$2 Million Joint US/UK Funding Grant Strengthens Alliance Between Columbia University and The London School of Economics and Political Science


NEW YORK, January 31, 2003 - Columbia University and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) have been awarded a grant totaling approximately $2 Million by The NSF (National Science Foundation) and JISC (the UK's Joint Information Systems Committee) for a joint project on the use of digital resources in the teaching and learning of social and cultural anthropology. The project is entitled, "Teaching and Learning Anthropology: Using Scalable Digital Library Platforms and Innovations In Approaches to Content." Columbia University was awarded $990,000 for their part of the three-year project.

Led by the Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia (EPIC) Director Kate Wittenberg, and David Millman, Director of Research and Development at Columbia's Academic Information Systems (AcIS), the project will be based in both the Columbia and London School of Economics (LSE) Departments of Anthropology, but will draw heavily on a wide range of specialist expertise within both institutions. Columbia's EPIC and AcIS units as well as LSE's Centre for Learning Technology, and the LSE library will all be actively engaged in the collaborative research project.

Professor Nicholas Dirks, Anthropology at Columbia, said, "I am thrilled at the prospect of our collaboration with our valued anthropological colleagues at the LSE." He continued, "We hope to find innovative ways to use digital technology to advance our teaching program in a number of areas in which we have especially close links with the LSE, including the study of South and East Asia, kinship and gender, and anthropological theories and methods. This project comes at a critical point in the rebuilding of anthropology at Columbia, and we look forward to other kinds of collaboration with the LSE as well." Dirks is one of the principal investigators on the project for Columbia University.

Much of the initial research for the project will focus on the development of a series of digital tools, methods, and approaches with the potential to change the teaching and learning of anthropology. One specific problem undergraduate programs in anthropology encounter is that undergraduate students have not conducted fieldwork and therefore have little sense of the process through which anthropological knowledge is actually produced. This project attempts to address this through innovative ideas and practical plans for dealing with this problem, in part using emerging technologies.

Dr. Charles Stafford,  Anthropology, LSE, said, "Digital resources have the potential to reshape the teaching and learning of academic subjects; but for complex reasons their impact is sometimes less than might be expected. Our exciting collaborative project aims to examine this problem in some detail, in the context of undergraduate anthropology teaching."

Once the researchers have developed a series of teaching methods and tools, they will then embed them in a digital learning environment for wider use. This environment will be a highly stable, flexible, and scalable digital library infrastructure, and it will allow for customized use across a wide range of academic fields (especially in the humanities and social sciences).

Kate Wittenberg, Director of EPIC, said, "I am delighted to have an opportunity to work closely with the anthropology faculty in developing this project. The combination of their innovative ideas and experience with research and teaching in this field adds a depth and value to our editorial and technical work that makes this project a model for the kind of collaboration needed to create truly valuable digital resources."

James G. Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia, said, "This grant advances our innovative electronic publishing program into an exciting field, in collaboration with a valued international partner, and teamed with our Anthropology scholars."

Over the course of the project, research fellows will be directly involved in exchanges between the two institutions -- having periods of residence at both Columbia and the LSE - and they will play a key role in the project's dissemination activities. It is hoped that the lessons of the project will be relevant for teaching in a range of disciplines beyond anthropology.

The Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia (EPIC) is a groundbreaking new initiative in digital publishing at Columbia University that involves Columbia University Press, the Libraries, and Academic Information Systems. Its mission is to create new kinds of scholarly and educational publications using new media technologies in an integrated research and production environment. Working with the producers of intellectual property at Columbia University and other leading academic institutions, it aims to make these digital publications self-sustaining through subscription sales to institutions and individual users: http://www.epic.columbia.edu.

EPIC is part of the Information Services Division at Columbia University, which also includes Academic Information Systems (AcIS), the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL), the Center for Research on Information Access (CRIA), and the University Libraries. James G. Neal is the Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia University.

For More Information:

Kate Wittenberg
Director
Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia (EPIC)
Tel: 212 854-0167

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written: 1/31/03 KRS