Georgios Chatzoudis | 09.06.2013 | 156693 Aufrufe | Ankündigungen

#dhiha | Research Conditions and Digital Humanities: What are the prospects for the next generation?
10-11 June 2013 - Livestream on L.I.S.A.

Program and Papers

The colloquium at the German Historical Institute in Paris will start tomorrow, on Monday, 6.00 p.m. (CET). At the same time we will launch our livestream on L.I.S.A. - the Science Portal of the Gerda Henkel Foundation. You are kindly requested to take part with questions and comments - either via Twitter (#dhiha5) or here on L.I.S.A.

In the meantime the working groups of the colloquium have finished their preparation. The members of each of the four panels have written a manifesto, which will be presented and discussed during the colloquium.

PDF-Datei downloaden (114.73 KB)

#dhiha5 Panel I: Which changes are currently taking place in our research and academic culture?

5 juin 2013Par Pierre Mounier

Working Group : Aurélien Berra, André Donk, Marten Düring, Sebastian Gießmann

There is a simple question: What would the Digital Humanities do? Let us be honest. This question has not been asked yet by a sufficient number of people. Unlike Jeff Jarvis’ pun on an ever present search engine giant “What would the Digital Humanities do?” is less about  short-circuiting the Gutenberg Galaxy’s merits with digital innovation. It seems more like a constant struggle (if you’re German) or like a playful approach to new media (if you look at recent French successes like hypotheses.org from the ever worried German point of view).

So the blog parade that was set in motion by the German Historical Institute Paris is a way of asking rather openly “What should the Digital Humanities do?” So in our introduction to Panel I we are going to map the current situation a bit. And to be clear and precise: Every argument about a “digital revolution” has to take into account that “the Digital” and scientific practice have never been wide apart. Yet still plain old analogue dialog is what drives digital intellectual’s pursuits in most cases. So let us go explore.

Along with all the fine contributions in the #dhiha5 blog parade we ask two questions, with the first being:
Which (media-induced) changes are taking place in research and academic culture and in how far do these changes affect young scientists’ career? Which competencies, professional skills and merits do they have to gain – and can these be achieved in their education/ socialisation?

So we want to give you a couple of points to meditate about. First, consider Inter- and Multidisciplinarity:
Do we still adhere to the two cultures of science? Or may we speak of three or rather infinitely more? It might also be helpful to think of all science being reconfigured by what networked computers gave us. So the common language of Inter- and Multidisciplinarity that we can agree upon might already be there. Unfortunately, this is a rather shallow way to be part of Digital Humanities’ babel situation. Or, as we might add: It’s not just about the tools and their protocols! Rather, the overall transformation of disciplinary knowledges into digital domains forms a common ground for discussion. This is what removes DH significantly from the specialty problems of single disciplines, at least at first glance.

So there might be what one could call a pragmatic and structural need for the “inter” part that digital methods provide to interconnect the humanities and social sciences. It is indeed the domain of software tools and the tacit knowledge of every scientific computer usage. We envision Multidisciplinarity to open up a slightly different way to exchange ideas. It should include an overall openness towards the understanding of terms, concepts, theories and methods of different disciplines which work in the field of DH. We should think of this as an alterity mode of knowledge production. And yes, it can be a bit alienating to accept different epistemic values, methods, and ideas even when you use the same software!

So here comes a second important point. Let’s speak about the democratization of scientific discourses:
The liberal, democratizing spirit at Universities has been stronger in the 1970s, following on the events of 1968. Mass universities and cheap academic books have had their specific values; the neoliberal turn of the 1990s has not completely destroyed that heritage (yet). The Bologna process itself created new and reinvigorated old hierarchies. So the fresh air of scientific blogging, social media, new kinds of reviewing and communicating knowledge comes as a necessity and not as a set of digital gadgets. For every rigid campus management system we do at least need an opening counterpart like Moodle. For every hyped “marketing only” Massive Open Online Course we do at least need a good set of Open Educational Resources.

But let us be optimistic about the new horizons: A decline of hierarchy might happen, at least in online discourses. Non-scientific publics are only one click or web trawl away. Publishing companies hold their grip on the scientific communities but are unlikely to do so forever. New forms of debates have already emerged, uniting the oral qualities of the spoken argument with the writing styles of online communication. Mistakes might count less than the mutual learning effects (that is an ideal, for sure). We are already well aware of the fact that public funding calls for public accountability beyond the printed book. The new digital public spheres must be openly accessible or they do hardly exist. A dialogic ideal will continue to help Digital Humanities’ scholars to prevent splendid isolations. At last, elements of the Bologna reforms might be used to establish a regular infrastructure to develop the “digital skills” of graduate as policy now regards the doctorate as part of the education. Thus, we can demand for a respective resources.

A third value to keep in mind is the actual Media literacy:
University scholars always had to base their assumptions about students on the standards of the school system of their countries. And the woes and worries about the existing and nonexisting skills of first semesters have their very own media history. Yet we find a mighty paradox at work when it comes to digital media literacy of “born digital” generations. Young students happen to be more conservative than their professors although they should be the persons that are more fluent in all things digital. This came up in the #dhiha5 blog parade quite often: Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the like are considered to be rather personal media than tools for scholarly communication. Even progressive professors have to deal with that sort of gap.

This also raises questions for a new Work-Life-Balance: Social Media became an integral part of our every-day-life. Perhaps it is not a problem for those called “digital natives” to distinguish between communications as part of free-time or as element of their scientific work in social media channels. But at least, we have to develop a sensitivity to detect that not everything that is suitable for social media will be accepted in science and vice versa. Furthermore, we have to learn to cope with “mixed modes” of communication within the scientific discourse.

Those constellations are actually way more heterogeneous and are less a matter of age than of individual preferences and attitudes.

In this overall tricky situation new sets of skills become ever more important. Just think of the distinct types of digital media for research, teaching, publication and scholarly communication. They have to be taught and explored together to be used appropriately and effectively. Plus, digital methods and media literacy are not a given and should be constantly put under review, critique, and de-construction and re-construction. Digital Humanities are a way to facilitate the creative use and adoption of digital technologies, including a tolerance toward trial and error that can lead to success.

Another issue is the emergence of new Research Methodologies, new forms of Knowledge Production and their Scientific Validation.

Interdisciplinarity has been a buzzword inside the academy for decades now. The call for research that embraced more than one academic discipline and worked on synthesis between different approaches promised exiting new insights and a new way of doing research but was never easy to realize. Two major obstacles stand in its way: 1) The challenge to bridge gaps between different research cultures and goals. In order to be successful, researchers need not only be able to fulfil the quality standards of their own, but also need to have a deep understanding of that of a second or third discipline.

Once this step is mastered, researchers face the challenge to synthesize their insights. Arguably this is the biggest challenge: What do the findings generated with methods from one discipline mean for the discussion in another? Next, researchers face the challenge to translate whatever they found back into their home discipline in a way that will be comprehensible to their mono-disciplinary peers. Poor understanding, raised excitement and superficial readings of results have been responsible for unsatisfying practices in interdisciplinary research. Just as critical are responses by peers who are reluctant to evaluate research outside their own field due to a lack of training and willingness to leave familiar grounds. The steep learning curve that comes with interdisciplinary research, the extra effort required and the uncertainty of academic merit often cause “interdisciplinarity light”: Research that is mostly mono-disciplinary but comes with added flavours from other fields and thus remains easily digestible for peers.

All of this is true for past and current practices in the Digital Humanities. But the fact that “DH” understands and self-identifies as a scientific community (despite its contribution to an unnecessary split in “digital” and “traditional”) solves one of the problems outlined above: The DH community widely accepts if not embraces the use of computers and in its wake also the integration of research from different academic disciplines. In fact, interdisciplinarity and multi-method approaches already form an integral part of what a lot of DH research is about: The exploration of common grounds between questions asked in the humanities and in computer science.

The spectrum of tools used for Digital Humanities today is extensive and it probably does not go too far to claim that most software tools available can somehow be used for DH-applications. Typically, software application has been a one-way-street: Humanists would either teach themselves or collaborate with partners with technical skills and make do with what they found. It remains an open question whether the flow of information can be reversed: Can the humanities’ capability to handle with texts in all their complexity, relativity and ambivalence be exported into the technical sphere?

The former point leads to another question, the problem of continuing disciplinary boundaries: The science system is internally differentiated into disciplines, which can be regarded as the main reference for scholars. The whole process of academic socialization and professionalization takes place in disciplines, journals and conferences get organized by disciplines – and usually study programmes and professorships are bound to a certain discipline. Of course, interdisciplinary efforts do exist in many ways. But nevertheless, the only interdiscipline, which successfully established is gender studies – and even in this respect, often positions are still bound to a certain discipline, e.g. political science with focus on gender aspects.

Working as a young scholar in the context of Digital Humanities or Web Science, this first of all brings along the task to be educated into and permanently commit to a disciplinary context as well as to be engaged in the respectively interdisciplinary field. Thus, young scholars in Digital Humanities or Web Science need to find an anchor in a discipline to perform scientific activities on the brink of this discipline rsp. with a link to their disciplinarily origin. Advisors therefore should take into consideration that they have to train young scholars in disciplinary knowledge, conventions, and communication systems but also have to grant a necessary amount of academic freedom with respect to subjects, methods, journals and conferences which to not build the centre of the discipline.

In the perspective of systems theory, every social system exists and perpetuates through its communications. Thus, disciplines are separated by communications about distinct problem or objects of research (Taubert & Weingart, 2010, 4). This selection of issues is on the one hand very productive and a prerequisite for the exponential growth of the science system as it provides functional differentiation and the reduction of complexity. On the other hand, all communications, which cannot exclusively be assigned to a discipline, will easily be forgotten (Stich, 1994, 19). This is an important point, as it suggests that publishing in the context of DH etc. may have a negative impact on young scholars reputation as the journals etc. are not recognized in a discipline or academic field.

All this leads to the conclusion, that the development and consolidation of DH etc. as disciplines or ancillary science in different disciplines should be actively pursued. Therefore, we need some kind of a – flexible and tentative – canon, defining the central theories, methods, objects and insights; study programmes should be launched and positions should be devoted to the field.
The use of Social Media has changed the ways in which scientific knowledge is generated and distributed – it is commonly used by researchers in the DH but of course not exclusively. It therefore makes sense to take the DH community’s usage of Social Media as an example of how scientific communication changes in general. Recently, Elijah Meeks and Scott Weingart acted as guest editors for a special issue of the Journal of Digital Humanities on topic modelling. Their introduction to the volume is telling of how knowledge (again: not only) in the DH is produced now: Contributions were based on earlier published pieces, presentation slides or had evolved from blog posts and other online texts, authors had learned from and of another through social media and have also used them to promote and critique each others’ work. What is remarkable here is that knowledge was aggregated from “traditional” formats such as journal papers and presentations and more dynamic formats such as twitter conversations and blog post comments. In particular with regard to the development of methods and tools, these channels are much faster and direct in their evaluation and critique as institutionalized peer review and/or debates at academic conferences.

In which respects does the academic culture have to change in order to react appropriately to the new digital sciences?
The  roots of the Digital Humanities in Computer Science and related  disciplines require a strong sense for interdisciplinary research. The emergence of new research methods and tools brings with it the need for updated curricula for students and extra training for researchers. A number of summer schools have taken it upon them to provide novices with the basics of any of the common tools and methods. This arguably is not enough. Humanists need to catch up on maths, statistics in particular as well as in visualization and the philosophy of science. Neither of these fields have typically been part of humanities education but are essential for the ability to critique, to conduct high quality research and for teaching.

But humanities scholars can catch up only to a point: Not everybody wants to learn how to program or to build databases, is interested in webdesign or server management.

This calls for people who are able to act as bridges between academic disciplines. While some scholars may be able to acquire all necessary knowledge themselves, the availability of specialists who are familiar with the humanities research methods as well as the technical world is essential for the further advancement of the Digital Humanities. Today so-called Research Technologists, Scientific Programmers or Data Technologists are trusted to do this work. These terms are not well-defined yet: at this stage they stand for strong method skills, the ability to develop and tailor code and the ability to process, store and retrieve datasets. Following a meeting at the University of Oxford, titled “Recognising “Research Technologists” in research: an action plan” (http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/event/5340072300/) Christof Schöch has recently pointed out (http://dhd-blog.org/?p=1487) that their status is positioned between academic researchers and technical support staff. Their career prospects are still unclear: Are they support staff? Is there a chance to get tenure for them or will they be bound to temporary, project-based contracts? When should they be cited as co-authors?

These specialists but also less specialized researchers and teachers in the DH produce output that can not easily be captured by the usual instruments for the measurement of academic merit: Work on databases, scripts and liaisons between project partners from different disciplines can not easily be packaged in peer-reviewed articles and monographs.

In order to value and evaluate their contributions we need to consider code, working papers and databases and find ways to treat them equally.

Science needs to accept the blurring of boundaries of its communication system and the emerging of new publics and publications besides the established ones, i.e. it has to regularly observe relevant contributions in Open Access Journals, Blogs, Tweets etc. and integrate those communications into the disciplinary discourses. As time resources are limited, there is a need for meta- communications to pre-sort and evaluate the amount of digital communication. Young scholars could actively take up the role of a gatekeeper and bridge builder, bringing the relevant contributions into their discipline. By doing so, experienced researchers might recognize that there are scientific communications in new digital formats.

So, scientific communications should no longer only be measured according to their origin. If it is a relevant contribution to a scientific problem, a blog post etc. should become an accepted reference as well and an integral part of young scholars’ cv.

Such a – from todays point of view – massive change in the scholarly reputation and communication system will not take place by itself nor will it quite naturally happen in terms of an evolution of media. There needs to be a discussion about the functions and benefits of certain digital formats for the development of science – and these questions have to debated in the traditional journals etc.

