Open data for humanists: big differences in small steps

Philologists must for at least two reasons open up the textual data upon which they base their work. First, researchers need to be able to download, modify and redistribute their textual data if they are to fully exploit both new methods that center around algorithmic analysis (e.g., corpus linguistics, computational linguistics, text mining, and various applications of machine learning) and new scholarly products and practices that computational methods enable […]. Second, open data is essential if researchers working with historical languages such as Classical Greek and Latin are to realize either their obligation to conduct the most effective (as well as transparent) research and or their obligation to advance the role that those languages can play in the intellectual life of society as a whole.

In his blog from 2015, Getting to open data for Classical Greek and Latin: breaking old habits and undoing the damage, Gregory Cane, Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig made a strong case for the essential role of open data in the advancement of modern scholarship. In the last couple of years, this dependence has been increasingly recognised and gave rise to all kinds of support structures but also policy imperatives for research data management.

As we routinely build our analysis on text corpora created by others, interlink heterogeneous collections of digital or analogue information objects to establish hidden connections between them, enrich digital collections or use scholarly databases in our discovery practices;  a critical understanding of the genesis and provenance of such resources becomes a cornerstone of continuity, transparency and trust in the scholarly dialogue. As (re)users, we wish to understand how data have been created, curated and made available and how such circumstances impact the way in which they could be studied in the future. As creators, we wish to best connect our work to the rest of scholarly knowledge by making it comprehensible and beneficial for others  – including maybe our future self on the first place – in a legally and ethically responsible manner.

The resource introduced below is a response to this latter need as it is aimed at giving practical advice for arts and humanities scholars who are willing to take their first steps in research data management but don’t know where to begin. Our approach to data management is to look at it as a reflective process which exposes and tweaks existing behaviours, rather than introducing specific tools. Our intention is to encourage self-awareness of one’s own processes as they are dynamically embedded in a range of contextual and environmental factors and foster mindfulness about how these processes could be more open and how small changes across three specific points in one’s research workflow can make a big difference.


The guide is available to cite and download here via Zenodo, feel free to reuse and enrich it for your own purposes, suggest resources or even underline needs that are not covered in it.  

Cite this article as: Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra, "Open data for humanists: big differences in small steps," in DARIAH Open, 09/05/2019, https://dariahopen.hypotheses.org/550.




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