Communicating the TEI to a Multilingual User Community

This is the third in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2019, and their projects. This one was submitted by Hugh Cayless.

Text Encoding Initiative logo

The Text Encoding Initiative was, from its outset, very much a Western, English-language effort. Its remit, however, is global. Primary source documents written in languages as diverse as Chinese, Mayan, Coptic, Japanese, Arabic, Old Cam, and many others are published in TEI. The Guidelines “are addressed to anyone who works with any kind of textual resources in digital form” (TEI Consortium, About these Guidelines) and they represent a major and long-lived contribution to the infrastructure of digital scholarship.

Although the desire of the TEI community is to produce a globally open and accessible resource, we face many challenges in producing translations for the Guidelines and their specifications therein. The current processes used in producing translations are outdated for our purposes. The Guidelines are a living, continuously updated document, and translations may quickly become obsolete as the sources are edited. Additionally, integrating translated materials requires a high degree of technical expertise. Where ongoing translation efforts exist, there is no framework for publicizing their efforts. Our goal is to assemble a team with the technical and linguistic competency to conceive and implement workable solutions to these problems. We believe that tackling a large and difficult real-world global scholarly communication problem like this will provide examples to other projects wishing to improve their global outreach.

The editing of the Guidelines is the responsibility of an 11-member body elected by the TEI membership—known as the Technical Council. Although the membership of the Council is international, and between its members possesses competency in at least half a dozen languages, essentially all business is done in English. The TEI Guidelines documentation has three parts: 1) the prose Guidelines, 2) the technical specifications of TEI components (the actual elements, attributes, classes, etc.), and 3) the examples of usage, which appear in both #1 and #2. Translation efforts to date have tended to focus on #2, the technical specifications, which, since they consist of short definitions and notes, are easiest to translate. Each “spec page” contains documentation in various languages, in parallel.

The efforts to internationalize the TEI’s documentation date back at least to 2005. An initiative led by the late Sebastian Rahtz developed infrastructure to support translations and solicited community efforts to provide them. This effort resulted in partial translations in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, Spanish, French, and German. Over the years since that initial effort, periodic updates have been made to individual languages, most recently German, Japanese, and Spanish. The system in place for translating spec pages relies on converting them to a spreadsheet form, in which the actual translation is performed, and then integrating these changes back into the sources. There is, as yet, no workflow for automatically re-integrating translations back into the source documents. And there is no process at all to support translating the prose of the Guidelines. Some attempts have been made to produce French versions of parts of the Guidelines, but because of their complexity, translations are much more difficult to produce and maintain. Worse, from the point of view of non-English speakers, the prose Guidelines are considered to be the canonical set of instructions on TEI usage and syntax. Consequently, a full understanding of TEI is impossible without reading the English version.

We aim to address the following questions

Our group will consider technical approaches to improving the translation workflow for the Guidelines and specifications as well as ways in which we might de-center English as the core and canonical language of the TEI.

  1. Could we prioritize the spec pages as the authoritative documentation, around which documentation in multiple languages could orbit?
  2. How should we help foster pedagogical initiatives in many languages?
  3. How do we make it clear that non-English-speakers can and should raise issues on our GitHub repositories ( and ask questions in their own languages?
  4. What should we prioritize for internationalization?
  5. How should the TEI Consortium support and/or initiate translation efforts?
  6. Are there automated ways (Google Translate or Deep-L, for example) in which we can give translation efforts a head start?

Photo of a map and other items on a table

Project Goals

  1. Preliminary work will include the evaluation of existing translation toolkits, such as, and the analysis of lessons learned from previous translation initiatives, such as the recent German and Japanese translations, and from ongoing efforts, like the Spanish Text Technologies Hub.
  2. The team will produce a set of recommendations for the TEI Consortium, which will be submitted to the Board of Directors and posted on the TEI mailing list.
  3. We will deliver a follow-up report at the 2020 TEI Annual Meeting and potentially hold a workshop as well.
  4. Any translation toolkits or workflows we produce will be disseminated under an open license at the TEIC’s GitHub organization,
  5. In addition, we consider it crucial that a well-documented set of procedures for creating translations will be developed and shared with the community.

The team we have assembled for Triangle SCI combines linguistic and technical expertise with practical experience teaching TEI in a variety of environments. We have experience working on German, Japanese, and Spanish translations of the TEI specifications, and so have direct knowledge of the limitations and shortcomings of the current system. We have taught TEI in Spanish, Japanese, German, and English. We also possess deep technical knowledge of the TEI itself and its infrastructure. Our group has representatives from both the TEI Technical Council and the Board. We are well-placed, therefore, both to conceive solutions to the TEI’s internationalization problems, and to implement them.

