Digital Scholarship: Knowledge is Power

If “knowledge is power” as attributed to Francis Bacon [1], the job of an academic library may be as David Lankes says:

“These libraries  are  already  part  of  a  culture  and  community  dedicated to learning and founded on the principles of knowledge creation through conversation. Textbooks, journals, symposia, and lectures are all conversations.  They  may  be  sequential,  rigid  in  format,  or  plodding,  but  they  are conversations  nonetheless. “ [2, p.131]

Today’s news brings us new challenges in knowledge creation and conversation in the phrases “million-person research cohort” and “dataveillance” and “informational struggle.”

“million-person research cohort”

The Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program seeks to leverage the information to treat and prevent disease from your genes, environment and lifestyle. According to Uncle Sam Wants You — Or at Least Your Genetic and Lifestyle the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) has allocated funds in 2016 to have the NIH build a large-scale cohort to collect information at the:

“intersection of human biology, behavior, genetics, environment, data science and computation, and much more to produce new knowledge with the goal of developing more effective ways to prolong health and treat disease.”


The PEW Research Center began polling on privacy after the 2013 leaks about the NSA surveillance of online and phone communications in the US. From The state of privacy in America: What we learned:

“Many technology experts predict that few individuals will have the energy or resources to protect themselves from “dataveillance” in the coming years and that privacy protection will likely become a luxury good.”

“informational struggle”

From All Signs Point To Russia Being Behind the DNC Hack by Thomas Rid

“Informational struggle,” Adamsky observes, is at the center of New Generation Warfare. Informational struggle means “technological and psychological components designed to manipulate the adversary’s picture of reality, misinform it, and eventually interfere with the decision-making process of individuals, organizations, governments, and societies.” 

Academic libraries are where conversations about today’s new and yesterday’s sources can take place.

“Academic  libraries  and  the  librarians  who  run  them  need  to  be  in  the vanguard of this expanding access to higher education and to the scholarship and knowledge that make it possible. They must help guide the academy in providing not only sources for scholarship, but scholarship itself to the world.” [2, p136]

[1] Cf. Bacon Meditationes Sacræ (1597) sig. E3v, ‘Nam & ipsa scientia potestas est’. “knowledge, n.”. OED Online. June 2016. Oxford University Press. (accessed July 25, 2016).

[2] Lankes, R. David, Newman Wendy, Kowalski Sue, Tench Beck, Gould Cheryl, Silk Kimberly, Newman Wendy, and Britton Lauren. “Fitting Knowledge in a Box.” The New Librarianship Field Guide. MIT, 2016. 125-30. Web.


— Kimberly Hoffman

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