Creating a Digital Ecosystem for Academic Work


Embedded below is a presentation I gave at the University of St Andrews earlier today on creating a digital ecosystem for academic research.

Having already discussed many disparate software options for research and writing in previous ‘digital history’ presentations, this workshop was designed to demonstrate how these different products can fit together and work as a whole within an academic workflow.

An important point I hoped to make was that we can create online scholarly material by simply ‘going the extra mile’ and turning functions we already undertake into tweets, posts, and articles. When we make notes on a book, why not turn it into a review post? When we find out about a relevant CfP, why not mention it on twitter? When we attend a conference, why not contribute to the relevant hashtag?

I often hear concerns from colleagues that they have no time for an online presence. I hope that this presentation (and future follow-up postings) will suggest that digital tools can make academic processes more efficient and, without too much additional effort, allow this scholarship to be made available online.

[It might or might not be relevant to mention that I was playing Jump by Van Halen as people were getting settled, which I like to think gave the topic a positive spin...!]


  • adam3smith

    A couple of things that may be useful to make that workflow a bit more flow-y, still:

    Zotero-Scrivener integration:

    DevonThink Zotero integration:

    Zotero-Wordpress integration:

    • Nick Blackbourn

      Thanks for these. I will definitely take a look, though I’m trying not to do too much tinkering with ‘the system’ this summer & instead focus on the writing! Thanks again.

  • Julie Danskin

    Hi Nick, this was so useful – thanks. I’m a big user of Scrivener but it’s impractical to keep large PDF documents there, and using folders in Finder inevitably means I lose track of some stuff, so I’ve downloaded a trial of Devonthink Pro Office after reading this – do you think that’s the best one to use? I was also wondering the best way to create searchable PDFs – I tend to just end up reading stuff on GoodReader, but it would be hugely useful to do this. Thanks again for this post!

    • Nick Blackbourn

      Glad it was useful! I hate to label any software ‘the best,’ but I find DT works for me. It comes with ABBYY OCR software built-in, so any pdf or image you import will be converted to searchable text (accuracy isn’t 100% though).

      • Julie Danskin

        Brill – thanks!

  • Mark

    I love how you had music playing when people were sitting down – classic!

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