We, as academics, are conditioned to write grant and project proposals for research that we are interested in pursuing. We have our general format that we follow for these proposals…introduction, background information, research problem and questions, materials and methods, and potential impacts of the research project. However, a large focus of research proposals today, particularly grant proposals, are highly concerned with the “Deliverables” portion. Deliverables refer to the tangible products that will come from the project and the ways in which you will disseminate your results, including public presentations, development of software, public release of raw data in some forms, and analytical programs. This is an important component of your project proposal as it forces you consider who will be your target audience, how you will engage with the audience, and what you hope your project will provide to that community. Is the primary goal of your research to educate? Provide a useful tool? Provide a new method? Create a platform to connect researchers with a common interest?
Deliverables has been a large focus of the CHI Fellowship. We have examined several ways to distribute information, including generating websites for public engagement, web maps to portray narratives, and different forms of web data visualization. The series of CHI projects have fostered conversations grappling with the most effective ways to present information to a target audience, defining the target audience, the most appropriate scale and technical components for the project, and functionality of the technical aspects. These are some of the most critical questions to ask when developing a digital cultural heritage research project and they can be more challenging than you initially anticipate. I have learned that it is common to begin your research with grandeur ideas for your deliverable(s). However, as you begin developing the project, you quickly realize that the scope was either too large to be successfully completed within the timeframe or your technical and functionality designs were too complex. On the other hand, there have been instances where the development took less time than we expected and we were able increase the scale of the project before the deadline.
We presented our initial pitches for our personal projects at the last CHI meeting. The goal of the pitch was to create a vision document and discuss it with the other fellows to gain peer feedback. The vision document included a brief project description, deliverables, how we want the users to engage with the data (functionality), where we will obtain the data, and who will be the audience. As expected, I received feedback that the scale of my project was unobtainable. (This is not the first time I have heard this about a research design.) As mentioned in previous posts, my project, Morphoscape: A Geographic Distribution of Craniofacial Variation, aimed to map macromorphoscopic (MMS) trait expression. However, we currently have about 7,500 individuals with MMS data for 17 traits per person representing people across the world from prehistoric to modern times. There is no way to map and write code for the functionality of each of these variables with various data filters in a matter of months. Therefore, I am forced to find a way to significantly scale down the scope of my project in way that will maintain its integrity for the audience and the functionality aspects. Using a subset of the data, such as a specific region and limiting the number of traits used to the most reliable MMS traits for measuring craniofacial variation, will allow me perform preliminary assessments of the project. The scale can then be adjust in the future to expand the region, populations, and traits represented on the density map.
Over the next few weeks, I will be applying the skills and concepts I have learned throughout the fall semester as a CHI Fellow to improve my research. This project is directly helping me to improve the quality of my dissertation work as well. Hopefully, my next blog post will present greater clarity in outlining my project for the upcoming semester.