Sustaining the Digital Humanities
Host Institution Support Beyond the Start-up Phase
Published January 28, 2013
This project is in process. When completed, downloads of the results will be made available.
With the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ithaka S+R is examining the role played by the institutional host in supporting digital humanities resources in higher education in the United States. This research project builds on a related JISC-supported study in the UK concluding in fall 2012.
Academic digital resources can be costly to maintain, but their ongoing costs and activities are rarely factored in at the planning stages, making institutional support a critical factor when project leaders arrive at the end of a grant without clear sustainability plans. While projects of all sorts face somewhat similar issues, the situation for digital humanities projects is particularly urgent, as most of the safety nets that help to support their counterparts in the sciences do not yet exist. By exploring both the assumptions and practices that govern host support, from the grant-stage to the post-launch period, we hope to gain a clearer understanding of how institutional administrators prioritize this support, how project leaders attempt to secure it, and what practices seem to be working best.
Our aim is to help project leaders better understand and more effectively communicate the value of their work to their host institution and to encourage a robust dialogue about sustainability among project leaders and the institutions that support them.
Research for the NEH study begins in October 2012 and will involve two stages.
- Phase I, Sector-Wide Research: Interviews and desk research with stakeholders at a variety of higher education institutions (public and private, teaching- and research-focused, large universities and small liberal arts colleges) will provide an overview of the practices and expectations of digital humanities project leaders, funders, and their university administrators, as well as the challenges and successes they have encountered along the way.
- Phase II, Deep-Dive Research: More extensive analysis of two institutions that have created and managed several of their own digital projects will allow us to develop a map of the full scope of their activities, the costs they incur, the value they offer to the host university, and the dynamics that drive decision making around the role the university plays in supporting them.
An advisory board will ensure that our work takes into account a variety of institutional settings and will also evaluate our work throughout the study. Membership of the board includes:
- Richard Detweiler, President, Great Lakes Colleges Association
- Martin Halbert, Dean of Libraries, University of North Texas
- Stanley N. Katz, Director, Center for the Arts and Cultural Policy Studies; Lecturer with rank of Professor, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies
- Maria C. Pantelia, Professor, Classics, University of California, Irvine; Director, Thesarus Linguae Graecae®
- Richard Spies, Former Executive Vice President for Planning and Senior Advisor to the President at Brown University, Former Vice for Finance and Administration at Princeton University
- Ann J. Wolpert, Director of Libraries, MIT
The aim of this work is to help digital humanities project leaders understand the needs and motivations of decision makers on campus, and to support university administrators and management better understand both the struggles that digital humanities resources face and the resources that these digital projects currently require. A final report will be issued in Spring 2014, and will be accompanied by a toolkit to support campus administrators in developing a digital strategy for supporting digital humanities projects at their institution.