Personally, I find the green/gold debate rather limiting, as it imagines a future where the formats and pathways for sharing research map on to what we have had for many decades now. But researchers are actively pursuing completely new routes for sharing their findings and knowledge, not all of which fall into the remit of the traditional publishing paradigms.
Dr. Jennifer Edmond is Co-Director of Trinity Centre for Digital Humanities at Trinity College Dublin. She represents Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH) in Open Science Policy Platform, high-level advisory group established by the European Commision. Her primary focus in research is on the impact of technology on humanities research.
On May 27th the European Commission established the Open Science Policy Platform, an expert group that will “provide advice about the development and implementation of open science policy in Europe”. You represent Digital Research Infrastructure for Arts and Humanities (DARIAH) in the group. Could you please tell us what goals you wish to achieve in the OSPP?
I believe that making science more open will bring great benefits, for researchers, for industry, and for society as a whole. At the same time, I am very concerned that our understanding of what ‘open science’ means is being developed very much from a STEM perspective. The arts and humanities have much to offer as well, but these disciplines start out from a very different baseline, with our ‘raw’ data (to the extent you can call it that at all) often held by cultural heritage institutions, and our strong traditions of sustained argumentation and individual research leading to different types of results. To be truly a success, open science must encompass these practices as well as those of ‘hard’ sciences. In this, DARIAH can be a strong facilitator, so it is my primary goal to represent the humanists’ traditions on the platform and find ways in which DARIAH can support more openness without discounting or underestimating the strength of the humanistic suite of epistemic strategies.
According to the Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science, two pan-European goals should be achieved by 2020: full OA for all scientific publications and a fundamentally new approach towards the reuse of research data. Will the OSPP be engaged in finding a way to do this?
Yes, these are two of the major items on the OSPP agenda. But the OSPP is also very mindful that embedding these policies into the research cultures of Europe will require wider systemic change. The OSPP is therefore also tasked to envision structures to support the ‘downstream’ issues that will inevitably arise from greater openness, such as new skills requirements, integration of citizen science, new ways to evaluate scientific production and research integrity in a shifting landscape, to give just a few examples: all of these issues are tightly intertwined with how, when and where we share research results.
The Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science omits the Green Route of OA. Do you think the balance between green and gold OA is possible? How can we achieve it?
I think it is inevitable that we will have to have a multifacted approach to ensuring wide access to research results – the publishing ecosystem is already too diverse and too broad and it is growing and changing all of the time. Personally, I find the green/gold debate rather limiting, as it imagines a future where the formats and pathways for sharing research map on to what we have had for many decades now. But researchers are actively pursuing completely new routes for sharing their findings and knowledge, not all of which fall into the remit of the traditional publishing paradigms. I think in time we will move beyond the green and gold duality to more of a rainbow, with researchers having a greater choice of options suitable to different types of outputs, and our understanding of the real utility of the instruments we currently have to facilitate open access, from open repositories to APCs, will become focussed.
Do you think that OA policy will remain within a competence of EU member states or will the EU harmonize this area through regulations or directives?
Horizon2020 has long been a major influencer for national research policy development, but it is important to remember that H2020 policy is developed via a political process involving expertise and experiences from the member states. I would foresee a continuation of this trend toward harmonization between European and national policies, but always one that develops as a balance between bottom up input and top down incentives.
DARIAH is a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) developing an infrastructure for digital humanities. How can researchers across Europe participate in this endeavour?
DARIAH is a large and vibrant community, which is continuously growing and launching new initiatives. Countries that are already DARIAH members will have a national committee or organizing structure – researchers who want to get involved in DARIAH would be able to connect there, learn more about what DARIAH does and how it supports research and ultimately get involved. If a country is not a DARIAH member, then the DARIAH central offices can advise as to how to lobby for your country to join or to point toward the open services available to all.
Digital humanists often declare that openness is an important value for them. What are the benefits of openness in the digital humanities?
First of all, the fact that our methods and sources can become quite intertwined in the digital humanities makes us more aware of how important it is that data move fluidly. A traditional research project can be based on records locked away and virtually hidden in an archive, but a digital one cannot. Second, the investments we make in our projects and the platforms we offer them on are such that we must look for them to become sustainable. Sustainability means many things to many people, but to me it is primarily about reuse, which is in turn about openness – in terms of technical standards, rights, adaptability, knowledge organization, and on a host of other planes. Finally, digital humanists often work in a more public space, certainly one that interacts with other disciplines, and very often one where research is made directly accessible to the public. This openness has become a fairly widely accepted part of what digital humanities is, for the richness it brings and the impact it facilitates.
The issue of Text-and-Data Mining is intensely discussed on EU level at present. What regulations are desirable from an open science and digital humanities point of view?
At this point I would settle for transparency: the biggest barrier at the moment is more that the situation is so unclear than that there are specific barriers. If we can first establish what the conditions are underlying the right to mine, how we might actually be 100% sure where we stand with a given data set or approach, then we could start to build from this baseline in a balanced and responsible way. Once this is accomplished, we will need more good quality content to become openly available, which I think would become a fast emerging infrastructural space as soon as a clearer rights environment became established.
How deep is the “digital turn” in the humanities? Does it change the principles of research?
In some ways the digital turn is deeper than we care to admit: very few scholars would work today without using tools like JSTOR or keeping hybrid notes and records of their research. But much of the answer to this question depends on what you expect of the digital. For some it is transforming their work utterly – this is still a minority, however, and like any methodological approach, I would never expect this deep adoption of digital tools to be something everyone does, just something that everyone appreciates the place of. The nature of the available tools complicates my response to this question as well. Currently, many digital tools are being adapted from outside of the humanities research ecosystem. This works for some, but in many cases, these tools do not take the deep practices of humanities research into account. So I think the digital turn is yet to reach its full potential for the humanities, and will incompletely realised until we create research environments that truly encompass the deeply engrained, embodied and serendipitous aspects of humanities research.
What chances do you see for broader cooperation between humanities researchers and STEM researchers in the digital environment? Which tools from the open science toolkit could stimulate such cooperation?
For me, the excitement of digital humanities stems from the way it offers a translational approach to humanities research, bringing an applied edge to what is generally very basic research, allowing that work to interface with other users, disciplines and perspectives. If we can find more effective ways to share and validate knowledge in ‘real time,’ then this potential will grow. Open data will be a key driver for this, but not on its own. More important will be, for example, developing a capacity in Europe to recognize new professional pathways in between those of the librarian, the researcher and the technician. We need these hybrid people, they are the bridges that create dialogue and bring disciplines together. There are good people moving in to these spaces in an ad hoc way, but there aren’t enough of them, and they often face artificial barriers to their mobility between expertise spaces and into positions of authority. If we can better optimise the overall system to allow for such intermediaries to be effective, then cooperation will grow significantly.
- Michał Starczewski