Using digital content, tools and methods for research within the Europeana Ecosystem - and Beyond

24 November 2015 Comment

In November, 2015, the Europeana Cloud Network Project released a groundbreaking study developed by the Project’s Work Package responsible for assessing researchers’ needs for using digital content, tools and methods in the Cloud and ensuring community engagement (WP1). This main deliverable (D1.3) has been released to the European Commission, the funding organisation, in the form of two joint reports: the first on User Requirements and a series of Case Studies, and the second, a Content Strategy Report based on these requirements.

As a product of a cross-European, multi-scale, interdisciplinary effort, this document employs a multi-faceted approach to make sense of the information needs and behaviour of Humanities and Social Sciences researchers both within and outside the Europeana ecosystem, while achieving a deep understanding of the ways these communities interact with existing Europeana content and metadata. The ultimate aim of this report was to develop an empirically-based, comprehensive, list of non-prioritized User Requirements as well as a set of flexible Content recommendations. These will form the basis of future development of Europeana Research as part of the next round of Europeana funding.

As this has been the first opportunity for Europeana to look closely at the information behaviours and content interaction of Humanities and Social Sciences communities, we did not want to re-invent the wheel. Rather, we opted for basing our work on some important findings reached in the context of other Digital Humanities Research Infrastructures, including Preparing DARIAH, Digital Research Infrastructure in the Humanities (DARIAH-EU), European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI), Advanced Research Infrastructure for Archaeological Dataset Networking in Europe (ARIADNE), and The ESF Research Network for Digital Arts and Humanities (NeDiMAH). Their methodologies, results and, for that matter, slight shortcomings, were our guides throughout the development of this project

The starting point of this extensive piece of work was a thorough literature review of user information behaviour studies, followed by a web survey carried out at the beginning of the project. The Europeana Cloud Web Survey was built on, and ran in parallel to,related surveys by EHRI and DARIAH-EU, and greatly benefited from both of them. In addition to this quantitative part of the work, three other in-depth methods were employed to make sense of user requirements and content needs for Europeana Research: case studies, a study of researcher behavior in using data at the API level, as well as a close look at specific research themes for aggregating digital content.

Not surprisingly, at a time when Digital Research Infrastructures across Europe attempt to support digital research in the Humanities through meeting documented user needs of the so-called research communities we considered that it is inadvisable to view the Humanities and the Social Sciences as two clear disciplines, or, in fact, any particular disciplines within them as self-contained, as almost all empirical studies on user requirements in the context of digital research infrastructures have revealed numerous underlying variations in the methods researchers employ research. The final section of the document was a list of non-prioritized user requirements and content recommendations for the upcoming design and development of Europeana Research.


We are confident that this report will not only serve as a coherent, trustworthy basis for Europeana Research, but it will form the basis for further understanding and meeting user requirements and making sense of content interaction in the wider field of the Digital Humanities.

A link to the full report may be found here.