Historical investment in a national infrastructure in the humanities

Humanities research has traditionally been conducted using qualitative methods such as interviews, but recent years have seen developments of methods and approaches. It is not uncommon that complex quantitative data and digital tools such as eye-tracking, machine learning with AI, and 3D technology are used.

“One of the challenges of working with these technologies is that the research landscape is fragmented and that many research environments work without knowing about one other. This can lead to redundancy and mean that researchers miss the chance to build off of each other’s work,” said Gustaf Nelhans, Senior Lecturer at the Swedish School of Library and Information Science, who coordinates the university’s work in the project.

A unified gateway

One of the goals of the HUMINFRA project is to create a unified gateway to these digital resources and educational opportunities and link together expertise that today is spread across the country. The project will also investigate the need for new education and design tools.

“It is wonderful that the Swedish Research Council is drawing attention to the fact that the humanities and social sciences also need infrastructures, not least to work with digital tools, but also that they see that the concept of infrastructure has a much broader meaning than just technology and mechanical resources. Perhaps the most important part is the researchers themselves, how they collaborate and develop their research approaches,” said Gustaf Nelhans.

Long tradition in the digital humanities

All in all, the project will culminate in facilitating research which will lead to improved research quality. Several researchers from the Swedish School of Library and Information Science are participating in the three-year project, which the Swedish Research Council has granted SEK 30 million.

“For the Swedish School of Library and Information Science, which is an environment with a very long tradition in the digital humanities, this will mean that we have the opportunity to take a collective approach. This means that we can coordinate our activities, ranging from qualitative methods of digitising text and objects and text mark-up with metadata to the latest techniques in deep learning and machine learning algorithms. We will also turn to other environments within the university where we already have collaborations or see the potential for joint efforts.”

The HUMINFRA project will be ongoing 2022–2024 and is coordinated by the Humanities Lab at Lund University. A total of twelve environments from nine universities and other organisations are participating in the project.

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The research group Knowledge Infrastructures is participating in the HUMINFRA project.

Knowledge infrastructures

Data as Impact Lab at the Swedish School of Library and Information Science performs analyses and offers an infrastructure for AI applications that involves bibliometric methodology, semantic modelling, and visualisation. Authorities, research organisations within and outside academia, libraries, and companies are some of the partners. The lab’s activities are also closely linked to the Master’s degree programmes and the Digital Methods course given in Master’s programme and as a freestanding course.

Data as Impact Lab