How to Maintain Mental Wellbeing in Times of Crisis: Some Insight against the backdrop of the Corona Pandemic

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or psychologist or professional coach, the following blog post is based on my experiences of the last semester and previous crises and is inspired by my yoga teacher training and practice. Anyone who feels at risk of having depression or burn out should take these signs seriously and seek professional help, e.g. your GP or a specialised therapist.

Feeling the attention span of an amoeba? Bad mood? No appetite or binge eating while video streaming? No motivation to get out of bed or off the couch? Since March at the latest, the whole world has been in the grip of the Corona pandemic. While at first we may have thought it would pass soon and may have even enjoyed spending more time at home, now in January 2021 we are still at home and there seems to be no end in sight anytime soon. 

Rhododendrites, Four pears, CC BY-SA 4.0

In the following, I want to discuss some methods and strategies for dealing with the mental challenges of Corona. This collection arose from a rather gloomy mood and from actively dealing and reading on this topic (some resources are linked below). I thought about what has helped me through times of crisis, recently or previously and wrote some points down. The motivation to share these rather private thoughts publicly are several conversations with students and their requests for pieces of advice. I hope you find some of the points below useful. 

Acknowledgement: The most important step is to accept that there is a crisis and that it is doing something to you. Whether you lose a loved one, go through a break up or suffer under social distancing. Then you can start thinking how you deal with the crisis, one step at the time.

Be gentle with yourself and take your time: Whatever the crisis is, it is completely normal to be affected by it. It’s okay to be less motivated, it’s okay to do nothing for a day, you are okay. Don’t judge yourself too harshly. It really takes effort to overcome low points. It’s a process that always includes setbacks. You need to learn to accept these. If one day is bad, there is always another day which might be better. And taking time for yourself (selfcare) is a great strategy to cope with emotional stress and any moments of high pressure. 

Don’t compare yourself to your social media bubble: Social media can have a negative influence when you feel low. For example during this pandemic social media can give you the impression that everyone else is doing great (look at my new hobby!) or incredibly productive (yeah, just finished the book I started during quarantine!). It’s only human that people communicate publicly rather about achievements than failures or sad feelings (“Main achievement for today: got out of bed”. So try not to compare yourself to others and avoid building up exaggerated expectations. This will only put extra pressure on yourself. 

Into the Great Wide Open: Get some fresh air and go for a walk if possible (keep safe!), even if it’s just half an hour. When you for your walk when it’s light outside, it is extra healthy (and less scary). Some swear by a morning walk to kick start their day, as if you were going to work or university. But any other moment of the day will do, lunchtime, or even almost midnight (as one of my neighbours prefers, for me it’s just too spooky). Still, I sometimes really have to kick myself outside the door especially on a bad weather day, but, I never regret it!

Try meditation & mindfulness: These great techniques are not just for esoterics, they really help to increase focus and concentration. Admittedly, they can seem a bit intimidating and also are not so easy to learn (I still regularly doze off during meditation). Maybe you can join forces with like-minded people and form/join an (online) group? Or just start writing down a gratitude list each day (like three thinks you are thankful for) or take some time to breathe deeply each day. There are great resources to guide you on this path on the internet, like apps, recordings, texts… 

Dietmar Rabich, Wilsons Promontory National Park (AU), Big Drift — 2019 — 1683, CC BY-SA 4.0

Give yoga a chance: If meditation & mindfulness are too much for you, you can try yoga. A regular yoga practice also contributes greatly to your mental balance and it also keeps you flexible and fit. If you are new to yoga and start without guidance by a yoga teacher, take special care and search videos with “yoga for beginners” on Youtube. Some great online teachers are “Yoga with Adriene (Youtube)” or “Mady Morisson (Youtube)”, both have clear instruction videos for many levels. Even if you don’t fall completely for yoga, try searching videos for yoga for back pain or even chair yoga (yoga you can do in your normal clothes at your desk).  

Any movement will do: If you don’t like walking or even running (not me!) outside too much, maybe you can cycle? Or do some exercises at home? I love from time to time doing Low Impact Workouts on Youtube (the ones without any jumping that makes your neighbours angry, but still make you sweat like hell). Some have (bought) a treadmill or other form of hometrainer (and sometimes workout during webinars or video streaming) others dance around freestyle at home. Whatever and whenever you do your daily movement, just do it. Already a few minutes will make a difference even and after a while you might crave for it.   

World Health Organization, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO, WHO EN HealthyAtHome-Physical-activity Be active stay healthy at home COVID-19 outbreak 1, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Embrace new or old hobbies: Spending much time at home can become rather boring or lonely, especially during the pandemic. Is there anything you can take on to cope with the crisis situation? Reading, writing a diary/gratitude journal, painting, singing, making videos, etc.? Don’t get me wrong, this should not be a pressure, but a pleasure. 

Have a Staycation: Many of us are stuck day in day out in our homes. In homes that are often now also our work spaces and it is really hard to relax and to detach yourself from work. As there is not so much travelling going on during the pandemic, no chance for a holiday and change of place. During Christmas Break therefore I had a “staycation”, which I celebrated as a yoga retreat. What did that mean? I made a schedule for three days of yoga (searched and bookmarked nice yoga sequences in advance), bought a lot of healthy food in advance, didn’t look into my email, used the internet only to watch yoga videos, and had a walk each day and read three crime novels (I am a very fast reader when it comes to fiction). If you don’t like yoga, you can do something else of course, maybe do a geographical themed staycation (like in Italy, where you eat pasta and pizza and watch Italian movies) or just some days of spa. 

