CDHU is a member of three research infrastructure consortia that were awarded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet): SveDigArk, led by Archaeology at UU, HumInfra (led by HumLab at Lund University), and Infravis (via the Centre for Image Analysis at Uppsala University and led by Chalmers University of Technology). In the following post, Director of the centre, Associate Professor Anna Foka describes the particulars of CDHU’s involvement in large national infrastructure consortia and the importance for developing humanities and social sciences infrastructure at a national level.
Uppsala has a brilliant tradition in historical-philosophical studies since at least 17th century, and the Heritage Law saw the formation of the first antiquities department here, the predecessor to the National Heritage Board of Sweden (Riksantikvarieämbetet). The first professor of Archaeology in Sweden was also at Uppsala, Oscar Almgren, in 1914. So, it should not come as a surprise that Uppsala is becoming involved in such national infrastructure projects. But why is this happening now?
One factor is the maturity of resources; there is now a Centre for Digital Humanities at Uppsala University, awarded with 30 million kr for the next five years and supported across disciplinary domains (HumSam, TekNat) and faculties (HistFil) which additionally supports these infrastructure initiatives from within by providing both socio-technical resources and providing support and access to a supercomputer (Uppmax) and a stable open cloud infrastructure (Central IT).
This means that we can now financially support these nationally awarded infrastructures. The SveDigArk application led by our extraordinary colleagues at Uppsala Archaeology is supported by us via a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) expert. We are further a part of HumInfra: the National Digital Humanities Infrastructure led by Humlab at Lund University; there our role as CDHU and within our module is to support artificial intelligence (AI) training, methods and tools for the humanities and social sciences, as well as to connect to European such infrastructures from the perspective of information science and information organisation. Our mission is develop our AI Laboratorium within CDHU. For InfraVis: The National Scientific Visualisation infrastructure led by Chalmers in Gothenburg, we are tapping onto another excellent resource: the Centre for Image Analysis at Uppsala University to experiment with the latest trends in scientific visualisation methods and tools.
A second point is that we, academics, researchers, scholars, are currently more aware of how fast-pacing technology leads to organisational change, which then leads to new scientific discoveries and vice-versa. Having the opportunity to study those phenomena at a national level is also a consequence of technological development.
A final factor is how we, global academics of the socially and environmentally challenging 2020s, seem to comprehend the importance of collegiality and collaboration for global impact. Researchers in any discipline are now commonly called upon to correspond to research questions that are not necessarily compartmentalised in disciplines or strictly bound to one geographical region, but are grounded in the complexities and relations of the real world and are meant to have global impact—in other words, to be both transformative and generative for humanity and society. This is what CDHU hopes to inspire, beyond digital methods and tools that we can all parse and process.
For research in the long run, these three projects mean that, across humanities and social sciences within UU and in Sweden more generally, we will together pioneer a number of trending digital methods and tools for research: namely Artificial Intelligence (such as image processing, natural language processing, machine learning) as well as Data Science, GIS, and Scientific visualisation more generally. It also means that we as researchers will be given the possibility to discuss these incredible new technologies within national clusters and complement each other’s findings, thus bringing Sweden to the forefront of international research.