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Looking at the Research Needs of Religious Studies Scholars

This fall, Ithaka S+R announced plans for a series of new projects to examine the research practices of scholars in three diverse fields. These projects are being conducted in close partnership with scholarly societies and libraries and will provide valuable insight for libraries and other service providers of research support services. I am writing today with an update of the strong progress we are making on the first of these projects, which focuses on Religious Studies.  

Last week, my colleagues Danielle Cooper, Deanna Marcum, and I convened the first advisory committee meeting for the project. The advisory committee includes:

  • Brenda Bailey-Hainer, Executive Director, American Theological Library Association
  • Jack Fitzmier, Executive Director, American Academy of Religion
  • John Kutsko, Executive Director, Society of Biblical Literature
  • Sabahat F. Adil, Assistant Professor of Pre-Modern Arabic Literature & Culture, University of Colorado at Boulder

The advisory committee reviewed project methodology, helping us to ensure that the project will reach across the field of Religious Studies, which is being broadly defined. We also worked through some of the major issues facing the field today, from changing research practices to the spectrum of influences that drives scholarship in the field. We also walked through the script for semi-structured interviews that will be at the heart of this project.

Nearly 20 academic institutions will serve as research partners for the study.  This group will include a diverse set of universities comprised of divinity schools as well as religious studies departments, in addition to several seminaries. Confirmed participants include:

  • Asbury Seminary
  • Baylor University
  • Brigham Young University
  • Columbia University
  • Concordia Theological Seminary
  • Emory University
  • Luther Seminary
  • Naropa University
  • Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Rice University
  • Temple University
  • Tufts University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Yale University

We are thrilled about the partnership that is coming together to conduct this project. We will also be conducting supplementary interviews to ensure that practices and perspectives that might be omitted even from this array of participants are not neglected in the project.

As a next step, we will host a set of training workshops for the participating libraries. These will be held at Emory in January and at Columbia in February. These sessions will include a variety of exercises to ensure that the research teams from the participating institutions are positioned to conduct strong interviews and analyze them effectively.

Our project for Agriculture will launch next, in the early spring. We are delighted to be working so closely with societies and libraries to ensure that research practices are well supported today and into the future.

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