Keep body and brain well nourished: Try to eat as healthy as possible (fruits, vegetables, good nutrients). I often feel a huge difference in my mood between crappy eating days and good eating days. If you don’t like to cook everyday or cannot cook everyday, you can also pre-cook your meals and store them in the fridge. Admittedly, I am a lazy cook, so I often cook a big amount of my warm meal for the week on Sunday and warm up smaller portions of it during the week. It helps that I love soups and “loads of veggies with rice in one pan” kind of meals. Another idea is to make a weekly meal plan. With a plan you are less stressed out with deciding what to eat and can buy the ingredients in advance, so you don’t have to go to the supermarket so often (I try to avoid all indoors besides my own house at the moment). Drink loads of water, your brain (and skin) will love it! Bananas are great study snacks (they even have been recommended to me as a perfect snack before scary tasks (like giving a presentation or an interview). Try to moderate alcohol as it often makes people even more anxious and is a bad sleeping aid. 

Michal Klajban, Organic home-grown tomatoes – unripe to ripe, CC BY-SA 4.0

Have a meaningful start of the day: A meaningful morning routine will help you get started, e. g. try to get up at the same time, dress up and get ready for the day, even when you don’t leave the house and really don’t feel like it because you are only participating in video meetings.

Schedule your day: Decide on your most important tasks for the next day the evenening before, so you are not tempted to procrastinate on planning your day in the morning. Designate special time slots for bigger tasks, e. g. read an article, make an outline for an essay, answer that very complicated e-mail… Also put in your schedule time buffers for smaller tasks and time to catch on tasks that took longer than expected. Plan the hardest tasks for your best time of the day. 

Include Me-Time in your schedule: What do you need for yourself to get through a day? Try to include in your time table and/or to-do list activities that help you cope with the crisis and contribute to your positive mental state, e. g. “have a walk”. Don’t forget to put these daily well being activities in your schedule.  

Get enough sleep: You feel totally drained after a very full day, but instead of going to bed you spent hours on meaningless activities like scrolling through Social Media or streaming because you are too tired to do anything meaningfull? When I read about the term “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination” as a way of trying to regain controll in life by refusing to sleep early (German Article, English Article) for the first time, I immediatly thought, that kind of explains this rather unhealty habit. So what can you do? Like having a meaningful start of the day, try to also have a meaningful end of the day and get your necessary amount of sleep, some people do need 8 hours and that is okay! I try have a very regular schedule, like getting up at 7 and going to sleep at midnight, and I set a timer on my phone that limits my youtube time to one hour each day and a timer that transforms my whole phone into black and white after 22:00 (look for settings screen time and settings for nightly wind down).

Divide bigger tasks in smaller chunks: If I have to accomplish larger tasks while feeling low on energy and motivation, it helps to set a timer for smaller chunks of time (pomodori method), for me 55 min. work the best, others work with 25 min or 45 min slots. Some people also love to divide bigger tasks into many small subtasks and tick them off a to-do list.  

Be flexible: Even though routines and schedules can work wonders, sometimes it is just not your day. Then you can try to adapt your schedule or move around tasks. Writing that paragraph/chapter really doesn’t work? Have a meaningful break (go for a walk, clean the fridge, call a friend…) and try anew. Still not working? Can you do something else that needs less creativity, e.g. research or format your bibliography, write an email, check your footnotes etc.? If you are really stuck, it might be a sign, to really do nothing for a change, for half a day or even a whole day. Remember, every day is different. 

Benh LIEU SONG (Flickr), Leg Rowing Fisherman Inle Lake Myanmar, CC BY-SA 4.0

With a little help from my friends: Social interaction is good, but it is okay to prefer solitude, especially if you are rather introverted. However, it is very important to ask for help if you need it. From your friends, family, teachers or a coach… Only if people know that you are struggling, they can help you, give you space, or whatever you need at this moment. Sometimes just having a safe person you can talk to about what afflicts you at the moment (think about it as “releasing steam”) may make a huge difference. Alternatively, you can also “release steam” in a diary. Or talk with a professional on a helpline.

“News timeouts”: Reading the news makes me really anxious during these troublesome times. This doesn’t mean that you should not read the news at all (it’s good to be an informed citizen), but a temporary time out for news (including social media channels!) during the time I need to work on important tasks (study, write, etc.) and as well before bedtime often does wonders for my concentration and sleep. 

Optimize your workplace: Last but not least, especially during this pandemic, but I think this goes for all times, wherever you are studying or working, try to optimise your workplace. Even if it only means that you tidy up your desk in the morning and make your bed. But there is more. Maybe it is worth buying earplugs or trying white or brown noise (or music you like) because your neighbour is very noisy? Can you organize a large computer monitor that you can connect to your laptop to destress your eyes and neck? Even a 10 Euro headset may greatly advance your possibilities to participate in video conferences, at least with sound ;-). Do you feel more engaged reading on paper? Then print out some of the digital documents and scribble away (of course you can also do this digitally). Last but not least, a good desk lighting also does wonders (try eBay marketplace etc.).

Unfortunately, there is no one-fits-all-advice. What works for one person, may not work for the other. What may have worked for me, may not work for you. Every person deals with crises differently. Everyone has a different background, personality and environment. Everyone has to make the best of the situation for themselves. And yes, trust me, I am having really bad days, too. But some of these strategies have helped me a lot when I was feeling very low and could not focus on my studies or work because everything just seemed falling apart. 

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you find some of these strategies helpful. Already writing them down has improved my mood a tiny bit and helped me to gather the energy to hop on my yoga mat.

