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Women in STEM winning in digital humanities



19 May 2015


Women in STEM winning in digital humanities


The rapidly growing field of digital humanities is attracting far higher numbers of women than traditional STEM areas, Sandra Collins  of the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) has claimed.

More than half of the researchers at the DRI are female, reflecting the gender breakdown in digital humanities across Ireland and the UK whereas the general participation rate by women in data science research is around 15 per cent. The DRI is a partner institute of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Ireland’s largest data science research body. 

“The gender balance at DRI is reflected right across the growing digital humanities field in Ireland and the UK, where the breakdown of male to female researchers is on average about 50/50,” says Collins, speaking ahead of the launch of a comprehensive report on digital humanities in Ireland by the DRI and the Insight Centre.

“Digital Humanities researchers are working at the cutting edge of technology in a field that has significant potential for Ireland. In the context of government policies to increase female participation in STEM, and lots of positive action in the area, here is a field that is evolving gender balance organically. We should look to the digital humanities sector for clues as to how to address imbalance in other areas of STEM.

“I personally feel very motivated by working with technology for societal benefit, and I wonder if other women feel the same.”

Sandra Collins was named one of the Silicon Republic’s 100 top women in science, technology, engineering and maths in 2014.

Digital humanities research applies information and communication technology (ICT) to the humanities, advancing both fields and allowing innovation and creativity outside the traditional disciplinary boundaries. Digital humanities researchers have done a lot of work to preserve and digitise our cultural heritage, to make it more accessible to the Irish and international public.

Inspiring Ireland ( is a recent example. The project brings Ireland’s national cultural treasures; such as digitised paintings, letters, sculpture, manuscripts, and photography;  to an international audience, creating a national portal for Ireland’s exceptional cultural heritage.

“Once rendered into digital format, artefacts and records become a new and rich source of information for scholarship that can be interrogated and mined in illuminating ways,” says Sandra Collins. “Data analytics can be used to identify patterns and answer new questions directly from the digital format. We have particular strength in ICT in Ireland.”

The editors of this report have pointed to the value that Ireland can bring to this emerging field globally. Data Analytics is a strategically important discipline for Ireland.  The Insight Centre for Data Analytics in the largest SFI-funded research centre in the country with over 350 researchers.


Digital Humanities creates new forms of scholarship and is attracting increasing numbers of researchers. Approaches such as data analytics, sentiment analysis, stylometry, digital modelling and text mining all allow researchers to frame and ask new questions about our history, heritage, art, society and culture.

“With the skills to use digital tools, computing technologies and programming languages, as well as the skills to curate, develop and deliver digital media applications, students and researchers in Digital Humanities learn to discover what is it to be human in the digital age, and the answers will help to shape how we see ourselves and others as humanity becomes more connected by technology,” says Sandra Collins.

The editors of the report have called on the government and on funding agencies to prioritise support for digital humanities in a variety of ways.

“There have been major investments in large-scale programmes over the last decade,” said Professor Alan Smeaton, one of the founding directors of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and co-editor of the report.  “These include the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and the SFI ADAPT Research Centre, PRTLI Cycle 5 funded Digital Repository of Ireland and the Digital Arts and Humanities Structured PhD programme; these investments and their subsequent achievements have drawn international recognition for Ireland.

“In order for the field to mature, and in order to capitalise on the opportunity for Ireland, we need infrastructure and tools, value recognition, supporting policies, funding and public engagement. The digital humanities field has a lot to offer Irish society and the economy, and should be given every support to thrive.”

For more information contact

Louise Holden, FH Media Consulting Ltd

087 2423985


‘Digital Humanities: Ireland’s Opportunity’

This report aims to identify the key opportunities for Digital Humanities in Ireland. The report summarises the findings of a group of leading researchers in the field, convened at the Royal Irish Academy in October 2014. Read the full report here:

Insight Centre for Data Analytics

Insight Centre for Data Analytics was established in 2013 following a €750m investment by Science Foundation Ireland, its largest investment to date. Data analytics research is a key economic priority for the Irish government. The Centre brings together data analytics research activity at four lead institutions and number of associate institutions. At 350 researchers, Insight is one of the largest data analytics research centres in the world.


Digital Repository of Ireland

The Digital Repository of Ireland is the national trusted digital repository for Ireland's social and cultural data. The repository links together and preserves both historical and contemporary data held by Irish institutions, providing a central internet access point and interactive multimedia tools. As a national e-infrastructure for the future of education and research in the humanities and social sciences, DRI is available for use by the public, students and scholars.

The Digital Repository of Ireland is built by a research consortium of six academic partners working together to deliver the repository, policies, guidelines and training.

Publication Date: 
Monday, 18 May, 2015