The shift in scholarly practices towards open science1 raises questions about scholarly values and practices, but also questions about digital infrastructure. Without the repositories, standards, platforms, and communication tools that have developed in concert with the conceptual foundations of open access, open data, citizen science, and beyond, open science could never have reached the conceptual maturity it now enjoys, much less the reality of active implementation. Within the European research landscape, the movements towards open science and consolidated, coordinated infrastructure have progressed in tandem. This does not mean, however, that every European institution, disciplinary community, or, indeed, every infrastructure is equally committed to the ideals of open science or has its tenets equally well integrated into its mission and actions. For the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH, Europe’s transnational infrastructure for the arts and humanities), open science has become, since 2017, not just a matter of interest and concern for the organization, but central to its strategy and value proposition to its user community (Edmond et al. 2020). The manner in which DARIAH responded to the drivers and enablers for this gradual process of integration—and how open science was harnessed to improve its service offering—demonstrates how open science, even in the disciplines of the arts and humanities, can become a centerpiece for excellent science.
DARIAH’s unique position as an independent consortium closely linked to national and international European stakeholders endows it with a number of advantages in terms of its ability to act within an open science context. That said, the manner in which it leveraged these assets to successfully integrate open science into its range of activities makes it a source of potential best practice guidelines to research policymakers, digital humanities projects and infrastructures, and humanities researchers seeking to understand how open science can align with their values and epistemic cultures.
DARIAH’s Organizational Model, Strategy, and Environment
The affordances of open science that DARIAH was able to harness come from its nature as an organization optimized for its research community. DARIAH was first proposed in 2005 as part of the European Strategic Form for Research Infrastructure’s roadmap (released in 2006), which aims to “develop the scientific integration of Europe and to strengthen its international outreach” (ESFRI n.d.). The DARIAH research community was experiencing fundamental, but unevenly distributed, methodological changes, and the fragmented nature of the expertise required to advance these changes made the idea of an integrated research infrastructure shared by European countries an attractive option. Such an infrastructure required facilitating shared access to research data, tools, teaching materials, and other resources across the member countries and beyond to improve research conditions for arts and humanities scholars, which has been at the heart of DARIAH from its inception. DARIAH quickly built up to its current size and scope, which now stretches across twenty member countries and cooperating partners in an additional twelve countries. Across the network, its digital platforms and services see over 230 million interactions each year, and its user community publishes more than seven hundred annual scientific publications based on the data, services, tools, and knowledge DARIAH provides access to.
DARIAH’s impact and activities may seem abstract from this description, however. A perhaps more useful view into what DARIAH is, does, and strives for can be found in its 2019 Strategic Plan, which aligns the broader organizational activities to four pillars:
provide a marketplace for sustainable tools, services, data, and knowledge;
deliver and promote high-quality education and training materials and opportunities;
coordinate transnational and transdisciplinary working groups; and
participate in the shaping of policy initiatives and foresight for our community.
Each of these pillars will be described in more detail below, but their practical effect is to provide the community of arts and humanities researchers in more than twenty European countries with low-friction platforms and structures to access information such as: datasets, tools, specialized knowledge (such as data management or legal requirements around sensitive data), training events and materials, seed funding and advice on accessing funds for large scale projects, lobbying, and opportunities to self-organize around emerging topics of mutual concern.
Although very much community focused, DARIAH’s development was also influenced by the changing policy landscape and priorities of the European Commission (EC), and, in particular, its approach to fostering open science. The EC played a leadership role in Europe, driving the migration of research agency policies towards requiring open access to the research publications they funded. Already in 2014, the EC embedded an open access mandate into its multi-billion Euro Horizon 2020 funding program, which had a comprehensive policy integrating open science with open innovation and openness “to the world.” The ensuing string of major initiatives to promote open science included the launch of the European Open Science Cloud in 2018, the European Open Research Portal in 2020, and the agreement developed by the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment in 2022. At the same time as all of these regular major milestones were being reached, the national stakeholders in Europe were also increasing their commitments and enhancing their capacity for open science, and they were working in tandem with the major supernational enablers mentioned above. Turning investments in open science into a strategic priority has allowed DARIAH to reduce the implementation gap between the generic principles and values of open science (as they are, as the use of the term science reveals, often shaped by epistemic cultures of the science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, disciplines) and the specificities of the arts and humanities domain.
Policy Work as an Open Science Integrator
The root of DARIAH’s assimilation of open science into the essence of the organization began as a policy initiative with the goal to mediate between the concerns of the organization’s macro- and micro-scale stakeholders. From 2015 onwards, open science was becoming a more common topic in research policy discussions—a situation that urgently required an intermediary to translate community needs upwards to policymakers and to disseminate policy implications downwards to the researchers. This took a number of forms.
As open access to publications was increasingly becoming a norm, ensuring that arts and humanities researchers and their publication practices would not fall behind became a key strand of DARIAH’s policy work. Together with other actors, DARIAH established itself as a strong advocate for the better inclusion of community-led business models, academic monographs, and edited collections within the open access policy and publication landscape. In this respect, one of the most complex challenges that scholars repeatedly voiced in discussion with DARIAH is regarding publishing one’s first monograph open access given the gap in open access funding structures. As a response to this challenge, DARIAH launched an annual Open Access Book Bursary in 2021 for the publication of a researcher’s first monograph within the domain of digital humanities. The resulting book series delivers innovative, solid contributions to digital humanities to be accessible to all interested readers and allows more readers, authors, and publishers to see the many benefits of this mode of publication.
As a research infrastructure, DARIAH’s interests naturally extend beyond the final articles and books that are the outputs of research processes to the underlying tools and data that shape and form them over the months and years of a research project. In the context of open and FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data implementation practices (another major thematic area covered by European policy mandates), DARIAH’s focus came to rest on the major and distinctive challenge for this community with regards to shared and open data—namely the researchers’ interdependence with the museums, libraries, galleries, and archives that preserve, curate, provide access to, and gate (re)use of cultural heritage sources. The availability of digital (digitized and born-digital) cultural heritage is fundamental to research in many disciplines. Accordingly, enhancing the reusability of cultural heritage collections as research data in digital and computationally driven data curation workflows and aligning the copyright and other related policy aspects both in the cultural heritage and the research sectors became key policy goals for DARIAH (Tasovac et al. 2020). The DARIAH Heritage Data Reuse Charter was developed as a tool to help researchers and cultural heritage institutions to align values and clarify communications around shared responsibilities for data management (Tóth-Czifra and Romary 2020). The charter has been implemented in the working practices of DARIAH-affiliated institutions such as the Croatian Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research as well as in DARIAH-affiliated projects such as the European Lexicographical Infrastructure (ELEXIS) project. On the strategic level, this cross-sector alignment to enable open and FAIR data for the domain is reflected in the fact that DARIAH is equally invested in the development of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) and the nascent European Collaborative Cloud for Cultural Heritage (ECCCH) and is expected to play a unique intermediary role between these two flagship EU infrastructures.
The third key policy area in which DARIAH has come to play an active role is the ongoing European reform of research assessment. Bringing digitally enabled arts and humanities perspectives to what is valued and rewarded in research careers is not only crucial for the vitality and innovation potential of the research domain and the associated creative industries, but it is also crucial for DARIAH itself to fulfill its mission to empower research communities with digital methods to create, connect, and share knowledge about culture and society. Currently, many of the kinds of scholarly contributions that are vital to thematic research infrastructures (infrastructure development in the broad sense, born-digital content curation, training, etc.) are still unrewarded, if not even counter-incentivized by the traditional bibliometric and publisher prestige-based mechanisms of assessment (Eve 2020). DARIAH has been contributing to the assessment reform since joining the European Commission’s Open Science Policy Platform in 2016. To take this activity to the next level, in November 2022 DARIAH became a founding member of the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA). The coalition brings together more than 350 research, infrastructure and policy organizations from over forty countries who join forces to implement a very timely reform of research assessment across Europe.
Building Infrastructure for Open Science in the Arts and Humanities Domain
Although DARIAH’s engagement with open science may have really started in the policy realm, it truly found its fruit in the vision of a DARIAH Marketplace. This platform was initially proposed to become an answer to the inefficiencies of the culture of tool and data creation in the digital humanities, with the profile of tools and data often being recognized at national or regional levels only when their real potential might lie in service to a discipline that could cross many national boundaries. The Marketplace, ultimately delivered as a service to all of the social sciences and the humanities domains through the investment of the Social Sciences and Humanities Open Cloud (SSHOC) project, was designed from the outset to avoid the pitfalls encountered by some of its precursors, notably the US-based Project Bamboo and the UK-based Arts and Humanities Data Service. Although very different, these two prior attempts to build something like the Marketplace both faltered and eventually closed, not for lack of ability to provide a service to their community, but because of a lack of adequate and sustainable community embedding and stakeholder support. This became a point of focus for the Marketplace and the process that came to define its specifications, which became anchored in the idea of the workflow as a mechanism to allow heterogenous tools and data to be featured and deployed in a tactical manner by the users these tools were intended to reach. DARIAH’s Marketplace engagement also became intrinsically linked to the European Open Science Cloud, giving it presence and potential for ever wider use by scholars from across the disciplines. Although developed in the context of a time-limited project, an agreement signed in 2022 secured significant funding to sustain and grow the Marketplace platform as a service for users by DARIAH and two of its major partners in the initiative’s development: the parallel research infrastructures CLARIN (for language resources) and CESSDA (for social science data). This firm anchoring in both open science and in its communities will allow the Marketplace to continue to thrive. Having steady governance models and funding sources in place to prevent infrastructures like this from collapsing, or being acquired by players in the private sector, is an absolute prerequisite for both researcher trust and openness (Tennant et al 2019). Collectively investing in such safe spaces for scholarship comes with the opportunity to mitigate scholars’ dependence on the infrastructure that determines where their work is published, stored, disseminated, and preserved and to (re)align them with their own research practices and needs, rather than following the routes set by black-box systems, which are often designed along the legacy of the print culture.