What helps you? Please share in the comments below or tweet to me @UWuttke 


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Concrete Steps towards FAIR Data in the Arts and Humanities: Recap from Open Science Barcamp 2020

Cite as: Ulrike Wuttke, Concrete Steps towards FAIR Data in the Arts and Humanities: Recap from Open Science Barcamp 2020, Blogpost, 05.10.2020, CC BY 4.0. Link:


On the 10th March 2020, the Barcamp Open Science, organized by the Leibniz Research Alliance Open Science took place at Berlin. Around 50 very diverse individuals came together at the facilities of Wikimedia Germany at Berlin to discuss urgent matters in Open Science from various perspectives. This year’s Barcamp was already overshadowed by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, that’s why there were much less participants than the previous years and strong hygienic measures had been taken. Only a few days after, our world as such was changed forever. This is also one of the reasons why it took me quite long to finally publish this blog post. But here it is, with huge thanks to Erzébeth Tóth-Czifra for her comments on an earlier draft of this post.

Source:, All photos are also published at Wiki Commons under a CC BY 4.0 license.

After the introductory round and the Ignition Talk by Birgit Schmidt from SUB Göttingen, sessions were pitched and organized and the discussions got going! While you can read an overview about the Barcamp in the Blogpost by ZBW Media Talk and listen to summaries of some sessions at Open Science Radio, in this blogpost, you will find a short recap of the session Concrete steps towards FAIR data as prerequisite for Open Scholarship in the Arts and Humanities that I moderated with Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra (DARIAH-EU). 

Last year Erzsébet and I had discussed the state of Open Science in the Arts and Humanities in the session “Loners, Pathfinders, or Explorers? How are the Humanities Progressing in Open Science?” [Read our recap on the GenR Blog Link). Together with the participants we came to the conclusion, that while a lot of progress already has been made, that there was still a lot to do to transform the Humanities towards Open Humanities. 

While discussing Openness in the Humanities was a very intriguing experience, it also became clear that the term Open Humanities is rather unclear. Sometimes it seems like a big bubble and is rather difficult for readers to grasp. 

Open Humanities is, at least in my view, the translation of Open Science principles to the Humanities as the Open Science discussion is rather STEM-dominated. While not sharing all of his views, I warmly suggest to read in this context Marcel Knöchelmann’s article “Open Science in the Humanities, or: Open Humanities?” [Link to the article:]. Viewing Open Humanities as Open Science “with a Humanities touch” it also seems obvious  that it may comprise all different shades of Open practices that are cuddled under the Open Science umbrella, like Open Access, Open Source, Open Data, the FAIR Principles, Research Data Management, transparent research workflows, early sharing of outputs, Citizen Science or Open Infrastructures (and this list is not exhaustive…). So Open Humanities are at its heart very colourful, while data sharing is one of its compound principles, it is not exclusive.

For this year’s Open Science Barcamp we decided to focus on one topic that we see as a core component or important policy component for Open Science: the FAIR Data Principles [Link:]. In the context of the previous paragraph we also acknowledge that you can do steps in the context of Open Science without FAIR data and also, that you can make steps towards FAIR data without knowing what FAIR is. Though that last is probably becoming more and more difficult, given the recent omnipresence of the FAIR principles.

During the session, more than a dozen researchers from the humanities and beyond energetically and controversially discussed the state of FAIR and Open principles in the Humanities. While some argued that FAIR is not enough and progress is being stalled by missing open licences, others stressed that the nature of some humanities data requires different levels of access that are not Open, but fall under FAIR data (e. g. sensitive data, personal data, data without consent, data without clear copyright). Also, in many cases of Humanities workflows the major obstacle is not so much open vs. closed, but insufficient documentation of access conditions, which is rather a FAIR-related problem (more precisely, related to the A of FAIR).

Participants noticed a tendency that humanities scholars seem to be more in favour of FAIR Data than of Open Data (because of various obstacles that prevent full Open Access to the data as described in the previous paragraph) and also that unfortunately often unclear licence statements can be found. They explained that for software engineering and broader reuse scenarios FAIR data often isn’t enough and that more efforts should be made to think of Open as the default and only restrict access if really necessary in order to let the FAIR principles not become an excuse for not sharing data. “Excuses” for not sharing data are (not specifically for the Humanities) depicted with a little ironic twist in the “Open Data Bingo”, a resource that was pointed out by one of the participants.

Open Data Bingo, Original can be found here (no apparent author, OpenAire?)

During the closing round of the session, some concrete steps were discussed related to overcoming tendencies of finding easy excuses for not sharing data. The most important  point was that the FAIR principles should be propagated as good scientific practice, with Open as the default, but with acknowledgement for valid reasons for not sharing or only granting limited access. This means that legal aspects of (not) data sharing need to be understood better in the community. There are helpful tools, resources and initiatives related to licencing and other legal problems in this context, for example:

To achieve a culture of FAIR data sharing in the Humanities more discipline specific training and training materials were seen as required as well as institutional support for sharing data and data sharing infrastructures. Other points we could only touch upon in our 45 minutes session were the CARE principles and data quality.  

A lasting open transformation requires (not only in the Humanities!) institutional resources (e. g. research data management support, legal counselling, sustainable open infrastructures) and therefore should also be supported by research funders. Research funders and institutions play a crucial role in building the pedagogical curve toward more open licences and overcoming obstacles and restraints towards a culture of sharing, in short we need a “Fellowship of the Data” for Open Access to Research Data in the Humanities. And, to truly create a lasting change, we need the transformation to reach the heart of the humanities community itself. More humanists that understand the need for data-citation, that “Open Science is just good science”, and last but not least that implement digital research practices into their workflows.

