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Grant Awards as Pre-Publication Review

Sheila Brennan

National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities

Grant-funded research represents work that has received approval from experts across the field through a rigorous form of “pre-publication” blind peer review for the variety of expressions of digital humanities projects. Grant proposals, particularly ones that receive federal funding from agencies like the National Endowment for the Humanities, are more heavily scrutinized and evaluated than a book prospectus, article abstract, or manuscript draft. Receipt of funding from the NEH, for example, offers one of many ways to demonstrate to promotion and tenure committees that digital projects are legitimate scholarly endeavors. Proposing to design an open source software project or engage in computational analysis requires the project’s director and team to ground the work within humanities scholarship and explain a project’s decisions and structure. It is rare that a scholar must defend to a publisher their choice in selecting a monograph as the appropriate design and format for a long-form narrative.

During this session, I will discuss the blind peer review process at the National Endowment for the Humanities from my perspective as a program officer. Leaders across humanities disciplines, experienced in digital methodologies, come together during NEH review panels to discuss comments made individually and then rate a project’s potential to impact the field or fields of study where it is grounded and its intended audiences. This can be particularly important for projects building software, code libraries, or data sets that contribute to the digital scholarly infrastructure that so few understand but on which so many rely to do their own work.

I will also discuss how my experience in academia developing and writing grant proposals enhanced my ability to converse with colleagues less familiar with digital humanities practices and projects to convey their value and impact.

Session/Panel Title

Evaluating Scholarship: Digital and Traditional

Session/Paper Number


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