The IsisCB Offers a Data Hacking Competition

If you had access to all of the data in the Isis Current Bibliography (IsisCB) for the last forty years, what could you do with it? If want to get your hands dirty for a day and play around with the IsisCB data, see what’s there, and what you can make it do for you, consider signing up for Hack-the-CB 2015!

Whether you are a seasoned programmer who knows JavaScript and natural language processing or simply a historian who likes to create lists and charts in Excel, you can work with the IsisCB data and perhaps develop a new way to think about it or use it.

On September 10, the IsisCB opens its doors to anyone who wants to try his or her hand at building something new with this large curated dataset. During the 24-hour competition, historians and coders around the globe are encouraged to put together an innovative project using the IsisCB data. The door is wide open for any kind of project; it could be a website, an iPhone app, a visualization, or anything else that takes the CB into new territory. As a collection of curated and well-documented data records, the IsisCB is not just a bibliography any longer.

Stephen Weldon, the editor of the Isis Current Bibliography, will make a large subset of its data available for programmers and digital humanists of all stripes to work with. The contest results will be judged by a panel of historians, librarians, and digital humanists, and the winners will be awarded a grant of up to $3000 to further develop their project for public presentation. They will also be asked to attend the HSS meeting in November in San Francisco to demonstrate and talk about what they’ve done.

This is a great opportunity for a fast entry into the digital humanities for people who are just getting their feet wet. It will also be a time when those who have expertise in data management or who have developed special tools can show off what they can do with the IsisCB data.

This event is funded through a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, as part of an effort to develop the IsisCB into a more digitally responsive global resource.

Contest rules, documentation, suggested projects, links to digital humanities tools, and sample files from the dataset will be made available starting in July. More information about the contest can be found at the IsisCB website ( And you can contact Stephen Weldon at with questions.