Posts Tagged ‘research’

On 12 December 2013 the University of Hull will be hosting a one day FREE workshop for History postgraduates and early career researchers to help you better manage your data. The event is called History and Data Management: necessary bedfellows? To sign up to this event email Chris Awre (c.awre@hull.ac.uk), indicating your name, Department and University, plus any dietary or other requirements you may have in attending this event. A number of bursaries are available to help with travel costs so please indicate if you are interested in one of these in your email. For full details about the workshop click here.

This is what Chris Awre from the University of Hull has to say about managing data.   


Hull History Centre (our venue)

Hull History Centre (our venue)

The recent announcement of the first of three events on history research and data management being held by the AHRC-funded History DMT project offers the chance to understand to what extent these two, apparently disparate areas, are linked.  Research data are more usually associated with scientific disciplines, computers and equipment churning out numbers that can be analysed in multifarious ways.  This image may be stereotypical, if true, but also both hits and misses key points in appreciating the impact that research data has across all disciplines today.

The hit is in the use of computers to produce and store data.  This is not a feature simply of science now, though.  The field of digital humanities has highlighted the value of computing to non-scientific disciplines, and the ability to apply computing to research questions in these areas.  Data centres like the UK Data Archive have long existed to capture 800px-SteacieLibrarythe datasets produced, and have provided valuable resources for subsequent research by others.  Whilst this type of research might have been a specialised niche at one point, computing capability now makes it far more straightforward for data to be compiled by any researcher.  And if computing can be used in this way, the outcomes of that use, the data, will need managing.

The miss is in the definition of data.  Data can be numbers, certainly, but it can also be many other types of material collected together to inform research analysis.  The University of Leeds research data management web pages, whilst recognising the scientific origins of data management, describe well the breadth of what can be considered data.  The materials gathered by historians, be they numbers, images, multimedia, textual or statistical, can clearly fit within this scope.

At the centre of discussing data management for historians though, is not the ‘data’ per se, but more importantly ensuring that any materials gathered, created, or observed by history researchers are well managed.  This ensures they can support and inform the research effectively, and add to the body of knowledge that is generated through research overall.  In raising the bar for managing data, it highlights the value that data has.  Quite often data acts as the Cinderella to the publication that is based on the data; the advent of data publications (e.g., Journal of Open Archaeology Data) highlights this and provides an additional route for research dissemination.

The History DMT project and the forthcoming events are producing materials to assist with managing data when conducting history research.  The AHRC are specifically targeting the work at postgraduate and early career researchers, and all are encouraged to consider how they manage data in their research, either through the events or generally.  Come and join us to discuss and feed into the materials being produced, and ensure that history data gets the respect it deserves.

To register for the workshop please e-mail Chris Awre (c.awre@hull.ac.uk), indicating your name, Department and University, plus any dietary or other requirements you may have in attending this event. If you are interested in one of the bursaries please note this in your e-mail.  For full details of the event check our previous blog post.

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 History DMT project* event, Thursday 12th December, Hull History Centre, 11:00 am-4:00 pm

As part of the History DMT project between the Institute of Historical Research, Department of History at the University of Hull, and the Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield, we will be running a series of workshops on the topic of managing data.  Here are the details for the first workshop.  Attendance is free and bursaries are available for travel costs.

800px-SteacieLibraryThe management of research data is often associated with scientific research: data flowing from technical equipment as the result of experimentation.  Data in a research context, though, covers many different types of raw material that can act as the basis for analysis.  This can include survey data, collections of facts or evidence, images, videos, interviews, statistics, etc.  In this digital age it is also easier to generate and collect this data than it has ever been, with readily available tools and storage options.

Increasingly, attention is being given to data management within the humanities, and history is no exception.  The UK Data Archive houses many historical datasets, and much historical research relies on gathering data together to carry out analysis.  Well-managed research data is being seen as a sign of good research practice, and having increased value as a research hull history centreoutput in its own right.

This event will explore the issues and benefits of research data management for history, highlight recent case studies, and introduce training materials being developed to assist history researchers in embedding data management as part of research practice.

To register for the event, please contact Chris Awre (c.awre@hull.ac.uk), indicating your name, Department and University, plus any dietary or other requirements you may have in attending this event.  Bursaries to assist with travel are available for PhD students and early career researchers – please indicate if you wish to apply for one of these in your registration.

