Future Proof and #FAIR #Researchdatamanagement in the Humanities

Report from Hands-on Session: Future Proof and FAIR Research Data: Open Data Management Best Practices & First Steps

At 21st of January 2019 FOSTER+ and DARIAH EU organized the workshop “How to make the most of your publications in the humanities? Discover evolving trends in open access” at the Grimm-Zentrum Berlin.



You can imagine that I was extremely thrilled to lead a hands-on session about Research Data Management with a focus on Open practices in the afternoon for an international group of humanities researchers! Not only would this session provide me an opportunity to introduce the participants to basics of Open Data Management and discuss challenges and opportunities, it also allowed me to participate in the whole workshop with an excellent line-up of international experts and projects dedicated to Open Humanities. Just have a look at the programme to discover the topics discussed on this very informative day organized superbly by Erszébet Tóth-Cifra and Helene Brinken.


For me a personal highlight was the presentation from Pierre Mournier (OPERAS) about Open Scholarly Monographs, a topic that is sometimes treated in the Open Access discourse a bit like a wallflower because loads of attention recently is placed on articles. However, monographs have played and with Pierre I dare to prophesise, will continue to play a huge role in the scientific publication process of the humanities. Therefore, equally attention has to be paid to Open Access to monographs (e.g. distribution and discovery infrastructures, funding models, reward systems).


Another highlight, very close to the topic of my hands-on session, was the presentation by Walter Scholger and Vanessa Hannenschläger from the ACDH about Copyright Issues and Open Licensing. They argued convincingly that CCO is actually not a very useful to use to release your materials at it leaves a lot of insecurities (its a mark, not a licence) and encouraged CC-BY instead, even though it may seem rather difficult for resources that have been collaboratively produced. There was not enough time to discuss this in full detail, and I would love to see more detailed information about this and also examples from practice. All slides from the presentations of the workshop are linked from the programme. You can also try #humanitiesOA on Twitter.


My hands-on session started really very hands-on, as we first had to divide the room into two parts (in the other half was a parallel session about Self-Archiving). To get to know the background of the participants and to restart blood circulation after an already long workshop day, I asked the participants to stand up and to only sit down if the answer to my question was “no”. I asked them if 1) they had an ORCID, 2) they had ever published something Open Access besides articles or books, and 3) they had already written a data management plan. I overheard some mumbling remark to the last question, but what if it s*!&%cked? This really made me laugh, as this seems to be quite a common experience. It was also a very high motivation for me for the following 1 ½ hours!

While often when we talk about humanities data, the first thing that comes up are texts, which probably also one of the main humanities data types, I was surprised by the diversity the participants named during one of the hands-on discussion parts: social media and social network data, interview data (qualitative interview recordings and transcripts), bibliometric data, pictures, non-digital archival sources, geodata such as GIS, tabular data (Excel, CVS), algorithms and code, manuscript scans, Omeka collections. Seems, humanities researchers have a lot of data, and a very diverse range, too!

Without going into detail as you can download the full slide set of the session from Zenodo: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.2546783, I would like to emphasise a few points we discussed during the session:

  • Thinking about Data Management from the beginning of your project, e.g. how to make your data FAIR, how to document your data and which metadata are needed, etc. can save you a lot of work afterwards, as it will make you think about standards (e.g. Standardization Survival Kit) to ensure interoperability and prevent you from losing track (or even data), or do you remember what exactly you did with your data a few months after?
  • Sharing Data ideally is a win-win: You can use data of others and others can use your data
  • Always give credit to what you use and make it easy for others to credit you (use an Open Access repository, CC licenses, etc.)
  • Think of Data Management as part of Good Scientific Practice, not as a nuisance (and from organizational point of view: allocate resources and infrastructure for support, this task should not be on the shoulders of researchers alone)

For me crucial parts of introducing researchers to data management are explaining the benefits and then introducing them gently to the basics, pointing at support structures and providing them with information about further learning and information resources. I often see that once they have dipped their toes into this topic, realizing the benefits, they are often highly motivated for further exploration and for using their new skills in practice. But first, you to get them into a data management session!


  • In the spirit of Open Educational Resources (OER), the slides of my presentation including the practical parts are published on Zenodo, feel free to reuse and share. I have gratefully reused brilliant material from the Open Science / OER Community, and would like to encourage everyone to do the same.
  • While you are here: Get started now and check out the PARTHENOS Training Module Manage, Improve and Open Up Your Research and Data! You can also try out a research data management planning tool, such as RDMO, that guides you through the essential parts of a data management plan.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or discuss with me on Twitter or Facebook!

The text of this blog post is published under the license CC-BY 4.0.

Cite as: Ulrike Wuttke, Future Proof and #FAIR #Researchdatamanagement in the Humanities, Blogpost, 04.02.2019, CC-BY 4.0.

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