But attention also refers to another phenomenon: Young scholars have to learn that contribution in science blogs etc. usually do not gain much attention. Neither in the digital world nor in academia. Of course, this might be frustrating, but there is no significant difference to traditional scholarly publishing: The number of readers and even of citations of a peer reviewed article is quite limited as well. Taubert and Weingart assume that the number of reviewers for most of the articles published in acknowledged journals will be higher than the number of citations (2010). So, being invisible for a long time is part of becoming a scientist. To gain more public or scholarly attention might be question of learning to publish in different genres, with different scopes and tones. Thus, an intensive training for young scholars which addresses both publishing in journals, monographs etc. and in digital formats should be part of the doctorate.

PDF-Datei downloaden (54.44 KB)

#dhiha5 Panel II: Training for the Digital Humanities – what skills are necessary, how can they be transmitted?

Juni 5, 2013By Franziska Heimburger

Working group: Franziska Heimburger, Michael Schmalenstroer, Bertram Triebel

«A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.»

When Max Plack wrote this sentence, his primary focus was evidently on the natural sciences with their particular methods. It seems to us to be a useful entry point to one of the questions which most closely concerns what Michael Schmalenstroer calls the generational conflict in Digital Humanities: that of skills and training. As early careers researchers interested in the Digital Humanities, we are acutely aware both of the vast potential opening up for research in the Humanities and Social Sciences and of the lack of suitable skills among both our peers and the preceeding generations. On the other hand we are also involved to varying degrees in the teaching of younger students at B.A. and masters level which gives us an understanding of their (lack of) skills and their needs. As the introduction of methods and approaches from Digital Humanities continues to transform research practices, how is this trend reinforced or indeed countered by both established and new teaching approaches? To what extent do we just need to wait for “its opponents [to] eventually die” and to what extent do we find that the marketing concept of “digital natives” has little bearing on the fairly technical skills necessary for research?

In surveying the various blog posts written in preparation for #DHDHI5, we were struck by a fundamental imbalance: while several posts in French and messages on the French DH-mailing list discussed training and skills directly, this was not a priority topic in the German-language contributions. This may be linked to the respective experience and personalities of those who contributed to the debates in both countries, but it does seems significant in assessing where “Digital Humanities” as a set of methods and skills stand in both countries. Does this simply mean that France is “further on” in discussing the implications of “Digital Humanities” outside the narrow community of researchers who already use these methods? Does it reflect wider differences in approaches to teaching in both countries, especially as far as basic methods courses for undergraduates are concerned? We also need to consider different hierarchical structure of research in both countries: to what extent are young researchers able to conduct independent research, to what extent are they associated in technical domains, as co-authors?

Another discussion which we expected, but hardly witnessed, was that on different disciplinary traditions of those active in the field of Digital Humanities today. Is there a different approach towards training students in DH methods and approaches in history than in comparative literature or linguistics? What about sociology and anthropology? The current status of Digital Humanities means that its most prominent proponents all experienced a significant grounding in one or more of the humanities and social sciences early on in their careers. What impact does this have on their current-day teaching?

The French discussion, both in several blog posts and on the very active “DH”-Mailing-list included a number of important points about skills, training and ways of putting this into place. To our mind, several crucial aspects were mentioned :

The distinction between specifically “DH” degrees, such as the masters programme at the Ecole des Chartes in Paris or the new programmes devised by our two main speakers today in Lyon and Würzburg, and the vast majority of degrees in the humanities and social sciences which often do not include any aspect of this kind of work, yet qualify large numbers of students who may find themselves lacking the kind of skills we think will be crucial in the future.

It seems reasonable to assume that the current success of Digital Humanities projects and applications with funding bodies will lead to an increase in the number of degree courses in the Digital Humanities. Most of these courses tend, at least for the time being, to be directed at masters’ level students who have a basic grounding in one of the humanities and social sciences or (though I think this is rarer) come from a more technical background in IT. The emergence of a body of individuals with degrees in “Digital Humanities” must have a significant impact on the evolution of the field, providing a workforce for joining and spear-heading new research projects. It will also necessarily have an impact on those students who pursue post-graduate degrees in the humanities, especially with a research aim. If there are specialised masters programmes in “Digital Humanities”, does this mean that those will be the only places where these kind of skills will be taught? What will the future roles of trained specialist and “normal” researchers be on DH projects in the years to come? How much of a common base do we need. Moritz Hoffmann mentions this aspect when he suggests that those who chose to study history did so precisely because they were less technically inclined.

The training necessary for the coming generation of researchers in the humanities and social sciences
Blog posts and emails on the mailing-list seemed to agree that it would be a great loss and even potentially dangerous if the more traditional degree courses in the humanities and social sciences did not provide even cursory introductions for those who will be pursuying research and teaching in a world where they need to be at least vaguely familiar with the potential of the approaches in Digital Humanities.

Several of the posts took this further and attempted to define a common denominator of IT literacy for research purposes for our students today.

Claire Lemercier writes on this matter: “In fact, my objective (which I sometimes reach – but not always) is to make sure that the student or colleague that I am training is then capable of doing that which he or she needs in a given situation:

a) either do the work on their own with the available “magic boxes”. This could include entering relatively simple data from a source in a spreadsheet, adding a level of analytical coding, running facto analysis on the data by following a step-by-step tutorial, publishing the result and thus enabling historical knowledge in their field to progress in a rather more rigorous and reproducible manner than elsewhere.

b) to realise that the “magoc boxes” they are aware of are not really suitable to what he/she wants to do and then to know in which general direction to do further reading and who to ask or where to find potential collaborators to set up more complex frameworks if that proves necessary.”(LEMERCIER, Claire. Email to dh. “[DH] Colloque Sur Les Digital Humanities : Appel à Contribution,” April 29, 2013)

One of the attempts to define such a common denominator, taken from this blog post and based on the experience of training first-year masters students in history, is arranged visually and could serve as a a starting point for our discussions:

We have listed a collection of other skills that are often lacking among our contemporaries – we would love to hear comments from individuals and institutions who have formalised any of these as part of a training course:

- a thorough introduction to the scientific “eco-system” of the Digital Humanities researcher: OpenAcces platforms, digital archives, various databases
- an introduction to “Big Data” and its potential uses for researchers in the humanities and social sciences
- Practical training in converting the kind of usually printed source material in to the kind of data Digital Humanists can use
- introductions to coding, to website management, to database construction, to video editing
- training in social media use for research dissemination, including outreach work to a non-academic public
- Open Access publishing strategies and possibilities
- good practice in collaborative work, including larger teams with technical expertise
- training in legal questions, in particular those linked to copyright aspects of blogging

In conclusion we would like to come back to the Max Planck quote we started with. We probably need to convince at least some of the tenants of the “old truths” – otherwise the new researchers will not be able to enter the field appropriately equipped for the work they want to do. This includes negotiating the hurdles of short-term contracts for younger researchers which not only lead to job insecurity for the individuals but also make it very difficult for training initiatives to be established and then continued for future generations of studnets.

