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Digital Skills

Mapping our digital skills

The importance of digital technologies is experienced everyday by our researchers, and it is also prioritised by our key funders: the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The AHRC named ‘Digital Transformations in Arts and Humanities’ as one of their five key themes as early as 2009. The AHRC particularly emphasises ‘big data’ as offering transformational opportunities in research and teaching. They are also funders of Living with Machines. The ESRC also announced ‘living with technology’ as one of its five strategic research areas in the 2019 ESRC Delivery Plan.

In August 2021, student interns Sarah Bushnell (APL), Rachel Murphy (SACS) and Elsa Ryan (HCA), supported by Chris O’Keeffe and Jenny Richards (NUHRI), carried out a reporting exercise that aimed to map existing expertise in digital technology in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty (HaSS). The aim is to offer a first ‘dive’ into current expertise in order:

(a) to understand the barriers faced by those who wish to incorporate digital technology into their work, and the specific actions which could be undertaken in the short term;

(b) to provide the HaSS Institutes, colleagues in Data Science, and Fiona McCusker (Business Development Manager, HaSS) with information to guide the future-facing work we might undertake to develop a skills agenda. 

The report documents colleagues’ digital expertise across HaSS. It also addresses the challenges that were perceived by colleagues. We kindly thank the University colleagues who responded to our survey.  

The report found that 70% of the group of self-selecting respondents (42 in total) described themselves as proficient or advanced users of programmes such as R, Matlab or Python. 30% said that current training was pitched at too high a level.

The Humanities Research Institute is continuing to support digital skills training in alliance with our digital humanities colleagues. One example is the JUMPSTART workshop series, led by Dr James Cummings, and supported with British Academy funding. 

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences