Analysis of Harvard Interns' Work and Implications for the Project

The Harvard interns (mentioned in previous posts) finished the work they were doing for the WCP last Friday. I have now had a chance to look at what they did and to draw some interesting conclusions for the WCP from it.

First some facts and figures: The students worked for the WCP 6 hour day for 10 days. Five of them transcribed letters and they managed to transcribe a total of 202 of these, which had a combined total of 766 pages. These letters took 300 person-hours to transcribe, so were transcribed at a rate of 0.67 letters per hour, or 2.55 pages per hour.

If there are 4000 letters to and from ARW in total (I estimate that there are 4000 - 5000 worldwide),
and these have an average of 4 pages each, this gives 16,000 pages of text which will need to be transcribed. Based on the rate of 2.55 pages per hour, this would take a transcriber 6275 hours to do. If a work year has 230 work days or 1380 hours, a transcriber would therefore need a minimum of 4.6 years to transcribe all of ARW's letters.

One of the interns concentrated on checking and correcting transcripts done by students last year. He managed to edit 95 letters in the 60 hours he worked on this task - a rate of 1.58 letters per hour. At this rate it would take 1.8 years to check and edit the transcripts of 4000 letters...

The Darwin Correspondence Project checks all transcripts against the original or facsimile four times before they are considered to be of a publishable standard (see,
so if our project checked the transcripts 'only' three times, this would take us 5.4 years of work!

The conclusion is that Phase 2 of the WCP (transcription of the letters) will take a minimum of 4.6 + 5.4 = 10 person-years of work to complete! However, this is definitely an underestimate, since if someone was employed to do this work full time, they would also have other things to do (e.g. answering emails, attending meetings etc etc),
so would not be able to spend 100% of their time focussed on transcription or editorial work as the Harvard students were able to....

Harvard students with Sir DavidThe 2011 Harvard interns with WCP Patron Sir David Attenborough

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith