Digital Science’s latest report analyses arts and humanities research through  topic modelling of grant applications, unveiling an innovative and richer understanding of the  research activity in these disciplines

Today, working with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), we have released our latest Digital Research Report on: “Topic Modelling of Research in the Arts and Humanities.” The report is an analysis of AHRC grant applications and details new topic modelling applications for analysing research funding data. This is the first time these methods have been applied to a national funding dataset of research grants  and one of the first comprehensive analytical views across research in the arts and humanities.

AHRC commissioned our Consultancy team to apply innovative techniques to create new perspectives on the Research Council’s competitively funded research. By processing the title and abstract text of ten years ( 2005 through 2016) of AHRC grant applications, the analysis unlocks rich information about previously marginalised areas of research activity. This analytical approach draws novel and informative interpretations previously unavailable to research funders.

Key insights include:

  • Understanding techniques which can be used to explore the profile of AHRC’s applications through time including topics such as the creative industries, and conflict studies.
  • The map of the research landscape uncovers novel links between topics.
  • Topic mapping that crosses established classifications highlights multidisciplinarity and reveals the way methodology is shared by multiple fields.

The report offers:

  • Topical distribution of funded and unfunded applications across time.
  • The changing relative frequency of specific topic areas in each year.
  • Detailed focus on grants attributed to specific external and policy  areas such as  commerce and industry, or to climate change
  • An analysis of the  connection between analytically-assigned topics and  researcher-assigned subject categories
  • A heatmap highlighting topics that steadily increased and those that decline or become absorbed into other areas over the period
  • A network diagram that shows the  overall landscape of the AHRC’s research content

Jonathan Adams, Chief Scientist, Digital Science said:

This report provides  a new picture of the research landscape in  the arts and humanities. Analytical approaches have previously been limited to science and technology research areas but we can now look right across the research base on a truly comparable basis.This kind of analysis can then be used as a basis for comparison, for example, by highlighting the different areas of the network that correspond to applications from particular universities. Alternatively, it may uncover interdisciplinary work where clusters of topical applications appear, or it may identify areas of research that are relatively isolated.’

Sumi David, Strategic Lead – Strategic Planning, Evidence and Impact, Arts and Humanities Research Council said:

“Our ability to use novel techniques for data analyses has been transformed by recent advances in computing technology and data availability. These digital transformations, including the developments in digital humanities, will allow us to better tackle entire publication corpuses including books, their chapters, conference series, grey literature, public reports and other media. This analysis of applications summaries is the first of its kind, but there is still much more to be done. This report is a starting point as we continue to explore the ways in which research activity can be understood.”

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