For location details see the Hull History Centre webpage.

* The AHRC-funded History DMT (Data Management Training) project is arranging three workshops to address how research data management relates to, and can benefit, history research.  These will address different aspects of research data management and history, and the training materials being developed to support this.

Subsequent workshops will take place on 13th February in London, and 14th April in Sheffield.  Attendance at all three is recommended where feasible.

For more details about the History DMT project please see our previous blog post describing the project.

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shutterstock_82911643When you read a blog post about History what are you looking for?  If you own a blog do you write posts about historical topics?  Why do you do this?  What do you get out of it?  These are all things that are of interest for the Blogging for Historians project. 

The project examines the purpose behind blogging either as an individual or as an intuition for academic purposes.  It looks at ideas about best practice as well as the hopes and desires of those writing or reading the posts.  The idea is to gather a wider body of evidence regarding what people involved in History-related disciplines think of blogging and why they may give it a go.  The project will attempt to do the following:

  • A series of podcasted interviews with practitioners in archives, libraries and history departments who blog about History in one form or another.
  • A workshop (details to follow) about History blogging to be held in the Institute of Historical Research
  • An online survey asking for thoughts and ideas about blogging

A crucial part of the research for the Blogging for Historians project will derive from the survey.  This is live now and it would be brilliant if you could take a moment of your time to fill it in.  The survey is very short and should take less than five minutes to complete.  It is broken down into three sections:

  1. Using blogs
  2. Creating and managing blogs
  3. Personal details

It is the first two sections that will provide the majority of interest and will hopefully raise some interesting thoughts, ideas and questions.  Essentially the survey asks why we create blogs, what do we hope to gain from them, and how do we access blog posts as a reader?  It also asks what do we gain by reading blogs?  From this survey it is hoped that we can further understand the processes and many reasons why blogs have become such a successful forum for writing, reading, and discussion over the last few years, and what impact or importance this might already and in the future have for the History discipline.  

I would be very grateful if you could fill in this survey.  It doesn’t matter if you own a blog or just visit them (or even if you don’t visit them – I would be interested in that too).  The survey is interested principally in History-related blogs, but this does not necessarily mean academic or professional.  There are a variety of History-related blogs out there, all of which have something useful and interesting to offer. 

Access to the survey can be found from this link:

Blogging for Historians Online Survey

It should take no longer than five minutes to complete and personal details will be kept confidential.  Statistics from the results of the survey alongside my thoughts and analysis will appear on this blog early in 2013. 

For more details about the Blogging for Historians project see its own blog here: Blogging for Historians Blog

The project is funded through the SMKE scheme.  For further details about this project see here: SMKE website

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Archives and Society seminar
6 November 2012
Kirsten Ferguson-Boucher (University of Aberystwyth)
Computer-Assisted Review


computer (shutterstock)Kirsten Ferguson-Boucher talks about Computer-Assisted Review (also called content analysis amongst other things).  There is a lot of detail here about the variety of elements that make up archival practices and the increasing need to rely on computers to aid in this task.  The issues surrounding Big Data – including volume (amount of data), velocity (the increasing flow of data), Veracity (preservation issues), and value (what do we gain by saving and managing this data for the future?) – are all vital elements in the Information governance and insurance agenda.

Ferguson-Boucher works here way through the complexity of the subject and makes comparisons between the UK and US approaches and legal variations.  She concludes that computers enable archivists and lawyers to reduce the error in their work, but this is by no means a replacements.  Computers need to be used in conjunction with human investigators to assess and analyse materials.

To listen to this podcast click here

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Archives and Society seminar
23 October 2012
Dr Andrew Flinn (UCL) and Anna Sexton (UCL)
Exploring Participatory Approaches to Archives 

shutterstock_60840838[1]Andrew Flinn begins the discussion into exploring participatory approaches with a talk that explains why this approach differs from the older model of provision and professional-only working practises, and how this might help archivists and the users of archives work together collaboratively to improve services, knowledge, and capacity.  This is about bringing down the walls that separate the user from the provider, but not in a way that would undermine either.  It is a method to engaged people much more with the resources and processes in the archives sector.

