Humanities Commons for International Students and Scholars

By June Oh, former Digital Humanities Research Assistant at Michigan State University (2019-2020)

Happy Birthday Humanities Commons!

I am a South Korean and learning the American academia has been a journey. Citation culture, writing rhetoric, and networking were just a few things that I had to unlearn and start afresh. One of the good surprises of being in academia in the States, though, was finding communities like Humanities Commons where I found resources and support that helped me navigate this unlearning journey. In this blog, I would like to share my experience with HC as an international student and a scholar and give a brief intro to its major features.

The best feature of Humanities Commons (in short, HC) is that it’s open access. It means that it will not charge its users for downloading scholarly works that are in this domain. In the previous blog, Luís Henriques discusses how sharing and having access to works (whether finished or in-progress) can be a challenge for students in various different countries. I know many international students and scholars who do not have access to US- or Europe-based databases and have to pay for articles and book chapters out of pocket. And considering all the readings one does on a regular basis through the graduate course, that is not something to be taken lightly. I myself was one struggling through it when I was doing my MA in South Korea. For me, it costed about 15-35 dollars per article in general. Learning how to pay for it with your possibly home-based VISA/Master cards was also time-consuming at times as well. HC is not like one of those websites. HC do not make profit out of the work of scholars.

Relatedly, HC allows you to archive and deposit your work that can be hard to accessed in other means. Two of my past publications were published in Korean journals. Although one of them was written in English, for global audience, it is not easy to find. Depositing my work in HC made it easy. Besides, when you deposit your work as CORE deposit, it gives your work DOI which is like your work’s own ID. This is perfect if the journal you publish with does not offer that.

Back in 2020, with the help of HC team, we developed a survey asking HC community to tell us about their use of digital platforms.

More than 83% respondents said they use online social networking platforms for scholarly/professional purposes. For instance, a user said online social platforms allow them to “[get] me outside my usual network!” Others reported they use it to “[learn] about new publications and/or discussions and/or research projects in my field.” One user said that “I have the sense that more and more professional discussions are taking place online, and that it’s part of my responsibility as a scholar to take part.” Indeed, many groups in HC attests to the growing communities, resources, and support that take place in various digital platforms.

And HC is one of those great digital avenues. And it’s even better because it’s scholar-led and non-for-profit.

Graphical representation of survey responses to the question "Why do you engage on Humanities Commons?"

Majority of the respondents in the survey also said that “open access,” “non-for-profit,” and “scholar-led platform” were the reasons for their attraction for HC. Indeed. Not like or Research Gate, HC do not capitalize scholars’ work.

So HC is open-access, scholar-led, and non-for profit. But that’s not all. As discussed in a recent post “Five Years by the Numbers” by Bonnie Russell, HC is a global community. “Around 20% of our members come from countries outside North America and Europe” and it supports 43 languages. HC is where scholars from the globe collaborate with colleagues and build networks. Various research groups have a digital home on HC–another amazing feature of HC: it provides you with an option to create your own website. It thus facilitates international collaborations and eases issues with hosting websites. And indeed, with nearly 30,000 monthly visitors from over 100 countries around the world, this is a great place to keep up with what is new in your fields internationally. I get alerts from the groups that I subscribe to whenever there is a new CORE deposit. In addition to Twitter, Humanities Commons keeps me updated to newer publications.

HC is not just international. It also can be interdisciplinary. Although HC is Humanities Commons, with many fields becoming more and more interdisciplinary and even trans-disciplinary, the growing network of HC can benefit all scholars and students. My field, age studies, takes me reading works in gerontology, medical humanities, sociology, and anthropology–works that I have to admit are rarely open-access. I often come across those profit-seeking platform as my only option. And as a scholar and a student working in humanities, I hope and am sure that HC will grow into one that scholars from various fields will use not only as the alternative but as the better choice for sustaining the scholarship.

Lastly, I want to mention how supportive the managing team is. I know from personally working with the team, the hard work that goes on into keeping this platform alive and moving. I joined the Humanities Commons community when I was working as a DH research assistant back in 2019. The level of dedication and the efforts for innovation each team member brings to this platform is evidenced by the growth Humanities Commons have seen in the past years (By the Numbers). Every week the team meets to discuss sustaining the community and thinking of ways to better support scholarly communities and conversations. If you have a question or a suggestion for any feature of HC, send them a message. They have dedicated staff eager to help and listen to what you say.

Happy birthday to you Humanities Commons. Thank you for making scholars’ work more accessible!

June Oh
Michigan State University