As another example of how DARIAH leveraged its European partnerships to address gaps in the infrastructure provision for open science and central scholarly databases’ inclusiveness towards arts and humanities content generally can be seen in the OpenAIRE Advance project. DARIAH-EU worked in this context with the DARIAH national nodes to connect thematic data repositories from across Europe to the OpenAIRE Research Graph, the biggest publicly owned research discovery system in Europe. Content types that are important for arts and humanities research such as digital critical editions, sheet music, video recordings, image collections, etc., are often accommodated under the suitcase term of research data, but they usually fall outside the scope of scholarly databases. DARIAH acknowledges these various content types and, as a result, they have become visible at a shared, transdisciplinary, European data discovery horizon.
Facilitating Changes in the Research Culture Through Community Engagement
The notion of open science is also a central organizing principle for the other two DARIAH pillars: training and education and working groups. Firmly anchoring open science practices cannot be limited to enabling the sharing of research data, publications, and tools by connecting crowds via technical services and spaces, however (Blanke et al. 2015). Perhaps even more important is the people-focused work to change ingrained patterns in the research culture, redesigning research workflows to enable sharing the processes and the end results as openly as possible, and transitioning to more connectible and transparent ways of conducting research. DARIAH member organizations can and do ask for open science training from the DARIAH Central Office, covering topics including open access to publications, self-archiving, FAIR and open research data management, developments around the European Open Science Cloud, citizen science, or responsible research ethics. The recordings of such events, together with rich contextual documentation and training materials developed for them, are presented on DARIAH’s training platform, DARIAH Campus. The platform also brings together and indexes resources produced within the national DARIAH nodes and by external collaborators, resulting in a rich and diverse open science training portfolio covering a range of open research practices and solutions, including such specialized topics as the use of multilingual vocabularies, open citation and licensing practices, and standardization practices for different data types (geodata, lexicographical data, corpus data, etc.). In the context of the European discourse on open science trainings, DARIAH’s training and education officer also joined the EOSC Association’s task force on upskilling countries to ensure that the arts and humanities would not become a problematic footnote in the policies driving the development of open science at the national level.
To strengthen the discourse around open humanities, in early 2019 DARIAH launched the DARIAH Open blog, which still serves today as both a communication and an advocacy platform for the translation of generic open science imperatives to the specificities of the arts and humanities. The blog is also a platform to amplify the good work that is being done in our national communities and working groups. Similarly, among its working groups and other forms of strategic alliance, DARIAH ensured that open science remained a guiding principle to be recognized and invested in. In this vein, it not only instigated the formation of a working group specifically on research data management, but it also has maintained its commitment to its group of partners from the SSH Open Cloud project in the form of a cluster bound by a memorandum of understanding to continue the work of aligning activities and raising awareness in this space.
These examples demonstrate how the manner in which DARIAH supports its researcher community with enhanced infrastructural provision is intrinsically entwined with its participation in the development and promotion of open science and is strategically central to the achievement of DARIAH’s organizational mission. Although DARIAH was fortunate to have been able to draw on its unique positioning in the research landscape to become a leader in this space, the areas of emphasis that emerged in its implementation, and some of the mechanisms it was able to construct, can stand as a source of proven strategies for organizations and individuals still unsure how open science and a humanities infrastructure might integrate. Reducing the implementation gap and fostering domain-specific open research practices is crucial not only because of the future and inclusiveness potential of open science with all disciplines, but also because of the future of arts and humanities research as conditions of research funding are increasingly tied to open practices. In a landscape where organizations that promote open science can often seem either as a silo that detaches the open from the science, or as a traditional organization for which the science has long been defined and openness seems a sometimes uncomfortable addition, DARIAH stands as an example of how deep commitment to both the traditions and practices of its researcher community and to the tenets of open science can be productively and sustainably interwoven.
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In the course of this paper, we use the terms science and open science to indicate open scholarly practices in all research disciplines, including the arts, humanities, and social sciences. This is the common usage in Europe, based on the more encompassing resonances of this word’s equivalents in major European languages (such as sciences humaines in French or Geisteswissenschaften in German). ↩