Martin Wynne Director for User Involvement

Submitted by Martin Wynne on 3 June 2013

I am very happy to take up this month the position of CLARIN ERIC Director for User Involvement. I already know a lot of people in the CLARIN family from my earlier involvement on the executive committee of the CLARIN preparatory phase project, and from many years of working with lots of researchers across Europe on numerous projects.

Who are the users who we want to involve? It's a complicated answer. CLARIN is a research infrastructure for researchers in the humanities and social sciences, but we are not, and should not be separate from the researchers, but part of their communities. There are of course already 'users' who are intrinsically involved in CLARIN. In fact, most people involved with CLARIN are there because they want improved facilities to help them to do better research. However, the core group of these researchers are in computational linguistics, and we need to broaden this to involve many more communities of researchers in the humanities and social sciences.

Another one of the key challenges in this role will be to work out how to engage with potential users at a time when we are still developing our services. How do we promote user engagement before we have mature, reliable and well-connected online services? This will involve, on the one hand, working closely with the CLARIN centres, CLARIN ERIC and the national initiatives to find out what is available as production or beta services, and what can safely be promoted to users.  We don't want to raise expectations too high and too early about what we have on offer, but we can't afford to go too slowly. I know that people will want to see some results before too long! What we can certainly do at this stage is to find out more about user requirements, and work together with researchers to develop services which respond to their needs.  And we can get involved at many levels in sharing knowledge and promoting good practice in digital research in the humanities and social sciences, whether or not it is about specifically CLARIN-branded services.

The key to success in user engagement for CLARIN will be to the involvement of the wider CLARIN network in reaching out to, and working with, researchers. I certainly can't do this on my own, and no single individual or group of people can do it. I plan to help to coordinate and support the efforts of people across Europe who are promoting the use of digital language resources and tools. The CLARIN ERIC can offer an integrated online portal, with information, documentation, presentations, short guides, handbooks and podcasts. Such materials are being generated by various people and projects, in many countires. Providing a single place where users can easily find them will help them to understand what CLARIN services can offer, and help us to produce a coherent and comprehensive suite of services to the users.  But, ultimately, the key to gaining effective Europe-wide impact for CLARIN with the resources available will be to make use of the CLARIN's extended family.

I will now be on leave for the next few weeks, as my wife is expecting a baby this week, so you might not hear much from me until later in the month, but I will soon be in touch with many of you to get your ideas and assistance to help CLARIN reach out to our key user communities.

I am looking forward to the challenges, both professionally and at home!