A common European strategy on Research Infrastructures in the Digital Humanities?

Last week my colleague Melissa Terras organised a fascinating conference here in UCL called Showing the Arts and Humanities matter, which was the first 4Humanities conference to be held at UCL. The talk given by Ruediger Klein, European Alliance for the Social Sciences and Humanities: called “Making the Humanities Count – the dawn of a new era thanks to globalising Digital Humanities?” emphasised both the far reaching potential of Digital Humanities for the Humanities as a whole as well as the many issues that DH must still address, not only in terms of research questions, but also in terms of research policy and foresight at the pan-European level.

Within the context of DH research policy and foresight, I recently co-Authored an European Science Foundation (ESF) Science Policy Briefing on Digital Research Infrastructures in the Humanities. So, I’ve decided that a shortish mention of this is as good a topic as any to base the first post of my new blog on. Work on the report has been ongoing since 2009 and it involved contributions from a wide cross section of the digital humanities community in Europe and beyond; it was also a project of strategic importance for the European Science Foundation Standing Committee for the Humanities. It is aimed not only at researchers but also at those involved in research policy and foresight, such as funding bodies. To quote from the introduction:

The publication of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) roadmap has made clear the importance of dedicated Humanities RIs [Research Infrastructures]. However, only two Humanities RIs have been funded through this initiative. This report positions itself in terms of priorities and future research directions for a common strategy on RIs in the Humanities at the European level. The bridging of physical and digital RIs presents opportunities and challenges with implications that are discussed under the following rubrics: researcher input and engagement in making RIs; preservation and sustainability; the evaluation of digital research and its outputs; communities of practice; cultural and linguistic variety (transnational RIs); education and training. (p. 2.)

In addition to a number of case studies the report ends with a series of recommendations covering the following areas:

  • State of the art and needs
  • Physical and Digital RIs
  • Strategic Directions
  • Partnerships and Networking
  • Academic Recognition
  • Dissemination and Outreach
  • Evaluation of RIs

So far we have done a reasonable amount of work trying to bring the report to the attention of the DH community across Europe. For example, Prof Claudine Moulin talked extensively about it in her keynote at the 2012 Digital Humanities conference in Hamburg; last week an overview of it was presented in the Lettre d’information de l’InSHS du CNRS / n°19 – septembre 2012 and other publications connected to it are forthcoming; during the Summer I presented it at a round table discussion about Research Infrastructures in the Digital Humanities at the European Summer School of Culture and Technology in Leipzig, among other events. At least one colleague has told me that they referenced the recommendations of the report in their latest funding bid and I very much hope that other colleagues will be able to make use of it in a similar way! Still, we’ll have to wait a little longer (and do a bit more awareness raising) to see whether our recommendations will be  been acted upon by funding bodies or other research policy and foresight bodies.

Now! After this description I just know that you can’t wait to read the report …. So, here is a link to the full report: (I know, ESF certainly do not seem to be fond of Human Readable URLs) and for the more time-pressed among you here is a link to the Executive Summary.

[Note: I updated the final sentence & restored the broken links of this post on 11/03/2017]



Julianne Nyhan

Associate Professor of Digital Information Studies, University College London. Main research: Digital Humanities, Oral History & History of Computing. Publications page: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/dis/people/juliannenyhan / Research: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Julianne_Nyhan

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