Listen here to the Open Science Radio Episode OSR188 about our session (short recap with Konrad Förster, Ulrike, and Erszébeth:

To sum up and take the discussion to another level: Open Humanities are predominantly digitally empowered humanities. While we cannot bluntly say: “Hey, it’s 2020, wake up and learn coding!”, we should strive to “leave noone behind”. Humanities scholars need to keep up with new developments in the area of digital research practices (RDM, digital publishing, etc.). It seems highly recommendable that Humanists learn at least a little bit of coding to understand its basic underlying principles. While in some near future coding will probably be seen in the Humanities as an additional Scholarly Primitive this does not mean that in future every humanities scholar will need to be a full scale programmer or data wizard, also we would not like to see the concept of research excellence be strongly linked to the scale or level of computational readiness. Digital empowered humanities are to be situated, like the FAIRness of data, on a sliding scale.

Picture: Makaristo, Olympic-flag-Victoria, Link Source:”, Selection, CC0 1.0

There are different tastes of Open Humanities. Everyone can contribute her and his share to it. While we strive for a culture of Open Data Sharing, other aspects of Open Scholarly Communication are as important. I always like to compare it with the spirit of the Olympic Games: Be part of it! 

What are your thoughts? You are welcome to discuss with me on Twitter (@uwuttke) or leave a comment below.

Home (sweet) Home: My “OpenMethods” desk

Cite as: Ulrike Wuttke, Home (sweet) Home: My “OpenMethods” desk, Blogpost, 01.04.2020, CC BY 4.0. Link:

This is a special blog post initiated by our brilliant OpenMethods Chief Editor Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra (@etothczifra) who asked all OpenMethods-Editors to write a brief comment about their (work) life during the current COVID-19 (Corona) crisis. So I made myself a cup of tea, put on my favourite singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and thought about the impact this event. It became probably one of the most personal posts on this blog. If you want to read good stuff about online learning and collaborating try for example searching Twitter for  #twittercampus or #virtualcollaboration

Picture: OpenMethods: Show your desk

While spring is breaking, the world is in a lock-down. In the fierce hands of the dangerous COVID-19 virus and so far the only way we can try to stop its impact is staying away from others as far and much as possible. For some reasons unknown for me this strategy is called social distancing, while what we have to do is physical distancing. Social contacts are still possible, but reduced more or less to call, video calls, social media. Only after a few days at home and lock-down here at Berlin, I deeply miss my family, friends, and colleagues, my choir, my fellow-yogis, going out just for fun.

While musing about things I miss, I do not forget that I am very privileged. I have a nice home, my living room sports a desk and even a real office chair, I have a phone, a computer and wifi to stay connected and can do my work from home. When I go out, only for food, being grateful for all people out there, who keep things going. They definitely should earn much more than clapping. For the rest, I stay home, try to remember myself to do my yoga in my living room with my favourite YouTube-Yoga-Channels. And besides my couch I have “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado Perez. I really hope to start reading more in it soon.

Leisure: Yoga and Scrabble

So here I am, in my “Home Office”. My employer, the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam (FHP), sent almost everyone to work from home as soon as possible, as a safety measure, and my boss allowed me to stay home for safety reasons even earlier. Since last week, the university is in “emergency mode”, officially closed. But, luckily, that doesn’t mean I am out of work.

Even under these unusual circumstances, of course, my research goes on. I work for the FHP in the project RDMO and as a distributed team we are used to online collaboration, so we are set up for this and nothing really changes. Actually, most of my collaborations are in virtual teams and also many research projects I have contributed before. But face to face meetings are important from time to time, to keep the glue together. Now, many of them have been and will be cancelled or replaced by virtual meetings.

What is harder ist that next week, the students were supposed to return to the university I teach at and new ones to arrive. I was very much looking forward to the courses I am to teach this term. At the moment being, the start of the term has been postponed until 20th of April and then the courses will start online. I am not sure if I will see my students this semester in person this year. This makes me sad and I wonder how this feels for the students.

I will do my best to teach my students online and prepared a Moodle-course for my master course “Research Data Management”, as are so many of us already or preparing to do so, often with a lot of support from our institutions. Where would we be without our eLearning-specialists to guide us? All the teaching staff who now deep-dive into digital tools they had only vaguely heard of? Without the librarians and IT-ers who work hard to give us access? The administrative staff who keeps everything on?

So, on my (virtual) desk is at the moment a lot of material about Research Data Management. Preparing online courses and working in a locked down city, also the importance of unrestricted access becomes more and more an pressing issue. I have been advocating Open Science for a while, now this demand is more urgent and obvious for so many reasons. While I cannot solve problems like people not having access to the internet or suitable devices, one of the basic requirements for more equality in digital research and teaching is more Open Access to articles and books and more OER (Open Educational Resources), Open Data, digital skills, and communication tools we can trust (and pay). I see progress and maybe even a fast-forward of the Open revolution coming, all hands are “on deck” now, and I fear that we go back to business once this crisis is over.

One of the great Open initiatives I am involved in as Deputy Chief Editor is the Digital Humanities metablog OpenMethods, a DARIAH-ERIC initiative. OpenMethods highlights curated Open Access content about Digital Humanities Methods and Tools in many languages. The curation is done by the OpenMethods Editorial Team, a very diverse group of Digital Humanities experts from around the globe. Mostly we meet online, either in a virtual meeting, or reacting to each other’s comments on the nominated posts. Last year, some of us had the chance to come together at DH Utrecht, where we promoted OpenMethods to the community. Some of us met there for the first time!

