Mapping the influence of humanities

David Budtz Pedersen  presented a new research proposal undertaken in Denmark, Mapping the Public Influence of the Humanities, with the aim to map the influence, meaning and value of the humanties in Denmark. His blogpost on the Impact Blog about this project generated a lot of attetion already. Even in the holiday season.

What struck me however, is that the project starts with collecting data from three different sources:

  1. names and affiliations of active scientific experts in Denmark;
  2. by documenting the educational background and research profile of the population;
  3. by downloading and collecting the full corpus of reports, whitepapers, communications, policy briefs, press releases and other written results of Danish advisory groups from 2005 to 2015.

It was the third objective of Buts Pedersen’s project that grabbed my attention: collecting the full corpus of reports, whitepapers, communications, policy briefs, press releases and other written results of Danish advisory groups from 2005 to 2015. That in the country where Atira, the makers of Pure, reside (I know currently wholly owned by Elsevier). It struck a chord with me since this is exactly what should have been done already. Assuming the influence of the humanities is a scholarly debate, all universities contributing to this debate should have an ample filled current research information systems (CRIS) filled with exactly those reports, whitepapers, communications, policy briefs, press releases et cetra.

In this post I want to concentrate on the collection side, assuming that all material collected in the CRIS is available online and free for the public at large to inspect, query and preferably -but not necesarrily- free to download. Let’s look at the collection side for a moment. Most CRIS have all kind of database coupling possibilities with major (scholarly) bibliographic databases: Web of Science, Scopus, Pubmed, Worldcat, CrossRef etc. However, those reports, whitepapers, communications, policy briefs, press releases and other written results are not normally contained in these bibliographic databases. These are the so called grey literature. Not formally published. Not formally indexed. Not easily discovered. Not easily found. Not easily collected. To collect these materials we have to ask and beg researchers to dutifully add these manually in the university CRIS.  That is exactly why universities have bought into CRIS systems. Why libraries are the ideal candidate to maintain CRIS systems. The CRIS system takes away the burden of keeping track of the formal publications through coupling with the formal bibliographic databases. Librarians have knoweldge about all these couplings and search profiles required to make life easy for the researchers. That should leave some time for researchers to devote a little of their valuable time on those other more esoteric materials. Especially in the humanities, where we apparently have more of those grey literature.  A well maintained CRIS should have plentiful of these materials registered. So I was taken aback slightly that this project in Denmark, the cradle of a major CRIS supplier, needs to collect these materials from the start. They should have been registered long time ago already. That is where the value kicks in of a comprehensive, all output inclusive CRIS, resulting in a website with a comprehensive institutional bibliography.

Just a second thought. It is odd to see that two of the major providers of CRIS systems, Thomson Reuters with Converis and Elsevier with Pure are both providers of major news information sources. It is odd that neither of these CRIS products have coupling with the proprietary news databases either Reuters or LexisNexis for press clipping and mentios in the media. From a CRIS managers’ point of view strange to make this observation since we are dealing with the same companies. But the internal company structures seem to hinder these kind seemingly logical coupling of services.