Creating Value and Impact in the Digital Age Through Translational Humanities: A Case Statement by Abby Smith Rumsey

The Simpson Center is delighted to circulate the following case statement, written by Abby Smith Rumsey, director of the Scholarly Communication Institute (SCI). In it, she explores the value of the humanities in the digital era by emphasizing the importance of translational work in which humanities scholars engage with more diverse publics. Reaching out to publics beyond academic borders is one of the key missions of the Simpson Center.

The essay, titled “Creating Value and Impact in the Digital Age Through Translational Humanities,” emerged in part out of conversations that took place at the Simpson Center this spring. In partnership with the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) and the international consortium of digital humanities labs and centers known as centerNet, SCI convened a meeting on March 11-12, 2013, at the Simpson Center to investigate humanities doctoral education in and for the digital age. The collaborating organizations all share interest in creating new opportunities for doctoral education, specifically by undertaking projects that demonstrate how humanities centers can make strategic interventions.

The Simpson Center provided an opportune place for a meeting of these organizations with such a common goal to take place. “Not only is the Simpson Center scheduled to launch an annual program of digital humanities summer fellowships for our faculty and graduate students in summer 2014, we are also helping to establish working groups across departments to address the challenges of doctoral education in the 21st century in advance of a meeting on doctoral education sponsored by the Modern Language Association at the University of Washington in June 2014,” said Simpson Center Director Kathleen Woodward. On February 22, 2013, the Simpson Center hosted a colloquium on the future of graduate education with Cathy N. Davidson (co-director of the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge, Duke University, and co-founder of HASTAC). It was attended by thirty-five people representing at least two dozen departments, fields, and areas of study.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and based at the University of Virginia Library, the SCI has provided crucial opportunities for leaders in scholarly disciplines, academic libraries, advanced technologies, and higher education administration to study, develop, and implement creative and innovative strategies to advance scholarly communication. From its inception in 2003, it has focused on cultivating leadership and encouraging the integration of new technologies into scholarship, convening meetings and programs annually and inviting participants to consider scholarly communication through an exploration of practice, organizational models, infrastructure, and modes of working.

Kathleen Woodward has participated in two of the SCI’s summer institutes—the 2011 Institute on New-Model Scholarly Communication: Road Map for Change and the 2008 Institute on Humanities Research Centers. Sarah Elwood (Geography) participated in the 2009 Institute on Spatial Technologies and Methodologies.