Building a community of practice: HASS perspective

Sarah Nisbet



How do you engage a national research community? The Cultures and Community project cultivated a broad national community around the project, including strong international links, and was instrumental in securing the current funding we have for the HASS DEVL today, so we can continue to support for humanities research in 2018.

The Cultures and Community project is a great example of how to build a community of practice our and engagement activities have demonstrated extraordinary benefits for the HASS research sector. Over 9 months with a project team of six we were able to deliver a strong community engagement program that resulted in:

  • Six Digital Humanities Pathways events in 6 capital cities
  • More than 400 registrants
  • 79 speakers
  • 670 on our newsletter list


The development of technical advisory boards, consultation on API development, promotion of the Open API, and community engagement activities have demonstrated extraordinary benefits for the HASS research sector.

A series of DH Pathways events bringing HASS researchers together with the GLAM sector and those providing research support turned into opportunities for productive discussion, informing future project proposals from the C&C team.

Stimulated by a showcase of digital humanities projects, demonstration of the API and discussion of best practice, as well as panel discussions about relevant activities, the community gathered at these events were able to articulate ideas for further research infrastructure support in this sector that were useful without being restrictive.

A software carpentry style workshop delivered around the API (31 August 2017, University of Melbourne Digital Studio), bringing together researchers, archivists and developers, and discussing utility of metadata standards and improvements on existing digital research tools.

Materials from that workshop have been published online as part of our emerging Digital Humanities User Support site. This portal provides links to other online platforms supported through research infrastructure programs, including AustLII, Alveo, HuNI, and Austage, and boosts discoverability of data delivered through those platforms.


Communication and engagement opportunities associated with the development and delivery of the Open API have contributed to community building in the HASS research sector, and have helped align this large and disparate community’s interest to a point that future needs can be identified and discussed.

Approximately 350 researchers and collaborators have participated in Pathways events and workshops to date, with two further Pathways events schedule before the end of 2017.

Technical and Advisory bodies that worked on developing the API have brought together representatives of the following organisations:

·         eRSA

·         Intersect

·         AARNet

·         Australian Data Archive

·         AURIN

·         Alveo

·         Griffith University

·         University of Melbourne

·         Flinders University

·         Edith Cowan University

·         University of Tasmania

·         Deakin University

·         QCIF

·         Museum Victoria

·         Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

·         Queensland State Archive

·         Public Record Office Victoria

·         Australian Academy of the Humanities

·         Atlas of Living Australia

·         PARADISEC

·         AustLII

·         Trove


The combination of input from project partners as well as the considerable portion of the community that have participated in Pathways events and workshops, has provided C&C with a rich and useful picture of the needs and nature of the HASS research community in Australia. This project has been a unifying opportunity, that has provided scope for discussion and community building beyond what was initially anticipated.


AeRO is the industry association focused on eResearch in Australasia. We play a critical coordination role for our members, who are actively transforming research via Information Technology. Organisations join AeRO to advance their own capabilities and services, to collaborate and to network with peers. AeRO believes researchers and the sector significantly benefit from greater communication, coordination and sharing among the increasingly different and evolving service providers.

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