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Exploring new horizons: highlights of the Humanities, Arts and Culture Data Summit

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Carina Kemp speaking at the HAC Data Summit 2019 Reception

In late March the ‘Humanities, Arts and Culture Data Summit’ and the DARIAH Beyond Europe workshop joined forces for a three-day conference at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

An Australia-Europe knowledge exchange, it was convened by the Australian Academy of the Humanities along with the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) and the European Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities initiative (DARIAH), to explore new horizons for data-driven humanities and arts research, digital cultural collections and research infrastructure.

AARNet joined the discussions with colleagues from humanities faculties across Australia, galleries, libraries, archives and museums representatives, the ARDC Skills & Workforce team and others who gathered to discuss the future of data-intensive research and digital transformation in the cultural sector.

Recently, the Australian Department of Education committed to a two-year scoping study to explore improved integration of information in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) and Indigenous research data platforms for future infrastructure development. This created the context for much of the discussion throughout the conference – how to leverage existing activity and foresee the future requirements of the sector.

Dr James Rose from the University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Studies Unit opened the first panel session on transformations. He expressed the urgent need for an Integrated National Governance Framework for indigenous data through indigenous controlled organisations.

Big challenges ahead

Throughout the conference panel presentations resulted in broad-ranging discussions regarding the big challenges ahead, including the urgent need for sustainable models in data-driven research, data sovereignty for indigenous people and the role of the humanities in the critical examination of technology.

Professor Jennifer Edmonds from DARIAH highlighted some of the differences in the way the humanities have approached research infrastructure in Europe (as opposed to the sciences), such as a high percentage of in-kind contributions, with more diversity and quantity of partner organisations. This offers strength but also complexity in providing the connective structure to the sector.

She highlighted how the Open Science movement has not extended fully into the HASS realm, and that more examination of open and Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable (FAIR) HASS data is required to bridge this gap.

Integral to the future of humanities research is a skilled workforce. During a roundtable discussion facilitated by Ingrid Mason from AARNet, there was a call for more energy directed towards understanding the specific skills of humanities graduates and where they are desirable in the economy, as well as a plan for better integration of digital skills right across the spectrum of the university experience, not just at the postgraduate stage.

Collections are infrastructure

The challenge of collaboration in creating common research infrastructure was central to the discussion of ‘Big Ideas’, a moment for the conference attendees to dream of new ways of working together. Better connections between the material used and the knowledge produced as a result would contribute to a clearer value proposition for collections. As Director-General of the National Library of Australia, Marie-Louise Ayres, said: ‘Collections are infrastructure!’.

Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAMs) make up an integral part of the HASS research landscape, with AARNet providing the network underpinning connecting universities and heritage institutions. As a collective, the GLAMs need to better understand research discovery, access needs, large scale computing resources, and how to incorporate ethical design and ethical technologies into platforms and services that meet the needs of both universities and GLAM partners.

Author: Dr Sara King, eResearch Analyst at AARNet 


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