you can always bring people in for meetings every so often. Make sure you budget for professional development for your staff. They are your collaborators, not your minions. This can be a hard sell to administrators, but technical people whose skills are stagnating will either leave (the *good* ones will leave) or become less and less effective over time.</p> <p>Hope this helps!</p> <p>Hugh </p> Ryan Cordell on "Founding staff for a new DH Center?" Mon, 16 Apr 2012 23:13:25 +0000 Ryan Cordell 1601@ <p>This fall I will join a group of faculty starting a new center for digital humanities and computational social sciences at Northeastern University. We should have physical space by fall, but next year will be primarily a planning year. We will have a few founding projects: mostly projects already underway that will be federated under the banner of the new center. The founding faculty come from English, History, Political Science, and Computer Science, and there's significant overlap of intellectual interest that should generate collaboration among those faculty. There's also a pool of post-docs in computational social science who will be associated with the center and may be able to provide some project support for affiliated faculty. </p> <p>The new center also has rhetorical support from the dean, president, and other administrators. Right now we're developing priorities for our initial budget request, and we'll soon know how that rhetorical support translates into resources. I do expect that we'll have to grow slowly, perhaps by a position or two each year. If you were charged with such a task--as perhaps you have been--what would be your priorities--especially in terms of staffing the center--in the first year? Would you most want a project manager? Designer? Programmer? I realize of course that all of these positions <em>should</em> be filled immediately, but I'm trying to think strategically in case that's not possible.</p> <p>Thanks for your help, friends. All suggestions are most welcome. </p>