In order to get us started in that direction – and fully aware that we are very much preaching to the converted here – we would like to put out a couple of questions for discussion:

1. Are degree courses in “Digital Humanities” really the way forward? And at what level should they be offered?
2. Can we agree on a common denominator set of skills for each level of academic study in more traditional degrees in the humanities and social sciences?
3. How can we involve all the stakeholders in this discussion? Including students (who often have very clear ideas on what they need), those actively involved in Digital Humanities projects who have a good idea of what skills should be taught (Frédéric Clavert is a great example) and those in charge of degree courses and recruitment decisions who may not be fully aware of this crucial question.

#dhiha5 Panel III: Evaluation and Quality Control in the Digital Humanities

3 juin 2013Par Lilian Landes

Working group: Sascha Foerster (Max Weber Foundation, Bonn), Lilian Landes (BSB Munich), Bertram Triebel (TU Bergakademie Freiberg). Thanks to Christian Höschler for the English translation!

Word of Welcome
We have been working on two main areas: evaluation and quality control. Our presentation is structured as follows: for both of the areas mentioned, we will start off with a description of the current status-quo and then suggest some practical recommendations to various target groups (to which the findings of this conference will ultimately be addressed in the form of a joint manifesto), for example granting agencies, editors and, not to be forgotten, young academics. Many aspects can only be mentioned briefly, maybe too briefly. This article is furthermore a presentation of what the blog carnival #dhiha5 has produced with regard to evaluation /quality control.

1. Evaluation
This refers to proposals submitted to granting agencies by researchers or research groups, applications for jobs at universities or other research institutions, scholarships etc.
To begin with, here are two theses:

  • The internet changes the way we publish research results. As a consequence, the criteria for evaluation will also have to change.
  • New forms of scholarly activities are emerging: the creation of databases, the development of technical tools, the programming of codes, visualizations, big data, dynamic bibliographies, wikis and many more. New evaluation criteria also have to be developed for these concepts. The basic question which we constantly need to ask ourselves is: how do we define academic activities or achievements?

1.0 Situation
The point most often raised in those blog posts which dealt with our topic prior to this conference was that digital media is currently not accepted by professors and (!) by students (e.g. tekninen historia, gab_log-Blog, Criticalbits).[1]

The same view was expressed in the Blog hellojed.[2]: “History remains a subject which favors books over articles, print publications over PDF files, and publishers over open access.” [„Geschichte bleibt weiterhin ein Fach, dass die Monographie über den Aufsatz stellt, das Papier über das PDF, das Verlagshaus über den offenen Zugang.“]

Generally, issues regarding evaluation and acceptance tend to be less critical with books or open access journals (the latter more often face problems regarding their impact factor; however, the significance of the impact factor in the humanities is a much-disputed issue, so this shall be disregarded for now). Monographs or journals which are published online can be assigned ISBNs or ISSNs and thus formally be regarded as more or less equal to print publications. Things become problematic when it comes to genuine web formats, e.g. blogs, microblogs, comments, and wikis (RKB blog).[3]

It is difficult, if not impossible, to mention online activities (by which, as already mentioned, we mean databases, wikis, tools, codes, big data, social media, blogs, comments etc.) in funding proposals, scholarship applications and other things of that nature. They are usually not a part of the scenarios envisioned by those institutions that fund research, even though all of these activities are crucial and formative for those working in the Digital Humanities. The same applies to the recognition of qualifications regarding programming languages and Web 2.0 competences.

Basic problems: What is considered as an academic achievement (initial step, see above) and how does evaluation take place beyond the world of ISBNs and ISSNs, in the case of formats which can (only) be published online?

1.1 Recommendations to Granting Agencies
The following can be seen as both recommendations and as questions to those responsible for funding research, such as Professor Žic-Fuchs (ESF).

We start off with a question: how does the ESF structure the process of evaluating projects in the field of Digital Humanities, and how does the fact that these are naturally based on an interdisciplinary approach affect this process?

Guidelines published by the Modern Language Association (MLA)[4] stress (amongst other things) the need to “Engage Qualified Reviewers”. How difficult is it to find reviewers who are experienced in the field of digital media? Reviewers should also consider aspects which are specifically relevant for media work. This implies, for instance, that online projects should actually be evaluated in an electronic environment, and also, that the traditional circle of reviewers needs to be broadened: computer scientists, engineers and technology experts have to be approached in addition to scientists working in the humanities.

Generally, granting agencies should be open towards new forms of publishing and constantly reflect on, as well as modify, existing guidelines – at least with regard to the evaluation of genuine DH projects (see also dhd blog)[5]. Todd Presner, director of the Center for Digital Humanities based at the University of California, has defined some specific evaluation criteria: “support by granting agencies or foundations, number of viewers or contributors to a site and what they contribute, citations in both traditional literature and online (blogs, social media, links, and trackbacks), use or adoption of the project by other scholars and institutions [criterion of prototype delevopment], conferences and symposia featuring the project, and resonance in public and community outreach (such as museum exhibitions, impact on public policy, adoption in curricula, and so forth).”[6]

Similarly, the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities based at the University of Nebraska has released detailed recommendations for evaluation, such as “Peer Review of digital research sites or tools”, “Technical innovation and sophistication of projects”, or the crucial aspect of “Long-term accessibility, viability for archival use”.[7]

In our opinion, it is also highly important to familiarize young academics with genuinely digital text genres at an early stage, and to lead them away from working “behind closed doors”. In order to facilitate this, it is necessary to create incentives.
In the case of the blog carnival, this demand naturally referred to the medium blog (hellojed).[8] Therefore, a good example one could mention is the Gerda Henkel Foundation (co-organizer of this event), or rather their platform L.I.S.A., representing an experimental environment which provides space for initial blog posts left by individuals, and also for video projects documenting the benefits of scholarships.[9]

Making use of Web 2.0 technologies awards young academics with something they need most, namely attention (which also benefits the granting agency). The slogan “Social Media as a competitive advantage”, mentioned in the editorial blog of de.hypotheses, applies to this.[10]

At the same time, this facilitates the development of “archetype” blogs. Their relevance has been described by the gab_log blog.[11]

But we do not want to focus exclusively on blogs: a central aim in the world of DH is to facilitate the co-existence of different types of media. Closely linked to this is the principle of focusing on the evaluation of content, regardless of the medium (MinusEinsEbene)[12]. Therefore, not only the spectrum of commonly accepted media and text genres has to be broadened: the characteristics of individual types of media also need to be taken into account.[13]

Finally, we would like to propose two brief recommendations to granting agencies. They are more of a visionary nature, but nonetheless important:
A significant criterion for evaluation is to ask how academics contribute to a legitimization of science in society. This is a question which affects granting agencies themselves, whereas individual academics have so far not been forced to deal with this issue. Online activities are of great significance in terms of legitimization.[14]

And finally: the aspect of „Experimentation and Risk-Taking“[15] (Presner) is crucial for the evaluation of DH projects. Practically all of these projects are at the head of a movement which is subject to incredibly rapid change. Risk is a constant theme in the field of Digital Humanities.

1.2 Recommendations to (Young) Academics
We are convinced that demanding a change of regulations alone will not solve the problem, which is why we are also deliberately addressing young academics. We ourselves have a choice: we can either lay new foundations or consolidate old structures.

A quote from the MLA guidelines: “Ask about Evaluation and Support: When candidates for faculty positions first negotiate the terms of their jobs, they should ask how credit for digital work will be considered in terms of teaching, research, and service in the reappointment, tenure, and promotion processes”.[16] We therefore advise you to inform yourself!

One of the most important recommendations is our second one: have the courage to change your opinions. This means not to be afraid of revising or modifying a view you might express online, even more since the internet offers you the means to communicate with others (tekninen historia).[17]

Our third piece of advice refers to two forms of courage (RKB blog)[18]:

  • First: it is important to mention whatever form of content you have created in the digital world (see above) when writing your own applications/funding proposals. This is often neglected, in fear of the assumed views of the reviewers (see 1.0 Situation).
  • Second: have the courage to dismiss the possibility of publishing your texts, including important ones, in (supposedly) renowned print media, and choose open access or even fluid text formats instead.

Closely linked to this is the explicit demand that the EU put the re-publication rights into effect by law, so that authors may be provided with the necessary security to make use of green open access models.

Work together and structure your cooperative work: “(…) authors should indicate the roles that they played (and time commitments) at each phase of the project development” is what Todd Presner has (rightly) advised.[19] It should be clear who has contributed which type of work to a joint project, since this facilitates the process of evaluation. This includes work on the respective “environment”, i.e. the structure of a database or the features of a website.

2. Quality Control 
2.0 Situation
Peer review procedures carried out by traditional journals before publication are regarded as an academic standard. Concepts moving towards open peer review procedures are viewed (with much sympathetic skepticism) as outsider approaches.[20]

A quote from the blog carnival: “The assumption that printed books are worth more than digital books can not be confirmed in any debate. Which does not change that this is the way it is seen” [„Die Wertung, dass gedruckte Bücher mehr wert seien als digitale, hält keiner Debatte stand. Was nichts daran ändert, dass es so gesehen wird“] (MinusEinsEbene).[21] Because of this, quality control in the digital world is considerably complicated: due to the fact that traditional publishing formats (journals, monographs) are usually more accepted, the better works are mostly still published the traditional way.

This skepticism, in its radical form, refers to new forms outside the common text format, i.e. videos, dynamic bibliographies, databases, podcasts and so forth. This is because the traditional procedures of quality control applied in print media do (or can) not apply in the digital world, except in the case of monographs or journals published online.

Digital forms of publishing are typically more and more independent of former hierarchies (“Ent-Hierarchisierung”, one of key words taken up by the blog carnival, DHIP blog)[22], which is often considered a danger to academic quality standards – based upon the assumption that a professor’s opinions are irrevocably more significant than the views of a young academic.
It is evident that particularly in the German-speaking academic world, traditional peer reviewing is seen as the best method to ensure quality control. Believing in neutral entities as a crucial method of filtering is a common phenomenon (RKB blog).[23] However, editors (especially those of smaller journals) make decisions based upon criteria which are not transparent (see also the comment of K. Graf, editorial blog of de.hypotheses).[24]

As a result, we are confronted with two basic questions:

  • Are there more advantages to digital publishing and new forms of publication than there are to (often ineffective) peer review procedures taking place prior to publishing?
  • How can quality control be carried out in genuinely digital environments?

Another quote by Todd Presner: “Peer review can happen formally through letters of solicitation but also be assessed through online forums, citations and discussions in scholarly venues, grants received from foundations and other sources of funding, and public presentations of the project at conferences and symposia”.[25]

2.1 Recommendations to Editors Using Traditional Formats
We will limit ourselves to three recommendations. The first one refers to another key word in the DHIP blog, namely “acceleration” [“Beschleunigung”][26]. The element of acceleration in the digital world is often seen as something negative. However, several aspects are indeed useful when it comes to quality improvement: for instance, the possibility of exchanging information with colleagues who work far away, or with people one did not even know before. Therefore, we recommend encouraging your authors to become active prior to the release of traditional publications, e.g. through blogging.
Be visible in social media, in order to not “lose” the interest of young academics.

Setting up an online archive: Depending on the copyright situation, discuss this point with the publisher involved, in order to avoid moving walls or to keep these as short as possible.

2.2 Recommendations to online editors
To begin with, one should reflect on whether it is advisable to transfer editorial restrictions applying to print media into the online world. The thinking behind this is linked to the illusion that texts are “fixed” (which does not do justice to the potential of online publishing). It is also influenced by the illusion that a text can either be “valuable” or “of no value” (and therefore not publishable, RKB blog).[27]

In order to counteract this basic skepticism towards online formats, more environments specifically designed for scientific use should be introduced. With regard to blogs, for example, this applies to hypotheses.org (RKB blog).[28]

Experiment! Try, for instance, to combine text, images, videos and social media. Develop concepts based upon the idea of the “prosumer”, or explore new forms of quality control such as open peer review (for example, Historyblogosphere, see above). For this, you will need to employ at least one staff member who enjoys digital technology and has the basic know how.
In a comment left in the RKB blog[29], the following steps for online publishing have been suggested (H. Hartmann): Evaluation, online publication, commenting, and finally the possibility to react to comments or even republish the text in a modified version. In our opinion, this is a suitable transition model. It includes pre-publication filtering methods applied in print media, taking into account that an extensive post-publication filtering process may not take place if not enough scientists become involved (through comments, tweets etc.). These post-publication processes will ideally allow high-quality content to become more visible, following the idea of “publish first, filter later”.[30]

It is also important to make use of the added value of electronic publishing, i.e. posting links, including non-textual elements, the effective use of metadata, long-time archival storage, URNs or the optimization of search engines and so forth.
With innovative formats, it is important to regularly ask users to provide feedback, in order to improve user rates and/or satisfaction (“mind the gap(s)”, in the case of digitized content).[31]

2.3 Recommendations to (Young) Academics
Collaborative writing is just as important for quality as it is for evaluation: explore some of the tools mentioned, don’t write “behind closed doors” and make sure you choose your companions wisely. In the early stages of an academic career everyone has different degrees of experience and this is likely to improve the quality of the work, this also makes use of the benefits of the digital world (such as multimedia / communicativity). You will also prevent yourself from merely transferring elements of print culture into the internet.

Make experiences of your own! Anne Baillot, who runs the blog Digital Intellectuals[32], has for instance stated that writing a blog has not just been useful for documenting her research, but has actually helped her move forward in terms of productivity. That can be seen as an increase in quality

  • “reaching outward “ (e.g. connecting with other academics worldwide)
  • “on the inside”, i.e. the structuring of ideas, the elaboration of concepts through blogging as an activity prior to writing the actual text.

