What's in a Discipline? Research Practices, Use of Tools and Content in the Humanities and Social Sciences - The web-based questionnaires of EHRI and Europeana Cloud.

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Agiatis Benardou

    Digital Curation Unit IMIS - Athena Research & Innovation Center in Information Communication & Knowledge Technologies

  2. 2. Nephelie Chatzidiakou

    Digital Curation Unit IMIS - Athena Research & Innovation Center in Information Communication & Knowledge Technologies

  3. 3. Eliza Papaki

    Digital Curation Unit IMIS - Athena Research & Innovation Center in Information Communication & Knowledge Technologies

Work text
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This poster reports on work conducted during 2010-2012 in the context of EHRI – the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure, as well as work in progress in the context of Europeana Cloud - Unlocking Europe’s Research via the Cloud. Its purpose is to investigate any differentiations between the research practices of humanists and social scientists as identified within the User Requirements work conducted in the context of those two EU Research Infrastructure Projects (Benardou et.al. 2013, Benardou et.al. 2010), by demonstrating the points of divergence and convergence of humanists and social scientists with regard to their scholarly research activities in a concise and illustrated format.
In the context of EHRI the Digital Curation Unit, “ATHENA” R.C. (DCU) was responsible for the identfication, modeling and formalization of the requirements of EHRI users – largely text-based humanists but also social and political scientists. To this end, DCU identified and analysed scholarly research practices and focused on the use of archival materials in the area of Holocaust Studies, as well as scholarly research practices in the digital domain and how these might support and enhance research in Holocaust Studies, in order to create a set of data and functional requirements based upon the analysis of scholarly research practices. The quantitative part of this research, complementary to a series of semi-structured interviews with Holocaust researchers, consisted of an online questionnaire survey which covered the relative use of different kinds of digital and analog resources, the perceived importance of specific information activities used by researchers (covering the span from information seeking to collaboration, including entry points), perceptions towards sharing and trustworthiness of resources, computer/device use and work location, and demographic/control variables such as country of residence, researcher status, expertise in archival research methods etc. 82,28% of the respondents of this survey were Humanists, predominantly historians, while the rest came from the Social Sciences.
Within Europeana Cloud, DCU is leading the Workpackage responsible for the improvement of the understanding of digital tools, research processes and content used in the Humanities and Social Sciences, thus informing the development of tools and content strategy in Europeana Cloud. To this end, amongst other user-centred approaches such as a series of Expert Fora, DCU designed a Research Communities Web Survey to analyze digital research practices, tools and content to gather evidence-based data from the Humanities (75,38%) and Social Sciences research community (24,62%), focusing in particular on the potential use of content from Europeana and The European Library.
Humanistic and Social Sciences have by and large been perceived as two associated fields for which often the study of scholarly work adopts related if not identical strategies. Significant examples include the work of Ellis’ team, who identified six common processes across disciplines spearheaded by qualitative work, fuelled by grounded theory research on research communities across the Social Sciences and the Humanities. Moreover, in a more recent study of the University of Washington (2005) on the use of digital sources, researchers in these two disciplines were perceived as comparable with regards to their approaches and the methods they adopted. In this light, similarities rather than discrepancies were stressed. Such an approach is indeed largely reasoned, given the fact that the Humanities and Social Sciences broadly share methods and objects, and are obviously closer to each other when compared to, e.g., the Physical Sciences. However, many scientific papers on research information behaviour have differentiated the two fields. For instance, an interesting survey conducted by the British Academy on e-resources for research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (2005) stresses the different research approaches across the two fields. On discussing the questionnaire and the recorded answers, the authors distinguish the views expressed by humanists and social scientists, thus reaching conclusions on their distinct characteristics with regard to digital content.
It seems therefore interesting to investigate research activities in the Humanities and Social Sciences separately yet comparatively, in order to define whether there could be any reasonable ground for differentiation in the design and implementation of future infrastructures. To this end, we will be looking into issues addressed in both EHRI and Europeana Cloud online questionnaires, such as the use of specific tools and services, the research activities in which the users engage, the content as well as the properties of the resources favored by the users and the degree of agreement regarding specific statements concerning the overall research process, in an attempt to trace, identify and highlight similarities and differences on issues of workflow, concurrency, microactivities relating to information seeking behavior, aiming at mapping out research practices at such granular level as to gather detailed information on current research practices among different user groups engaged in the Humanities and Social Sciences, which could act as a reference point and information resource for the formulation of data requirements and functional specifications for future infrastructures.

Bass, A., Fairlee J., Fox K. & Sullivan J. (2005). The Information Behavior of Scholars in the Humanities and Social sciences. University of Washington.
Benardou, A., Constantopoulos P. & Dallas C. (2013). An Approach to Analysing Working Practices of Research Communities in the Humanities. International Journal of History and Arts Computing, 7.1-2, 105-127.
Benardou A., P. Constantopoulos, C. Dallas & D. Gavrilis (2010). Understanding the information requirements of arts and humanities scholarship: Implications for digital curation. International Journal of Digital Curation5, no. 1
Ellis, D. (1993). Modeling the information-seeking patterns of academic researchers: A grounded theory approach. The Library Quarterly, 63(4), 469-486.
Jones, K., and Bennett, R., “E-resources for research in the Humanities and Social sciences: A British Academic Policy Review”, British Academy, April 2005, pp. 1-116.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

XML available from https://github.com/elliewix/DHAnalysis (needs to replace plaintext)

Conference website: https://web.archive.org/web/20161227182033/https://dh2014.org/program/

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO