Digital scholarship blog

Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections

15 August 2018

Seeking researchers to work on an ambitious data science and digital humanities project at the British Library and Alan Turing Institute (London)

If you follow @BL_DigiSchol or #DigitalHumanities hashtags on twitter, you might have seen a burst of data science, history and digital humanities jobs being advertised. In this post, Dr Mia Ridge of the Library's Digital Scholarship team provides some background to contextualise the jobs advertised with the 'Living with Machines' project.

We are seeking to appoint several new roles who will collaborate on an exciting new project developed by the British Library and The Alan Turing Institute, the national centre for data science and artificial intelligence. You'd be working with an inter-disciplinary group of investigators. The project is led by Ruth Ahnert (QMUL), and co-led by (in alphabetical order): Adam Farquhar (British Library), Emma Griffin (UEA), James Hetherington (Alan Turing Institute), Jon Lawrence (Exeter), Barbara McGillivray (Alan Turing Institute and Cambridge) and Mia Ridge (British Library).

In its early stages of development, the project, called Living with Machines, brings together national-scale digital collections and data, advanced data science techniques, and fundamental humanities questions. It will look at the social and cultural impact of mechanisation across the long nineteenth century, using data science methods both to track the application of technology to our social and economic lives and the human response to their introduction. The project will initially work with digitised newspaper collections, but will look to include a variety of sources and formats held by the British Library and other institutions.

So what does this mean for you? The project name is both a reference to the impact of the Industrial Revolution and a nod to the impact of computational methods on scholarship. It will require radical collaboration between historians, data scientists, geographers, computational linguists, and curators to enable new intersections between computational methods and historical inquiry. 

We’re looking to recruit people interested in examining the impact - the challenges, as well as the opportunities - of intensely interdisciplinary collaboration, while applying transformative data-science driven approaches to enable new research questions and approaches to historical sources. As a multidisciplinary project, it will require people with enough perspective on their own disciplines to explain often tacit knowledge about the norms and practices of those disciplines. Each team member will play an active part in relevant aspects of the research process, including outreach and publications, while gaining experience working on a very large-scale project. We're looking for people who enjoy collaboration and solving problems in a complex environment.

As the job titles below indicate, the project will require people with a range of skills and experience. Outputs will range from visualisations, to monographs and articles, to libraries of code; from training workshops and documentation, to work ensuring the public and other researchers can meaningfully access and interpret the results of data science processes. A number of roles are offered to help make this a reality.

Jobs currently advertised:

The British Library jobs are now advertised, closing September 21:

You may have noticed that the British Library is also currently advertising for a Curator, Newspaper Data (closes Sept 9). This isn’t related to Living with Machines, but with an approach of applying data-driven journalism and visualisation techniques to historical collections, it should have some lovely synergies and opportunities to share work in progress with the project team. There's also a Research Software Engineer advertised that will work closely with many of the same British Library teams.

If you're applying for these posts, you may want to check out the Library's visions and values on the refreshed 'Careers' website.

Keep an eye out for press releases and formal announcements from the institutions involved, but in the meantime, please share the job ads with people who might be suitable for any of these roles. If you have any questions about the roles, [email protected] is a great place to start.