Exploring scholarly social networks

This post serves as an example for the type of post the students will create for their second assignment. A bit of background: a theme that runs throughout this course is social networks. Scholarship in the digital humanities is, generally, a collaborative endeavor. A significant part of research is a literature review and that also involves learning about the scholars that conduct research in particular areas. Through this analysis you usually will uncover scholars working within the same field.  For this assignment students will pick one scholar from King’s College London and examine his/her research profile to identify a social network within that scholar’s field of study. In class we will demonstrate this process by using the research profile of our guest speaker Charlotte Roueché, Senior Research Fellow in Digital Hellenic Studies.

Most university websites provide a faculty profile page that describes the academic background and scholarly interests of each professor.  From the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, King’s College London, select an academic department, then select a professor of your choice. You’ll have to learn how to navigate through the departmental sites to view the list of faculty. Ultimately, you’ll find a page for each faculty that is similar to Professor Roueché’s page. On that page you will find an image on the right-hand side of the page that links to the full research profile, which is linked to the research portal for the university. Many universities have research portals (often under the bizarre name of “institutional repositories”).

An interesting aspect of the research portal pages for King’s College London for each researcher is the view graph of relations. The network graph for Professor Roueché contains 228 nodes.

roueche research graph

Learning to read a network graphs is a form of analysis within digital humanities. Network graphs are visualizations of data contained within a research profile. What are the types of data contained within the network graph for the scholar that you have chosen? Has your scholar collaborated with other individuals? Who are they? Identify at least three types of relationships your scholar has formed within the network. If there are terms in the research profiles unfamiliar to you, then define those terms. If the researcher is involved in Web-based projects, then look to see if those projects are still online. If available, link to the projects as you are describing the scholar’s research profile. Also, network graphs are excellent ways of visualizing flaws in the data. Comment on any unusual data patterns that you suspect might be caused by flawed data or errors in the algorithms constructing the graphs.

Sample post for assignment #2

Charlotte Roueché is a senior research fellow in digital Hellenic studies at King’s College London. She has an interest in epigraphy and prosopography of the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. Epigraphy is the study of inscriptions. She is a founding member of the British Epigraphy Society.  Prosopography is the study of collective groups that lived in the past.  For six years she served as chair of the management committee of Prosopography of the Byzantine World, which is a very extensive project to “record all surviving information about every individual mentioned in Byzantine textual sources” for the period 642-1261. She has directed several collaborative scholarly projects, including a project on medieval medical knowledge. Since 2011 she has been leading the Sharing Ancient Wisdoms project.

Her research profile lists 35 publications since 2000. Considering the nature of her work in digital humanities, some of these publications take the “non-textual form” of “Web publication/site”, such as the Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania. She has received significant grant funding, most recently a £1.8 million grant from the Wellcome Trust on Byzantine phamacology in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Roueché’s network graph on the research portal contains 228 nodes. The default view of the graph displays only 40 nodes. The algorithm used to select these 40 nodes is unclear. Is it based on the most recent or is it random? Hovering over the nodes in this graph highlights the connections. Her book chapter Digital Epigraphy in its archaeological context is connected to both the Centre for Hellenic Studies and the University of Erlangen Nuernberg, Department of Computer Science. Since the Centre for Hellenic Studies is part of King’s College London, why are those not linked on the graph?

Selecting the node that represents that particular book chapter reveals more information, inluding an additional collaborator and another institution (the publisher LIT Verlag). The system provides a “focus on this” option for each node. Selecting that option for LIT Verlag displays a graph of different works associated with this publisher.


Another possible error in the data or algorithm is the linkage to Angus Cameron. His entry appears twice. At first glance, the links appear to be unrelated due to linking to nodes with distinctly different shaped icons.


A closer examination reveals that the two different node icons have the same label: Prosopography of Arabic sources. It’s unclear what the two different node icons mean since there is no legend.

The system does provide opportunity for exploring linked individuals. Through the graph system you learn that Cameron is also linked to a project titled “A Cancer-Associated Mutation in Atypical Protein Kinase C Iota.” Really? Is this the same “Angus Cameron” or a data error?

While network graphs provide a visual means for displaying data and identifying connections, the researcher must still interpret that data and be cognizant of potential errors.