As you may already know, since September 1st 2018, Dr Jennifer Edmond is the new President of the Board of Directors in DARIAH. Serving as Director in DARIAH since 2016, Jennifer Edmond was recently elected in the Presidency of the Board, succeeding Laurent Romary. Jennifer was also recently appointed to the position of Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at Trinity College Dublin and she is a member of the European Commission’s Open Science Policy Platform.
Upon receiving her new role, we talked with Jennifer to learn what is her vision as the new President of the Board. Here is what she shared with us:
1. Jennifer, since September 1st you are the new President of the Board of Directors. Can you please walk us through your first encounter with DARIAH and your DARIAH years till this new role?
I first encountered DARIAH over a decade ago now. I remember that my Trinity College Dublin colleague Jane Ohlmeyer (now a member of the DARIAH Scientific Advisory Board) and I traveled to London in July 2007 to contribute to the ‘Preparing DARIAH’ proposal. I would like to think we understood the importance of the ESFRI roadmap and DARIAH’s place on it at that time, but I wouldn’t swear to it!
I wasn’t directly involved in the preparatory phase of DARIAH EU, but at the same time as this was coming together, I became the coordinator of the DARIAH-linked CENDARI Advanced Community project. In the course of that project, two things became clear to me: first, that ambitious projects like CENDARI needed a sympathetic and durable structure into which to embed their results, one that could host data and services, but also one that could act as a gathering point to consolidate its knowledge and networks after its formal close. We in CENDARI worked closely with DARIAH from the beginning to achieve this, and through this experience, I learned the second key thing, that DARIAH was an organisation with high ambitions, great people and a lot of passion. For this reason, just as CENDARI was wrapping up its funded programme of activities, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to become one of the VCC (Virtual Competency Centres) Heads in DARIAH. The DARIAH VCCs don’t have a high profile outside of the organisation, but they are a real engine for what we do, ensuring that we keep knowledge circulating and academic standards high. I didn’t stay long in this role, however, as I knew when the two Board of Directors positions opened up later that same year that there were things I wanted to help this organisation to do, and that as a Director I would be in the best possible position to do so. The nearly two years working alongside Laurent and Frank have flown: we’ve worked hard, but as a team, and there has been a great sense of consolidation in the organisation since then: the Marketplace development is funded, our relationships with our members and other partners like CLARIN have deepened, the Strategic Action Plan has helped us to focus and align our key activities and resources. After this long road, it was a great honour that my fellow Directors chose me to fill Laurent’s very big shoes, but one I felt I had as good a preparation for as I could have asked for.
DARIAH should be a stepping stone to better work, not intrusive or exclusive, but open, available, and tuned to the community’s needs.
2. As President of the Board, what is your vision for DARIAH?
DARIAH should be known to all arts and humanities researchers and related professionals in Europe and respected as a support for their work, whatever it is, and wherever they are. In particular, I would like DARIAH to be the first thought on their minds at that moment when the idea of how technology might impact their work first becomes exciting, or indeed scary. DARIAH should be a stepping stone to better work, not intrusive or exclusive, but open, available, and tuned to the community’s needs.
3. If you were to name your three priorities for your work in DARIAH in the next years, what would they be?
Strategy, sustainability and messaging. Strategy because I feel we are finally at a point in our development where we know what we can uniquely add to our environment and how we can uniquely serve our stakeholders. Now we need to make sure we focus on delivering against that vision, and dedicate our resources to the areas where we know we can have impact. Sustainability, because it works in two directions. First, we are transitioning now not only from the build phase to the operational phase of the ERIC, so our national members should expect a clear and consistent value proposition from us. But this priority faces outward as well, because as the ESFRI landscape becomes more crowded, we will need to be very sensitive to the environment and to policy imperatives to remain in a strong position. We will need to ensure that we ride the waves of the foundation of the European Open Science Cloud, potential rationalisation of the RI landscape and of course fast developing technologies. Finally, messaging: to achieve any of this, we must clarify how we communicate our value outside of the organisation. Too often, we take the value of our achievements as self-evident, but many at a distance from DARIAH still don’t quite understand what DARIAH is, or how to measure its impact. We must ensure we address this, clarifying our institutional vision, but also backing up our claims to success with the kinds of validation instruments (I don’t want to say success metrics or KPIs here, but that is a part of it) people can have faith in. It is my sincere hope that DARIAH will be in a better place in terms of these three areas by the time I leave the Board Presidency.
4. Looking at all the latest discussions on research infrastructures and impact, what are, in your opinion, the biggest challenges DARIAH will have to face in the following years?
As I have already mentioned, the number of ERICs is growing, as are the pressures from related developments like the EOSC. So we will face challenges from the outside, and this will call upon us to make the case for our value clearly and strongly. In this context, the goal we have set for ourselves to build the DARIAH Marketplace will be all the more central. And our communities will face challenges as well, in which we must support them: to adapt to open science, for example. So perhaps the biggest challenge of all will be to balance the many different levels where we need to be active, to ensure that we prioritise and stay focussed in a complex environment.
Jennifer Edmond recently published an Open Insights essay, published by the Open Library of Humanities, on “OA, Career Progression and the Threat of the ‘Generational Fallacy’”. If you want to engage and discuss with her, join the #EmpowOA Twitter chat on Tuesday, September 25 at 10:15 BST/11:15 CET, hosted by the @openlibhums, and share your questions on Open Science, Open Access and practices!