Professor Dr Sean Takats, an internationally renowned expert on digital history, will start his research work in Luxembourg in October 2019. Backed by an FNR PEARL Chair from the FNR, Sean Takats joins the Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH), one of the interdisciplinary research centres of the University of Luxembourg. The PEARL programme, funded by the FNR, provides competitive funding to attract top researchers in strategic research areas for Luxembourg.
Professor Takats’s PEARL project aims to transform historical research practises to meet the demands of the digital age and establish Luxembourg as one of the global leaders in digital history research and development. The project named DHARPA (Digital History Advanced Research Projects Accelerator) will assess the impact of technology on historical research, and it will experiment with how technology can reshape the methodological underpinnings of history as a scientific discipline.
“The discipline of history has reached a critical inflection point: as archives and researchers digitize their artifacts in unprecedented quantity, historians are drowning in historical evidence. Yet in the face of this disorder, data science methods are emerging which can help make sense of this chaotic abundance. My project aims to unlock this potential,” explains Professor Takats. “With the generous support of the FNR and the University of Luxembourg, I and a team of historians and technicians will design and build a new free software platform for historians. My goal is to facilitate the serendipity of traditional historical research, but in a digital environment, where historians can use their own subject expertise to provoke unexpected findings and transform them into persuasive historical argument.”
He continues: “The C²DH is a perfect home for my research programme: my research group will be able to draw on and contribute to the large and rapidly growing C²DH team, and our research focus fits neatly into C²DH’s long-term strategy to work at the intersection of the theory and practice of digital history. More broadly speaking, Luxembourg’s national digital strategy provides a solid foundation for engaging the public in the shared production and reception of historical knowledge.”
The project builds on Luxembourg’s strong foundations in the area of digital history, notably at the C²DH. The PEARL-project will rebalance the in-house expertise and excellence of C²DH by strategically increasing its development capacity. As such, DHARPA will have a global impact on the digital history community and shape the future of digital research and open-access publication in history.
Professor Sean Takats comes with high credentials in the field of digital history, as well as in research software development. Currently at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, his multiple scholarly interests converge in the use of digital technology to improve academic research, particularly in the field of history.
“Sean Takats combines the skills and expertise of a technology expert and a professional historian,”, notes Andreas Fickers, Director of the C²DH. “He has successfully developed and implemented digital tools and software for humanities and social science research that had a wide impact in the community.”
He continues: “DHARPA will be the first integrated Virtual Research Environment in the field of digital history and humanities linking all phases of research, and it will enable a structural effect on digital history practices. By combining a generic platform design with a highly flexible and user-centred research interface, it will respond to the urgent need for transparency and traceability of research outputs in digitally-based humanities research.”
The project will promote digital skills among senior and junior researchers through skills trainings, online tutorials, road shows will further establish C²DH as hub for hands-on digital hermeneutics. With his team, Takats will help to position the C²DH as an interdisciplinary trading zone where computer scientists, data scientists, historians, archivists and web designers share their expertise and collaborate in the co-design of new tools for the production of knowledge in the field of history.
“I am very pleased that we could convince Professor Takats to join the Centre of Contemporary and Digital History of the University. This high-profile recruitment illustrates once more the FNR’s strategy to stimulate research excellence in key strategic areas for Luxembourg. I believe that this project is an important addition to the landscape of Luxembourg research. I am also particularly glad that Professor Takats is a fervent promoter of Open Science and will help us to drive this agenda in Luxembourg”, states Dr Marc Schiltz, Secretary General of the FNR.
Prof. Stéphane Pallage, Rector of the University of Luxembourg, states: “I welcome Prof. Takats to our university community. His research work illustrates the importance of digital history in the University’s strategy and research activities.”
About the PEARL programme
About the C²DH