The basic attitude of seeing online activities as merely “additional work” (e.g. comments in the RKB blog)[33], should be dismissed. Somebody asked who would actually read all of the blog posts, and who would possibly spend entire nights commenting on what other people had produced. Our answer to that question would be that all of this helps filtering content and saving time, and it “only” means more work in a phase of transition, as long as two different systems are operating next to each other, for example in the case of traditional reviewing and online commenting. The individual is not alone with these filtering processes: communities develop fast, which is something one can easily experience by creating a Twitter account. It is surprising how much more (valueable) information is circulated whilst everyone is saving time.

2.4 Recommendations to Granting Agencies
If applied for in the context of DH projects, make funds available for academic communication in blogs and social media.
Whilst it is not advisable to support projects “replicating editorial structures”, one should invest in research and tools regarding search engines and metadata, in order to facilitate the findability, contextualization and evaluation of texts online. The basic principle behind this is publish first, filter later (see above), and also the realization that there is virtually unlimited space online, so that even the weakest texts can provide scientists with at least some new information (RKB blog)[34].

Investing in long-time archival storage is a prerequisite for quality control in the field of academic publishing (RKB blog)[35].
It is furthermore important to support DH projects with regard to interdisciplinarity (another point mentioned in the DHIP blog[36]), since this would also result in a (long-overdue) increase in quality.

During the evaluation of applications, peer reviewed publications should not be the only ones to be considered. Instead, other academic achievements should also be taken into account.

We would like to conclude our thoughts on quality control with a further quote:
“Texts published online [implication: without traditional peer reviewing] should be approached critically and read carefully. This includes taking a look at the references provided by the author, as well as looking out for messages between the lines. But is that not how we should read any text, regardless of whether it has been released in print or on screen? Is it that the internet poses such as risk, or is it maybe that because it is new, we are merely reflecting on our methodology in general?” [„Bei den Texten im Internet [impliziert: solche ohne redaktionelle Qualitätskontrolle] sollen wir besondere Sorgfalt walten lassen, sie kritisch lesen und zum einen die Belege des Autors überprüfen und zum anderen nach eventuellen versteckten Botschaften suchen. Aber ist das nicht, wie wir jeden Text, gedruckt oder am Monitor, lesen sollten? Ist das Internet jetzt besonders gefährlich oder besinnen wir uns nur durch das Neue wieder auf die kritische Methode?“] (Criticalbits)[37]

3. Conclusion

We now look forward to a lively discussion, possibly about the limits of evaluation, for everything we have mentioned is only applicable to a certain extent in some areas, such as micro-blogging:
Is a Tweet ultimately, as suggested in a comment on the RKB blog[38], to be regarded as similar to a statement made at a conference, which itself is just an informal way of taking part in academic communication?

We would like to conclude our presentation with one last quote taken from the many rich contributions to the blog carnival:
“I think that interaction through blogging, Facebook, Twitter etc. will, in the next years (I will avoid the use of the term “decades” in a day and age that moves so fast), not replace the traditional ways we publish and communicate, but will rather represent a further, additional form.” [„Ich denke, das Interagieren durch Bloggen, Facebook, Twitter, etc. wird in den nächsten Jahren (mit “Jahrzehnten” bin ich in dieser schnelllebigen Zeit vorsichtig) nicht das Publizieren und Vernetzen in den herkömmlichen Weisen ersetzen, sondern nur eine weitere, parallele Form darstellen“] (tekninen historia)[39]. If so, it is even more important that we start thinking about this new co-existence now, and then find appropriate methods of evaluation and quality control.


[1] Petra Tabarelli, http://tektoria.de/du-schreibst-in-einem-blog-meinst-du-ernsthaft-dass-das-jemand-liest-und-interessiert-ein-beitrag-fur-dhiha5/ (tekninen historia); Charlotte Jahnz, http://gab.hypotheses.org/684 (gab_log-Blog); Philipp Nordmeyer, http://www.criticalbits.org/2013/04/25/blogs-bucher-und-das-werkzeug-des-historikers/ (Criticalbits).

[2] Moritz Hoffmann, http://www.hellojed.de/wp/?p=453 (hellojed.). See also Sebastian Gießmann, https://datanetworks.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/digital-humanities-und-medienkulturwissenschaft-dhiha5/ (Daten und Netzwerke).

[3] Lilian Landes, http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498 (RKB blog).

[4] http://www.mla.org/guidelines_evaluation_digital.

[5] Christof Schöch, http://dhd-blog.org/?p=1487 (dhd blog).

[6] http://idhmc.tamu.edu/commentpress/digital-scholarship/.

[7] http://cdrh.unl.edu/articles/promotion_and_tenure.php.

[8] Moritz Hoffmann, http://www.hellojed.de/wp/?p=453 (hellojed.).

[9] See for instance the video project Kibyratis, initiated by Oliver Hülden http://www.lisa.gerda-henkel-stiftung.de/content.php?nav_id=1931

[10] Sabine Scherz, http://redaktionsblog.hypotheses.org/1209 (Editorial blog of de.hypotheses).

[11] Charlotte Jahnz, http://gab.hypotheses.org/684 (gab_log-Blog).

[12] Maxi Maria Platz, http://minuseinsebene.hypotheses.org/482 (MinusEinsEbene).

[13] The already mentioned MLA guidelines refer to this as „Respect Medium Specificity When Reviewing Work“, see also http://www.mla.org/guidelines_evaluation_digital.

[14] The topic was also raised by R. Schreg in the comments of the editorial blog of de.hypotheses, http://redaktionsblog.hypotheses.org/1209.

[15] See, once more, Todd Presner, http://idhmc.tamu.edu/commentpress/digital-scholarship/.

[16] http://www.mla.org/guidelines_evaluation_digital.

[17] Petra Tabarelli, http://tektoria.de/du-schreibst-in-einem-blog-meinst-du-ernsthaft-dass-das-jemand-liest-und-interessiert-ein-beitrag-fur-dhiha5/ (tekninen historia).

[18] Lilian Landes, http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498 (RKB-Blog).

[19] http://idhmc.tamu.edu/commentpress/digital-scholarship/.

[20] See for ex. http://historyblogosphere.org/ (Oldenbourg) or the Art History Open Peer Reviewed Journal http://www.kunstgeschichte-ejournal.net/.

[21] Maxi Maria Platz, http://minuseinsebene.hypotheses.org/482 (MinusEinsEbene).

[22] Marten Düring, http://dhdhi.hypotheses.org/1615 (DHIP Blog).

[23] Lilian Landes, http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498 (RKB-Blog).

[24] Sabine Scherz, http://redaktionsblog.hypotheses.org/1209] (Redaktionsblog de.hypotheses).

[25] http://idhmc.tamu.edu/commentpress/digital-scholarship/.

[26] Marten Düring, http://dhdhi.hypotheses.org/1615 (DHIP Blog).

