Arts and Humanities: research patterns and needs

I attended a very stimulating, thought-provoking and exhausting event yesterday, to discuss the possible implementation of an e-information infrastructure for arts and humanities. It was organised by the Research Information Network (RIN) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). E-information infrastructures include all kinds of digital content resources and the infrastructure than underpins them.

The day was so full, and covered so much, that it is difficult to summarise. A number of projects were presented, including Research Portals in the Arts and Humanities (RePAH), Gathering Evidence: Current ICT use and Future Needs for Arts and Humanities Researchers, Peer Review of Digital Resources and Log Analysis of Internet Resources (LAIRAH).

I thought I would just list some of the key points that were made, areas that were discussed and general conclusions reached. This is not a comprehensive record of the discussion but just my impression of the points that came up:

  • The arts and humanities research community is diverse heterogeneous and complex and so it is very difficult to characterise and to come up with a set of needs and wants.
  • The question was raised as to whether we can really talk about an arts and humanities community at all
  • Libraries and archives play a critical role but the library focus will need to extend beyond books and journals
  • Institutional repositories will come to play a key role
  • We are not really clear where we are at present in terms of the research landscape, let alone where we are going. There is currently no clear direction.
  • We would benefit from a clear map of resources available and the various organisations that provide data, advice and support
  • We do not think enough about issues of re-usability of resources
  • Interoperability is of paramount importance
  • Sustainability is a key issue. We do not continue to care for, update and generally make the most of many research outputs. Not enough attention is paid to the benefits of a project after the funding has finished
  • Evidence of use and evidence of value are different things, and should be treated separately. We do not have enough information about either, especially evidence of value
  • The gathering and analysis of evidence is key
  • An e-information infrastructure must be user-driven, though it was acknowledged that users do not always know what they want or need (and cannot predict what might be available to them in the future)
  • Amalgamated resources are hugely important
  • Researchers will take up and use digital resources when they are readily available
  • It may be that we don