Team Members

Gimena del Rio Riande is an Associate Researcher at IIBICRIT-CONICET and teaches at the University of Buenos Aires. She interested in building an Open Digital Humanities community in Argentina. During the last five years she created the first DH Lab in her country, HD CAICYT Lab, and she worked on the publishing of the first Spanish Digital Humanities OA journal, the Revista de Humanidades Digitales, the organization of the Asociación Argentina de Humanidades Digitales, and the Argentinian OA Repository Project, Acta Académica.  She also collaborates with many DH projects and consortia around the world (Force11, TEI, Pelagios Commons, DARIAH). Gimena brings her experience working with different academic communities (Anglophone, Spanish), where she has explored transculturation and decolonization approaches in the Humanities. She brings her experience in OA policies and the DH and digital humanities scene in Latin America, that will help the team in expanding this framework to the Spanish-speaking community to Global South perspectives.

Martina Scholger is a senior scientist and researcher at the Centre for Information Modelling – Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities at the University of Graz. She recently received her PhD in Digital Humanities, is teaching data and text modelling with a focus on X-technologies, and is involved in numerous cooperation projects in the field of digital scholarly editing. She has been a member of the Institute for Documentology and Scholarly Editing (IDE) since 2014 and a member of the TEI Technical Council since 2016, where she is currently serving as Chair. In 2016, she was one of the co-organizers of the “TEI2German translatathon” at the annual TEI conference and members meeting in Vienna. She is therefore familiar with the current translation workflow of the TEI specifications and with the challenges and pitfalls regarding the preparation and implementation of translations into the TEI Guidelines, as well as the TEI infrastructure.

Helena Bermúdez Sabel is a postdoctoral researcher at the Université de Lausanne (Switzerland). Her current position involves the development of annotation schemes for the study of modality in Latin from a diachronic perspective. In addition, she supervises the technical aspects of the annotation process as well as data managing and dissemination of results. Before this position, Helena Bermúdez Sabel worked at the Laboratorio de Innovación en Humanidades Digitales (Madrid, Spain), an institution particularly concerned with the dissemination and training in Digital Humanities methods within the Spanish-speaking community. Besides being an instructor at different DH courses, many of them focused on TEI and XML technologies, she was one of the researchers of a project focused on enabling the interoperability of poetic resources from all European traditions. Her training as a Romance Philologist has provided her with a working knowledge of multiple romance languages: this background is not only relevant for the topic of this proposal but for SCI overall goals as well due to her understanding of the cultural heritage of different linguistic communities.

Kiyonori Nagasaki is a Senior Fellow in the International Institute for Digital Humanities in Tokyo and a lecturer of digital humanities including a TEI class in the University of Tokyo. He studied Buddhist philosophy and information technology in the graduate school in the Tsukuba University (Japan). While he has built many databases for the humanities, he has addressed to disseminate TEI among Japanese DH and Humanities researchers since over a decade ago. In 2016, a special interest group East Asian / Japanese (SIG-EAJ) was established under the auspices of the TEI consortium by his proposal in order to accelerate the activities which internationalize the TEI guidelines and its ecosystem. He has also addressed other standardization such as Unicode and IIIF and system developments in order to build a model of integrated research environments for the humanities.

Luis Meneses is a Postdoctoral Fellow and Assistant Director for Technical Development at the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab in the University of Victoria. He is a Fulbright scholar, and currently serves on the Board of the TEI Consortium and on the IEEE Technical Committee on Digital Libraries. His research interests include digital humanities, digital libraries, information retrieval and human-computer interaction. His current research focuses on the development of tools that facilitate open social scholarship.

Hugh Cayless is a Senior Digital Humanities Research Developer at the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing (DC3). Hugh has two decades of TEI experience, having first encountered the Guidelines as a Ph.D. student in Classics. He was a founding member of the EpiDoc Collaborative, which develops a TEI-derived schema, documentation, and tooling for representing ancient documents. He has served on the TEI Technical Council since 2012, and as Chair of that body from 2015–2018. He currently serves as the Treasurer of the TEI Consortium. Hugh has experience supporting TEI projects in many languages, including Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and English.

[ Photo by Nicola Nuttall used under Unsplash free license. ]

Toolkits for Equity in Scholarly Communications

This is the second in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2019, and their projects. This one was submitted by Niccole Leilanionapae‘aina Coggins.

