OSP wins a Digital Science ‘Catalyst Grant’

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve won a Catalyst Grant for innovative research tool-building projects, offered by Digital Science.  The grant will support the extension of the OSP into other languages, beginning with German, Spanish, and Japanese (languages in which we have large document collections). 

We’ll begin this process soon after the launch of the next version of the Syllabus Explorer–currently a couple months away.  We think that in 2018 the OSP will grow from a mostly US-based curricular resource to a global one capable of mapping  curriculum across a wide range of countries.

More info on the Catalyst Grants.

September 19th, 2017 by

Syllabus of the Month (June)

This month’s honorees are Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West from the University of Washington for their very ambitious INFO 198 / BIOL 106B course:

Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data

Our learning objectives are straightforward. After taking the course, you should be able to:

  • Remain vigilant for bullshit contaminating your information diet.
  • Recognize said bullshit whenever and wherever you encounter it.
  • Figure out for yourself precisely why a particular bit of bullshit is bullshit.
  • Provide a statistician or fellow scientist with a technical explanation of why a claim is bullshit.
  • Provide your crystals-and-homeopathy aunt or casually racist uncle with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit.

We will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful and most broadly applicable of those that you acquire during the course of your college education.


May 29th, 2017 by

Job opportunity at the Open Syllabus Project: Web Applications Developer (Javascript and Python)

The Open Syllabus Project is an academic data mining project based at Columbia University that’s analyzing a corpus of 1M+ college course syllabi. We’re building a wide range of tools and services for audiences both inside and outside the university. We aim to:

  • Help instructors discover new resources and design courses.
  • Help university administrators understand the structure of the offerings at their institutions, and to help librarians allocate resources for books, databases, and services.
  • Develop  new scholarly metrics that capture which resources are being used in the classroom.
  • Build book recommendation services for lifelong learning
  • Analyze trends in the sequencing of books and concepts on syllabi, to build a “dependency graph” of knowledge.

We launched a beta version of the project with an op-ed in the New York Times last year.  Since then the project has appeared in Nature, Time, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, MarketWatch, Der Spiegel, Business Insider, Lifehacker, FiveThirtyEight, WNYC, QZ, and elsewhere. It’s also been picked up by major news outlets in Europe, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Ukraine, Egypt, and Mexico. With new funding from the Sloan, Hewlett, and Templeton foundations, we’re working towards second release of the project that will feature much larger collections of syllabi, books, authors, institutions, and publishers.

We’re hiring a full-stack web applications developer to take a leading role in the development of these public-facing web services. We’re looking for a developer who has significant experience at both layers of the web stack – someone who enjoys building large, stateful Javascript applications, and also is able to build and maintain the server-side APIs that feed these client applications.


  • Build a API in Python (Flask or Django) that organizes the results of the metadata extraction pipeline into web-facing data stores (Elasticsearch, Postgres) and exposes well-structured REST endpoints for the client application.
  • In collaboration with designers and contract developers, build a front-end application using React and Redux / MobX that surfaces the data on the web.
  • Work with the data engineering team to define data requirements for the front end application.


  • 3+ years of professional experience in software engineering.
  • Demonstrated ability to build high-quality, performant, maintainable web applications that serve sizable traffic.
  • Experience building large, stateful Javascript applications with React and React-ecosystem libraries like Redux and MobX.
  • Experience with modern Javascript build tools like Webpack or Gulp.
  • Experience with server-side Python development with Flask or Django.
  • Commitment to sustainable engineering practices – automated testing and deployment, continuous integration, and reproducible development environments.
  • An eye for clean, readable, extensible, well-tested code.
  • Experience with remote / distributed collaboration on GitHub.
  • Ability to work in a team environment, but also the initiative to take on difficult, open-ended problems and see them to completion.
  • Committed to building a tolerant, respectful, and safe work environment.

Nice to have

  • Experience with Elasticsearch
  • Experience with infrastructure automation tools like Ansible
  • Data visualization with d3

First and foremost – we’d love to find a collaborator who can contribute new ideas and help drive the project in new directions. OSP is strongly committed to building a diverse engineering team.

Salary: Competitive

Commitment: Full-time for 2 years, renewable.

Location: Remote or NYC
If interested, please send an email and CV to syllabusopen@gmail.com

May 3rd, 2017 by

Syllabus of the Month (February)

This month we highlight RISD Professor Clement Valla’s course, Uncreative Design, and ponder its relationship to the OSP.


“In 1969 the conceptual artist Douglas Heubler wrote, ‘The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.’” So opens Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing, published in 2011. Following Goldsmith’s lead, this class will explore various strategies in art, writing and political activism that will lead us to an uncreative design. We will make use of copying, repetition, appropriation, detournement and bricolage in a series of studio experiments. Though the class will be focused on ways of (not)making, class participation and discussions of assigned readings will also play a major role in guiding studio work, and in evaluating student projects. There are no prerequisites, though students should be willing to take major risks and have a very open approach to different modes of working.

Creativity, intuition, improvisation, composed, hand-made, unique, original, subjective, genius, authored. These are all to be avoided in this class. Rather what we create will be uncreative, systematic, scripted, chance based, calculated, mass produced, digital, appropriated, objective and copied. The role of contemporary producers is no longer be to create new things, but to channel, frame, re-assemble and contextualize existing things – from creative production towards an ‘uncreative’ production. Uncreative Design explores how new meaning is produced by collecting, archiving, captioning, erasing, parsing. There are many examples of this work and theory in other disciplines, including writing, art, new media, music, film and video.

February 4th, 2017 by

Syllabus of the Month (September)

September’s ‘Syllabus of the Month’ is a 1994 University of Chicago class, “Current Issues in Racism and the Law,” by a junior faculty member you may have heard of.  (Full syllabus on clickthrough).screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-10-27-07-am

September 12th, 2016 by