So, if you come across some great DH stuff, let us know. You can send a link, tweet to us or join us. Learn more about how to help OpenMethods grow by following this link. Spread the word about useful resources in your social networks, make your stuff Open, write a blogpost about what keeps you going, what makes you think, and new skills and perspectives you gained from this experience. I have some things coming to you too in the near future to spread the Open Revolution, like a short annotated list I dubbed “The medievalist essential guide to Open Science (Communication)”.

I truly sense the spirit that we are in this together. I am deeply grateful for my professional network and fellow tweeps (people on twitter) who share tips, ressources, and sometimes silliness. We even created a virtual space on discord for German speaking Digital Humanities. A place to “have a coffee” or an “evening beer”, hangout together and discuss eLearning or professional topics, but also to “gossip in the kitchen”! And I follow a virtual “Thursday night TEI evening class”, an initiative from great folks from the TEI who now live accompany the TEI MOOC. I joined the course especially to finally ask everything about XSLT, I didn’t dare to ask yet!

My kitchen company, I have wild ideas how to animate these cuties for a new episode of the Akademie der Wissensschafe @AKWissensschafe

Did someone just say kitchen? As an extreme coffee addict and collector of DH mugs, I created with Torsten Roeder (@torstenroeder) a little Twitter project dedicated to DH mugs. It’s called DH in a mug and you can find it under @dh_mug #DHinaMug and also #HomeOfficeDH.

Definition of a DH mug: “a DH mug” is a mug with an imprint related to Digital Humanities, a project, an institution, conference, or other nerdy stuff, but any other drinking devices are fine too, if they have a DH imprint. (Don’t get me started though on defining DH!)

So, check out the virtual collection and tweet your #mugshots to @dh_mug: the mug you use now in your HomeOfficeDH or once you are reunited with your favourite mug at your office. Tell a little story about you and your mug, where is it from? What makes it special to you? Like the little “mug story” below:

That’s so far for today. Take care, show care, and stay safe. It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to be yourself. Be your best whatever that may be be now and be there for others if they need a you.

Maybe this is a chance to grow together virtually closer, but I am really looking forward to the real thing!

What are your thoughts? You are welcome to discuss with me on Twitter (@uwuttke) or leave a comment below.

Herausforderungen für die Open-Access-Transformation in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften

Cite as: Ulrike Wuttke, Herausforderungen für die Open-Access-Transformation in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften, Blogpost, 14.02.2020, CC BY 4.0. Link:


Immer wieder beschäftigt mich das Thema der Öffnung der Geisteswissenschaften, ob in Projekten, Workshops oder Publikationen. Gerne benutze ich in diesem Kontext die Bezeichnung Open Scholarship bzw. Open Humanities, weil der Begriff Open Science teilweise als ausgrenzend gegenüber den Geisteswissenschaften wahrgenommen wird.

Nach einem Blogpost zusammen mit E. Tóth-Czifa mit dem Thema Loners, Pathfinders, or Explorers? How are the Humanities Progressing in Open Science? mit vielen positiven Open Humanities-Beispielen, gebe ich in diesem Blogpost eine kurze Übersicht über sieben Herausforderungen der Open-Access-Transformation in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften.

Meine Annäherung an das Thema erfolgt insbesondere aus der Sicht von wissenschaftlichen Bibliotheken und skizziert einige relevanten Open-Access-Publikationsdienstleistungen, Lösungsansätze und Handlungsempfehlungen. In der gemeinsamen Betrachtung der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften folge ich dem Beispiel wissenschaftspolitischer Diskussionen, in der oft die Kategorie SSH (Social Sciences and Humanities) zu finden ist, ich habe aber auch – trotz aller Kürze – dem Fakt Rechnung getragen, dass beide Disziplinen ihre Eigenheiten aufweisen.

Als Hauptherausforderung für die Open-Access-Transformation in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften sehe ich den Fokus auf klassischen, narrativen Formaten, die in generellen Open-Access-Diskussionen nicht immer genügend Aufmerksamkeit bekommen, aber auch disziplinspezifische Barrieren bezüglich des offenen Zugangs zu Daten und fehlende Annerkennung für Datenpublikationen bzw. alternative Forschungsprodukte. Am Ende sind einige weiterführende für diesen Post verwendete Ressourcen aufgeführt.

Open Access: Vision und Status Quo

2003 wurde in der Berliner Erklärung Open Access zu wissenschaftlichen Publikationen und Forschungsdaten zum Ziel definiert. Wenn wir heute, fast 20 Jahre später, versuchen uns der Frage, wie es um diese aus der Wissenschaft heraus entstandene Bewegung mit der Vision des weltweiten, freien Zugangs zum menschlichen Wissen über das Internet, in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften steht, quantitativ zu nähern, stoßen wir schnell an Grenzen. Aufgrund der Komplexität der Fragestellung liegen momentan kaum umfassende, verlässliche Erhebungen über den OA-Anteil in bestimmten Disziplinen vor. Logo (Public Domain), Quelle Wikimedia

2018 wurde geschätzt, dass weltweit erst circa 25% ALLER publizierten Artikel Open Access sind, zu Forschungsdaten liegen keine belastbaren Zahlen vor. Oftmals werden die Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften als OA-“Nachzügler” bezeichnet und es weisen auch einige quantitative Erhebungen in diese Richtung. Daher ist es berechtigt, die Gründe für den langsamen Fortschritt beziehungsweise spezifische Herausforderungen bezüglich einer umfassenden Open-Access-Transformation in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften zu hinterfragen, weil sie insbesondere
1) bei wissenschaftspolitischen Diskussionen,
2) im Gespräch mit Wissenschaftler*innen sowie
3) der Konzeption von OA-Dienstleistungen zu bedenken sind.

