DH2019 – Lifting the lid on how we created the Gale Digital Scholar Lab

DH2019 – Lifting the lid on how we created the Gale Digital Scholar Lab

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│By Chris Houghton, Head of Digital Scholarship, Gale International│

It was a real honour for Gale to expand our partnership with ADHO (the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations) and serve as Gold Sponsor for their DH2019 conference. This incredible event brought together 735 participants from Europe, 203 from North America, 72 from Asia, 38 from Africa, 11 from Oceania, and 7 from South America. In total, 1066 scholars working in, or with an interest in Digital Humanities, attended, coming together earlier this month in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

This year, we wanted to ensure that our sponsorship made a direct and positive contribution in ways that are at the heart of what Gale stands for – helping to advance research and make new discoveries. We were delighted to have the opportunity to fund bursaries specifically set aside for African scholars, and prizes for the hotly contested poster competition.

Gale's Director of Marketing Nicholas Berg along with scholars who received bursaries funded by Gale.
Gale served as Gold sponsors for the DH2019 conference. The sponsor included the Africa Bursary Programme, Best Poster Awards and the Annual Digital Humanities Banquet.

The conference was, as it so often is, a fantastic experience; vibrant, challenging, friendly and full of committed, passionate scholars from around the world.

Scholars from all around the world at the DH2019 Conference.

For those of us who have been attending ADHO conferences for a while, DH2019 felt like an evolution in many ways, and certainly from the Gale perspective. Although a record number of Gale staff attended, we didn’t manage to catch a quarter of the papers, panels and sessions that we wanted to as, over and over again, we found ourselves at the Gale stand, deep in conversation with students, librarians, faculty, teachers, developers and researchers.

The Gale Stand at DH2019.

This engagement really stood out from previous years – how keen attendees were to learn more about Gale’s involvement in Digital Humanities, and how we might be able to partner with them to help meet their research goals. This was driven by the fact that, this year, Gale had a DH-specific product to demonstrate; the Gale Digital Scholar Lab, released in September 2018. The curiosity around the Lab, its functions, our rationale for creating it, and our roadmap for future development was really heartening, and especially validating given the time and effort that so many people at Gale have put into developing it.

This curiosity manifested itself in the excellent turnout at Gale’s lunchtime session: The Evolution of a Publisher/Faculty Relationship: Collaboratively developing the Gale Digital Scholar Lab. This session lifted the lid on our process for creating the Lab, discussing the journey that Gale has been on over the past five years, from providing researchers with the underlying data behind the Gale archives, to developing a tool to mitigate or even overcome some of the most common barriers in Digital Scholarship. In short, our goal is to provide a resource for everyone, from experienced DH professionals to absolute beginners, and the scale of global interest was wonderful to see.

Chris Houghton, Head of Digital Scholarship, speaking at Gale's lunchtime session.
Chris Houghton, Head of Digital Scholarship, speaking at Gale’s lunchtime session.

One of the most interesting aspects for scholars seemed to be understanding the process by which Gale came to be where we are now – delivering a session in which we lifted the lid on how we created a DH tool, with all its triumphs and tragedies! There was also a great deal of curiosity around the proposed roadmap for the Gale Digital Scholar Lab, but the most striking thing was how keen researchers were to collaborate and contribute to the development process, helping us to create a tool that would work for them.

As a commercial publisher, we’re always aware of our motives being viewed with suspicion, and it is precisely this that made DH2019 so positive. By engaging scholars in conversation, by being honest and, most of all, by listening, we’re creating a tool that is globally popular and widely seen as a necessity at all levels of DH research and teaching. We look forward to seeing examples of research carried out using the Gale Digital Scholar Lab in Ottawa at DH2020!

Tweet by Chris Houghton explaining how Gale have listened to their customers  and have developed the Gale Digital Scholar Lab to solve some fundamental problems which has given Digital Humanity Scholars some time back.
Tweet by follower saying that they were skeptical at first, and wanted convincing
Tweet by follower confirming that they have been convinced after the lunch time session
 About the Author

Chris Houghton is Head of Digital Scholarship for Gale International. As Gale International’s foremost representative for Digital Humanities, Chris is involved with all aspects of the Gale Digital Scholar Lab and is frequently found speaking to groups of academics or librarians about Gale’s work in DH. Based in Andover, Chris has worked for Gale for nearly ten years, a fact he attributes to Gale’s focus on meeting the needs and objectives of an incredibly interesting and rewarding set of customers. You can follow Chris on Twitter @DHandDSatGale

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