Digital Humanities and (a more) Open Science

state-of-dhDigital evolutions are increasingly affecting humanities research and education particularly since the final quarter of the twentieth century. Online resources, data sets, electronic teaching environments, open access publishing, data visualisation and data capturing have become ubiquitous.

In this context, the KU Leuven Faculty of Arts decided to organize a digital humanities summer school last week in Leuven (Belgium). The event was a great opportunity to learn more of all the transformations (and the lack of it, in some cases) that are currently taking place in the academic world.

The buzzword  was ‘open’ (i.e. o-science, o-education, o-learning, o-resources, etc.), as Erik Duval suggested there is also room for other areas of openness such as ‘open accreditation’, something that we would like to see more ubiquitous.

Here you will find my presentation also discussing about openness in academia (the video of the lecture might be published soon-ish). The subject of my presentation was Open Publication and Authority 3.0 (enlighten by Michael Jensen works).

Summary: Digital Identity is the virtual reflection of how data referring to a person are created, managed, verified and used by themselves and/or others (individuals, businesses or government) in life and death (EPSRC, 2013). Despite having such a ‘digital identity,’ academics and their research outcomes and impacts are more usually assessed using bibliometric techniques (H-index, data citation, journal impacts, etc.).

A number of initiatives have highlighted the importance of recognizing different and equally effective means of assessing academic outcomes (i.e. ACUMEN, WISER, EICSTES). For instance, the EU research framework ‘Horizon 2020’ and the 1st EU Digital Humanities Manifesto (2011), are clear examples, the latter stating: “The diversity of digital media and publication genres need to be accepted as genuine means of scientific communication”, including “ repositories, publication platforms, social media networks and blogging”, where “Peer-reviewed texts in print journals can no longer be the only publications to be considered in application and proposal procedures”. Terras (2012) adds that academics need to work on their digital presence to aid the dissemination of their research, to both their subject peers and the wider community.

Assessment of the performance of individual researchers is the cornerstone of the scientific and scholarly workforce. It shapes the quality and relevance of knowledge production in science. However, there is a discrepancy between the criteria used in performance assessment and the broader social function of scholarly research (Wouters, 2010). Peer review and citation counting measures are useful but not sufficient anymore (Priem et al, 2010). It is therefore necessary to design a comprehensive set of “citation data” that simplifies and stimulates the recognition of academic contributions in the digital world (i.e. measuring social engagement, web base indicators, digital outreach).


Many thanks to Dr. Fred Truyen (Research Unit Cultural Studies, KU Leuven) for organizing this summer school as well as for inviting me there.

(*)The image posted at the top of this blog was borrowed from Northeastern University.