Die folgende Zusammenschau disziplinspezifischer Herausforderungen soll insbesondere die Gefahr unterstreichen, konkrete Bedarfe der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften zu übersehen, wenn der OA-Diskurs zu stark durch die STEM-Fächer dominiert wird, wie z. B. bezüglich der PlanS-Initiative kritisiert. Das nimmt natürlich nicht weg, dass die Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften nicht aus in den STEM-Fächern bereits gemachten Erfahrungen lernen können.

Spezifische Herausforderungen der Open-Access-Transformation in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften

Klassische, narrative Publikationen

Herausforderung Nummer 1: Open-Access-Monografien

Weil die Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften im Gegensatz zu den STEM-Fächern “Buchwissenschaften” sind, stellt die Integration von Open-Access-Büchern (d. h. von Monografien und Sammelbänden) eine großer Herausforderung dar. Handlungsbedarfe bestehen u. a. bezüglich tragfähiger Geschäftsmodelle für Open-Access-Monografien, der Sichtbarkeit von Open-Access-Monografien in lokalen Bibliothekskatalogen und darüber hinaus sowie der Metadatenqualität und -harmonisierung (siehe HIRMEOS).

Herausforderung Nummer 2: Überwindung des Printparadigmas

Die Publikationskultur der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften ist noch immer stark durch das Printparadigma geprägt. Die damit verbundenen starken allgemeinen Vorbehalte gegen das elektronische Publizieren im Allgemeinen (Zweifel an der Langzeitarchivierung und -verfügbarkeit) wirken sich auch negativ auf die Akzeptanz von Open Access aus.

Herausforderung Nummer 3: Spezifika des Gratifikationssystems

Zu den Besonderheiten des geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Gratifikationssystems zählt einerseits, dass ausschlaggebende Auswahlfaktoren für Zeitschriften vor allem “weiche” Metriken wie Prestige und Reputation (Renommee!) sind, weniger der (umstrittene) JIF oder andere bibliometrische Metriken wie der h-Index (beide durch Open Access durchaus “boostbar”) bzw. Open Access selbst. Dazu kommen anderseits Vorbehalte gegen die Qualität von Open-Access-Publikationen (die im Zusammenhang mit den Vorbehalten gegen elektronischen Publizieren stehen): selbst dort, wo gleichwertige Review-Verfahren Anwendung finden, gewährleisten diese bislang keineswegs eine gleichwertige Anerkennung.

Herausforderung Nummer 4: Finanzielle Besonderheiten der Forschungskultur

In den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften gibt es im Vergleich zu Natur- und Lebenswissenschaften weniger durch Drittmittelgeförderte Projekte. Hierdurch fehlen Wissenschaftler*innen der ersteren Disziplinen Projektmittel um Open-Access-Publikationen in der Form von APCs (Artikel Processing Charges) bzw. noch höheren Beträgen für Open-Access-Monografien in Author-Pays-Modellen zu bestreiten. Zumindest in Deutschland sind hierdurch auch ihre Möglichkeiten eingegrenzt legal das Recht auf Zweitveröffentlichung wahrzunehmen. Außerdem fehlt Fördergebern hierdurch der sanfte “Hebel” Open-Access-Publikationen durch Fördervorgaben zu stimulieren.

Herausforderung Nummer 5: Unsicherheiten im Umgang mit offenen Lizenzen

Der hohe Stellenwert der Integrität der eigenen Publikationen und der allgemein unsichere Umgang mit rechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen führt zu Vorbehalten gegen offene Lizenzen.

Open Data

Open Data, d. h. Open Access zu Forschungsdaten, scheint in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften noch wenig ausgeprägt. Die vielfältigen Gründe, die einer stärkeren Umsetzung des Open-Data-Prinzips in diesen Disziplinen, entgegenstehen, hängen teilweise mit bereits unter der Kategorie “Klassische, narrative Publikationen” zusammen.

Herausforderung Nummer 6: Fehlende Rechte an Forschungsdaten und sensible Forschungsdaten

Auch im Bereich Forschungsdaten stehen rechtliche Unsicherheiten einer umfassenden Open-Access-Transformation im Weg. Insbesondere in den Geisteswissenschaften ist es hinderlich, dass Forschungsdaten oft Digitalisate von Dokumenten der kulturellen Überlieferung aus dem GLAM-Bereich (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) sind, die oft nicht unter freien Lizenzen bzw. nur unklaren Bedingungen zur Verfügung stehen. In den Sozialwissenschaften stellt der hohe Anteil besonders schützenswerter, sensibler Forschungsdaten eine Herausforderung dar. Hier bietet der Bezug auf die FAIR-Prinzipien und das Prinzip “so offen wie möglich, so geschlossen wie nötig”, einen Lösungsweg.

Herausforderung Nummer 7: Mentalitätsfragen

Dazu kommen viele ungelöste Fragen bezüglich der Qualitätssicherung, der Verantwortlichkeiten der Langzeitarchivierung von Forschungsdaten und mit dem Gratifikationssystem zusammenhängende Mentalitätsfragen: Daten zählen in diesen Disziplinen noch nicht wirklich als eigenständige wissenschaftliche Objekte und selbstproduzierte Daten werden zudem stark als Eigentum, als Datenschatz für eigene klassisch, narrative Publikationen betrachtet. Einen Weg zeigt hier z. B. DORA (San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment) auf, in der “the value and impact of all research outputs (including datasets and software) in addition to research publications” betont wird.


Es gibt natürlich weder DIE Geistes- noch DIE Sozialwissenschaften. Es gibt sowohl Unterschiede zwischen beiden Disziplinen als auch intradisziplinäre Unterschiede, d. h. Unterschiede zwischen einzelnen Fächern dieser Disziplinen, auf die an dieser Stelle nicht weiter eingegangen werden kann. Ganz allgemein wird den Digital Humanities eine hohe Open Access-Affinität nachgesagt und die methodisch zwischen Geistes- und Naturwissenschaften stehenden Sozialwissenschaften mit ihrer aus beiden Richtungen geprägten Publikationskultur scheinen insgesamt etwas OA-affiner zu sein.

In den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften finden wir eine ausgeprägte Open-Access-Theorie- und Praxisschere: viele Wissenschaftler*innen finden Open Access im Prinzip gut, nicht zuletzt weil sie vom besseren Zugang profitieren, aber zögern (noch) es in der Praxis umzusetzen. Bei dieser positiven Grundeinstellung zu Open Access gilt es anzusetzen, insbesondere in den Bereichen:

  1. Entwicklung zeitgemäßer Anreizsysteme,
  2. Förderung von längerfristigen Lernprozessen durch Best-Practice-Beispiele und
  3. Verstärkter Nachdruck auf Data Literacy und Informationskompetenz bereits in der Lehre, denn Open Access und die FAIR-Prinzipien sind “gekommen um zu bleiben” als Teil der Leitlinien zur Sicherung der guten wissenschaftlichen Praxis (DFG-Kodex GWP 2019).

Die noch geringe Durchdringung der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften durch die Open-Access-Transformation bietet aber auch Chancen, z. B. zur Entwicklung fairer Modelle für den Nachweis, d. h. umfassender und unabhängiger Findewerkzeuge, die wiederum impulsgebend für andere momentan stark “kommerzialisierte” Disziplinen sein können, sowie alternativer Open-Access-Geschäftsmodelle.

Sandipoutsider, Open wing posture basking of Danaus melanippus Cramer, 1777 – White Tiger (Male) WLB DSC 2695, CC BY-SA 4.0

Hier sind natürlich nicht nur wissenschaftliche Bibliotheken gefragt, aber ihre besondere Stellung im Wissenschaftssystem bietet ihnen die Chance weitere Entwicklungen federführend zu prägen u. a.:

  • durch die nutzergetriebene Entwicklung von disziplin- und fachspezifischen Open Access-Publikationsdienstleistungen und -infrastrukturen (Repositorien, konsortiale Verlagsmodelle wie OLH, Open Knowledge Maps)
  • flankierende Aufklärungs- und Schulungsmaßnahmen in Zusammenarbeit mit Wissenschaftler*innen (z. B.,
  • aber auch als Datengeber durch die Bereitstellung von (Meta-)Daten (aus Digitalen Sammlungen etc.) unter offenen Lizenzen, offenen Schnittstellen und offenen Formaten. Hierdurch leben sie vor, was von Wissenschaftler*innen gefordert wird und ermöglichen maßgeblich die Öffnung der Forschung.

Ich freue mich über Kommentare und Anmerkungen, über Twitter, Kommentare unten und natürlich persönlich!

Weiterführende Ressourcen (alphabetisch):

Biesenbender, Kristin / Ralf Flohr / Monika Linne / Olaf Siegert, ‘Open-Access-Tage 2018 – Teil II: Wie entwickelt sich Open Access in einzelnen Fächern und Projekten?’, Blogpost, ZBW Mediatalk

Graf, Dorothee / Veronika Burovikhina / Natalie Leinweber, ‘Zukunftsmodell Monografien im Open Access: Aus der Praxis von Bibliotheken, Verlagen, Wissenschaft und Lehre im gemeinsamen Projekt OGeSoMo’, in: o-Bib 6 (2019):4

Kleineberg, Michael / Ben Kaden, ‘Open Humanities? ExpertInnenmeinungen über Open Access in den Geisteswissenschaften’. in: LIBREAS. Library Ideas 32 (2017).

Söllner, Konstanze / Mittermaier, Bernhard (Hg.) (2017). Praxishandbuch Open Access (De Gruyter Praxishandbuch), De Gruyter Saur (Open Access): u. a. die Kapitel zu Open Access in den Geisteswissenschaften, Open Access in den Sozialwissenschaften, zur Rolle von Bibliotheken, Data Publishing etc.)

Tóth-Czifra, Erzsébet: ‘Open Access in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences’. Short video with links to resources

Tóth-Czifra, Erzsébet / Wuttke, Ulrike (2019): ‘Loners, Pathfinders, or Explorers? How are the Humanities Progressing in Open Science?’. Blogpost from Open Science Barcamp 2019 auf GenR

Picture shows a drawing of a research data Treasure Hunt

What is the Problem with Medievalist’s and Open Access to Research Data? Some (rather uncomfortable) Reflections from the Carmen 2019 Data Workshop

Cite as: Ulrike Wuttke, What is the Problem with Medievalist’s and Open Access to Research Data? Some (rather uncomfortable) Reflections from the Carmen 2019 Workshop, 18.10.2019, CC BY 4.0.

After the successful Open Science Workshop at last year’s CARMEN (Worldwide Medieval Network) Annual Meeting which focussed on Scholarly Communication in general (Workshop Report), I decided to focus this years training on Research Data. 

  • Resource: Wuttke, Ulrike. (2019, September). Make your digital research more sustainable and visible: Data Sharing and Data Management Techniques & Tools for Digital Medievalists. Zenodo.  

Workshops like the CARMEN workshops are always very exciting because the audience is very mixed in respective to their “digital skills” but also kind of homogenous because all are medievalists, which makes it easy for me to relate to their research questions and methods etc. Also, the CARMEN people are especially welcoming and not shy of controverse discussions (as you will see below). 

