By the end of this section, you should be able to:

  • Understand some of the macro-level issues that define the environment in which research infrastructures develop
  • Define strategies to address the challenges these issues present

Developing at infrastructure scale presents a wide range of challenges.  One in particular that is greatly different in an infrastructure than in a more restricted scale project is how you interact with wider issues of policy and the macro-level environment in which you are operating.

Because they are larger, infrastructures generally make a greater call upon resources.  As such, they need to consolidate activities and indeed funding to succeed.  This will likely require at least some time dedicated to lobbying or other activities aimed at communicating the value of your work to institutional, national or super-national decision makers.  This is a particular communications challenge (which we have tried to support with this brochure “Why Invest in Humanities Research Infrastructure.”

Policymakers Guide Leaflet Dec 2017

One particular policy area that is of great importance for humanities research infrastructure in the current climate is the Open Science movement.  Having been adopted as a major policy driver by the European Commission, is it clear that openness will become more and more a part of the research culture.  Open Access to research publications is already mandated for many funding schemes, and open access to research data (under FAIR principles) is expected to come soon.  How can a research infrastructure function within these parameters, serving a community that may find these initiatives confusing or indeed threatening?   It is critical that infrastructures, as gathering places for researchers and their work support both the current norms for how good work gets done, but also helps to align them with the policy mandates.

Research Infrastructures for the humanities also have the potential to exacerbate biases that have been demonstrated to exist already (perhaps inherently) in the digital humanities, such as the potential for gender or postcolonial bias.  It can become elitist, rather than inclusive, and it can inadvertently create job opportunities that do not connect with existing or newly founded career structures and pathways.

To combat these possible narrowings of the infrastructural mission and service to the research community, the following questions may be helpful:

  • Can RIs contribute to the democratisation of digital methods, rather than become new structures for exclusion?
  • Can RIs support debate as well as development?
  • Can RIs become a place where the European #alt ac can consolidate a voice and build the career opportunities that are otherwise lacking?
  • Can we use the reach and breadth of research infrastructure to advocate for our disciplines, our methods, and for the interests of our longstanding partners, the CHIs?
  • Can RIs give humanists not just access to tools, services and knowledge but a unified voice?

The points above are elaborated upon in the following lecture.


You can download the slides in this lecture from our SlideShare profile, or from the Training Resources section

McPherson, Why is Digital Humanities so White? Debates in the Digital Humanities

Nowiskie/Posner, What do Girls Dig? Debates in the Digital Humanities

NESTA/RIN Open to All?

Burgess and Hamming. New Media in the Academy, Labour and the Production of Knowledge in Scholarly Multimedia.  DHQ 5.3 2011