ACO*HUM Advanced Computing in the Humanities

Sixth meeting of the ACO*HUM Steering Commitee.

London, September 24, 1999.

Steering Committee members present at the meeting: Daniel Apollon, Dino Buzzetti, Harold Short, Koenraad de Smedt (chairman), Maddalena Toscano.  Administrator and secretary: Eldbjørg Gunnarson.

Minutes of the fifth meeting

The minutes of the fifth meeting are approved after a minor typo correction.

Report on year 1998-1999

The project report for 1998-1999 ( is under preparation. The Steering Committee suggests minor adjustments in parts 2.2 and parts 2.3. These adjustments will be made before the report is sent out.

Administrative announcements

The report for 1997-1998 has been approved in the spring of 1999, but as of September 20, the remainder of the EU subvention for that year has not been received yet.

Current TNP activities and publication status

The final drafts for the book have been written. Production with respect to typographical editing and printing is under way. Distribution is expected to start in the second half of October 1999.

Evaluation of the network

Looking back on three years' activities, the Steering Committee has a positive overall impression of what the project has achieved. The conference and book publication can be considered as major outcomes of the project. The project has provided a much needed platform for discussion and has allowed actions which otherwise probably would not have taken place. The project started in a vacuum and succeeded to fill the need, although perhaps just temporarily; it is unclear how universities can be mobilized to take on the problems in the longer range.

The Steering Committee regrets that the financial support to the project has been very low in proportion to the budget. With just a little more money, the project would have achieved much more, left a richer legacy and obtained a significantly higher visibility. Under better circumstances, the conference papers could for instance have been published and a better involvement of the many partners would have been achieved.

Some dissemination and exploitation strands which received little attention will be picked up in the fourth year, e.g. training and retraining issues, contacts with other projects and contacts between the CL and NEL working groups, the latter of which suffered from definitional problems regarding non-European languages.

Although the project has been formally evaluated, it is hard to measure the effect on the many different institutions in Europe. A broadening of participation could have been achieved with more meetings in different places with a wider audience and actions on a regional basis. Still, we find that the landscape for collaboration has expanded after the past three years.

The project has shown not only that computer science extends the potential of the humanities, but also vice versa. The project could afford to focus only on a limited number of pilot areas and has not covered the whole ranges of the humanities.

Organizational strategies were satisfactory, but could have benefited from better bottom-up strategies with actions defined by the partners. However, lack of initiative from the majority of institutions showed that they have no reliable mechanisms for mobilization. It has proved difficult to obtain efforts from teaching staff without substantial rewards. The project has not been in a position to provide such rewards.

Fourth year activities

A proposal ( was submitted aimed at a special extension for dissemination and exploitation in the fourth year.  The evaluation procedure for proposals under this call is delayed in Brussels.  Consequently, at the time of this meeting it is not known whether the project will continue, although the project year has already started.

In the event the proposal is approved and the subvention is awarded, some dates in the workplan must be postponed. Action 6 in the workplan should include making scenarios for sustainability. The ALLC meeting in June endorsed the role of the ALLC in the workplan.

Proposals for future thematic network projects

For reasons internal to its organization, the HIT programme at the University of Bergen will for some time not consider submitting proposals for future thematic network projects aimed at humanities computing. Bergen is nevertheless aware of the fact that new proposals are important for the humanities field and will therefore pass on useful experiences in the role of a potential partner - rather than a coordinator.

The Steering Committee wants to stimulate suitable organizations and institutions to consider submitting proposals before the 15 November 1999 deadline for expressions of interest for new TNPs in the academic year 2000-2001. Especially the ALLC together with King's College London, who are expressing an interest in being coordinator of a future TNP, are encouraged by the Steering Committee to pursue this possibility.

Among the new issues to be considered in the next project, the following are suggested:

As to organizational approaches, the current modular structure in working groups has proved practical, but their organization should be geared towards more flexible roles; expertise specific to tasks must be brought in and representatives of both 'providers' and 'users' of methods and technologies should participate. It is important to have clear responsibilities for the institutional contacts. A paid management and support team of at least three full-time persons at the coordinating institution is seen as necessary.

As to the partnership, it would be desirable to include the cultural sector, publishers and existing centres of expertise. Clear commitments from the partners for the execution of specific tasks is required. The project should try to establish close contact with the partnership by having national or regional contact points and by national or regional events organized by local partners.

September 27, 1999
Koenraad de Smedt