A New Version of Perseus and Academic Partnerships

An earlier blog entry pointed to a draft description of work on a new Perseus that we expect will appear, in some fashion, as a formal Request for Proposals from Leipzig in early January 2017. One reason to circulate this description is to get feedback. A second is to be able to explore different approaches before any formal RFP emerges. The comments in this blog are thus provisional and suggest possible directions. They constitute no promises.

We have heard from potential academic partners and would like to suggest an alternative approach. How we proceed will depend upon the response to the RFP when it is complete.

In suggesting an RFP, our goal was to focus on getting the job done and to do so by coming into a more formal contractual arrangement than is typical of academic partnerships and by drawing on more senior developers than are often available in an academic setting. We are particularly conscious that the skills that we require are highly in demand. The goal here is to build a new system and not, primarily, to conduct research. Nevertheless, the requirements are sufficiently distinct that publications should be possible in Digital Humanities, Digital Libraries or other areas.

We are open to the prospect of hiring someone in an academic context if suitable candidates are available. By far the easiest way for us to do that would be to hire someone at Leipzig — we could support at least one person full time for one year with additional part-time help. We might, in this scenario, pursue a hybrid approach and include also an external contract to supervise and augment what this person could do. It all depends upon the capabilities of who is available.

If we hire someone at Leipzig, that person would have to have demonstrated credible experience in developing user interfaces and supporting user interaction, a clear capability to build upon the CTS, XML and other foundations upon which the backend of the new Perseus depends and the other requirements (for which the draft RFP provides a provisional description).

Germany has formalized guidelines for how much it pays and, in our experience, there is very, very little flexibility. Working for a private firm is likely to pay more that Leipzig could offer. On other hand, a suitable candidate from abroad could expect to receive a visa with minimal difficulty (at least in comparison to the US), begin work immediately in an English-speaking work environment, and, at the same time, develop experience and contacts within Germany. If a candidate devoted time to learning the language while here, that experience and even an incipient command of the language could open up new professional prospects in Germany. At the same time, while we cannot guarantee anything beyond March 2018, there might well be possibilities for a particularly good fit to continue at Leipzig. Alternatively, this could involve someone who comes to Leipzig from another academic institution for a year and then returns.

In any event, given the relative prominence that the work will have (at least within the Humanities community), successful work on the new Perseus could provide distinctive elements to a portfolio. We could also imagine someone with a more academic background for whom work on the new Perseus would, in fact, advance an academic portfolio and who might well prove to be a long-term collaborator.

At this point, we would welcome recommendations of suitable people who might work at Leipzig. Again, we are making no formal promises but rather gauging possibilities as make final decisions as to whether to post a position at Leipzig in addition to (or conceivably in place of) a contract with a firm or professional consultant.

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