[27] Lilian Landes, http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498 (RKB-Blog).

[28] Lilian Landes, http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498 (RKB-Blog).

[29] http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498 (RKB-Blog).

[30] See, for example, David Gauntlett (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/07/10/publish-then-filter-research/) or Hubertus Kohle (http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/34/34434/1.html). The phrase was coined by Clay Shirky (2008): “Here Comes Everybody. The Power of Organizing Without Organizations”.

[31] Monika Lehner, http://mindthegaps.hypotheses.org/564 (mind the gap(s)).

[32] Anne Baillot, http://digitalintellectuals.hypotheses.org/1165 (Digital Intellectuals).

[33] http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498.

[34] Lilian Landes, http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498 (RKB-Blog).

[35] Lilian Landes, http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498 (RKB-Blog).

[36] Marten Düring, http://dhdhi.hypotheses.org/1615 (DHIP-Blog).

[37] Philipp Nordmeyer, http://www.criticalbits.org/2013/04/25/blogs-bucher-und-das-werkzeug-des-historikers/ (Criticalbits).

[38] Mareike König in the comments of http://rkb.hypotheses.org/498 (RKB-Blog).

[39] Petra Tabarelli in the comments of http://tektoria.de/du-schreibst-in-einem-blog-meinst-du-ernsthaft-dass-das-jemand-liest-und-interessiert-ein-beitrag-fur-dhiha5/ (tekninen historia).

PDF-Datei downloaden (116.24 KB)

#dhiha5 Panel IV: Career, Financing and the Academic Recognition of Achievements in the Digital Humanities

4 juin 2013Par Anne Baillot

Working group: Anne Baillot (Humboldt University, Berlin), Natalia Filatkina (University of Trier), Anika Meier (artefakt)

Topic of the panel

This panel was devoted to career, funding and academic recognition of achievements in the Digital Humanities. After harvesting requirements and ideas in the blog carnival #dhiha5, we identified three main areas on which to focus our analysis and our propositions: recognition of persons, recognition of performances, and early career as a long term career perspective. We introduce to these three parts with two paragraphs, the first one reflecting the general framework in which these questions were considered in the blog carnival, and the second being a general remark regarding the definition of “early career”.

Defining DH – in the German-French context

Trying to formulate answers to the question underlying the panel (“How can a young researcher construct a DH career?”) means, in many of the contributions to #dhiha5, facing more or less frontally the question whether DH should be a discipline or not.  In the following summary, we focus on career, funding and academic recognition in themselves, but the reader should bear in mind that the suggestions formulated here are to be read in the wider context of a debate on the institutional nature of DH.

The situation addressed by the blog contributions to #dhiha5 as well as the situation we who prepared the panel know best is the one in France and Germany. Our argumentation and propositions are formulated mainly for both or either of these academic systems. A comparison with the situation in other countries would be a useful addition to what we present here.

Defining early career: Nachwuchs, junior, post-doc and pre-what?
There is no English or French equivalent to the German term wissenschaftlicher Nachwuchs. Graduates who aspire to an academic career (post-docs) or just work on their PhD thesis are called early career researchers or junior staff in English and jeunes chercheurs or statut junior in French. The title of the conference avoids language barriers and therefore simply addresses the next generation. An appropriate translation of the term wissenschaftlicher Nachwuchs in English would be offspring or maybe new blood, but those two words do not involve the connotation that the German Nachwuchs does. The German –wuchs implies that something has grown or is growing, and the noun itself is generally used when talking about offspring. The German Ministry of Education recently published its Federal report wissenschaftlicher Nachwuchs 2013 which confirms that the term is officially established. But the report mainly stresses out the fact that young academics are highly dependent on various persons and factors like their supervisor and fixed term contracts (9 out of 10 research assistants have a fixed term contract, as shown here).

Although long-term positions exist in France, there are not so many of them in regard to the amount of PhDs and to the lack of a job market for PhDs outside Academia, especially in the Humanities. As a result, those positions, coveted by all of those who aspire to an academic career, are not sufficient to absorb the flux of candidates: the “stack” of PhDs awaiting their turn to get hold of one of those positions has become so thick that the hiring is highly competitive – and highly dependent on influence networks of commission members. In the past ten years, unease has clearly increased among PhDs and PhD candidates together with the feeling that being supported by a member of the commission seems to play a bigger role than scholarly accomplishments. The lack of transparency as well as the lack of clearly scholarly criteria is a major issue in general, and for people engaging in DH in particular.

Recognition of persons
DH would not be DH if there were no “D”. In other words, defining academic recognition for early career researchers supposes to address the needs of both those that are by status researchers and those – equally necessary for DH to work – that are in charge of more technical aspects. The relationship between the two categories of personnel is a core problem of DH.
Although most of the suggestions formulated (cf. the next paragraphs) concern mainly early career researchers, the contributions to #dhiha5 unanimously plead for a better recognition not only of the DH researchers, but also for those that are involved in the technical implementation. There is a general wish to address the relationships between both in order to make them less hierarchical. A first way to improve the status of those that are more on the D’s side than on the H’s side would be to increase means of acknowledging their contribution, for instance by associating them more closely to publications and allow them to author results that can be recognized as a not merely of technical nature, but as a scholarly contribution. The word “ingénieur de recherche” signalizes in French the paradox of a research involvement not based on traditional academic achievements, but on engineering competence. In Germany, the technical personnel is allowed, in a typical digital project funded by the DFG, half a researcher’s funding. The status, the contribution, the career perspective of this personnel, which is essential to DH and just as much in the run for excellence as the researchers, should be addressed on a European level. This is also true for such careers as those of digital librarian or archivist.

A particularly inspirational contribution to #dhiha5 is the one of Marjorie Burghart (The Three Orders or DH imagined). She addresses this specific issue by stating the existence of a vicious circle:

“If a young humanities researcher starts getting involved in the creation of DH resources, and developing skills in this domain, there is a high probability that these DH skills will be called on before any others, since they are rarer, thus insidiously propelling this person towards a career path in what is known (with admirable optimism) as the “alternative academy”: as a technician, a digital librarian, etc.”

Recognition of performances
Recognition should also be achieved by giving a more explicit value to accomplishments or performances that are not being taken into account in the traditional framework of scholarly evaluation. This concerns a series of domains which are crucial to the progress of DH in all of their dimensions.

1) In the domain of IT: encoding, programming, developing software should be considered as part of the scholarly achievements of young researchers. This involves thinking about ways of including that type of work in dissertations for instance, which is, to this day, impossible in regard to the format in which humanities dissertations are dealt with administratively.

2) Online publications:
- contributions to databases or to wikis generally suppose a great time investment: gathering information, getting familiar with the format in which to feed the information, engaging in discussions (for instance in wikipedia) are activities that contribute greatly to sharing and extending knowledge. Evaluating this type of contribution is of course more difficult since the amount of time and effort put into it can vary greatly. A discussion should engage as how to formulate cautious and fair principles to recognize this type of contributions.

