The Productive Scholar: Introduction to OpenScholar@Princeton

Topic: Introduction to OpenScholar @ Princeton
Speaker: Angel Brady, Educational Technologist, Humanities Resource Center, OIT

Angel Brady, Educational Technologist at the Humanities Resource Center, OIT, provided us with a guided tour of OpenScholar@Princeton, providing some background on the service and highlighting a number its capabilities.

Once upon a time, let’s say 2009, in a land not too far away, let’s call it Cambridge (Massachusetts, not England), members of Harvard University’s Institute of Quantitative Social Science created a service upon which they bestowed the name OpenScholar with the idea of changing how personal academic websites “are created, used, and managed.” According to its developers, the design of OpenScholar reflects the assumption “that scholars need modern, highly dynamic, full-featured websites, which can be created easily and managed with absolutely no technical skills, or special software.” (Scholars Web Sites Project Overview, 2010). For many of the scholars at the eleven institutions that have adopted it to date, it offers an accessible solution to the challenges of creating a professional online presence. For those seeking an relatively easy interface that affords a dynamic reflection of varied career, academic service, and individual and collaborative research pursuits, Open Scholar may be the answer.

After considerable testing, Princeton launched OpenScholar@Princeton in the Spring of 2013. A diverse range of departments are represented among the approximately 399 OpenScholar sites at Princeton, 104 of which were created since August 2013. OpenScholar is built with Drupal, an open source content management system, though account users will not see or have access to the code. Angel noted that if you’re familiar with Drupal then you’ll likely see some familiar aspects as well as others unique to the structure of OpenScholar. OpenScholar@Princeton is built on Drupal 6. However, OpenScholar for Drupal 7 is currently available and free to download and customize, if you want to install it yourself–this would be independent of the University’s user support. OpenScholar@Princeton is likely to be updated to Drupal 7 in early 2014.

How do you obtain an OpenScholar site? Screen shot 2013-10-14 at 6.32.58 PM

Point your internet browser to to request an OpenScholar account. Click the orange “Request a web site!” button on the middle right-hand side of the page. Although you’ll currently be directed to an McGraw Center-ETC (Educational Technologies Center) website, Academic Services in the Office of Information Technology actually supports OpenScholar and will create a site for you with a temporary password, This will be sent to you along with a Quick Start guide. New OpenScholar sites have a default setting of “Private.” You can begin populating and editing your site, all the while refraining from making it public until you’ve completed all your edits. The OpenScholar@Princeton also features a brief video that provides an overview of the service.

What are the possibilities afforded by an OpenScholar site?

Features, can be turned on or off, depending on desired content. You can also disable anyScreen shot 2013-10-14 at 5.58.22 PM feature whose content you’re currently editing:
• Biography/CV
• Publications
• Presentations
• Images: Data Visualization, research images, etc
• Classes
• Employ Google analytics to track the number of daily visits



Screen shot 2013-10-14 at 5.54.50 PM

Layout: Allows you to relocate various physical elements of the website, which OpenScholar refers to as “widgets.” For example, if you don’t like the placement of your logo, you can drag and drop it to a new location. The widgets are configured to allow you to change and customize parts of the widget itself, for example changing the colors assigned the Princeton logo on your page so it’s compatible with your selected theme. OpenScholar offers a collection of preset widgets, but you also have the option of creating your own. A popular widget for creating original content is “Custom Text/HTML”; if you’re familiar with HTML scripting this can be a highly useful tool.

Screen-shot-2013-10-14-at-5.58.51-PM-289x3001Themes: For those familiar with parsing through website themes to find a good fit, or even if you’ve only picked the famous scholar whose temperament most resembles your own, you’ll have any easy time parsing the available Princeton themes. Are you a “Redhead”, a “Glover”, a “Bunchy,” or a “Burroughs”?  Some departments have opted to pre-selected a theme for its members, to allow for a seamless transition between scholar pages.

Going Public: When you’re ready to make your site public, you only have to go into the Control Panel and click “Public” under Settings.

Limitations: Currently, OpenScholar@Princeton is built on Drupal 6. As a result there are certain limitations to internal its search capabilities which will be addressed with the eventual upgrade to Drupal 7. Also, currently if you leave Princeton there is no means for migrating your OpenScholar site to another website. Of course you can save static pages and then recreate or cut-and-paste the content, but the hope is that the Harvard team will address this concern in future releases of the service.

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