Powerful testimonies in The Scholarly Kitchen (TSK post 1; TSK post 2) and surveys (Lee and Low; Greco, Wharton, Brand; Publishers Association; Global Voices for Workplace Equity), document how deeply imbedded bias is in our workplaces. This growing awareness has fueled increased efforts within our industry to advance inclusivity in the scholarly communications community. Despite a recent groundswell of support for these efforts, there is growing frustration with the paucity of effective programs and solutions in place within our companies.

Illustration of equity and equality

We believe that this work would get a kick start if our professional associations could provide training materials to help transform our workplaces and organizational cultures. Building off of the American Alliance for Museums’ guides for transgender inclusion, ALA’s Diversity Standards: Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries, and other resources, our team will create three toolkits to provide a common framework for analysis, a shared vocabulary, and best practices to address systemic inequities specific to the scholarly communications community. Highlighting specific actions to accelerate progress, the toolkits will assist organizations in establishing best practices, help bias-affected individuals break down barriers, and encourage colleagues to advocate for others. The toolkits will introduce foundational equity concepts based on a racial equity model and applicable to inequities related to gender, ability, ethnicity, race, age, and sexual orientation.

  • The organizational guide will provide tools for understanding institutionalized racism and other systemic problems, broadening hiring and recruiting, working to correct bias, including historically marginalized perspectives in decision-making, developing retention plans, pipeline development, creating affinity groups and mentorship programs, broadening accessibility through best practices, and supporting trans and gender non-conforming people.
  • The guide for underrepresented groups will provide an analysis of power and advantage as well as tools for handling microaggressions, advocating for policy changes, filing a complaint, building mentorship relationships, and expanding career paths.
  • The allies’ guide will provide analyses of power, advantage, and unconscious bias; best practices for bystanders; and tools for advocating for policy changes, identifying microaggressions, and building mentorship relationships.

By applying racial equity principles to the development of our materials, we hope to provide organizations with tools that will help them to fundamentally reevaluate core elements of their structure. We have often heard frustration voiced by individuals involved in diversity work—it can be difficult to convince employers that diversity does not end at hiring, and efforts by committees and task forces can stall out if there is not broad awareness of how inequality pervades every part of our workplace culture.

In distilling key equity concepts into accessible language and proposing actionable changes and best practices specific to our industry, we hope to shift the conversation from diversity to inclusion and, in doing so, help create workplaces where all individuals are valued, are set up for success, and where they will see themselves reflected.

Diagram depicting the "problem" of women of color in scholarly communications

Our Team

Niccole Leilanionapae‘aina Coggins is the editorial, design and production coordinator and assistant project editor for the University of Virginia Press. Niccole was a Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow at the University of Washington Press, where she was able to combine her lifelong interests in racial identity and indigenous sovereignty by working on books in Asian American and Indigenous studies, and American and environmental history.

Jocelyn Dawson is journals marketing manager at Duke University Press. Jocelyn serves on the AUPresses’s Annual Meeting Program Committee and is a previous member of the SSP’s Board of Directors. Passionate about equity and inclusion topics, she serves on SSP’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, plays an active role in E&I efforts at Duke University Press, and has authored four pieces about diversity for The Scholarly Kitchen.

Melanie Dolechek is the Executive Director of SSP and previously served as the Director of Publishing and Marketing at Allen Press. She plays an active role in the Coalition for Diversity & Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC), is an advisory board member of the Workplace Equity Project, and currently serves as treasurer of the Kansas City Society of Association Executives.

Gisela Concepción Fosado was a member of both AUPresses’ Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and AUPresses’ Gender, Equity, and Cultures of Respect Task Force. In 2016, she co-founded a grassroots staff group at Duke University Press focusing on equity and inclusion. As an Editor at Duke, Gisela publishes books across the humanities and social sciences, with an interest in books that foreground marginalized perspectives, adopt an intersectional approach, and contribute to our understanding of social movements and inequality.

As a co-founder of the Workplace Equity Project, a grassroots research, communication, and advocacy organization, Susan Spilka developed a marketing and communications strategy that yielded endorsements from major scholarly publishers, professional organizations, and UN Women UK, and participation from nearly 1,200 respondents. Having led Corporate Communications at Wiley for two decades, Susan now provides strategic communications, public relations, business development, and research services for scholarly publishers and technology services. She currently serves on SSP’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Toolkit Dissemination

After the toolkits are finalized, we will

  • work with C4DISC member organizations to solicit feedback and encourage adoption.
  • seek endorsements from organizations across scholarly communications, starting with members of C4DISC and their boards.
  • increase awareness of and buy-in to our resources by preparing conference panel proposals for AUPresses (Association of University Presses), SSP (The Society for Scholarly Publishing), and other C4DISC member conferences, collaborating with members of these groups’ diversity and inclusion task forces and committees.

