Open Access Research — May 13-19, 2019


As historians, we aren't all that accustomed to sharing our research notes. We go to the archives, we take our photographs, we spend hours pouring over documents, photographs, diaries, newspapers... why should someone else benefit from our work?

There are a number of reasons why you should want to do this. This week we will read and discuss the arguments advanced by various historians, including:

But most importantly, change is coming whether historians like it or not. Here in Canada, SSHRC has a research data archiving policy

All research data collected with the use of SSHRC funds must be preserved and made available for use by others within a reasonable period of time. SSHRC considers “a reasonable period” to be within two years of the completion of the research project for which the data was collected.

Note the conversation that ensued on Twitter after Milligan mentioned all this and also Ian's tweet on documenting research

We will explore

  • why and how to make our research notes open,
  • what that implies for how we do research,
  • and how we can use this process to maintain our scholarly voice online.

Really, it's also a kind of 'knowledge mobilization'. In this module you will find exercises related to setting up your GitHub account, how to commit, fork, push and pull files to your own repository and to others'. Really, it's about sustainable authorship and preserving your research data.

By the end of this module you will know

  • how to work with GitHub to foster collaboration
  • how to set up, fork, and make changes to files and repositories
  • the rationale for historians to make their work public

Remember: I do expect you to click through every link I provide, and to read these materials.

What you need to do this week

  1. Respond to the readings and the reading questions through annotation (taking care to respond to others' annotations as well) - see the instructions below. Remember to tag your annotations with 'hist3814o' so that we can find them on the course group. Remember to annotate using our HIST3814o group.
  2. Do the exercises for this module, pushing yourself as far as you can. Annotate the instructions where they might be unclear or confusing; see if others have annotated them as well, and respond to them with help if you can. Keep an eye on our Slack channel - you can always offer help or seek out help there. Write a blog post describing what happened as you went through the exercises (your successes, your failures, the help you may have found/received), and link to your 'faillog' (ie. the notes you upload to your GitHub account - for more on that, see the exercises!).
  3. Submit your work to the course submission form.


As you read the posts linked to above (Brennan, Fitzgerald, Guldi and Armitage, McDaniel, Milligan, Moravec, Owens) click through to their 'about' or 'portfolio' pages.

  • How are these scholars portraying themselves?
  • How do they approach the idea of 'openness'?
  • How is your own work 'generous'?

Please annotate their work with your observations and questions; please also respond to someone else's annotation with a substantive observation of your own. Remember to annotate using our HIST3814o group.

Then, make an entry on your blog that contrasts this picture of 'open access research' with what you may have learned about doing history in your other courses. Where are the dangers and where are the opportunities? What does 'open access' mean for you as a student?