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New support for digital research in Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences

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The University Committee for Research and Innovation is pleased to announce funding for a new Digital Humanities Research Hub in the Library. This will complement the BESS Lab launched in October and situated in the Edith Morley Building. Together these two new research facilities represent significant investment in both equipment and professional support for the Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities.

Stuart Hunt, Director of the University Library and Collections Service said

"We are delighted that the Library can play a role as a beacon for digital humanities. This corresponds with the University Library and Collections Service strategic aims in relation to both digital transformation and scholarship. We are looking forward to working more closely with researchers across the University to deliver collaborative, interdisciplinary and digitally engaged research."

Digital Humanities Research Hub

Since 2017, work has been going on at the University to develop new approaches, establish new projects and build capacity and knowledge exchange opportunities for digital research in the Heritage & Creativity Theme. Our ambition is to build a research culture at Reading in which digital approaches are deeply embedded in the humanities research process, to improve quality and innovation in research design.

We are now pleased to announce this new phase of work in which the Library will be established as a beacon for digital humanities research, serving as the entry point to a cross-service team that combines expertise from the University Library & Collections Services, Digital & Technical Services and Research & Enterprise Services. Digital humanities ‘champions' have been identified in each service and have been involved in planning the Digital Humanities Research Hub. An academic Digital Humanities Champion will also be appointed to foster an academic-led community of practice.

The Hub will build a cross-service team to support research, develop training and resources, and create a physical base for digital humanities in the Library. A PC lab has been committed to provide space for staff to work on digital research projects and for drop-in support sessions with DTS and Library staff. This will be supplemented by a digital humanities portal (via the Library website) to include training modules, ‘how-to' guides and case studies. The aim is to foster collaborative relationships across professional services teams and academic Research Divisions to enhance and embed research support for digital humanities. Models of good practice will be explored as well as opportunities for institutional partnerships with other universities.

Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Research Dean for Heritage & Creativity said:

"Digital Humanities has become an integral part of research in the humanities, bringing exciting opportunities to integrate both creativity and innovation into our research. This new Research Hub within the Library will enable us to respond to new levels of ambition and the appetite for collaboration demonstrated by researchers, making the most of Reading's particular strength in both collections-based and creative practice-based research"

Further information about the Digital Humanities Hub is available from Rachel Walker, Research Development Manager, RES.

Behavioural and Experimental Social Sciences (BESS Lab) 

The BESS Lab is a mobile computing lab to support behavioural and experimental social science, particularly research conducted through surveys or where participants are asked to respond by making choices or decisions. At the same time, data such as heart rate or other physiological responses can also be collected. Many of the world's most pressing issues have substantial social and behavioural elements and the University is committed to growing our research capacity and encouraging multidisciplinary collaborations which take this holistic approach. 

The Lab provides a self-service facility with 30 MS Surface Pro 7 devices which can be used for research surveys on or off campus. The laptops are held in LapSafe lockers, located in the Edith Morley Building and managed and supported by DTS. The BESS Lab also includes other equipment such as transport cases and desktop privacy screens, enabling the BESS Lab to be used in a variety of locations.

The computers and equipment are just one aspect of the BESS Lab, which encompasses a larger programme of activities including training and capacity building and knowledge sharing and showcase events. Together they are intended to deliver a real step-change in our behavioural and experimental research capability and embed behavioural science approaches more broadly.

Eugene McSorley and Steven Bosworth, Co-Directors of the BESS Lab said:

"Social science research is crucial to understanding the factors that contribute to societal trends and the challenges and opportunities in addressing them. The BESS Lab provides us not just with physical infrastructure to support this work but also means to build interdisciplinary collaboration and learning. We invite interested researchers from across the University to contact us and learn about this exciting new facility and the opportunities it afford for new analysis and new ways of working."

Further information about the BESS Lab is available from Eugene McSorley (Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences) and Steven Bosworth (Economics), Co-Directors of the BESS Lab.

You can also visit our Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (BESS) page.

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