This year’s workshop “Make your digital research more sustainable and visible: Data Sharing and Data Management Techniques & Tools for Digital Medievalists” drew quite a huge group, not only because of the mouth-to-mouth propaganda of last year’s participants, but because it is a hot topic for medievalists.

After outlining the aims of the workshop and the code of conduct that underlined that the workshop should be a safe space for open discussion (see my slides for the code of conduct, I got great comments on it!), we opened the space to hear about participants’ backgrounds and interests. Then I introduced the basics of the concept of research data and key concepts related to humanities research data. We ended the first round with an activity in which the participants were asked to put on their “magic data glasses” and ponder over the question “What is your research data?”. 

Besides the request to explain in more detail “What is research data, so what counts as data?”, the answers of the participants showed the great variance of digital methods used and ranged from: 

  • digital notes and annotations mainly in Word or 
  • use of spreadsheets, 
  • “free” collections of images of manuscripts, 
  • to more structured data such as transcriptions in TEI or 
  • using Omeka or others database systems and collecting data e.g. using the metadata standard Dublin Core. 

The question, however “What is research data? What counts as research data?”, made me think that most definitions of research data are very broad, that they also include digital versions of articles, in fact all “digital stuff”. So there seems to be a broad overlap between digital scholarly publishing and research data management, which makes the concept a bit confusing. For the session we came to agree that all “digital stuff” researchers use and produce are research data, but with varying degrees of structuredness and machine readability (which we deemed important).  

After this already heated discussion during the first group activity, I introduced the key concepts and good practices related to sustainable and visible humanities research data. I especially focussed on technical and intellectual sustainability (think of documentation, research data management, and (FAIR) data publication). Then we dove into the second group activity, a discussion of challenges and needs for Data Sharing. For this part of the discussion, Torsten Roeder, Digital Humanities Coordinator from the Leopoldina (the national German Academy) had joined me.

I had asked Torsten to join me because I expected a lot of detailed technical questions about digital methods related with sustainability or maybe some anxiety about sharing, but surprisingly, the main point of the discussion was: 

  • What if I would love to do data sharing, but cannot because of costs, often posed by libraries? 

Now I had a whole group of medievalists in a heated discussion about how often – in their experience – costs are the main obstacle to publishing Open Access and publishing their research data! 

Of course it depends what your main research area is, but for this group, apparently their main research data (sources) are digitized manuscripts, that is pictures (not TEI encoded texts, to make that clear). It came down to the point that they often have to pay (by themselves or out of dwindling budgets) for publishing rights imposed on them by the holding institutions (often libraries) and the costs for these rights for online, Open Access, publication are much higher than for print (and/or closed access). The licensing model of libraries and other institutions and legal restrictions imposed on archival sources make it almost impossible to publish them or even contributing to community sourced collections if the default for pictures is set to OA. 
This situation leads to a thriving “black market” of sharing via Facebook groups etc. because legally it is not possible to share them publicly. Of course, there are quite some libraries and other institutions that provide Open Access to digitized medieval sources, but they are not always easy to find and often you are looking for a very specific manuscript and chances are apparently still very high that the one you need is not digital available in Open Access.

After the session I started to look for starting points to come up with these resources, these are some useful links I came across (please let me know if I missed something very obvious!):

After the session we continued the discussion over a cup of coffee and from this I would like some more “pieces of food for thought”: 

  • Publication cost by libraries are really a “deal breaker” for researchers like medievalist who work a lot with picture, this has been outlined in detail as an example by Kate Rudy in an article (2019). Of course it’s not the holding institutions alone but I think she is right when she writes:
    “Image-holding institutions should rethink their purpose. They can never have enough in-house expertise to fully research all of their holdings. They should be grateful to scholars who are applying their expertise to their collections. The least they can do is to make images available for free. They should also allow researchers to make study photographs and produce high-resolution images for publication at low costs.” 
  • If only the “rich” e. g. the few that have a research budget can pay for pictures and picture rights, this causes a problem for the diversity of the field of medieval studies 
  • Especially given that libraries are often active promoters and facilitators of Open Access / Open Science (e. g. see LIBERs Open Science Roadmap on Zenodo) these “black sheep” are undermining the credibility of these efforts
  • These obstacles also make it very difficult to comply with strict Open Access requirements of national funders

Additionally, Laura Morreale (Center of Medieval Studies, Fordham University) pointed me to her project Digital Documentation Process (DDP) that has developed: “a set of best practices for cataloguing and preserving digital projects. The DDP makes digital humanities (DH) scholarship findable and citable for all scholars, stores and makes available durable versions of digital objects created in DH work, and facilitates a suite of documentary products for DH practitioners to communicate the value of their work to DH- and non-DH scholars alike”. She underlines that subject specialist, IT specialist, and information specialist have to work hand in hand, but the motivation has to come from the subject specialist, who cannot “just throw data at the end of the project at the librarian” (couldn’t agree more). The proposed process is aimed at making the data better understandable and is a suggestion how to add value to it so that is become a part of the scholarly record, especially the so called Archiving Dossier Narrative. She invites discussion around the question how this approach, that is very much from a subject specialist perspective makes sense from the perspective of Data Management.   

Last but not least, I am happy to share with you the “Research Data Management Treasure Hunt Map” drawn by Torsten Roeder which was just not ready in time to be shown during the workshop.

“Research Data Management Treasure Hunt Map” by Torsten Roeder, 2019. CC BY 4.0

Thank you for reading! As always, I am very keen to hear you thoughts, additions etc. Discuss with me by leaving a comment below, or on Twitter (@uwuttke).