Who's in the Ivory Tower Now?

Posted by cmotuz on January 23, 2012

It’s been very interesting this past week to compare and contrast all the excitement about SOPA/PIPA with the world of Academia. Traditionally it’s been universities who have been accused of holing up in the ivory tower, but by stark contrast to corporations who benefit from the commercialization of information (to the point of imprisoning people for uploading copyrighted material), those of us publicly funded for high-quality research—whatever fruits may bring—are now keen to send all the ideas we come up with into the world as soon as they might be of use to anybody at all.

That’s why it’s important to have competitions around like the Digging into Data challenge, and why I’m especially pleased to report that the ELVIS project, an international team of researchers led by our own Julie Cumming, has won one of the prizes on offer. As is usual when public money is involved, readers can look forward to a website and up-to-date blog posts detailing our methods and findings as well as the chance to hear all about ELVIS at conferences (particularly the Digging into Data conference in 2014).

In the meantime, we’re working now on bringing our current findings from the SIMSSA into the public sphere at every opportunity. Some of us will be off to Dartmouth College at the end of this week for NEMISIG 2012, while next week four of us in both musicology and music technology are off to Philadelphia as part of an international team working on the Digital Duchemin project, where our work from SIMSSA (and soon ELVIS) will help to inform their methodology. Gabriel is working on publishing OMR workflows, while Greg is working on a Neume Editor that we’ll show off at every opportunity (including here, stay tuned!). Andrew is preparing for the Music Library Association Annual Meeting in Dallas in February, and working on two papers to show SIMSSA work across both the atlantic and the pacific. SIMSSA is getting out into the world at an astounding pace!

Other information passed around for free includes new high-res images of the Salzinnes Antiphonal. These aren’t free to produce and in the hands of a for-profit company would represent a highly-guarded item, but in the world of Academia, it’s shared just so long as we tell you who gave it to us. So thanks again, Judy Dietz of St. Mary’s University in Halifax!

But what is most astounding about working on publicly funded projects is how keen people are to share not only the products of their work, but also the nitty-gritty code they’ve been invested in for weeks. We’ve not only released codes but request them from other programmers, who have cheerfully sent them on, saving us whatever hours of toil it would take to figure out how they did something or other.

So the next time you think of the ivory tower, yes it’s still there, but far from the product of publicly-funded programs, burgeoning instead with for-profit peddlers of all sorts of information.