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Humanities assessment ‘must evolve for digital age’


European academies working group says evaluation at present “tends to neglect digital practices”

Practices in the humanities, particularly around research assessment, should evolve to keep pace with digitisation, a group representing learned academies has urged.

“The system of research assessment and evaluation is often at odds with the practices of the humanities’ scholarly community,” according to a report published on 30 November by the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (Allea).

“Traditional formats such as monographs, articles or essays still remain dominant in this community,” says the report, issued by the Allea Working Group E-Humanities. 

“Furthermore, innovative work is often invisible to research assessment and evaluation, which tends to neglect digital practices.”

Evolution of practice

The report, titled Recognising Digital Scholarly Outputs in the Humanities, suggests that humanities communities should see digital technologies as a “standard evolution of scholarly practices”.

To do this they need to develop a better understanding of how to combine multiple disciplines and look at new ways of carrying out and publishing their work, it says.

Scholarly outputs can be “fluid and constantly updated” thanks to digitisation, the report points out, which means a scientific paper is not a “finite work” but can be continually evolving and improving.

All contributors to research can be clearly identified in digital outputs, whereas “current authorship attribution schemes often do not reflect collaborative inputs well”, the working group says.

The report notes that “innovative outputs pose a challenge to reviewing and evaluating practices on many levels”, but says that to solve this “evaluators and reviewers should have relevant knowledge both in the subject and the technology”.