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“How many lifetimes?” The experience of the Digging into Data Challenge projects

“How many lifetimes?” was the recurrent question that the authors of the One Culture report kept on coming up against in their investigations of the work of the first round of projects that took part in the Digging into Data Challenge.

The projects were all founded on a high degree of international collaborations and set off to analyse and extrapolate patters of meaning from huge data sets, including tens of thousands of audio files, trail transcripts, spoken word, and hundreds of thousands of primary and secondary text sources.

The programme was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) with the support of partners such as JISC in the UK, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in Canada, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US.

The report offers a number of “urgent, pointed, and even disruptive” recommendations that highlight how the digital research landscape is changing and how institutions and research activity should adapt to support these new emerging practices.

The top 5 recommendations are:

1 Expand our concept of research and what expertise is required for computationally intense research projects (eg domain (or subject), expertise, analytical expertise, data expertise, and project management expertise.)

2 Expand our concept of research data and accept the challenges that digital research data present, both in terms of how much data is used in research and how much is produced, and the need to look after it.

3. Embrace interdisciplinarity and work across academic communities and
traditionally bounded fields.

4. Take a more inclusive approach to collaboration and work outside own academic departments and institutions by involving library, information technology (IT), and other academic staff; graduate and postdoctoral fellows; undergraduates; and even citizen scholars.

5. Address major gaps in training for faculty, staff, and students through training programmes that correlate sound methodological strategies with appropriate new technologies.

JISC is also involved in phase 2 of the Digging into Data Challenge which has funded 14 projects, currently running.

By Paola Marchionni

I work as Digitisation Programme Manager at JISC and am responsible, together with my colleague Alastair Dunning, for the successful delivery of a portfolio of projects that have been funded under the JISC Phase 2 Digitisation programme spanning 2007-2009. In addition, I lead on programme evaluation and programme support activities such as workshops and events, and work closely with the Communications and Marketing team.

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