- Blogging and online reviews are publication activities that benefit from an institutional backup that is better recognized than for instance contributions to wikipedia. Such major platforms as hypotheses and recensio are recognized as scholarly publication organs . They are still used and read by a comparatively small group of researchers though, and are only recognized in disciplines in which professors themselves are involved in that type of publications. This should be made effective in the humanities at large, which supposes institutions like CNRS, ANR and DFG including them in evaluation criteria. There should be in that regard special consideration to those publications that are not being published in the author’s mother tongue, and especially to those scholars who make an effort to publish in English in order to reach a wider audience. It certainly would make no sense to plead for publishing exclusively in the scholarly lingua franca, but it does make sense to encourage young researchers to open up to other scholarly and linguistic areas by investing time in writing and publishing – and not the least, blogging – in English.

3) Activities in social media can be of scholarly nature when they contribute to a scientific dialogue and more generally to the dissemination of scientific information. Filtering information from RSS feeds to tweet the results is not a negligible part of scholarly activity in terms of time, energy and developing strategies to optimize the process. Young scholars that are particularly active in that domain play a key role for their institution in that they connect it with many potential cooperation partners. This type of activities should be recognized from the moment on when a benefit for the scholar’s institution or his/her research is obvious.

Recognizing these performances supposes to make them part of the evaluation criteria developed by funding agencies as well as by the universities when hiring younger faculty. Those should include a general guideline acknowledging the risk taken in engaging DH activity and reducing accordingly the expectations in other areas of an early scientist’s CV. Recognizing these performances also means reinforcing means of protecting them as such, involving to minimize plagiarism of methods as well as of results that often result from their not being taken for proper scholarly performances. Achieving a greater transparency is a key to reaching this goal. Project databases should be hosted centrally and in open access, in order for funding applicants to be able to know which projects have already been applied for and which have actually been funded. Consequently, presenting and sharing research results in new social media requires not only new forms of recognition but also new attitudes towards authorship.

As Marjorie Burghart puts it in the course of the vivid discussion that took place in the french DH-mailing list, “DH are useful to many fields, but necessary to none”. This statement shows how fragile the recognition of single scholarly achievements is: there is no all-over understanding of the input of DH methodology, tools, performances in the humanities in general. Most of it is left to the dynamic of the disciplines and their community. The gap between the situation in disciplines like History or Classics on the one hand and modern philologies on the other is obvious – and too wide to be dealt with with the same control levers.

Each discipline should confront the question of the return on investment according to its singular situation: how can we recognize the risk taken by young scholars in engaging DH activities? That is only possible by redefining career paths.

Early career and long term career perspectives
The problems concerning early career and long term career perspectives are not restricted to the situation of young researchers in DH only, but due to the current state of the art in DH, they show a dangerous tendency to become particularly acute or typical for DH.

To have an early career start means to have an opportunity to begin and carry out a high quality research of one’s own interest, without any supervision from “older and more experienced” colleagues. It also means to be put in a leading and responsible position, for example as a PI or a group leader. In various European countries as well as at the common European level, funding resources were put forward to create exactly such opportunities for researchers in the post-doc-phase. In the framework of ongoing “initiatives of excellence” throughout Europe, it became possible to start a career already at the level of a PhD project by virtue of being integrated in a high profile interdisciplinary and international scientific environment.
Obviously, all these developments are welcome and should be carried out in future as well, integrating those researchers who so far have a status of “non-scientific faculty staff”.

However, creating opportunities for an early career start does not provide any long term perspective, even for excellent and successful young scientists. This is mostly due to:
1) the temporarily or even short term nature of project funding,
2) the unclear status of “funding ID and experience” by comparison to other career requirements in the humanities (monograph, “habilitation”)
3) the lack of clear evaluation standards and standardized requirements (German “Zielvereinbarungen”)
4) the lack of alternative long-term perspectives (other than professorship; at least in Germany)

Ad 1) Carrying out research in DH nowadays is almost exclusively possible with the help of short term project funding. For DH, this situation can be particularly obstructive. Initiatives diverted towards long term financing in the areas of preservation of cultural heritage, development of research infrastructures, digital archives and corpora remain rare both at national and international (European) level. In contrast, the amount of temporary positions financed by virtue of limited project funding is growing. Fig. 1 documents this development for Germany and both for science and humanities (cf. in particular the last column). With regard to the importance of such tasks for modern societies, their implementation cannot be only the matter of temporary project financing.

The growing number of temporary project positions is presented in “Forschung und Lehre” 4/2008, 225. For the French situation of non permanent personnel in 2010, see here, for the general situation of research personnel in 2009, see here.

Ad 2) Humanities remain a “book oriented” scientific culture. To have been granted several awards and/or project financing, even in a highly competitive international context (such as in DH), appears not to be treated as an equal qualification as having written a second monograph. Current job announcements of permanent positions at the level of assistant or full professor do not include the status “PI/research group leader” as an equal qualification to for example “Juniorprofessur”. In France, it is administratively impossible to apply for such positions as Directeur de Recherche or Professeur des Universités without having successfully submitted a “habilitation”.

Ad 3) What achievements meet the qualification criteria is often a subject of interpretation of a given university. Making a career in DH means to write an application for a short-term project while finishing an ongoing short-term project. How many project applications have to be written in order to be qualified for a long-term position? At what level do you have to apply: university research funds, national research councils, European institutions? How many projects have to be approved? Is “funding ID and experience” a qualification and evaluation criterion at all? Or is it rather a published monograph? If you have to deliver both – a monograph and a funding ID – in what proportion do both evaluation criteria stand to each other? These are questions that often remain unanswered (and sometimes also not asked) at the early stages of a career in humanities (including DH). Clear guidelines are essential for successful career paths.

Ad 4) At least in some European countries, a long term perspective is only possible as a full professor via “habilitation”. As Fig. 2 forecasts for Germany, for three “habilitations” there will be on average only one “professor emeritus” and consequently one potential vacancy. The figure does not include any data from DH illustrating indirectly the status quo and all the problems with recognition of DH even after over 50 years of their existence. But Fig. 2 also raises the question if DH cannot be considered predestinated for the creation of new long term career possibilities (in addition to full professor) due to their non-traditional ways and methods of conducting research. (the number of “habilitation” vs. “professorus emeritus” for 2010 in presented in “Forschung und Lehre” 5/2013, 377).

In the French constellation, guaranteeing long-term perspectives would mean either creating dedicated sections of CNU and CNRS (and by that, recognizing DH as a discipline) or at the very least steering job descriptions towards explicitly digital profiles. This involves the conjunction of a strong will from the University itself, from the concerned disciplinary community and from the CNU or the CNRS to validate these types of profiles.

Be it in France or, for that matter, in Germany, this conjunction is certainly more likely to be realized if the dedicated Ministries explicitly encourage the creation of DH profiles for long-term positions, either as a dedicated disciplinary branch, or as a transversal support to the Humanities at large.

PDF-Datei downloaden (138.67 KB)

Kommentar erstellen