[ Equality/Equity illustration by Matt Kinshella, used here by permission. The “Problem” Woman of Color in Scholarly Communications illustration was adapted from a tool created by Emily Yee Clare and Kira Page at the Centre for Community Organizations (COCo), and is used here by permission. The graphic design was done by Sanjeevan Tharmaratnam. The original was adapted from a tool made by the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for NonViolence. Please contact the original creators if you wish to reproduce these images.]

The Labor of Open

This is the first in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2019, and their projects. This one was submitted by Danielle Cooper.

Painting titled "The Harvesters" by Léon Augustin Lhermitte

This project, The Labor of Open, will examine the labor of scholar-led independent open access publishing as an equity issue in scholarly communications.

There is growing policy pressure on scholars from funders, governments, and academic institutions to disseminate their work through open access publications, including venues that are not associated with for-profit publishers.[1] These policies are being advanced under the auspices of increasing equity in higher education by alleviating the cost burdens associated with journal subscriptions for publicly funded institutions and readers who do not have access through institutional affiliations (e.g. non-academics, unaffiliated academics, academics at institutions with limited subscriptions, including those beyond the West). Some of these policies also target the article processing fees charged by some journals to authors to make their articles open access and seek to limit or regulate them.

Financial burdens for readers and authors, however, is just one component of the equity equation in open scholarly communications, as the onus for scholars to work with or on scholar-led independent open access venues constitutes considerable labor. This labor is often unacknowledged and neglected in emerging open access policies, particularly with respect to scholar-led open access journals and pre-print venues. Independent open access journals and pre-print platforms are intended to challenge the oligopoly of academic publishing wherein the majority of journals are in the hands of five commercial publishers with net profit margins parallel to automotive industries and big pharma.[2] Despite the important role of independent open access in knowledge creation, however, sufficient attention has not been paid to the labor involved in their creation and sustainability.

In this project, the team will interrogate the labor of scholar-led independent open access publishing as an equity issue in scholarly communications. Scholar-led independent open access publishing often constitutes a form of “hope labor” wherein work done for free is deemed “a good opportunity for exposure” and invoking the promise of employment and financial compensation that may or may not arrive in the future. The project will identify and critically examine the full range of labor responsibilities for scholars when publishing and/or working in an editorial capacity on scholar-led independent open access publishing paradigms. The project will focus especially on how such responsibilities relate to the evolving economic context of higher education, especially the increasingly precarious status of postdocs, graduate students, and faculty in the academic labor market. In doing so we will bring much needed attention to how the labor of open scholarly communications intersects with the politics of work in higher education more broadly and identify ways forward to ensure that the open access agenda is enacted equitably for contributors and consumers.

How equity issues of gender, class, race, and other marginalized positionalities intersect with the politics and labor of open scholarly communications paradigms will be a focus of the project. For example, often termed a “labor of love,” facilitating independent open access publishing venues is feminized work, expected to be undertaken for no pay and little recognition.[3] Further, while open access has been celebrated as a tool of increasing access to knowledge, Indigenous scholars have raised questions around whom this knowledge is open for and at what cost. As Kimberly Christen highlights, open access relies on Western colonial understandings of knowledge sharing that thieve Indigenous and traditional knowledge, while promoting “openness” to knowledge “at any and all costs.”[4] By examining questions of labor and inequality in the move to independent open access, our project will highlight the possibilities, limits, and labor of making open access equitable.

Our team is uniquely composed to undertake a project of this aim and scope. Members of this international team include individuals who study and research at the intersection scholarly communications, publishing, researcher information practices and equity issues; editors and authors of open access publications and platforms; librarians supporting scholar-led publishing; scholars at all stages of their careers in a variety of academic and applied settings; and, labor activists. The team’s strong expertise in the project’s subject areas is coupled with demonstrated ability to effectively communicate with stakeholders in higher education about social justice issues in scholarly publishing.

