The purpose of the recommendations is to assist humanities researchers to manage, construct, store, present and publish their data in such a way that they can be retrieved, accessed, reused, and interoperable.

Sustainable and FAIR Data Sharing in the Humanities: Recommendations of the ALLEA Working Group E-Humanities

ALLEA Report – February 2020


Why these recommendations, and why now?

The FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reproducible) were formally published in 2016 (Wilkinson et al., 2016), following a 2014 Lorentz centre workshop in Leiden, Netherlands, on “Jointly designing a data FAIRPORT”. Since that time, the adoption of the principles as best practice guidance in data preparation, stewardship and sharing has been rapid and widespread globally, with numerous researchers, working groups, government bodies, professional bodies, and data organisations working to both refine and expand how the principles can be adopted by scholarly communication practices. Research funders are incorporating FAIR data practices into their guidelines, requiring applicants to submit data management plans and ensure that they create FAIR research outputs. Building on the open data pilot in Horizon 2020, the European Commission plans to incorporate Open Science principles and practices across the programme in their next research funding framework, Horizon Europe, explicitly noting the requirement for open access to research data in line with the maxim “as open as possible, as closed as necessary,” and responsible research data management in line with FAIR principles (data does not have to be open to be FAIR, but openness is made meaningful through FAIR). Similarly, FAIR is being incorporated into the formation and ongoing definition of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). It is clear that at the current moment – to say the least – the FAIR principles will persist in shaping the management and sharing of research data for some time.

There are also indications that FAIR is becoming influential beyond the research sector, as principles for managing and providing access to cultural heritage data held by heritage/memory institutions or the “GLAM” sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums). For examples, we can look to supportive statements on FAIR by Europeana, as well as scholarly arguments emerging from the sector itself. Heritage institutions have been moving towards making their collections more accessible through digital means, either by creating digital surrogates for online access, or archiving and making available born-digital artefacts. For many humanities researchers, these digital collections are crucial inputs to research, so the application of FAIR across the research and cultural sectors has the potential to significantly improve data sharing between researchers and heritage institutions as well.

In 2015, the ALLEA Working Group E-Humanities published Going Digital: Creating Change in the Humanities. The report addressed how the humanities could harness digital approaches and data management processes in ways that would enhance scholarship and ensure that research outputs were sustainable over the long term. The recommendations before you now build on the broader discussion in the Going Digital report to make targeted recommendations to humanities scholars on “FAIRifying” their data. The elements that define the principles are mostly agreed, but the pathway to implementing them is still being developed [1]For example, the FAIR data maturity model working group of the global Research Data Alliance has been building, through significant community input, core criteria to assess the implementation level of the principles, and will release a stable version of guidelines in March 2020. Also, the FAIR working group of the EOSC Executive Board, which is assessing FAIR initiatives across Europe, will release recommendations on the implementation of Open and FAIR practices within the EOSC at the end of 2020.; there is a clear understanding that the creation and use of data differs significantly by discipline, so implementation will require approaches that are shaped by disciplinary requirements and practices. The report of the European Commission’s expert group on FAIR data, published in late 2018, argues that the successful implementation of FAIR principles generally requires significant resources at the disciplinary level to develop data-sharing frameworks. Interoperability across disciplines to facilitate interdisciplinary research is imperative to the goals of Open Science [2]Several terms are in use, and we do not make significant distinctions between them in this report. “Open Science” is the preferred term adopted by the European Commission, “Open Research” substitutes “research” for “science” in an effort to emphasise that all disciplines are included, and not just those under the English language understanding of “science,” and “Open Scholarship”  adds emphasis to the sharing of knowledge as early as possible in the research process. Many issues addressed in Open Science are also being addressed by experts in “Scholarly Communication.”, but the development of data sharing cultures and methods generally starts with disciplines. Our intention in this report is to provide recommendations to humanities scholars, with the understanding that the humanities themselves are diverse and data practices and demands vary significantly. We expect that some parts of this report will be more relevant to some researchers than to others, and also that many parts will be relevant to researchers outside the humanities.

The Process

To build these recommendations, the Working Group E-Humanities incorporated the most up-to-date developments in the FAIR landscape, surveying reports published by the European Commission, seeking out future directions articulated by the projects and groups building the EOSC (European Open Science Cloud) and noting statements and activities on research data from relevant networks, such as DARIAH, CLARIN, OPERAS, the SHAPE-ID project, and the Research Data Alliance (RDA). We drafted a series of recommendations mapped to the key phases of the data management life cycle, and then ran an open consultation process over the period of two months to gather broad feedback from humanities researchers. The open consultation was launched at the ALLEA General Assembly in Bern in May 2019, and a workshop on the recommendations was held in partnership with the DARIAH Digital Methods and Practices Observatory working group (DiMPO) later that month as part of the DARIAH annual event in Warsaw. Contributors were invited to comment and suggest edits by way of an open Google Doc. Contributions were welcomed from all, with a particular effort to attract feedback from “researchers and practitioners working in disciplines within the humanities, policy makers and representatives of all public and private organisations working in the field.” The open consultation received over 200 comments and editing suggestions, which were each carefully considered, and used to develop the final version of the recommendations. We are grateful to all contributors, as the feedback significantly helped to expand and clarify certain aspects of our draft recommendations, and the result is a much richer set of recommendations. A list of contributors from the workshop and open consultation follows at the end of this document.

We hope that you find these recommendations useful.

Dr Natalie Harrower
Chair of the ALLEA Working Group E-Humanities



Table of Contents




Research Data in the Humanities


Data Management Plans (DMPs)

Collect, Produce, Structure and Store

Types and Formats


Data Models

Deposit, Preserve and Share

Legal Aspects


Trustworthy Digital Repositories and Persistent Identifiers


Legacy Data