by Stefano Sbarbati

Frequently asked questions about PARTHENOS and its activities.

What is a Research Infrastructure?

The term Research Infrastructures (RI) refers to facilities, resources and related services used by the scientific community to conduct top-level research in their respective fields, ranging from the humanities, social sciences, astronomy, genomics to nanotechnologies. (For more detailed information, see: http://ec.europa.eu/research/infrastructures/index_en.cfm?pg=what). RIs may be ‘single-sited’ (a single resource at a single location), ‘distributed’ (a network of distributed resources), or ‘virtual’ (the service is provided electronically).

What are the Humanities?

The humanities refers to the study of human culture.

This covers a wide range of academic fields which include history and archaeology, languages, literature and linguistics, philosophy, theology and religious studies and the arts.

The humanities can be described as the study of how people document, process, understand and derive meaning from the human experience, both past and present. Since the earliest times, humans have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language to understand and record our world. These modes of expression have become some of the subjects that traditionally fall under the humanities umbrella. Knowledge of these records of human experience gives us the opportunity to feel a sense of connection to those who have come before us, as well as to our contemporaries. (See also http://shc.stanford.edu/what-are-the-humanities)

What are the Digital Humanities?

The definition of “Digital Humanities” is work in progress. Scholars and practitioners are constantly reformulating, fine-tuning and reconceptualising the field in response to new research questions, technologies, and emerging research paradigms.

Wikipedia, however, gives a basic definition: “Digital Humanities is an area of research and teaching at the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Developing from the fields of humanities computing, humanistic computing, and digital humanities praxis, Digital Humanities embraces a variety of topics, from curating online collections to data mining large cultural data sets. Digital Humanities (DH) incorporates both digitized and born-digital materials and combines the methodologies from traditional humanities disciplines and social sciences, with tools provided by computing (such as Hypertext, Hypermedia, data visualisation, information retrieval, data mining, statistics, text mining, digital mapping), and digital publishing.”

Collaboration is very important for the DH. Scholars share their research with other scholars, and many projects (such as PARTHENOS) are (partially) dedicated to the Digital Humanities. The public is often invited to share their ideas about different topics.


See for many different DH “definitions”, http://whatisdigitalhumanities.com/

What is an ERIC?

A European Research Infrastructure Consortium or ERIC is a European legal framework that allows an association of countries and intergovernmental organisations to participate in and contribute to a Research Infrastructure. Within PARTHENOS, DARIAH and CLARIN are ERICs. For more information, please refer to https://ec.europa.eu/research/infrastructures/index_en.cfm?pg=eric

Why is research in the humanities important?

Understanding culture in all its aspects is important for understanding contemporary societies and the problems they face.

The humanities help us to think creatively and critically, to reason and to ask questions. They allow us to gain new insights, and improve our understanding of our world and the future. A hallmark of humanistic study is that research is approached differently than in the natural and social sciences. In particular, humanists generally have a distinct approach to the gathering, processing and analysis of data. Because the human experience cannot be adequately captured by facts and figures alone, humanities research employs methods that are historical, interpretive and analytical in nature.

Unlike scientists, humanists are often interested in raising questions, rather than providing absolute answers (see also http://shc.stanford.edu/how-humanities-research-conducted).

Why are Research Infrastructures important for the humanities?

Research Infrastructures in the humanities are not big devices located in one spot like telescopes or laboratories; rather they are geographically distributed across countries.

The value of such a research infrastructure depends very much on the number of countries taking part in data collection, as well as its continuity over time. (http://ostaustria.org/bridges-magazine/volume-41/item/8271-austrian-participation-in-research-infrastructures-in-the-social-sciences-and-humanities)

Recently, and especially in the humanities and social sciences, research infrastructures are undergoing a transformation: they are evolving from auxiliary institutions that nurture and store specialist information into incubators for new and innovative research questions based on research data that are produced by these very infrastructures themselves.
This applies not only to the infrastructures driven by precise research questions but also to those providing access to specialist information. A culture of international and increasingly interdisciplinary exchange is establishing itself in humanities and social science. This exchange of expertise and knowledge through people’s networks are considered to be part of the infrastructure as well. (http://www.wissenschaftsrat.de/download/archiv/10465-11_engl.pdf, p.7)

There are around ten EU-funded research infrastructures dedicated to the humanities in existence. Two of these research infrastructures are on the strategic roadmap of the European Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI): CLARIN (Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure) and DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities). Both take part in PARTHENOS. People and their expertise are at the heart of these research infrastructures whose aims are to bring together services, facilities, tools and software, data and people.

