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Harrower, N., Grant, R. (2016). Digital Data Sharing: Opportunities and Challenges of Opening Research. In Digital Humanities 2016: Conference Abstracts. Jagiellonian University & Pedagogical University, Kraków, pp. 68-69.
Digital Data Sharing: Opportunities and Challenges of Opening Research

Digital Data Sharing: Opportunities and Challenges of Opening Research

The data generated in the course of digital humanities research is a valuable resource, with the potential to allow collaborative research and the enhancement of researcher profiles through its publication and re-use. Researchers in the sciences have a longer standing practice of sharing research data, although the pathways to making this data open, discoverable, and interoperable are still being explored. This panel aims to introduce researchers to concepts and best practices in research data management, and to explore the specific challenges and opportunities of research data publication for digital humanities.

Research data is defined as data from any academic discipline which is the subject or product of research. This data may be qualitative or quantitative in nature, and can include documents, spreadsheets, databases, field notebooks, diaries, AV material, transcripts, digital models, algorithms, code, scripts, software applications and other formats. The impetus for research data publication is often closely linked to the principle of Open Access which states that the outputs of publicly funded research should be made openly available and accessible for interrogation by other interested parties. Researchers may be compelled to publish their research data openly due to policies driven by their institution, funder or journal publisher. Currently, the onus is on the researcher to plan their data management and data publication across the lifetime of their research.

Common practice and guidelines have been developed to support researchers in preparing their data for preservation and publication. In many research performing organisations, data curation professionals also provide guidance to support individual researchers. Digital humanities research outputs bring particular challenges, often incorporating or analysing existing copyrighted material. As international policy moves towards mandated preservation and publication of publicly funded research, it is increasingly important that researchers are assisted in identifying, curating and describing their research data, and that Humanities scholars can access training and guidelines relevant to their disciplines and data types.

Internationally, organisations, digital infrastructures and research projects exist to support research data curation activities. The Research Data Alliance (RDA) is an international organisation that draws support and funding from the EU Commission, the National Science Foundation in the United States, and the Australian Government and National Data Services. The RDA aims to accelerate and facilitate research data sharing and exchange, and its work is primarily undertaken through its working groups. Any interested party is welcome to participate in working groups and interest groups, start new working groups, and attend the twice-yearly plenary meetings. RDA Working Groups produce research and tangible outputs (see: https://rd-alliance.org/rda-outputs.html) covering areas relevant to digital humanities including Education and Training on handling of research data, Ethics and Data and Digital Practices in History and Ethnography. Current outputs include recommendations on dynamic data citation, allowing researchers to cite version of changing datasets at certain points in time.

The panel draws together a range of experts in research data management, and will give an overview of key themes in research data and research data management for digital humanities, including identifying and preparing data for deposit, repository infrastructures and the services they provide, and the potential benefits of re-using published research data. The panelists will explore how existing conceptions of research data (often built on the ‘hard’ sciences) fit with Humanities research, how ‘data’ may be understood differently depending on domain, and what challenges arise through these differences. A representative from the Research Data Alliance will provide an overview of the RDA’s work and its connection to digital humanities research, providing specific examples of relevant outputs to generate discussion from the DH community. This panel will be interactive and welcome engagement from all attendees.

Panel Chair: Dr. Natalie Harrower, Acting Director, Digital Repository of Ireland (Ireland)

As chair, Dr. Harrower will provide an overview of how digital infrastructures can support researchers in preparing and publishing their data. Case studies will include the Digital Repository of Ireland, a national repository for Humanities and Social Science research data which provides services including digital preservation, education and outreach and the creation of persistent identifiers for data citation.

Speaker 2: Rebecca Grant, Digital Archivist, Digital Repository of Ireland (Ireland)

An introduction to concepts of research data in the digital humanities, including accepted definitions of what constitutes research data in a DH context. The specific challenges associated with research data management for DH will be explored.

Speaker 3: Martin Donnelly, Digital Curation Centre (UK)

This paper will present the basics of research data management practice, including the research data lifecycle and the roles and responsibilities of the researcher in managing data.

Speaker 4: Ingrid Dillo, Data Archiving and Networked Services; RDA Technical Advisory Board member (Netherlands)

An introduction to the work of the Research Data Alliance and its relevance to DH researchers. Specific outputs will be presented which have practical applications for the management and reuse of DH research data.

Speaker 5: Orla Murphy, School of English, University College Cork (Ireland)

Opportunities in research data publication for the digital humanities; how digital humanities data publication benefits the data creator, and how DH scholars can reuse research data in their work. A case study showing how published research data can be reused in a humanities context.