Team Members

Leslie Chan is an Associate Professor, teaching stream, and Associate Director of the Centre for Critical Development Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. His teaching and professional practice centers on the role of “openness” in the design of inclusive knowledge infrastructure, and the implications for the production and flow of knowledge and impact on local and international development. An original signatory of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, Leslie is active in the implementation of scholarly communication initiatives around the world, serving as Director of Bioline International and principal investigator for the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network and for the Knowledge G.A.P project. He is a member of the advisory board of the Directory of Open Access Journals, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, and the Investing in Open Infrastructure working group.

Danielle Cooper is the Senior Researcher of Libraries, Scholarly Communications and Museums at Ithaka S+R, a not-for-profit research organization working on issues at the intersection of information, technology, and education. She is an applied qualitative social scientist with expertise in studying the information needs of researchers in higher education contexts and working with stakeholders, including librarians, publishers and scholarly societies, towards meeting those needs. Her work focuses on information practices and needs in underrepresented and under-resourced academic communities, including recent and ongoing projects on Indigenous studies scholars, community colleges, and post-secondary correctional education. Examples of recent publications for Ithaka S+R include: Scholars ARE Collectors: A Proposal for Re-Thinking Research Support and When Research is Relational: Supporting the Research Practices of Indigenous Studies Scholars.

Emily Drabinski is Associate Professor and Critical Pedagogy Librarian at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is on the board of Radical Teacher, a journal she flipped to diamond open access in 2013 with the University of Pittsburgh’s library publishing program. She is also a union activist who has written and presented widely on organized labor in libraries and archives. Emily’s research interests include the politics of knowledge organization, power and library infrastructures, and gender and sexuality issues in information studies.

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe is Professor/Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction in the University Library and Affiliate Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During her term as President, the Association of College and Research Libraries flipped its flagship journal, College & Research Libraries, to diamond open access. She is also the current editor of Library Trends, an embargoed gold open access journal, and writes for The Scholarly Kitchen.

Jojo Karlin is a PhD student in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and adjunct at Brooklyn College. A member of the editorial collective of the open access Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, she co-edited Issue 14: Teaching and Research with Archives. She has contributed to MLA’s Literary Studies in the Digital Age. As the Graduate Fellow to Manifold Scholarship, an open source publishing platform built by the Graduate Center, University of Minnesota Press, and Cast Iron Coding, she is researching open educational resources.

Ela Przybylo is presently a Ruth Wynn Woodward postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University. Starting in August 2019 she will be Assistant Professor of Publishing Studies in the Department of English at Illinois State University. Ela is also a founding co-editor of the peer-reviewed, open access, independent journal Feral Feminisms. Her teaching and research examines questions of digital publishing as they relate to feminism, anti-racism, and decolonialism.

Painting titled "The Gleaners" by Léon-Augustin Lhermitte

Team Engagement and Output Plan

The team’s participation will result in a handbook that accounts for the different forms of labor, and their trade-offs, associated with scholar-led independent open access publishing. We anticipate developing the handbook in an accessible and entertaining digital zine format. The handbook will be designed with scholars as the main audience and will include a supplementary section for those involved in scholarly research support (e.g., academic librarians, policymakers and grants officers, and those involved with developing and supporting open access publishing platforms). The handbook will be distributed through social media, listservs, blogs and other high-impact channels for promoting scholarly communications issues to scholars and their stakeholders. A webinar and/or conference session about working with the handbook will also be developed for stakeholders to further promote using the tool.

The team will begin their work in advance to ensure maximum use of their time together at the institute. Prior to the institute the team will hold a remote introductory meeting to brainstorm the breadth of the thematic categories related to the labor of open access.  Following that meeting, the members will do independent research to further refine their understanding of those categories, building up a shared repository of resources that will be shared and finalized through consensus as the first collective activity at the institute. The remainder of the time at the institute will be devoted to designing and creating the handbook as well as identifying next steps for external review and feedback, a revision process, and the dissemination of the handbook.


[1] For examples of funder policies, see Wellcome Trust and  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For examples of government policies, see Plan S in Europe, CIHR in Canada, NIH in the US .

[2] Larivière, Vincent, Stefanie Haustein, and Philippe Mongeon. “The oligopoly of academic publishers in the digital era.” PloS one 10, no. 6 (2015): e0127502.

[3] McLaughlin, Lisa. “Feminist Journal Editing: Does This Job Include Benefits?” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology 4 (2014):

[4] Christen, Kimberly A.. “Does information really want to be free? Indigenous knowledge and the politics of open access.” The International Journal of Communication 6 (2011): 2870-2893.

[ Images: The Harvesters and The Gleaners, by Léon-Augustin Lhermitte, public domain. ]