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Project Management in the Humanities 2021 Special Issue: Introduction

Published onMar 30, 2023
Project Management in the Humanities 2021 Special Issue: Introduction

Building on the success of the inaugural Project Management in the Humanities conference in June 2020 at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) and subsequent special issue of conference papers in IDEAH: Interdisciplinary Digital Engagement in Arts & Humanities, conference organizers decided to host another event in 2021 at DHSI. This time, there were 21 papers and over 100 registrants. As was the case with the 2020 conference, this one was held virtually where participants pre-recorded their talks and a question and answer period was hosted over zoom. This special issue with six papers flows from the conference submissions.


University-based research is increasingly being undertaken by teams, rather than by sole researchers (Zhang). This is especially true within digital humanities (DH) where projects are collaborations between researchers, librarians, archivists, programmers, software developers, content experts, students, and others who might be spread across disciplines, institutions, and countries (Siemens). As a result, scholars in this field are exploring the application of project management to research, teaching, and service (Burress and Rowell) and activities such as editing book collections (Kumaran and Maddison), completing PhDs (Brunet), conducting basic research (Kridelbaugh), and carrying out digital library projects (Cervone). And it is being used successfully as found in a review of Digging Into Data projects which determined that project management and project managers were among the key factors leading to project success (Garwood and Poole).

Some caution must be used before applying project management as implemented in for-profit settings to academic research (Currier et al.). Research projects are by definition unpredictable since they are developing new knowledge. Researchers may find it difficult to plan project scope and goals because they may not be well articulated or understood (Mandona and Muya; Zhang). At a basic level, managing a research project at a university may be an experience in frustration and failure. The very language of project management and its tools can be seen as a “direct threat to academic integrity and values” (Powers and Kerr 3). As a result, use of project management tools and techniques must be used within the context of the researchers’ values and language, institutional context, and available levers (Powers and Kerr). As a last caution, a relative lack of research on project management in academic research projects exists (Philbin), prompting a need for it. This special issue contributes to this developing body of knowledge.


The articles in this issue of IDEAH are varied and approach project management from a variety of perspectives, adding to our understanding of the application of these tools and techniques to the humanities generally and digital humanities specifically.

In “Planning for Uncertainty: Building Trust in the Midst of Uncertainty in Digital Scholarship Projects,” Ashley Champagne explores tools and techniques that allow Centres for Digital Scholarship and Digital Humanities to plan for uncertainty in project goals, staff training and skill development, and communication with project stakeholders. The end objective is to address these uncertainties and build trust with staff and external collaborators.

Fabian Cremer, Swantje Dogunke, and Thorsten Wübbena, in their article “Systemic, Theme-Centred, Peer-Led: Adapting Groupwork Concepts for Collaboration Management in the Digital Humanities,” discuss the application of systemic thinking, theme-centred interaction and peer group intervision to collaboration in digital humanities projects. To this end, they seek to advance the discussion of professionalization of collaboration management of tasks as theory-based and method-driven activities.

A key component of digital humanities projects are students who undertake a variety of tasks, including text encoding. In “Collaborative Project Development with Undergraduates: Text Encoding Rare Trade Works,” Rebekah Walker and Lisa Hermsen explore their ongoing project to publish a digital edition of a rare manuscript from a stationery bookbinder and manufacturer of account books. They found that a deeply collaborative team structure, developed in cooperation with the students, was necessary to transcribe and encode the manuscript while maintaining the ability to adapt to change.

In “What’s in a Project? Disciplinary Differences in Addressing Temporality and Collaborative Rhythms,” Anna Maria Neubert examines the role that time, temporality, and rhythm in collaborative work can play when trying to bridge disciplinary gaps and plan for a digital humanities project.

Many digital humanities projects are community based, and researchers and community members need to learn to work together. Jamie Rogers discusses the challenges associated with planning projects with community partners in “The Reparative Work of Radical Collaboration: Project Planning to Enhance Outcomes and Long-term Sustainability of Community Partnerships.” In particular, Rogers suggests that these types of collaborations would benefit from self-critical efforts which work to mitigate existing power structures and place the community at the core of the project. Issues of stewardship and sustainability must be addressed honestly and transparently.

Finally, in “Project Management Processes in a Large Humanities Research Project: Lessons from INKE,” I (Lynne Siemens) explore the adaptation of project management and its associated processes, tools, techniques, and methods to digital humanities projects through examination of the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) project. In particular, this case study considers the use of governance documents and implementation of a yearly planning and reporting cycle to enable the project to reach successful outcomes.

Works Cited

Brunet, Maude. “Conducting a PhD as a Project: Sharing Insights from My Doctoral Journey.” International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 2022.

Burress, Theresa, and Chelcie Juliet Rowell. “Project Management for Digital Projects with Collaborators Beyond the Library.” College & Undergraduate Libraries, vol. 24, no. 2–4, 2017, pp. 300–321,

Cervone, H. Frank. “Standard Methodology in Digital Library Project Management.” OCLC Systems & Services: International Digital Library Perspectives, vol. 23, no. 1, 2007, pp. 30–34,

Currier, Brett D. et al. “They Think All of This Is New: Leveraging Librarians’ Project Management Skills for the Digital Humanities.” College & Undergraduate Libraries, 2017, pp. 1–20,

Garwood, Deborah A., and Alex H. Poole. “Project Management as Information Management in Interdisciplinary Research: ‘Lots of Different Pieces Working Together.’” International Journal of Information Management, vol. 41, 2018, pp. 14–22,

Kridelbaugh, Donna. “How Project Management Techniques Can Improve Research.” Lab Manager, vol. 12, no. 1, 2017,

Kumaran, Maha, and Tasha Maddison. “Co-Editing an Academic Manuscript: A Lesson in Project Management.” Publishing Research Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 1, 2018, pp. 54–68,

Mandona, Innocent, and Mundia Muya. “Project Management Application in Academic and Research Institutions in Zambia.” SRA International. 2020,

Philbin, Simon. “Investigating the Application of Project Management Principles to Research Projects – an Exploratory Study.” 2017. Proceedings of the 38th American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) International Annual Conference, Huntsville (AL), USA, Accessed June 14, 2021.

Powers, Lori Criss, and Gillian Kerr. “Project Management and Success in Academic Research.” 2009,

Siemens, Lynne. “‘It’s a Team If You Use “Reply All”’: An Exploration of Research Teams in Digital Humanities Environments.” Literary & Linguistic Computing, vol. 24, no. 2, 2009, pp. 225–233,

Zhang, Xinxin. Team Roles and Interactions in Academic Research Project Teams and Their Potential Influence on Team Effectiveness. 2018. University of Ottawa, Master’s Thesis.

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