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Review Activities

One of the functions of the ICT Programme is to advise the AHRC on matters of ICT strategy, and more broadly to develop and promote the agenda for ICT use in arts and humanities research. In doing this, we will concentrate on three major issues, the Sustainability of Digital Resources, the Evidence of Value of ICT in Arts and Humanities Research, and the e-Infrastructure that Arts and Humanities Research needs.

Sustainability of Digital Resources

As the AHRCís recent Resource Enhancement Review has shown, there are significant problems to be addressed about the life-cycle of AHRC-funded e-resources after the end of their funding period. With the ESRC, the AHRC until recently led other Research Councils in requiring deposit at the AHDS of the data outputs it funds, but funding for the AHDS has now been terminated. In any case the requirement of AHDS deposit was a necessary but not always a sufficient guarantee of sustainability, in the sense of maintaining full access to the resource in all its functionality: problems arise in particular with the user interface of many on-line databases. Addressing the issue of sustainability properly also requires dealing with issues of intellectual property rights, quality assurance, reusability, and harmonization and interoperability. With the end of the AHDS, a Network of Expert Centres and related activities are being developed as a framework for addressing these issues.
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Evidence of Value of ICT

We need to provide detailed and robust evidence about the achievements to date of the UK arts and humanities community in the use of ICT for high-quality research. The UK may well be a world leader in this respect, but the claim needs more substantiation. For the most part this means providing qualitative rather than quantitative evidence of the value of ICT for arts and humanities research, since the value of research in general depends less on the size of its audience than on its significance to the academic community. In particular we need to show how ICT can lead to new kinds of knowledge, or to doing research better than through conventional methods. But ICT also has a valuable role, among other things, in confirming existing knowledge, supporting and developing collaboration, building research communities, creating new forms of output and dissemination, and integrating and preserving intellectual resources. Collecting and highlighting all the evidence relating to this is important not just to persuade funders to support ICT use in the future, but also to increase uptake in the academic community. It should be the main basis for the discussion of future needs and opportunities envisaged in the next section.
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e-Infrastructure for Research

e-Infrastructure stands for all the physical, intellectual and human resources needed to enable and support the use of ICT for research. Much of it is generic to all domains, such as the network infrastructure provided by JANET or the system of on-line public-access library catalogues, and on the whole UK Higher Education is well provided for in this respect. There is however an urgent need to develop a clearer and more cogent strategic agenda for the maintenance and development of e-infrastructures specific to the arts and humanities. This should cover (i) support structures: up to now the UK has benefited from the strongest national system of support structures in the world for the use of ICT in arts and humanities research, but this is now greatly reduced; (ii) content infrastructure, or e-Information, including the extensive range of digital content resources that have been funded in the last few years by the AHRC and JISC; and (iii) methodological infrastructures, in the sense of the tools, methods, standards and skills needed to make the best use of the content infrastructure.
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