An opportunity to shape the AHRC's policy on software and data

 AHRC logoCollecting, storing and reusing data are essential practices for researchers across disciplines. The Arts and Humanities Research Council wants to make sure that its policies and practices on data and the software used to extract, manipulate and store it, are fit for purpose now and in the future.

If you would like to take part in this study, please leave your details in this form and we will be in touch with you.

The study is being conducted by Rebecca Taylor, Johanna Walker and Simon Hettrick.

Arts and humanities data are extraordinarily rich and diverse, encompassing both the data that are produced by researchers in the form of publications, surveys, interviews, websites and databases; and the data that researchers consult or draw upon, such as administrative, health and household data, industry archives, specimens and other material artefacts.  

However, the management of research data within the Arts and Humanities has particular challenges. Firstly – although they are together for the purposes of funding, there are huge differences between the arts and humanities in general, and the various disciplines. The spectrum ranges from the natively data-oriented digital humanities, such as computational archaeology, that is published in a traditional research format, to creative work that may be disseminated via exhibition or performance. The research organisations themselves may be galleries, museum or libraries (affiliated or unaffiliated to HE institutions), or organisations such as Nesta (The national endowment for science, technology and the arts).  

There are also challenges regarding existing practices within this area. While there are domain-specific data repositories (archaeology, languages & literature, and history), their coverage is partial and inconsistent. Holdings are dispersed and siloed, potentially in local, non-interoperable repositories and decaying facilities. Policies and protocols for managing digital assets may not be fully understood or followed. Consequently, as projects are completed, data sets, software and other assets are mothballed on individual PCs or in inaccessible institutional repositories.  

With the aim of establishing policies and practices to address these challenges, the Arts and Humanities Research Council have commissioned us to study researcher practices and skills in manipulating and managing digital assets and the extent of software and data loss in the community. 

Our core research questions are:  

  • What are the key practices and skills in digital data manipulation and digital asset management in the arts and humanities research community? 
  •  What are the barriers to, and acquisition requirements for, digital data manipulation and digital asset management skills in the arts and humanities research community? 
  • How do the practices, skills and language of digital data manipulation and managing digital assets differ between key sub-groups within the arts and humanities research community? 

Our first phase – mapping the arts and humanities communities that are eligible for AHRC funding – is now complete, and we are moving on to our second and third phases. These are a series of focus groups and an extensive survey.  

If you’re a researcher in the Arts and Humanities, this is an opportunity to participate in shaping future policy and direction for funding and support in these disciplines.  

How you can get involved:  

  • By participating in a focus group or survey you’ll help us develop a better understanding of current research practices; the location and extent of data and software loss, and the factors that drive it;

  • You’ll help us identify the gaps in training, skills and knowledge in data and software manipulation and management, so that appropriate provision can be made; 

  • You’ll help us make sure that AHRC are able to devise data policies and training provision that meet the needs and priorities of everyone who is eligible for and a beneficiary of their funding, not just the more digitally focused. 

We are interested to hear from everyone and anyone in the community, but especially if you identify as disabled, from an ethnic minority or are an early career researcher.  If you would like to take part, please complete this form and we will be in touch with you.

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