Anna Sexton takes over the discussion by talking about her own research project.  This is the development of a participatory digital archive on the subject of recovery in mental health.  Each individual who has had the experience of recovery is asked to develop an archive that is personal to them.  This is managed by Sexton and seeks to address issues of injustice and to use social action to solve social problems.  In the second half of her paper, Sexton examines criticisms of the participatory approach and compares those issues to her own project.  She realises that there are issues in the approach (how representative is it?  How collaborative is the process and is it any different than the top down approach traditionally carried out by archives?  How sustainable and transformative is it?), but believes it to be a valuable addition and methodology.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Two weeks ago we held a workshop on developing online research training particularly focused on the History profession (see my previous posts).  Of course my post at the IHR asks for me to develop online training courses (not so much the content but the infrastructure and design) so the topic of the workshop was intricately linked with focusing and enhancing our future plans.

At that workshop my colleagues, who are employed to develop the content of these courses both online and face to face, gave a brief talk about what the IHR provides in terms of research training, how successful that has been and where we plan to take it in the future. 

Simon Trafford began with a brief rundown of what the IHR offers the Historical community.  The common room and library are foci for historians.  The 50+ seminar groups a place for learning, teaching and scholarly debate.  The various publications and e-publications a furthering of academic knowledge and the research training programmes an opportunity to help both new and older academics make the most of their skills. 

As an institute set up to aid research both nationally and internationally the IHR have always tried to reach beyond its London base.  However, the continued tendency for training uptake to derive from the London region continues to be a challenge.  The IHR have, however, had some success in broadening its appeal.  Various summer schools are held to make it easier for visiting scholars to gain something from the IHR in a short period of time and at a time when their own institutions’ demands are less.  The IHR have also undertaken a programme of regional training events – taking our expertise out to other areas of the country.  More recently the IHR have begun to develop a greater online presence for its research training, which brings us to the second half of the presentation, given by Mark Merry. 

Mark Merry told the audience about the IHR’s three phased approach to developing online training.  The results from Phase One will be made available with the launch of History SPOT when several handbooks derived from our own expertise and training courses are provided free of charge.  These handbooks (named Historical Research Handbooks) are meant as reference guides that can be dipped into or read as a whole.  They will tackle methodological, theoretical and practical problems related to their topic and, hopefully, act as a hook to our face to face courses and, in the future, online courses.  Phase One also includes additional online material for our face to face courses.  We hope to provide something a little extra for those who attend a course with the IHR. 

Phase Two will present ‘tutorless’ courses on various subjects that can be undertaken at a learners own time and pace.  These courses will emphasise interactivity and communication between users (community support) as well as providing various assignments, exercises and activities.  Phase Three will develop out of these resources new tutor led courses entirely provided in an online environment.  These courses will include virtual lectures, seminars and discussions and will be tutored by an expert in the field of study.

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ReScript project imageEvery now and then a digital research project comes along which attempts to make innovative use of various available technologies and turn them into something coherent and extremely useful for an academic discipline.  I feel that the IHR’s ReScript Project is one such project that shows great potential in this regard.  Of course editing and analysis of historical texts is at the centre of what most historians do, but there have, as yet, been relatively few attempts to transfer this process onto an online ‘editing platform’ that can be worked upon collaboratively and make heightened use of IT tools that have become available for such work. 

It will therefore be interesting to hear what experts from the field have in mind when it comes to transferring textual processing and analysis skills into a digitalised forum.  What can an online platform do that can’t be done using more traditional methods?  What might we lose and gain from such a process?   The workshop and ‘Ideas Cafe’ will look at the issues from three viewpoints: the researcher; the editor; and the technologist.  This is by itself an appealing approach which will hopefully create discussion of a varied nature and help to form awareness for each of the interested parties needs, requirements and desires. 

The event takes place at the IHR on Thursday this week (7July) between 12.30-4.30pm.  If you would like to come along to take part in the event please email Donna Baillie (donna.baillie@sas.ac.uk).  We will also be steaming the event live on the IHR website (with the option to contribute in the open discussion session) so if you can’t make it to the actual event, please feel free to listen in online.

Click here for the Live Stream

Click here for further details of the workshop

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