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Boost For Digital Humanities Research

1 December 2010

The University of Ulster is part of a pan-Ireland €6.8 million project that could make the entire island a front-runner in high-tech academic research.Three senior academics at the Magee campus, led by Professor Bertie Ó Corráin, Director of the Irish and Celtic Studies Research Institute, are working with all-Ireland partners to develop a programme that will provide specialist training in the use of digital technologies to post-graduate researchers in digital arts and humanities subjects, for example, languages, literature, history and music.

Ulster’s contribution involves close co-operation between its Faculty of Computing & Engineering and Faculty of Arts. The other lead academics are Professor Paul Mc Kevitt, of the Computer Science Research Institute and Dr Billy Kelly, Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

The venture is part of the Irish Government’s largest ever single research investment, a €359 million programme that is aimed at establishing Ireland as “Europe’s innovation hub”.Funding is from the Higher Education Authority in the Republic and the collaboration includes universities on both sides of the border, the Royal Irish Academy and global digital technology giants.

Digital technologies are already transforming university teaching, learning and research, particularly in scientific and creative subjects.The initiative, called the Digital Arts and Humanities Structured PhD Programme (DAH), will create a pool of technically-attuned post-graduate academic talent adept at applying the latest digital research tools to a range of arts and humanities subjects.

The five year (2011 – 2015) project is being coordinated by The Long Room Hub at Trinity College Dublin, which is Trinity’s arts and humanities research institute. Over the next two years, 46 PhD students will receive four-year scholarships to conduct research and receive interdisciplinary computer technologies training that can then be applied to arts and humanities subjects.

Partners in the project will provide expert training in areas such as digitisation and digital document processing of historical manuscripts, automatic visualisation of text, automated digital semantic representation of multimedia documents, speech, language and image processing, information retrieval and machine translation.

DAH is part of the ‘Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions’ (PRTLI-V), which is focusing a €359 million investment in higher education physical infrastructure and research over the next five years to help stimulate economic development through innovation, ‘smart’ jobs and enterprise. 

Professor Ó Corráin said: “This is an ambitious programme which has the potential to be a European leader in training the next generation of humanities scholars for the smart economy.

“It is a great opportunity to cement ties between universities on the island of Ireland, engage with industry and work with colleagues here at Ulster and internationally to deliver cutting edge training in digital arts and humanities that can have an enduring cultural, societal and economic impact.”Professor Mc Kevitt said the DAH project would bolster the North West’s rapidly expanding profile in digital creative technologies. “DAH fits neatly with Derry City Council’s ‘Digital Derry’ initiative as well as the ‘Digital Culture’ pillar of the first ‘UK City of Culture 2013’ programme, which will include a series of multimedia spectaculars,” he said.

Dr Kelly said: “The involvement of three research institutes provides a wide canvas of interdisciplinary collaboration that will add immeasurably to the stature of the University of Ulster’s contribution to the DAH initiative.”