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Homer Multitext Project

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Homer Multitext

The Homer Multitext (HMT) is a long-term project seeking to present the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey in a critical framework. The project emphasizes collaborative research, openly licensed data, and innovative uses of technology. All material is openly licensed.
HMT invites fellow researchers from all over the world to collaborate in the form of diplomatic editions, images of historical documents, and translations. In this context, the main purpose of dissemination is to reach out to other academic/research communities in the fields (homeric research, digital humanities). The purpose is not only to disseminate the results, but also to stimulate new cooperations, contributions, and ultimately also to share resources among the peers (incl. data, software)


Dissemination was started by project leaders Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott from the Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University. Target audiences are academics and fellow researchers who are interested in building on top of or reusing the Homer Multitext output for their own research work, or in contributing to the Homer Multitext project themselves.

What & How?

In terms of dissemination activities that go beyond traditional academic publishing and attending conferences, the project mainly used the website, a blog and GitHub for disseminating their research online. Next to that, the project organised summer seminars as well. The HMT community is also very active on Twitter.
The project had various dissemination outputs. Next, to the blog, the project published a number of scientific publications, images of scanned manuscripts and transcripts, and a complete edition of the Venetus A manuscript, which is openly available as PDF. The disseminated materials include text, photos, a book (the aforementioned PDF), and the HMT software. Media formats include documentation, blog posts, data/transcripts and textual variances, as well as images/scans of manuscripts and source code. The source code and resources on GitHub are being regularly updated.


The first blog post was published in January 2010. Presumably, the website went online during the same year (no information about that is available in the online resources). Beyond the blog and the regular updates on the project website (last March 6, 2016) and GitHub (last March 23, 2017) the HMT community has been very active on Twitter since 2009. A number of conference presentations and scientific publications are presented. Beginning in 2014, citable publications of the HMT project data archive are being released approximately three times per year.

Relation to Open Science

Homer Multitext has a clear focus on Open Science methods. Not only are all contents of the website licensed openly (CC BY 4.0 license), but also all HMT code is provided open source on GitHub. Documentation (e.g. prerequisite technologies) and guidelines (HMT virtual machine for editors), and further links and tips are provided as well.
Also, data is provided for download and re-use. ZIP files can be manually downloaded from the repository or retrieved using maven coordinates. All editorial work is kept in simple text files (TEI-conformant XML for HMT texts, and delimited text files, i.e. “.csv” and “.tsv” files, for other structured data).
The current archive of material provisionally accepted for publication is freely available on GitHub. When draft material passes a suite of automated tests, it is accepted in the project central repository.
The HMT project hosts an archive of downloadable images. All images are licensed under terms of various CC licenses. Some copyright holders restrict commercial use.


HMT produced high-quality multi-text editions of Homer works. The project made high-quality scans of the original manuscripts, related publications and data, software, as well as a book freely and openly accessible.
We estimate the costs for dissemination to be rather low (<5,000 Euros). The dissemination channels and the blog have been curated autonomously at regular intervals by the project members during the course of the project. Although this is not explicitly mentioned in the HMT documentation, we assume that the project did not purchase external services for the production of dissemination material. Rather the project made text and image material resulting from the research and digitisation processes publicly available. Quality of dissemination material can be classified as convenient. Quality of the content seemed to be of higher priority than the form/appearance of the disseminated material. The website design is simple and functional, and so are the data access interfaces. HMT dissemination material was clearly designed to be used by fellow researchers rather than to be made appealing and reusable by other stakeholders (e.g. the general public).


The project achieved a lot of impact in the research community, especially on Twitter. The project has been mentioned numerous times on Twitter and a few times on Facebook. Currently, no forks of the project exist on GitHub.
HMT has 154 undergraduate editors from the US (College of the Holy Cross, University of Houston, University of Washington, Gustavus Adolphus College, Furman, Trinity University, Brandeis University) and the Netherlands (Leiden University), who are contributing on a voluntary basis to the project. 5 of them received Fulbright Fellowships as a direct result of their work.


The two project leaders, who started the dissemination, are women. For the past five years, the project manager was a woman (Stephanie Lindenborg). Neel Smith and Christopher Blackwell are technical project architects. The gender distribution of the blog contributors is four female and three male contributors. This distribution does not surprise as the humanities are female-dominated fields (European Commission 2016, 26-29). Similarly, it does not strike that the main contributors on the technical side (and GitHub) are men.
Since the focus of the project does not lie on gender in the Homeric literature, the dissemination material of the project does not address gender sensitive topics in particular. The focus lies on multi-textuality of the Homeric texts. We could not find any material that does explicitly include gender aspects.


Using GitHub for Research Data and other Resources

Originally GitHub has been built as an Open Source development platform to host and review code, manage projects, and build and share software with the worldwide developer community. With the advent of the Open Science movement, the platform is increasingly being used to share other resources such as research data or text documents as well. GitHub is a powerful Open Science tool as it includes functionalities to comment, review, manage, and discover contents as well as managing contributions by the community. In particular, features enabling version control and branching of contents are useful and important mechanisms in the context of a collaborative Open Science.
The HMT project uses GitHub not only to share its software code, but also archival data sets, code libraries, and documentation of how their archive is assembled. Other examples of projects using GitHub for sharing scientific documentation or open data files are listed on the GitHub website. 


For a more extensive analysis of the Homer Multitext case study, please follow the link: http://openup-h2020.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/OpenUP_D4.1_Practices-evaluation-and-mapping.-Methods-tools-and-user-needs.pdf

Additional Info

  • I am a: Young scholar, Researcher, Project manager, Funder, Policy maker, Open Science advocate, Publisher
  • Domain: Scholarly Dissemination, Gender Equality, Open Science
  • Type of resource: Case studies
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