A digital infrastructure for humanities research
Arts and humanities researchers can now benefit from an EU-funded European digital infrastructure that has boosted access to resources, toolkits and transnational collaboration.
© Maksim Kabakou #182877273, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
In the last decade, European researchers and national funders, with EU support, have been preparing a Digital Research Infrastructure for Arts and Humanities (DARIAH), following its inclusion in the first ESFRI (European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures) roadmap. The aim is to support transnational researchers in all phases of their work: from data acquisition and analysis to publication and archiving. The pan-European Research Infrastructure DARIAH was set up as ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) in August 2014.
The EU-funded Humanities at Scale project (HaS-DARIAH) built on this past work and has opened up the DARIAH community to all researchers in the arts and humanities.
DARIAH and the tools it offers are designed to meet the needs of arts and humanities researchers working across Europe. For example, they could include a musicologist analysing digital recordings, an archaeologist digitally recreating ancient buildings or a historian studying digitised texts to investigate how place names change over time.
‘Digital technologies are an indispensable tool for the physical sciences and scientific research but, despite some early pioneering work, take-up in the arts and humanities has been much slower,’ says project manager Marco Raciti of the DARIAH coordination office in Berlin.
‘In HAS-DARIAH, we are supporting a state-of-the-art digital humanities research infrastructure by integrating national initiatives and scaling their work to a European level. This enables new kinds of transnational research and cooperation using digital means.’
Open research agenda
The project ran digital technology training workshops, schools and masterclasses in specific research areas to improve digital skills among humanities scholars. These were a central element of the work, while the masterclasses attracted extra funding.
Online courses in digital skills and the DARIAH research infrastructure built on earlier work run through an ERASMUS initiative. Many of these #dariahTeach courses are now multilingual and available to institutions, instructors and individual researchers.
The project actively supported the open research agenda by making toolkits and collections available, for example, by contributing to the Biblissima project for collecting and producing data about the circulation of texts, the history of libraries and the transmission of knowledge in Europe from the 8th to 18th centuries.
Humanities at Scale has also boosted open access and open methods in the digital humanities, creating a platform where communities can learn about open data, locate repositories and promote their own data. This has considerably widened the potential scope of humanities research communities.
To promote these new opportunities, the project appointed ambassadors to raise the profile of DARIAH through workshops and conference presentations.
Expanding through collaboration
The researchers also created several regional hubs bringing together researchers from neighbouring countries to discuss common issues, attract new members and form regional consortia. ‘The Nordic Hub is a good example that has carried out many joint activities and come forward with proposals for the future,’ says Raciti.
The project improved the way it assesses and integrates the tools and data offered by national research infrastructures. These include toolkits, expertise and training courses as well as repositories of valuable information.
Interdisciplinary collaboration with other EU research infrastructures is also supporting the growth of research communities: for example, with the CLARIN research infrastructure for language resources and technology; OPERAS for the development of open scholarly communication; and the CESSDA consortium of European Social Science Data Archives. This collaboration ensures a common vision and the sustainability of SSH research infrastructures.
HaS-DARIAH also investigated new opportunities for humanities research. In 2017, at a Creativity Forum in Aarhus, Denmark, Humanities at Scale held an Innovation Forum to showcase how the creative industries can link to and benefit from digital arts and humanities.
‘At Aarhus, for the first time, we explored how creative industries, like computer games, social media and design, can draw on the digital humanities resources such as DARIAH for material and inspiration. It’s an important first step,’ says Raciti.
The project has been coordinated by Dariah ERIC which comprises members from 17 EU countries.