Which Research Infrastructures are participating in PARTHENOS?

The following RIs are participating in PARTHENOS:

• CLARIN – Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure URL: http://clarin.eu/

• DARIAH – the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities URL: https://www.dariah.eu/

• EHRI : European Holocaust Research Infrastructure URL: http://www.ehri-project.eu/

• ARIADNE : Advanced Research Infrastructure for Archaeological Dataset Networking in Europe URL: http://www.ariadne-infrastructure.eu/

• CENDARI : Collaborative European Digital/Archival infrastructure (for the Medieval and WW1 periods) URL: http://www.cendari.eu/

• CHARISMA : Cultural Heritage Advanced Research Infrastructures: Synergy for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Conservation/Restoration

• IPERION-CH: Integrated Platform for the European Research Infrastructure ON Culture Heritage URL: http://www.iperionch.eu/home

These RI’s predominantly cover the fields of history, archaeology, linguistic studies as well as more general thematic areas such as the digital humanities and cultural heritage which will provide the initial focus of PARTHENOS. Other fields, such as the social sciences, can be brought in later.

Who or what is PARTHENOS?

PARTHENOS is a consortium of national research organisations (e.g. CNR, Italy and INRIA, France), cultural heritage institutions and existing Research Infrastructures (as listed in the previous answer), which in turn often consist of many member organisations based across Europe.

The project is led by PIN Scrl, a research and educational public body organized as a consortium formed by the University of Florence and local institutions.

There are fifteen other partners. You can visit each of the participating organisations via this web page: http://www.parthenos-project.eu/consortium/

The acronym PARTHENOS stands for “Pooling Activities, Resources and Tools for Heritage E-research Networking, Optimization and Synergies”. It is inspired by Athena Parthenos, the Greek goddess of wisdom, inspiration and civilization.

Why is PARTHENOS needed?

The PARTHENOS project empowers digital research in the fields of History, Language Studies, Cultural Heritage, Archaeology, and related fields across the (Digital) Humanities.

PARTHENOS will bring together several existing research infrastructures to make it easier to find and combine information from different domains. Therefore PARTHENOS will join together data and people from many disciplines in the humanities. By working together, PARTHENOS will:

• develop common standards to ease exploitation;
• coordinate joint activities among research projects;
• harmonize policy definition and implementation;
• pool methods and services;
• share solutions to the same problems;
• bring people and their expertise together.

Example: Archaeologists discover a grave with a number of objects in it. These might contain some inscriptions so the language and the meanings will need to be investigated by linguistic resource experts. Carbon dating and other chemical tests will help provide dates for the grave and some of the goods – the chemical composition of certain minerals can pinpoint where they originated from. Coins can be used to provide dates and other items such as jewellery and hunting goods an indication of the status of the person who was buried. All these investigations require different specialisms and the need to be able to access information from different sources. It is the aim of PARTHENOS to make it easier for research teams to work together and provide access to the tools and data they need to do this.

What results will PARTHENOS produce?

PARTHENOS will establish the foundations for future interoperability of the humanities: other domains will be able to integrate into the PARTHENOS infrastructure (currently under development). Other less integrated domains will be able to learn the value of preserving and sharing data and findings. PARTHENOS will build bridges between the existing European Research Infrastructure Consortiums (ERICs), like CLARIN and DARIAH, and provide a roadmap for future development and collaboration of the ERICs. PARTHENOS will produce:

• a coherent, authoritative, well accepted set of policies, guidelines and tools concerning the management of data lifecycle and related issues such as IPR;

• a wide set of standards and semantics, originated from community needs and tailored to the methodology and intended use by researchers;

• a coherent set of tools for carrying out research using and re-using data.


How can I get involved in PARTHENOS?

PARTHENOS is a consortium of 16 partners that have signed a Grant Agreement and are committed to performing the tasks as described in the 8 work packages. But PARTHENOS also relies on the support of many other individuals and organisations in the broad fields of (digital) humanities.
PARTHENOS continually expands the group of institutions and people associated with the project. Interested parties can follow the project’s development and progress through this website and twitter feed (@Parthenos_EU), and by subscribing to the PARTHENOS’ newsletter, www.parthenos-project.eu/category/news. You can also contact us here, www.parthenos-project.eu/contactus. In the near future PARTHENOS will organise workshops at related events where input will be invited from our stakeholders. As we are able to integrate and make available the tools and services, members of the research community will be invited to join our infrastructure which is currently under development.