Making a Start on Developing Open History
Of all the humanities and social sciences disciplines, perhaps the most resistant so far to ‘open science’ ideas has been history, especially where scholarship has been based on skilled archival research and the sources involved are not digitized. Yet Dr Anton Howes has argued that the time has come for a far greater opening up of history to open science and open social science methods in order:
- To enhance the reproducibility of historical ‘facts’;
- To encourage the far greater digitization of sources; and,
- To make knowledge of archival data more accessible to a wider range of readers (going beyond just experts in archival work) in order to stimulate greater interest and literacy about historical scholarship.
A number of issues have also been raised by more ‘conservative’ voices, including:
- Concerns about the management of evidence in fields where both digitized and non-digitized sources exist. The counter-argument is that this already happens in areas like contemporary history without there being major problems;
- Anxieties that open access and/or already digitized sources will ‘crowd out’ closed access and/or non-digitized ones, leading to a narrowing of sources for the historical canon. Again, this problem has not occurred in contemporary history, and historians have strong incentives to ‘surface’ new sources and develop scholarship drawing on them; and,
- Concerns that lack of expertise in archival research could lead to easier ‘disinformation’ usages of historical data. The counter-argument is that it is a dated ‘alchemical’ stance to seek to control knowledge by confining document-access only to ‘the initiated’. STEM sciences concern knowledge that is far more esoteric, potentially dangerous and salient, and scientists have evolved successful coping strategies – so too will historians (as indeed they already have for archival misuses).
Dr Anton Howes, a historian of innovation, will outline the main issues in opening up historical research, and discuss questions with Professor Patrick Dunleavy and audience members.
Tuesday 21 November 2023 12:00-13:00CET